“Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Case Manager, I’ve been super excited for this first team meeting. I’ve been studying the First Step Act, the Second Chance Act. I know the law allows me to get one full year in the halfway house and given my sentence, I really need the year. I have young children at home who miss me and aging parents with health issues. So I’d really love that year in the halfway house,” a new prisoner said.

You must put yourself in the shoes of a case manager.

What is a case manager inclined to say if they hear this messaging? I know the answer–something like this. “If you were so concerned about your aging parents with health issues or your young children, you probably shouldn’t have broken the law. Get out.”

A Different Approach To Getting More Halfway House Time:

“Mr. and Mrs. Case Manager, I understand you’re very busy. I want to let you know I’m all about making amends to my victims, never returning to another courtroom, and memorializing this experience, documenting my growth. To that end, I’ve created this release plan. I know you’re busy, but I’m going to leave it with you. And I want you to know this plan is going to grow in the weeks and months and years that I’m going to be in prison. I want to show you my progress and growth, not just tell you. Thank you.”

The Power of an Iterative Release Plan:

A release plan is more than just a piece of paper; it’s a lifeline to show progress with all stakeholders, including your family. It proves you are committed to following through on your commitments.

Understanding Your Stakeholders: Case Manager, Warden, Probation Officer, Judge, Victims, Family and More:

When going through the system, it’s essential to recognize the stakeholders involved in your case. These stakeholders include not only case managers but also judges, probation officers, and, most importantly, your victims. To navigate federal prison successfully you need to understand their perspectives and concerns.

Putting Yourself in Their Shoes: What Would You Do?

Imagine being in the shoes of a case manager who deals with thousands of prisoners wanting more halfway house time, a better prison job, or bunk–tons of things. They are naturally focused on victims and the judge’s sentence. To stand out and gain their support acknowledge their workload and responsibilities while presenting your plans in a compelling manner.

You cannot tell them. You have to show them. There is no other way. Without that evidence, you won’t get closer to what you want. And when you do not get what you want, you will easily be able to find people in prison to complain with–it is the judge’s fault, my lawyer’s fault, my case manager’s fault. In prison misery loves company.

Documenting Your Progress Through Federal Prison

Your release plan isn’t a static document; it’s a document that will grow as you grow in prison. What are you reading and why? Why are you choosing certain classes? What are you doing to grow your network? What steps have you taken to line up employment in the halfway house?

Building a Release Plan: Let’s break down how to build a release plan that will resonate with your stakeholders and help ensure a more productive journey, and yes, probably more time in the halfway house.

1. Acknowledge Your Past: Your release plan should acknowledge your past mistakes. This isn’t about dwelling on them but recognizing the actions that led to you to federal prison.

2. Outline Your Commitment to Victims: Make it clear that you are committed to making amends to your victims. What does that plan look like? Write it out.

3. Emphasize Personal Growth: Highlight your dedication to personal growth. Share the programs, courses, or initiatives you intend to undertake during your time in prison. How will your efforts ensure you never return to another courtroom?

4. Discuss Your Life After Federal Prison: Describe your plans after prison, such as finding stable employment, contributing to your community, and maintaining a law-abiding life. Are those plans realistic?

5. Regularly Update Your Release Plan: Remember, your release plan isn’t static. Periodically update it to reflect your evolving goals and accomplishments. Make sure to share the plan with your Judge, Case Manager and Probation Officer (amongst many others).

When it comes to securing more time in the halfway house or a more productive time in prison–or whatever it is you want, thinking differently is key. My partner Alec got nine months in the halfway house on a 26-month sentence. That is remarkable. It did not happen by accident. He choose to do the work on days he probably did not feel like doing the work–which is a lot of days in prison.

Rather than focusing solely on your desires, shift your perspective to understand and address the concerns of your stakeholders. Start this process with an iterative release plan.


Justin Paperny

P.S. Do not create a release plan if you do not intend to grow it. It does no good to make commitments in a release plan than fail to follow through–stakeholders already expect us to say one thing and do another. We cannot help you if you do not intend to do the work.