Attention in Federal Prison

No iPhones…(unless you’re breaking the rules)

No texting…

No emails or calls with lawyers…

No more legal bills and department of justice press releases to endure…

My point? No more distractions in federal prison!

While I was serving time at Taft Federal Prison Camp I studied the stoics. The two stoics that impacted me the most were Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus. I can not remember the exact quote, but I remember Epictetus’s thoughts on the importance of keeping our attention. In sum, he said if we let our attention slide it is not easy so easy to get it back. He probably said it a little differently, but that was the gist of the quote.

I received a call this week from a white collar defendant. On our call this defendant mentioned how distractions were impacting his ability to focus on his family, work and his criminal case.

“What led you to call me?” I asked.

Keeping Your Attention In Federal Prison

Keeping Your Attention In Federal Prison

“I saw that recent video you did with David Rosenfield that talked about preparing for sentencing. You ended the video by saying that defendants should go to sentencing with the confidence they did all they could to prepare. I am not confident. I am so distracted by this case and my responsibilities. I know I am going to federal prison. I feel like I am getting nothing done. My attention is like a childs. I wonder if that will change in federal prison. I hope so.” he said.

I will own that I had a million things competing for my attention before I surrendered to federal prison. Managing my criminal case, my business, family, finances, civil suits and more made me crazy. At the end of some days I would wonder how the hell I got through it.

Keeping my attention in federal prison was easier for a few reasons.

First, I had clarity in many things: I knew the length of my sentence, I knew when I would be home, I had begun to own my conduct and speak openly about it, and I did not have the responsibilities that consumed my life before prison. For the first time in a while, I could focus. Boy did I focus!

I could certainly empathize with this defendant who called me. He recognizes the challenges ahead. Of course, there are strategies he could put in place now to focus and get on track. I hope he does not wait until he is in federal prison to make that change.

There is no doubt that it is easier to keep your attention in federal prison because of the isolation of imprisonment.

I encourage all defendants to embrace prison life without an iPhone, texting or google. The truth is most of my clients tell me they learn to love living without those devices. If you can embrace what you have and focus your attention properly the time away can be productive and fulfilling.

Justin Paperny
P.S. My sentencing calculator is still available…
P.S.S. Check out my new personal site at, and grab a free copy of my book, Ethics In Motion while you are there…