In federal prison, hardly a moment passes without some prisoner blaming their judge, their lawyer, or the defendant who cooperated against them—anyone but themselves. If I hadn't found mentors, I think I might have been on the same track.

Blaming others precludes us from seizing opportunities, like giving back.

After I stopped feeling sorry for myself in federal prison, I finally listened to my friend Michael, who encouraged me to begin documenting my journey. "Just help," he said, "provide value."

Shortly after we began working on my daily blog, I received a message from, Camron Pitcher, a pretrial services officer in Los Angeles. Camron had followed Michael's work for many years, and Michael had contributed to a course he created for pretrial services, called "Keys to Successful Incarceration.

Camron knew Michael had more than four years left to serve, so he reached out to me with the hope that I could contribute to his curriculum upon my release. He told me he found the blogs I was writing insightful and educational. He also commented that there was no blaming or excusing.

Immediately after my release in 2009 and continuing through a presentation today at the courthouse in Riverside, I have continually presented to hundreds and now thousands of people on their way to federal prison.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to give back and contribute. We also donate hundreds of books and give away all of our courses at no cost.

There are wonderful people involved in the system who want to give back, like Camron Pitcher, my friend with whom I proudly share this photo.

Later this month, I’ll visit pre-trial service offices in Los Angeles and Santa Ana.

Justin Paperny