Last Day In Federal Prison

I can understand the attention that is paid to the first day in federal prison. The anxieties that come with the unknown can be difficult. For that reason, it makes sense to learn as much about the process as possible.

Once the prisoner has adjusted to life on the inside, the reality will set in that the last day in federal prison will come.

I share many of those realities in my book, and get into many specific details while discussing the metaphorical U shaped curve.

I have often said the most difficult part of a federal prison sentence can be the first and last day in federal prison.

In fact, I said the same words while lecturing at USC last Friday. I’m writing this blog early Tuesday morning, before returning to the business school at USC to lecture again today.

Following my lecture, a student was intrigued by some comments I had made during my lecture.

Specifically, he was interested in how I described my final weeks in federal prison, and specifically my last day in federal prison.

Our conversation compelled me to write a blog on the subject. I will also film a video on the last day in federal prison.

Last Day In Federal Prison Camp

Last Day In Federal Prison Camp

I do not recall exactly how I said it in my lecture at USC, but I believe I was discussing the surreal feeling I had on that last day in federal prison. As a white collar defendant, I am intimately aware of how long it takes for a case to play out. In my case the process took nearly 3 1/2 years.

The time before going to federal prison can be the most difficult. Unless you have gone through it is a white-collar defendant, it is hard to relate to it or fully understand it.

I have many clients whose have fought their cases for years. Just last week I had lunch with a female client whose case begin in 2010. She has yet to be sentenced. In many ways, has already served a 10 year federal prison sentence.

I share these details because it be so incredibly surreal and even unbelievable to know that this eventually will end. And that is how I, and many of my clients, feel on our last day in federal prison:

It can be as easy as saying: “Wow, it’s over. Now what.”

I’m filming a video on the subject, and writing this blog to address the “now what.”

Considering this experience will eventually be behind us, and recognizing that we will have a long life after federal prison, it’s important to address how we spend that time in federal prison. I’ll do that now. I want you to be able to feel satisfaction on your last day of federal prison, as I and my clients did.

Last Day In Federal Prison Camp

Last Day In Federal Prison Camp

Actually, before I do let me reiterate that this list is not exhaustive. I provide a brief summary of things that I thought about on my last day in federal prison. In time, your list may be different, and you may see things that I include here as useless. It is up to you and your judgment to discern how you should spend your time in federal prison. I’m sharing these thoughts to help guide you and your family.

The following are takeaways from my last day in federal prison.

#1: Last Day In Federal Prison: Embracing the process, not just the end.

As I sat in that quiet room hours before I was released, I thought about how I used my time in prison. More specifically, I realized that as a younger man I was fixated on the end game: how much will I make on this deal or what do I have to say to close this deal. The ends in many ways justified the means. As a result of that flawed thinking, I did not pay enough attention to my behavior along the way.

In federal prison, I began to realize the process was as important as the end result. There is no quick fix or button to push in federal prison to make it all better. Embracing the process of writing, exercise, dieting and more (as tough as it all was), enabled me to make the most of my time in prison. Learning to embrace the struggle of the process was empowering.

#2: Reverse Engineering

In federal prison a lot of men and women drift. They do not clearly define their goals. On that last day in federal prison, I gave myself credit for reverse engineering my federal prison term. In other words, after I surrendered to federal prison, I established my prison goals. Then I worked my way back from 18-months to 12 months to 6 months to 3 months and to today. Once I knew where I wanted to go, it was much easier to get there. Once I knew what I wanted to accomplish by that last day in federal prison, I knew what I had to begin doing today, tomorrow and in the future. I encourage you to do the same: Establish your goals, define them, then reverse engineer your way to success.

Last Day In Federal Prison Camp

Last Day In Federal Prison Camp

#3: Last Day In Federal Prison: Challenging Haters and Staying Positive.

I am quick to criticize myself. I always think I can do better. Still, as I sat alone on that last day of prison, I was proud of myself for staying positive in a hopeless environment. Further, I did not allow myself to be influenced by the haters, or those who said my post prison plans, which including launching a non profit foundation, were foolish and stood no chance to succeed. Rather than get drowned down in negativity, I kept on reverse engineering my way home.

#4 Taking It Home.

On that last day in prison, I challenged myself to make sure the work habit that I had re developed in federal prison followed me home.

#5 Embracing Discomfort

While sitting in my cubicle at Taft Federal Prison Camp on that last day in prison, I thought a lot about how much discomfort I embraced in federal prison. I joked in Lessons From Prison (well maybe not a joke), that I had never really endured struggle until I was immersed in the system. Re buidling my life required not just a plan, but an ability to push through discomfort. I have continued to do so since my release from federal prison.

#6: Last Day In Federal Prison: Forming Good Habits

I strive to teach strategies that will help white collar defendants succeed through all aspects of the criminal justice system. I deliver that content through blogs, videos and of course, my private federal prison consulting. In federal prison, and specifically on that last day, I knew that without good habits I could not teach others or succeed in my post prison life. The same will be true for you. It is great if you read my book or read my blogs. But if you do nothing with the information, then nothing happens. In prison, I was determined to cultivate good habits each and every day. Now, things that once seemed hard, are not. Things I once needed discipline for (like exercise) come as easy to me as brushing my teeth. Forming good habits was key to my prison term.

Last Day In Federal Prison Camp

Last Day In Federal Prison Camp

#7 Spend Time With The Right People

On that last day in federal prison, I knew I had formed friendships with the right people. Avoiding negative people was key for me. It will key for you.

#8 Not following the same path of everyone else

I was not as worried about my release because of the path I followed in prison. That path was my own. Rather than do what others suggested, I used my judgement to determine what made the most sense–for me. Forming good habits that focused on education and character helped me determine who I thought was on the right track and who was not. For clarity, many prisoners thought I was on the wrong track. They called me crazy, foolish. That was their right. Each defendant must choose their own path: Succumbing to the wishes of others and following the most commonly taken road did not interest me. You decide what is best for you. If you want my thoughts, please click here.

#9 Filtering Advice

Simply said, in federal prison I filtered all advice that came my way and confirmed if person sharing it was qualified to do so. In fact, on that last day in prison my first bunkie who called me crazy for writing a blog, suddenly told me it was a great idea. I guess his wife sent him my blogs. He was not in a position to offer me advice on whether blogging was a good or bad idea. Truth is even if he said from the beginning it was a great idea, I would have ignored it. Why? He had never done it or attempted to do it.

It is now 5:25am on Tuesday morning. I am going to get in my run, then prepare for six prison consulting calls I have before I lecture at USC. For those reasons, I am going to wrap up this blog. I will film a video on this same subject, and add it here once I am done. I hope to do that this week.

To those reading this, thank you for allowing me to help guide you. I know this is not easy.

Never forget, the end will come, as crazy as it may seem today. When it comes, be ready. When people ask you “now what?” be ready to respond. Preparing NOW for that last day in federal prison will help you.

Last Day In Federal Prison Camp

Last Day In Federal Prison Camp

Justin Paperny

P.S. You can watch all my YouTube Videos here.