July 13, 2018

I answered the following question on Quora and wanted to share here.

Why Do People Go To The Library After Federal Prison?

“Your question really struck me, as odd as that may sound. I’ll explain.

Library After Federal Prison

Core value text concept write on notebook

When I was released from federal prison, I had to serve three months at the Vinewood Halfway House in Hollywood Hollywood, California. I found the halfway house to be more difficult and inconvenient then federal prison, for many reasons. One of those reasons was the lack of privacy or space at the halfway house.

In federal prison, I spent hours each day in the library reading philosophy, ethics and leadership books to help me both make the most use of my prison time and to prepare for life after prison. Spending time in that prison library offered ample time for introspection. Besides running each day in prison, it was the best part of my daily routine.

When I was released from federal prison, a part of me wanted to hold onto that routine I valued so greatly in prison. I think that was part of the reason I used my early passes in the halfway house to walk to a local bookstore ( naturally, the bookstore is now out of business) or library.

Library After Federal Prison

Library After Federal Prison

People presumed I would want to go eat at fancy restaurants to catch up on meals that I had missed. Others presumed I would want to use my passes in the halfway house to—how do I say it—spend time with the fairer sex. But food and sex were not my priorities.

My priorities were to continue to live faithfully to the values I had recultivated in federal prison. Spending hours alone in a library reading philosophy and ethics books helped ensure that I would remain on track as I adjusted to the busyness of life.

In prison it is very easy to say that you will be ethical: All of your needs are met by the taxpayer. The real stress or temptations don’t come until after you’re released. Spending time alone studying and writing in a library after I was released helped me stay focused on my goals, which included changing some of my past behaviors.

I want to be clear that hanging out in the library is measurably different than using your time productively in the library. Just hanging out was never my prirotiy. I spent my time there to ensure I would come home a little better and stronger and more prepared to deal with the inevitable vicissitudes of life.

I’ve now been home from federal prison for 10 years. I’m proud to report that 10 years later, I still spend free time in the library reading and thinking about my past and the life I would like to continue to lead moving forward.

I’m thankfully married with two children. I use my little free time in the library to think about the type of husband and father I can and should become. I strive to be like my parents, who are simply wonderful.

Library After Federal Prison

Library After Federal Prison

There is one more reason I learned to love libraries. In federal prison, I realized that I was a closet introvert. For years I tried to run with the crowd and I behaved in certain ways that I thought would endear me to people. But I was not authentic and in many ways was a fraud. In federal prison I begin to fully understand my tendencies, mannerisms, and idiosyncrasies. That process helped me understand that I should not be ashamed that I’m an introvert and that there is nothing wrong with me if I choose to spend a Saturday afternoon in the library, instead of going to watch a football game at USC, my alma mater.

Justin Paperny”

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