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Life After Federal Prison: Day 1

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Many of you asked what I did when I left federal prison. I’m going to cover that in this video. Before I do, thank you so much for the engagement and comments following the video I filmed, Why I Went to Federal Prison.

When I was released from federal prison, I went to the halfway house in Hollywood, California for a little more than three months. And this place is just a rundown motel. It makes the Bates Motel look like the Ritz-Carlton. I was released from the halfway house at 4:00 in the morning, and I took a cab to my mom’s home where I would be staying for a little while. Yes, I’m that guy living at home at 33, out of prison, trying to get it together.

Got to my mom’s about 4:30 in the morning. Shaved, showered. Put on the same suit I wore to my sentencing hearing, which was now four sizes too big. And got a cup of coffee, and drove directly to downtown Los Angeles.

While in federal prison, I had this goal, with my now partner, to help defendants better prepare for their experience through the system. Don’t lie to your lawyers, accept responsibility, and how you can properly demonstrate why you’re worthy of leniency; not through happy talk, but by actions. So I worked on it every single day while I was in custody. And I assumed that everyone would find huge value in the message. When you’re in prison and have a lot of time alone, it’s easy to concoct things in your mind and how it’s going to play out so beautifully and perfectly. In the real world, it doesn’t always work out that way.

So as I began cold walking into law offices, I was, how do I say it? I wasn’t welcomed. I was immediately thrown out. Told that I didn’t have an appointment, asked how I got past security and told that if I was to have an appointment, I need to call and schedule it. And I’m not welcome.

So for the first four hours, it was hard enough to get in, and then they’re immediately throwing me out. Nobody would see me. And I remember walking through the streets of downtown Los Angeles looking ridiculous with this huge suit thinking, don’t give up. It’s fine, you believe in this, you’re going to help people. Rejections are part of life. You’ve endured so much going to prison. Big deal, just keep going. And I did keep going.

And eventually, that first day out of federal prison, some lawyer shook my hand and said, “What do you got?” And I said, “I just got out of prison after 18 months.” The lion’s share of defendants have no idea how to prepare or how to really accept responsibility … or demonstrate how and why they’re worthy of leniency and how they can truly make amends, not through words, but by actions. And some lawyers were responsive to it. Of course, they asked me for a business card. I didn’t have any. I just got out of prison.

While following six or seven hours of cold walking through downtown Los Angeles, I drove directly to Calabasas, where I worked as a receptionist. Minimum wage, for several months. And the work was incredible. I was grateful for the opportunity. To be worthy of a second chance. The opportunity to begin paying taxes again. And I just found such value in work. I’d been making 15 cents an hour in prison. Now I’m making minimum wage. Life was fantastic. I was free and I was trying. So when I got out of jail, I wasn’t thinking about sex or food. I was thinking, how can I provide value to the world? And I hope you found value in this video.

Good-bye.

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Justin Paperny