Looking back on my time in federal prison, I learned valuable lessons that made the experience not just bearable but productive & memorable. Here are the crucial keys that helped me navigate and thrive in federal prison:

1. “Stay Busy” – One of the biggest challenges in federal prison is sheer boredom.

It is essential to keep occupied. Whether it’s working, studying, taking RDAP, hitting the gym, or engaging in any available activities, jam-packing your days will make time fly and reduce the risk of getting into trouble. The busier you are, the more manageable prison life becomes.  The people that sit around and watch TV all day always seem the most miserable.  You have to find ways to keep busy.  That might involve getting out of your comfort zone.  But if it does, so be it.  Push yourself.  

2. “Choose Your Job:” Don’t wait for a job to be assigned; seek opportunities that align with your interests and skills.

Building relationships with fellow prisoners and can not only provide a sense of purpose but also open doors for personal and professional growth.  Anyone who knows me would tell you the last place I would work would be in the kitchen.  I did it because of that exact reason.  I wanted to work hard.  I wanted to meet people I might not otherwise associate with.  It was hard and uncomfortable at first, but it also a fantastic fit.  Some privileges come with jobs.  One privilege of working in the kitchen is you had access to the cafeteria all day (the only room with AC for the inmates in my camp).  I used that privilege EVERY DAY while studying law.  If you work in carpentry, you can build essential things for your locker or bunk.  Laundry … you get your laundry done for free.  You get it.  The list goes on. 

If you don’t pick your job, one will likely be picked for you and you are less likely to like it.

3. “Document Your Journey” It is crucial to demonstrate to the outside world that you’re maximizing your time behind bars.

This might be the most significant aspect of your journey. Odds are, something didn’t go according to your life plan…. you are in federal prison.  So, how do you plan to show everyone that you’re learning from your mistakes? My strongest recommendation is to document your journey, particularly through a release plan. Whether it’s through emails to family, writing book reports, attending self-improvement classes, or dedicating yourself to fitness, documenting your progress is essential. If you do not keep a record, you know what you did but no one else will.  This plan keeps your loved ones informed and aids you at every step of the incarceration process.

Separately, having a detailed release plan can also help with early release or parole hearings. Staff need to know what you’ve done to better yourself; it’s not enough to tell them—you need to show them. A detailed release plan not only demonstrates your commitment to change but also provides a roadmap for your rehabilitation. Personally, I wrote a weekly newsletter that transformed my life. It not only opened doors upon my release but also repaired damaged relationships and restored my confidence. Despite skepticism, I firmly believe that everyone can find a way to document their journey in a manner that suits their lifestyle. Remember, life continues outside the prison walls, and staying connected with friends and family is vital.

They need to understand how you’re rebuilding your life and making the most of your time.

4. “Select Your Inner Circle” It is essential to choose your friends wisely.

While I met some incredible individuals in prison, I limited my inner circle to just a few people whom I trusted implicitly. Rumors run rampant in prison, and despite your best efforts to stay out of trouble, trouble has a way of finding you (it’s hard to explain, but you’ll see). When things inevitably go wrong, the temptation to complain to anyone who will listen can be strong. But let’s face it—nobody likes a complainer. So, instead of being that person, confide in ONE trusted individual (or just your core group), vent it out, and then let it go. Trust me, this approach will work wonders for your mental well-being and your relationships in prison.

5. “Be of Service” In other words…HELP PEOPLE.

This is close to my heart. Now, I’ll be honest—I’m not exactly the biggest fan of AA.  But let me take you back to a hazy memory of mine attending one of those meetings in my younger days. There was this guy, who I was barely paying attention to, who drops this interesting take: “The secret of life is being of service.” Now, I couldn’t tell you what else was said that day, but that line stuck. And you know what? He was absolutely right. I’m not preaching some religious or higher power here. I’m just saying, being of service does wonders for you and everyone around you, plain and simple.

So, you want to navigate your prison stint like a pro? Get busy helping people with what you’re good at. For me, it was diving into legal work, and let me tell you, it was some of the most fulfilling stuff I’ve ever done. But hey, it could be anything—teaching classes, lending a hand with writing or emails, jamming out some tunes, or even whipping folks into better shape. We had a guy who held Yoga classes (they were actually pretty popular).  I had my crew for all these these—someone to talk law with, another friend to keep me honest about my weight (and he did). Those relationships? They were strong. 

And let’s be real, what better way to make friends and stay in the good graces of others than by lending a helping hand?  It is a social currency in prison.  

Throughout your time in prison, focus on personal growth, positivity, and resilience. Despite the challenges you face, maintain a mindset of turning adversity into opportunity, and emerge from prison as a stronger, more resilient version of yourself, ready to embark on a new chapter of life.  Don’t let this part of life beat you.  Out of my sheer dislike of the system I would never let that happen.  You shouldn’t.

If you have questions, schedule a call with our team.


Scotty Carper

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Scotty Carper
UCSB graduate certified in Real Estate Law by UCLA, had a notable 16-year tenure at CBS Outdoor as a top U.S. real estate representative. Founder of SCMN Consulting, his accolades include Cannes Film Festival finalist and executive producer of 11 films. Following a conviction in early 2022, Carper served 11 months in Leavenworth, where he led the RDAP, authored “Coops Weekly,” and achieved a paralegal certificate. Now, he shares his transformative journey, advocating for learning from one’s mistakes and utilizing time constructively.