March 25, 2020

This blog is going to set the tone for a Youtube video I plan to film this week. Once I film the video I will add it to this blog. I will call the video, Uncomfortable Truths About Life In Federal Prison.

Full disclosure: This blog will only contain bullet points–I will fully elaborate in the video. You may be asking why not just film the video, then write the blog? That would be a good question! I have no real answer, or one you may find sufficient. Since it is my sight, I run the show!!

Before I begin let me remind my readers that I write these blogs because I want to help you and I want you to succeed! But do not forget, it is up to you to decide how you will use my tips. Only you can decide what to do with my advice. You may agree, but if you do not follow through, what is the point?

Every day in federal prison you will be faced with tough choices and situations that are new to you. Without a plan and the right principles to guide you, you can get lost and drift. Let’s not drift!!

The thoughts I share in this blog, and “>video, come from serving time in federal prison. They come from making a lot of mistakes. And they come from serving more than 1,000 federal prison consulting clients since August 16, 2009. To failing, and boy have I failed a lot in life, I think that is where I learned and grew the most. But I was able to learn from those failings because I was introspective. I was also open minded to the idea that I could do better! Whenever I fail, I grow. So can you, but you must be open to learning why you failed. That way, you will not repeat the mistake.

Now, let me turn my attention to this new blog!

#1: Uncomfortable Truths About Life In Federal Prison: Staff does not care!

My first thought…Do you need them to care?

I am sure there are pockets of staff members who have an interest in helping prisoners. But the majority are more concerned with their career and keeping people in prison longer than they need to be there. With respect to the Coronavirus in federal prison I know staff is not taking appropriate pre cautions to protect themselves and other prisoners from getting sick. And if prisoners questions the process they are threatened with punishment or simply ignored.

If you think staff cares about prisoners you probably also believe tobacco companies do not want you to buy cigarettes.

My point is simple: do not waste days in federal prison lamenting over staff having no interest in your life. After all, do you really have an interest in their life?

#2: Not enough Federal Prisoners use their time to introspect:

One would think with so much time on their hands federal prisoners would have ample time to introspect. Introspection is key to understanding the motivations behind our choices and the choices themselves. Instead, however, some (not all, of course), spend their days in a haze without giving much thought to the influences that corrupted their character–presuming they plead guilty.

Rather than introspect the truth is too many prisoners associate with the wrong prisoners. These prisoners and their ilk pour poison in the minds of easy to influence prisoners.

Prisoners and people are susceptible to the opinions and thoughts of others–that is a large reason so many people end up in federal prison. Every day I hear, “Justin, I did not have criminal intent! How did I end up here?” Well, the answer stems, in part, because of the people they associated with.

#3: Culture Trumps the Code:

Federal Prisons are full of signs that read, “PREPARING OFFENDERS FOR RE-ENTRY!”. In reality, the culture of confinement often trumps the code. In other words, one must embrace the uncomfortable truth that administrators are more inclined to issues platitudes and happy talk than actually take the time to, “prepare an offender for re-entry.”

Why is this relevant? Well, I get calls from people who are home from federal prison. Many are struggling. In an effort to cast blame, they do not look inward. Rather, they blame staff and administrators who failed to “correct” or “help” them. Let me repeat: there will be no correcting from staff.

#4: Prisoners discount how much control they really have:

I wrote about this topic in Lessons From Prison and Prepare. An uncomfortable truth about federal prison is too many prisoners embrace the mistaken premise that since they are confined they cannot do anything productive. A good piece of follow follows: spend your early days in confinement (regardless of the culture) focusing on what you can and cannot control. You may not be able to control your bunk or job. But you can certainly control your attitude and what you say when you call home.

You cannot change that you are in prison or that you hated your white collar defense attorney. You can control how early you wake and how you choose to spend your day.

To sum it up, you cannot win or succeed if you obsess over what you cannot control.

#5: It is an uncomfortable truth to accept imprisonment is harder on loved ones:

This statement has brought me grief of the years. To put it simply, many do not agree with it. I have heard.

“I am in prison, locked up. How is this harder on my family?”

While our loved ones are free, they must endure the fallout that follows a federal prison term. Further, their workload increases.

To those reading this, just embrace the reality imprisonment is harder on loved ones.

#6: Guilty by association:

Staff will punish prisoners and write up disciplinary infractions, even when the prisoner does nothing wrong. Perhaps their bunkie had an iPhone or utensils from the kitchen. Staff will presume you “had to know.” Do not expect to be given the benefit of the doubt. Innocent until proven guilty means nothing–nothing I tell you! Be careful about the friendships you form. Learn to say no and avoid people that could bring you harm.

#7: For some, life after prison is harder than serving time in prison.

Twenty one percent of the 500 people a month who reach out to White Collar Advice are home from federal prison. Many are struggling. While in federal prison all they dreamed about was getting out. Now that they are free, they wonder what they should do. It would be wise for soon to be federal prisoners to recognize that this experience will turn out to be a life sentence if proper preparations are not made for life after prison.

I could go on for days with uncomfortable truths about prison. But I will stop here.

If you embrace these truths and take action you will have a better experience. After all isn’t that why you are on this site? You want to have a better experience through the federal prison system. Do not forget this only works if you take action. You must somehow avoid distractions that can derail you. There is no better way to feel free in prison by thinking, creating and creating a plan for life after prison.

If you want to speak, call me at 818-424-2220.

Okay, off to film the video that will accompany this blog.

Work, work, work!

Justin Paperny

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Justin Paperny