Sometimes codefendants remain friends throughout their criminal case and they also serve time in the same federal prison.

Certainly, there are pros and cons to continuing to engage with someone you might’ve committed a crime with, and I defer to the lawyers to offer to legal advice on how that should be handled throughout the criminal case.

But when it comes to prison advice, I am confident I can add some value. A few months ago a former mortgage broker hired me. He had just conducted his pre sentence investigation.

Throughout the process he remained friends with one of his codefendants, and they also ended up in the same federal prison.

When I lecture on white-collar crime, I ask audiences to understand their tendencies: Are you a pleaser, are you difficult to reason with, or are you easily manipulated?

I spent a good portion of my prison term better understanding some of the tendencies that drove me to cross the line. The national best seller 48 Laws of Power (not allowed in prisons) helped. Even now, I listen to the audio book while running. It is the 3rd time I have read or listened to the book.

In working with this client, he admitted that he was a pleaser, and despite his wanting to take a stand, he has always had a tough time saying no to people. When you cannot say no, others will easily exploit or take advantage of you.

I share this because after learning about some of my clients tendencies, and also learning about his co-conspirator (his friend who swept them into this criminal investigation), I highly suggested that he avoid him on the inside.

When people consider hiring me or investing in the programs I have spent thousands of hours creating, I remind them only to make the investment if they are willing to work. It is good to read this blog. It is good to watch my videos. It is good to think. I mean who would advise you not to think! My point is they are all passive activities. The value only comes with implementation.

I share this because my client’s investment in me is paying off. Recently, I received a message from him. In it, he referenced Lessons From Prison, and a passage where I wrote about misery loving company. Further, he said that had he not understood “his tendencies” he would be accomplishing very little in prison.

Most people surrender to prison with the goal of improving their lives. Within days, however, they give into the pressures of other inmates. Too many spend their time in the chow hall lamenting over the injustices thrown at them.

Within weeks, men who promised their families they would work hard are indistinguishable from the scores of those who do nothing but complain. The truth is that these men find therapy in complaining. Want to know the best part about complaining? Eventually you will get your turn.

Back to my client, he told me that without our work, he would have not had the ability to say no to his friend who so easily influenced him.

“Hey dude, where you going? Let’s walk the track and reminisce about our lawyers who screwed us?”

“Dude, why didn’t you sign up to play softball. It will be fun, and make the time go faster.”

Quick tip: If you are not going to be a professional soft ball player upon your release, do not play softball in federal prison.

Proudly, my client said, “No”. Then when pressed he said, “No, thank you.” When pressed again he said, “You are making me uncomfortable. I have no interest in pursuing activities that do not relate to the obstacles I face upon my release. We can still associate, but my routine is my own. Got it, good.”

My client is spending his days exercising, growing his network, and we have lined up several jobs for him in the halfway house. Most importantly, he is growing closer with his family and proving worthy of the love they shower him with.

Live your live, please no one, and do what is in the best interest of your family.

To close, work on your tendencies, as my client did. Do not be beholden to anyone. Further, embrace that as a federal prison you will have to live within rules of the institution. For many, these rules serve as an excuse for apathy. Rather than preparing for the challenges certain to confront them upon release, many accept what I believe to be a mistaken premise, which is that they are helpless.

Of course, prison delivers limitations that at times can be tough to endure. Nevertheless, I feel strongly that those who only focus on what they can’t accomplish miss opportunities to strengthen themselves.

Justin Paperny