“Hey, where do you have the money buried?”, some prisoners asked me when they saw some of my visitors pull into the parking lot in Mercedes and Range Rovers.

Rather then tell them that some of my visitors were professional athletes or successful business people who earned their fortune through hard work, I smiled and walked away. I didn’t have the desire to correct them.

I’m constantly dispelling many of the misperceptions that exist about white-collar offenders, especially as it relates to money and jobs. For most of us there is no money buried. Further with the loss of our licenses, money and worst of all our reputation, rebuilding is harder than ever.

The reality is that rather than help set the tone for a productive prison term, our prison system conditions so many for continuing patterns of struggle in society.  This fact is as true for the low-level drug offender as it is for the white-collar offender.

Success through prison only comes from having the right tools, plans and processes in place. Without sounding too much like Ayn Rand it boils down to determination, integrity, self-reliance and a 100% willingness to embrace reality. It does no good to blame the prison system, or get angry over their actions. I am telling you here and now they have no interest in preparing you. Believing they want to help you is like believing Phillip Morris wants you to stop smoking cigarettes. It is not rooted in reality. You can complain about it, or own it, embrace it and create a plan.

Without that realistic, measurable plan, too often, prisoners lose meaningful connections with their family, potential employers, and their support network.  Then, when they return to society, they often struggle with acceptance.  The prison record can serve as a significant barrier to legitimate society, precluding some from consideration for substantial employment.

More than 20% of the people who reach out to me have been released from federal prison. And of that 20% more than half are enduring continuing difficulties. Their difficulties still exist because of their prison record and how they choose to spend their days in prison.

These difficulties include:

Weight gain
Weight loss
Heavier drinking, substance abuse, or self-medication
Marital trouble
Trouble with children
Inability to relax
Inability to prepare

While in custody, their problems included:

Problems in getting along with other prisoners
Problems in getting along with staff
Problems in getting along with their family and children
Disciplinary problems

Then, upon release, their problems continued:

Problems reuniting with family and friends
Problems with probation officers after release from custody
Problems securing meaningful or fulfilling employment after release
Establishing relationships with lending institutions or investors
Confidence and resilience

Unfortunately, a journey through the criminal justice system can destabilize even the most well educated individuals or the hardest working who have fallen into the clutches of relentless prosecutors. These destabilizations can derail taking appropriate action each and every day.

This blog is not about motivation or offering clichés like, “what does not kill you makes your stronger.” It might not kill you but it can be damn painful along the way. No, this is about embracing reality. Even the richest prisoners endure struggle upon their release. Money is not a cure all, as we know. Rich or poor, the onus is on the prisoner to take action. That is why I posted that list of problems above—not to scare you, but to excite you to take action.

I am not delusional, though I was called delusional and insane when I began writing blogs from prison. Without question, I know that most everyone in prison would rather be home. Our challenges—as fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters—isn’t to engage in fantasies about how we wish the world would be. Rather, we must pierce a reservoir of volition and thrive through the adversities and personal conflicts that represent a part of the human experience.

Those who are reading this blog may want to respond to the following questions.

  • In what ways has your trouble with the legal system influenced your ability to rest?
  • Describe the deliberate steps you’ve taken since learning about your problems with the law to prepare for the best possible outcome.
  • What do you know about the challenges of confinement?
  • Why will your adjustment through prison differ from more than 50% of those who face continuing challenges and struggles even after they’re sentenced?

Individuals who answer such questions with absolute clarity and confidence will be better prepared to overcome the inevitable obstacles any offender, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, will face.

Justin Paperny

P.S. Click here to schedule a call with me…