5 Strategies That Will Change Your Prison Term

December 21, 2014

5 Strategies That Will Change Your Prison Term

My friend, client and blogger Mark Land wrote a blog about depression in prison that I expanded on in the video below. If prison might be in your future you have to watch this video. In fact, almost every successful prisoner I know followed the strategies we describe in this video.

Justin Paperny

P.S. I am almost done filming a new 5 day prison adjustment course. Subscribe to my YouTube channel or this blog to get access to the classes.

How To Qualify For The Halfway House

December 16, 2014

How To Qualify For The Halfway House

Perhaps what I enjoyed most about prison was having the opportunity to fall in love with learning again. That passion continues today. Because of that commitment to learn and improve I am always willing to try new things and move out of that cliched comfort zone.

Upon my release, for example, I began public speaking. I had never really done it before. But when the invitations came, I accepted. No notes or powerpoints. I figured I would just talk. Well, that first talk sucked! I mean four minutes into the thing I remember thinking, “my god, this is just garbage. Will they walk out?”

Well I got through it and no one walked out. After that first talk I knew public speaking would not be hard. It was just a matter of practicing and mastering the habits that go with it. I could say the same thing about baseball, running, writing, consulting, whatever. As Aristotle advised more than 2,500 hundred years ago if we want to cultivate a disposition or skill we need to cultivate the habits that go with it.

Back to learning and the purpose of this blog, I have taken on the task of learning to film, edit and publish some of my own videos. On a scale of 1-10, I am a 2. I know my videos need better lighting, editing, and better audio quality. I am working on it, and after listening to the video that I am posting in this blog, I ran out and bought two great microphones, one for my webinars and screen sharing, the other for my videos.

While I improve the editing, setup, and so on, I am very proud to be delivering what I believe to be valuable content. Before filming I sit and think, “what did I need to hear before I went to prison.” Note, I did not say “what did I want to hear.” There is a lot of garbage out there and so called consultants who will tell you exactly what you want to hear. That is not my game.

I am waking early each morning to form outlines for my videos. I have 11 in the queue ranging from a 5 day class I wrote on prison adjustment to home confinement, residential drug abuse program, life in prison, and more, much more. Each video will be about 3-6 minutes or so, including this one I titled, “How To Qualify For The Halfway House.”

Justin Paperny

P.S. I would like to thank my friends Sam Pompeo and Ken Mayer for taking a day off from work to help me set up the studio.

Federal Prison Advice Interactive Brochure

December 10, 2014

The transfer from Etika to Federal Prison Advice continues. I am working on the new site, content, videos, and more. Below is a draft of a brochure my friend Michael Santos and I worked on. There might be some edits left to do, but this is a good start. I think I have written and re-written my bio at least 100 times since my release from Taft Prison Camp in 2009.

Federal Prison Advice Interactive Brochure 

Statistics show how easily an altercation with the criminal justice system can derail an individual’s life. Besides the indignity of an arrest, or notification that authorities have launched a criminal investigation, the reality is that legal complications have long-lasting implications on a defendant’s life. Problems with the law frequently lead individuals into cycles of failure. All too often, those problems come with ancillary consequences that extend far beyond the sanctions a judge may impose. At Federal Prison Advice, we provide products and services to empower individuals, helping them to regain their footing and prepare for the best possible outcome.

Obviously, anyone who faces troubles with the law should seek legal counsel and representation from an attorney. Those of us behind Federal Prison Advice brand are not lawyers and we do not dispense legal advice. Rather, we’re individuals who’ve proceeded through the criminal justice system, but returned to society strong, with our dignity intact. We provide a menu of products and services that teach others how they too can prepare to make the most of their journey. We cannot change the past for anyone, but we absolutely can teach strategies that lead to the conquering of adversity and resilience beyond expectations. Each of us has power within to build upon strengths. At Federal Prison Advice, we provide guidance to empower others who want to tap into their own, to reclaim their life, to emerge from difficult experiences stronger than anyone would expect.

Who We Are:

Many so-called prison consultants masquerade as experts, citing time they served as their credentials. They sell fear, preying upon people who are more vulnerable than ever. Others built careers working as functionaries of the prison system—former prison guards who contributed to the intergenerational failure factories. After leaving the barbed-wire bureaucracies, they brand themselves as “prison consultants” and attempt to provide guidance on what individuals should expect while serving time. Such individuals have not mastered the challenges associated with confinement, but sell services suggesting that they can advise others. Many prison consultants are distasteful, bordering on sleazy in their approach to dispensing guidance.

At Federal Prison Advice, we’re different. Clients routinely tell us that the lessons they learned from Federal Prison Advice were the greatest value they received, not only in preparing for the journey ahead, but also in restoring the confidence and dignity that the criminal justice system seems designed to extinguish.

Justin Paperny:

Justin Paperny, author of Lessons From Prison and Ethics in Motion, graduated from the University of Southern California and then built a career as a successful stockbroker. His practice at notable firms that included Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and UBS, specialized in representing professional athletes and hedge funds.

Some bad decisions led Justin into problems with the criminal justice system, including a felony conviction for violating securities laws. A federal judge sentenced Justin to serve an 18-month prison term. While incarcerated inside of the Taft Federal Prison Camp, Justin met Michael Santos. The two men established a friendship and later collaborated on a number of projects that would teach strategies others could employ to reach their highest potential, despite any type of adversity, including a criminal conviction.

Justin concluded his obligation to the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2009. Preparations that he made while serving his sentence empowered Justin to build a thriving career, despite the loss of his license to sell securities and his license to sell real estate. While incarcerated, Justin practiced the lessons available through the products and services his company offers. As a consequence of those preparations, income opportunities opened for him upon his release. He lectured in universities across the United States; he worked with The FBI, and Pre-Trial Services; he became a nationally recognized public speaker for corporate America; and he guided countless others who were about to embark upon their own journey through the challenges that accompany criminal charges.

Justin established Federal Prison Advice as an alternative resource for defense attorneys, criminal defendants, and those who want to learn. In addition to teaching how to prepare for prison, Federal Prison Advice’s products and services teach individuals how to reposition themselves for a successful life.

Michael Santos:

Michael Santos was arrested in 1987, when he was 23. He served the next 26 years in prisons of every security level. While incarcerated, he embarked upon a disciplined, goal-oriented life that empowered him. Through his well-documented journey, Michael achieved the following goals:

Earned a bachelor’s degree from Mercer University.

  • Earned a master’s degree from Hofstra University.
  • Published seven books that university professors from across the United States used as a resource to teach about America’s prisons, the people they hold, and strategies for growing through confinement.
  • Earned an income and built a savings account that would allow him to return to society with sufficient capital to launch his career.
  • Marry and support his family while progressing through the final ten years of his sentence.
  • Teach thousands of others how to do the same.

The Bureau of Prisons released Michael on August 12, 2013. Preparations that he made while in custody, and that we teach through products and services at Federal Prison Advice, enabled his success to continue.

San Francisco State University hired Michael as an adjunct professor and he began teaching. During his first year in society, he taught one of the most popular courses in the university, titled “The Architecture of Incarceration.” In addition to teaching at San Francisco State during his first year, Michael lectured at several other prisons across the United States, including Stanford Law School and the University California at Berkeley.

What we do:

At Federal Prison Advice, we offer lessons in bite-size pieces to empower individuals through the most challenging times of their life. Those lessons provide a combination of information, guidance, and strategy. To empower you, we employ the following resources:

  • Brief videos to discuss every aspect of the criminal justice system.
  • Written narratives that clients may download and digest.
  • Written exercises that challenge clients to take proactive steps to prepare for challenges ahead.
  • Personalized consulting, using a computer screen-share system and a methodical lesson plan.

If that approach works for you, let’s begin with your initial challenge. Submit your responses to the following question:

  1. In what ways will challenges you face with the criminal justice system influence your future?
  2. How will challenges you face with the criminal justice system influence your family?
  3. What impact will your current challenges have on your career when this is behind you?
  4. What do you envision as the best possible outcome from these circumstances?
  5. If you’ve don’t know or understand the infrastructure and routines of prison, explain your process for creating a deliberate plan to prepare for success while inside.
  6. How would you rate your level of commitment to becoming one of the three out of ten people who succeed through their journey in the criminal justice system and beyond?
  7. What level of value would you find in learning from experts with documented success following their entanglement with the criminal justice system?

Are you ready to restore confidence and begin building the next chapter of your life? Then let’s do it!

Justin Paperny


Private Members Page


December 2, 2014

“These online prison chat rooms depress me,” a client told me last month. “Anyone can join and the information on there is garbage. Can you fix it?”


Last week, I created a private members page for my clients, their family members and supporters. My first post read:

“Well the first official post! Let me begin by thanking everyone for accepting my invitation. Before my surrender to prison I spent a lot of time on line researching and trying to prepare. It was not until I went to prison that I realized that much of what I read was just flat wrong. It was not just me who believed it, but so did my mom, family, etc. The goal of this page is to try to change that by sharing thoughts, experiences and honest advice. We can all learn from one another. I truly feel those trapped in the system are my brothers and sisters. Some of you are about to surrender to prison, others are about to endure your first thanksgiving without your loved one, and others, like me, have completed the journey. Regardless of what stage we are in, support from others makes the process easier, more bearable, and dare I say even enjoyable at times. Please feel free to begin posting any questions about your experience or thoughts that could benefit other members. Also, please feel free to invite family, friends and supporters to the group. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones. Justin”

This Federal Prison Advice Facebook page will benefit my clients. Moreover, it will help their family members. Even though authorities only lock up one person, the prisoners’ family endures the entire sentence. For that reason I believe defendants should educate their family about the struggles ahead, and the resources that exist to help them. By ensuring that spouses, children and parents understand the complexities of confinement, that individual makes measurable progress toward easing stress that could further complicate his life.

Besides helping immediate family, this page will also educate extended family, friends, and colleagues about the challenges and steps one can take to overcome confinement. Choosing appropriate strategies, such as keeping your network engaged during your term, goes a long way towards easing the transition back home after the prison term ends and probation begins. This page will help educate and engage them.

I look forward to investing more energy and time into growing this private members page. Should you have interest in joining, please reach out to me.

Justin Paperny




November 25, 2014

I have had a lot of success working with criminal defense lawyers.  Recently, I received the following endorsement:

“Justin provides a tremendous resource to my clients by counseling them about the most difficult experience a person can face – preparing to be sentenced and going to jail. Justin’s unique background makes him a very compelling source of advice, counseling and comfort to my clients. He is also a pleasure to work with, very communicative and responsive, and treats my clients with decency and compassion.

– Mark Werksman, Criminal Defense Attorney and former Assistant United States Attorney and former Deputy District Attorney”

Now, not every lawyer is so willing to embrace me. Why? To begin, some consultants in my industry try to play “jailhouse lawyer.” They forget that they are no longer in prison and that they have never been licensed to practice law.

Once we get over that hurdle, I seek to educate lawyers on the value I offer as an educated offender who was once in their clients shoes and who through a lot of hard work, mastered the system. Some do not see always it. Yesterday, I had a call with a lawyer who reached out on behalf of a client of his. His client, my prospect, wants to retain me but needs buy in from his lawyers.

For some background this prospect is a self made man, an entrepreneur who has had extensive experience leading and growing businesses. But the shock of his indictment, together with the fear he faces is rendering him incapable of making decisions that will advance his interests both personally and professionally. I know the anxieties he faces. For peace of mind he wanted his lawyers buy in.

To the call, the lawyers defensive tone hardly four seconds into the call surprised me.

“I got this covered,” he said.

“What does that mean?,” I asked.

“I’ve told him prison is fine, mostly boring, and that he will get 6 months in the halfway house. His pre-sentence investigation was fine, but it is not that big of deal because his sentence is pretty much fixed. Plus he is going to a camp, anyway. No offense, but I’m not really sure what you can do to fix those facts.”

From there I pounced on his statements, both out of frustration and history.

“May I ask you some questions?”


“In what ways has planning with your client enabled him to get just one good nights rest?”

What exactly do you know about the challenges of confinement?

How will your clients’ adjustment differ than the more than 50% of those who face continuing struggles in life as a result of their sentence?”

He could not answer the first two, but answered the last by saying that his client was wealthy and that he did not envision any post prison struggles.

Why do we presume having money will lead to post prison happiness? I hear it again and again. Measuring our happiness by money is what led many of us into this unfortunate situation to begin with. Perhaps it is time we find some new values.

I assured this lawyer that those who fail to plan, regardless of the size of their bank account, have continuing problems. I know this from my time in prison and also because I have worked in this field for more than five years. More than 20% of the people who reach out to me are now home from prison. They seek guidance, advice. When we review their pre prison and prison experience it is not hard to see why the cycle of struggle continues.

Without question those who fail to prepare may face a phalanx of problems, including:

• Depression and anxiety
• Weight gain
• Substance abuse, heavy drinking
• Marriage trouble
• Troubles with children
• Inability to relax
• Troubles reuniting with family and friends
• Problems with probation officers
• Confidence, resilience
• And on and on and on

Admittedly, I know of people who came home broke, I mean really broke, but were happier and more confident than many multimillionaires who served shorter sentences. Success stems from how you live your life before and during prison, of that I am sure.

On this call I explained that I try to shake my clients out of the demoralizing state most face, offering exercises that restore confidence, a sense of meaning, and a certainty they can triumph over the current predicaments. And I clarified that others prisoners might spend their days in prison bored, but that is not the case with my clients. I then asked him to review my testimonial page.

I think this attorney learned from our call. My directness, lack of deference and direct line of questioning might also have taken him aback. Clearly, he is a capable lawyer with a distinguished resume. Still, much like I am in no position to negotiate a plea, he is in no position to offer prison advice or thoughts on how to overcome the obstacles wrought by a felony conviction. We need to know our roles.

I do not suspect this lawyer will be giving his client the go ahead to hire me. I did open his eyes, however. Perhaps this prospect will use the judgment that enabled him to grow a successful business and decide on his own. He could sure use the help, and so could his family, who I assure you is suffering even more than him.

Justin Paperny

You Are Full Of Happy Talk

November 19, 2014

You Are Full Of Happy Talk

It is not uncommon for people to reach out to me several times before they hire me. I know the drill. You’re chilling at home, enjoying a glass of wine, then suddenly you feel the urge to start googling information on life in federal prison, halfway house, your judge, going to prison, etc. Then somehow my site pops up.

Some readers immediately opt into my blogs, some email me, others buy my books, and some do nothing. Some call me directly. Today for the second time in three weeks a middle aged gentleman who is about to plead guilty called me. I liked this gentleman on our first call, and liked him even more on our second call.

“Kick it to me straight,” he demanded of me a few weeks ago when I learned how he had spent the last seven months preparing for the journey. During my calls, I try to ask penetrating questions that allow me to gauge whether I can be of value. When I answered his “kick it to me straight” question I told him politely that “I would be doing things differently”.

“Come on man”, he said, “that ain’t straight, kick it to me straight, man. Just cause you went to SC doesn’t mean you can’t kick it to me straight. I am facing some real time here.”

“Okay, bud”, I asked. “Ready”

“C,mon”, he demanded.

“You are full of happy talk”, I said directly.

“Hmmm. Well. Hmmmm. I am not sure exactly what that is, but I do not think my lawyers think I am full of it.”

“How much did you pay them?”

“About $400k.”

“Would you tell someone they were full of happy talk if they paid you $400K?”

“Keep going”, he said.

From there I explained that my good friend and mentor Michael Santos introduced me to the phrase “happy talk”. Essentially, “happy talk” is when people speak incessantly about what they will do, plan to do, and so on. In reality, though, they end up doing practically nothing. That was the case with this gentlemen, who by all measures is a good guy. All he did was talk about what he planned to do. Zero follow through.

By now I know that some of the people that reach out to me might not be ready to go “all in” today, but I am admire them for taking that first step. Some need help in coming to terms with the reality of the situation. Others need time and help in simply getting over the rage they feel for being indicted. Others remain bewildered that they were prosecuted, while others are so fearful for their future they can hardly function. All of those emotions are common and they all require separate strategies to emerge successfully.

To close I am proud to report this gentlemen choose to hire me. But he made me promise I would never stop speaking to him directly, and he insisted I hold him accountable when he started uttering that “happy talk.” I gave him my word I would.

Justin Paperny


You Are Going To Prison

November 11, 2014

You Are Going To Prison

To the extent I can collect data in my business, I do. That data includes making note of how many people fail miserably in their pre-sentence interview. Part of the reason, I know, is because some people immersed in struggle would rather complain than work. They have become numb to the process, and in many ways, have become numb to the fallout. With that sort of thinking in mind many get exactly what they deserve, a longer prison term and additional separation from those that rely on them.

Much of the time the defendant fails to prepare for their interview with the probation department because they believe their lawyers have it all handled. Indeed, earlier today I spoke with a defendant, Joe, who admitted his interview and statement of remorse during the pre-sentence investigation was terrible (his word). When I asked why it was terrible he acknowledged he had not prepared, besides the check he wrote to his lawyer and “sentencing consultant”. He told me his lawyer and consultant always said, ” I got you covered.” When I asked what that meant, he could not answer. Then he went on about how his lawyer “really” knows the judge, and that she was a former US Attorney and is a “big hitter” in the white-collar defense world. How do those facts, I asked him, demonstrate to the court that you are remorseful, ashamed, and committed to making amends for the pain you caused so many? He could not answer. At this point in the call he asked for my assessment. Considering his crime and lack of remorse I quietly said, ” it does not take your lawyer’s law degree from Harvard to know you are going to prison.”

From there I pivoted and asked him the following questions:

  • Tell me about your family, including your parents and siblings.
  • How would you say that your family feels feel about your current situation?
  • Tell me about any history you have with substance abuse. (for those readers wondering why I ask this it has to do with RDAP, Residential Drug Abuse Program)
  • When did your drug use begin?
  • How would you assess your state of mental or emotional health?
  • Have you made any recent attempts to transfer assets out of your name?

Considering this defendant paid his lawyer north of $500k he failed miserably in answering these questions. His answers were nothing short of rambles with no beginning and no end. As you likely guessed these questions above might be one of the hundreds of questions a probation could ask a defendant in order to gather information. Certainly, in my business I go through these questions with clients to ensure they are prepared, and are ready to sit for this interview from a position of strength.

In asking this soon to be prisoner some penetrating questions I learned how unnecessarily deferential he was to his lawyer. He did not want to call to “bother her” and any decision he made had to be “vetted by her in advance.” While listening I wondering at what point in this journey he totally abandoned his own sense of reason and judgment. This guy as much as anyone I have met did not need a lawyer, but a bucket of cold ice dropped on his head! He seems to have forgotten who works for who! He later admitted that days would often pass before his lawyer would respond to his emails. He was afraid to push, he said. After all she had it “all covered.”

I might work with this gentlemen as he prepares for his surrender. I even challenged him to make a decision without having to get the go ahead from his high priced New York City lawyer, who I later learned had a former BOP guard turned consultant on her staff. Once I heard that it all began to make sense.

Today’s lesson: Never forget the government is used to high priced lawyers issuing beautiful statements on behalf of their clients. That is what they are paid to do. You do not need a lawyer to hold your hand, but to push you, prepare you, and remind that you everything you say has potential repercussions that could last a lifetime. When prospects call me about the pre-sentencing investigation I ask them some of the many questions they might be asked. Getting back to data: Nearly 100% of them are unprepared to respond appropriately with precision and a vision in mind. Worse their answers are full of excuses and rationalizations. Some wise up and hire me; others stay stuck on neutral, and continue living with the belief that their high-priced lawyer will somehow make it all better. The only thing that will make this better is work, good old hard work. I have had clients get better results with the public defender, than with those who dropped big money on a lawyer. Regardless of who you hire you have to work! Again, the government is used to the eloquence from lawyers. To succeed, the defendant must take control of the narrative and demonstrate he is different than the majority of people and their ilk that advance through the system.

Too many, like Joe, learn this lesson to late.

Justin Paperny

P.S. I wrote this blog with one hand while holding my baby! Impressive, right?

Federal Prison Advice Commercial Script


November 6, 2014

Federal Prison Advice Commercial Script

Below is the script I wrote for the Federal Prison Advice commercial. I deviated a bit while speaking as any speaker would be prone to do. Still, this covers most of it. I will post video as soon as I get it back.

“Hello, my name is Justin Paperny, founder of Federal Prison Advice. If you are trapped in the system I might be able to help.

As my documented track record proves, I have traveled down the road you are on today, and I have proudly reached my desired destination. I am here to shorten your learning curve, manage your losses and help you create a path to success.

Quickly, for some background, in 2005, I learned that the FBI and SEC were investigating me for securities violations and that I was facing up to 5 years in federal prison. Feeling overwhelmed I spent months engaged in self-destructive behavior, and practically lived on the Internet searching for help. I knew a longer prison term, additional financial penalties, and more government press releases were in my future if I did not actively work to solve my problems.

Instead of finding help, however, I found so called “prison experts”. These characters were distasteful, bordering on sleaze in their approach to giving guidance. Equally as troubling were the former prison guards turned consultants. How could people who never mastered the system or imprisonment help me? I asked each one to explain what was in it for me if I hired them, and to identify 3 measurable outcomes we could achieve. None could.

With the help of my friend Michael Santos, I established Federal Prison Advice as an alternative resource for defendants, their families and defense attorneys who want to learn. We are not attorneys nor do we offer legal advice. Rather, we’re individuals who’ve proceeded through the criminal justice system, but returned to society strong, with our dignity & families intact.

Since 2008, our products and programs have empowered countless individuals through the system, while providing the perfect combination of knowledge, guidance and strategy. Our clients frequently tell us the lessons they learned were life changing, not only in preparing for the journey ahead, but also in restoring the confidence and dignity the system seems designed to extinguish. Our testimonials proudly prove this claim.

My primary goal here was simply to convey that proven strategies do exist, and to show why you must constantly be working to manage the fallout. To help you maximize your efforts and put these strategies to use I will be giving away a number of free training videos. In addition to the strategies, I will cover RDAP, PSI, life in prison, halfway house and more. For now, sign up to get more information on our programs, subscribe to our YouTube channel, or call us now to get more info.

Justin Paperny”


Federal Prison Advice


November 7, 2014

I am splitting up my businesses. Since my release from prison I have had one company–Etika–manage both my consulting and speaking business. FederalPrisonAdvice.com, it is not hard to figure out, will proudly promote our online courses, books and coaching programs for people trapped in the system. This site, Etika, will be changed to only reflect my corporate speaking career. My speaking business continues to be steady, and I think it wise to separate out what each business does. I am pleased to have my good friend Michael Santos assisting me with the development of FederalPrisonAdvice.com. I worked on a mission statement for the new company.

Mission statement:

“At Federal Prison Advice, we understand. Our clients know that their current predicament doesn’t define them. They’ve been charged with or convicted of criminal acts but they are not part of a criminal lifestyle. We provide defendants with the insight they need to work more effectively with defense counsel. If prison becomes part of the sanction, then we prepare them for the journey. Through our products and services, individuals understand steps they can take to ensure they serve the least amount of time in the best environment possible. We help our clients restore confidence, setting them on course to making better decisions for a more fulfilling life.”

I also filmed a new commercial for the site. I will post the video along with the transcript in my next blog. I will also share some of the marketing plans and steps I am taking to help both defendants and attorneys.

More to come!