WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2008 AT 01:14AM

200 Days In Federal Prison

It’s Wednesday, November 12th, and I’ve been in federal prison for 200 days. Reaching this “milestone” is significant to me. Prisoners circle specific dates on their calendar to mark meaningful events. 200 days was my first milestone and I laughed, or perhaps it was a cry, when I circled today’s date. When I looked at a calendar back in April, 2008, I thought this day would never arrive and it’s still hard for me to believe I’ve made it this far.

It’s easy to lose track of time in prison. Is 200 days a long time? It’s barely one box of Q-tips and not even a full baseball season. It must be a matter of perspective. Upon my arrival, 200 days seemed like an eternity; a made up date in the future that would not arrive. But arrive it did and in hindsight, the time has passed more quickly than I ever could have imagined.

My prison experience has moved at a steady pace because I continue to stay focused on the big picture. This picture centers around recapturing a life that once had real meaning and purpose. Prior to self-surrendering, I gave no indication that I was ready to embrace my future. I was wracked with anxiety for several years and the two months between my sentencing and reporting to Taft were the toughest I’d ever known. In a span of two months, I turned over my home to a new family, gave up my little cocker spaniel, suspended my productive real estate career and lost my freedom. Needless to say, recalibrating my life was the last item on my list.

Everything changed when I reported to prison. I quickly settled in and felt as if the worst was behind me. I’d hit rock bottom and was finally ready, after many years, to ascend. It was time to live again and I would not use my surroundings as an excuse. I’d done that for too long. I accepted that federal prison was where I would turn my life around and I was eager to begin.

Prison has afforded me the opportunity to cleanse my mind and body. I had been miserable for a long time and needed a time out. Some take a time out by going to Hawaii for a week or two. My destination was Taft Correctional Institution. At Taft I have all day to focus on my future, my health and well being. I am determined to depart from prison a better man than when I arrived. The break from the hustle of everyday life and the business world isn’t so terrible. The stress of having to earn a significant income to support my lavish lifestyle has been suspended. I know that the pressures of daily life will return the second I leave prison. I can already sense that. I feel that I will be better prepared for the ups and downs of life, in part because of how well I responded to my first 200 days in jail. I hope that the remaining 188 days are as productive.

Justin Paperny

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