Friday, May 8, 2009
Eleven Days Until My Release From Taft Federal Prison Camp
Millions of Americans misunderstand prison. I know that before I served a sentence for charges related to securities fraud, I had no real idea of what prison was about. Like many people, the myths influenced my understanding. I watched back-to-back episodes of Lockdown, Maximum Security and Gang Land on television. I also listened to others tell me about country club prisons, with golf courses and swimming pools. The truth as I experienced prison is that it represents a period of trauma. The trauma is more much severe, I think, for the family than for the prisoner. It is not the horrid conditions or the excellent conditions that render the experience daunting. Rather, prison assaults the mind because of the separation from identity.
I’d like to help others understand the prison experience, and I strive to build a career around that aspiration with my book, Lessons From Prison, and a 60-minute speech I’ve prepared by the same title.
Unlike some prisoners who have served many years or decades, my time as a prisoner has been short and productive. InLessons From Prison I write about the ways that a prison experience resembles all other struggles in life. Despite the difficulty, those who have the strength to look within will find ways to power through and emerge stronger. I saw that with many prisoners from whom I learned, and I experienced that through my own journey.
In my speech on the subject, I describe the decisions that made me a target of the criminal justice system. The consequences crippled my life for many months. Every encounter with the system, whether it was with defense attorneys, probation officers, SEC attorneys, prosecutors or the court, felt like a fresh violation to my sense of self.
The early weeks I served in prison sank me as well. Fortunately, I learned valuable lessons that enabled me to thrive. Through my book and my speech of the same name, I strive to show others what I have learned, and to help them triumph over their own adversity.