June 17, 2014

Federal Prison Interview

Last week an online paper out of Virginia, the Richmond Biz Sense ran an article on my client and friend, Andy Rothenberg. Andy is serving time at FCI Petersburg. The article also quoted me as a federal prison consultant who had guided Andy before his surrender to prison. We are still working together now. As part of my prison advice consulting services I encourage my clients to document the journey through prison. Some choose to work with me and write on my site. Andy was one.

I spoke with the journalist, Brandy Brubaker, the week before she posted the piece. I appreciated her approach to the story. Rather than crucifying Andy in the press as so many unethical journalists do to try to procure readers, she took a different approach. I sensed she was impressed with his efforts to document the journey from the inside. She became curious and she elected to write about it. I am glad she did. Her article highlighted how one can prepare for release from the inside.

Despite serving a brief prison term, Andy’s ride has not been easy. There is no need to be warehousing this man. He poses no threat to society and as a tax payer I feel more sickened than ever at the waste involved in our justice system. For the most part people could care less. Prosecutors are allowed to act with impunity, and they pursue convictions under the guise of justice. An example of that overreach was pursuing a conviction against Andy Rothenberg.

I also find the comments from readers interesting. As a man who has been to prison, I can relate. Rather than lauding him for taking measurable steps to prepare for a better life, they fixate on one or two comments. As I learned, prison in many ways was the easiest part. As part of my prison advice consulting services I urge my clients to constantly be  thinking about the stigmas felons face. From there we can take steps to combat and overcome them. I learned long ago to shrug of the comments, at least as it relates to me. I have traveled the country many times over to speak and addressed tens of thousands of people. By now there is nothing I haven’t heard. By choosing to put myself out there I open myself up to scrutiny. So did Andy.

I am proud of Andy for writing. It is not easy to prepare in an institution full of hopelessness and misery, perpetuated in part by prison guards masquerading as correctional officers. I think I’ll see Big Foot before I ever see a correctional officer correcting.

Justin Paperny

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