Friday, April 3, 2009
Forty-Six Days Until My Release From Taft Federal Prison Camp
Two events this week bolstered my feelings that a need exists within our society for practical lessons in ethics training. I know that must sound ridiculous to some. When I was in college, I had no interest in listening to others who would bore me with lectures about the importance of making values-based decisions. I felt as if I had learned all those lessons in kindergarten. My interest was in earning money.
Since then, I’ve earned money. Lots of it. I earned my first million before I turned 30. That wasn’t enough, however. I suffered from a combination of greed together with an insecurity that fueled a desire for more. As a consequence of flawed ethical values, I made some decisions in haste that brought a humiliation to those I love, and sent my life into a tailspin.
When I walked into prison boundaries, I didn’t realize how many others fell off course with their lives because of some twisted values. I met hundreds of men in prison who, like me, once led careers of distinction. Poor choices that were made in haste, however, sent them on a course that they did not anticipate. It’s becoming more clear that a lack of ethical commitment lands many Americans into the clutches of the criminal justice system.
Earlier this week, Senator Ted Stevens was in the news again. Last fall a federal jury convicted the senator for crimes that would have led him to prison. The new attorney general reviewed the manner in which prosecutors tried Senator Stevens. Despite strong and compelling evidence that showed the lawmaker enriching himself at taxpayer expense, the attorney general concluded that prosecutors had relied upon inappropriate and unacceptable conduct to convict him. Rather than defend the prosecutorial misconduct, the attorney general dismissed the criminal indictment and conviction against the senator.
Although the legal technicality spared Stevens a prison term, the fact remained that a once distinguished man had lost his reputation. Poor ethics led him into a criminal web, and a jury convicted him. He escaped a prison term by a hair.
Yesterday a second politician made headlines with his criminal troubles. A grand jury in Illinois indicted the former governor of that state for 16 counts of fraud and racketeering. Prosecutors in that case will likely take great care to ensure a conviction stands.
We have too many examples of our country’s leaders from both the private and public sector who lose sight of ethical importance. I want to bring those lessons I learned from prison to help others make better choices. But I have a plan. This will be my way of contributing to society. Through the efforts, I hope to add value to the lives of others, and work toward a more ethical society.