TUESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2009

How To Overcome A Conviction?: Own It

If you ask an inmate what is wrong with their life, and why about six out of ten men return to prison upon release, you will hear a litany of responses. Some blame the justice system for perpetuating failure. Others blame a society that claims to promote forgiveness, yet, second chances do not really exist for felons. When asked the cause of their problems, most inmates blame everyone but themselves.

Since arriving to Taft Camp in April 2008, I have interacted with hundreds of white-collar offenders. Each had a reason to justify the reasons he was in prison. Some claimed an overzealous prosecution while others adhered to stories that they had violated ethics and not the criminal law. As a prisoner, I knew that the only way to reconcile with society was to own my own decisions. Once I did, I felt a sense of cleansing by acknowledging that I alone was responsible for my troubles with the law.

It took me a long time to grasp the empowering aspects that would come with acceptance of responsibility. In the beginning, I lied to attorneys, to my family and friends, and even myself. I couldn’t bring myself to admit that I had made decisions that not only violated any right thinking person’s code of ethics, but also criminal law.

I believe our society forgives and that second chances do exist. I can see clearly, however, that the process of reconciling with society can be tougher when the individual does not acknowledge and own the decisions that led to their troubles with the criminal justice system.

Justin Paperny

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