January 7th, 2013
I’m excited to begin posting my book, Lessons From Prison, on line. As I wrote last week, I was tempted to do this from Taft Camp, but ultimately decided against it. The opening of the book changed after having many conversations with my friend, Michael Santos. Originally, I planned to get into much greater detail about my youth, baseball career, and so forth. That approach, Michael suggested, would work well for my friends and family. “If that’s your market”, he said, “then you will succeed.” Michael urged me to rethink my target audience and goals for this project. Indeed, with Michael’s help, I realized my goal was to create a book that would satisfy a much larger audience, like the young professional who is facing work pressures, or the educated white-collar offender who is scared to death about what an indictment, and ultimate prison term would mean. Today, I’ll begin with a few pages from Chapter 1, aptly titled, The Beginning…
Twelve months in prison helped recalibrate my life. I certainly didn’t expect that I would grow from the experience. Yet those anxieties that plagued me during the three years that preceded my confinement were by far the worst part of my journey through the criminal justice system. Like many of the other white-collar offenders I met at Taft’s Federal Prison Camp, I simply didn’t know all the ways that prison could empower and change my life for the better.
From the beginning, I missed my family, my community, and my dog, Honey. Understandably, those feelings would stay with me through the term. In time, however, I developed routines that helped me feel productive and brought meaning to my life. Instead of struggling with the bad decisions I made that led to my troubles with the law, I spent many hours reflecting, deep in introspection. By figuring out where I had fallen off track, I could take corrective actions.
Clearly, my background suggested much brighter prospects than a stint in federal prison.
My name is Justin Paperny. When I self-surrendered to Taft Prison Camp on 28 April 2008, I was 33-years-old. My parents, Tallie and Bernie, had reared my brother Todd and me in the affluent community of Encino, in the heart of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.
Like most American boys, as a youngster I fell in love with baseball. I had a natural gift for the sport, as if I were born with a fielder’s glove on my hand. I developed a powerful build as a youngster, and my strength led to many homeruns. I played on all-star teams from the time I turned seven, and during the course of my athletic career, I was fortunate to play in three separate World Series tournaments.
Through baseball, I learned virtues that should have stayed with me throughout life. Good sportsmanship meant loyalty, discipline, integrity, and a sense of balance. It was my childhood coach, Jack Gilardi, who really taught me the importance of such concepts. As a child and young man, those qualities or character traits were integral to my life. They led to my earning distinctions that brought a sense of pride to my parents. Through my success on the baseball diamond, I was invited to attend the prestigious Montclair Preparatory School in Van Nuys. By the time I graduated, I held several records in the Babe Ruth World Series. Those accomplishments led to scholarship offers from some of America’s best universities. I chose the University of Southern California.
While playing baseball for USC, I realized that I was no longer in the top tier among athletes. I had been a standout from the time I was six-years-old, though I reached my peak performance as a high school player. The teammates around me were continuing to develop, whereas I had kind of stagnated. At USC, under the outstanding coaching of Mike Gillespie, I worked as hard as I possibly could. Yet I was forced to accept that my unexceptional performance on a team that included many world-class athletes would limit me to a supporting rather than a starring role.
Many players whom I had known since childhood would advance to sterling careers in the major leagues. My closest friend, Brad Fullmer, was drafted by the Montreal Expos after graduation from Montclair Prep. He was one of the very few athletes who homered during his first at bat in the big leagues. Later, Brad was a major contributor to the Anaheim Angels during their 2002 World Series victory.
Other friends of mine, who built successful careers in the big leagues, included Jeff Suppan, Aaron Boone, Gabe Alvarez, and Geoff Jenkins. I knew that my baseball career would end at USC.