I was happily living a normal suburban life when I was tipped off that Federal Special Agents in California were looking for me. Within weeks I found myself in US Federal Court facing up to five years in Federal Prison. Months later I was living in a small concrete cube struggling to adjust to my new life as a Federal Prison inmate.
Four years earlier I was preparing to complete my Bachelor’s degree at a top private university where I had been awarded a partial scholarship and would eventually graduate in the top of my class. Unfortunately, these achievements would ultimately be overshadowed by my decision to make false statements on Federal Student Loan applications, which resulted in me being awarded funds for which I did not qualify. I used the money to help pay some of my tuition, start a business and seek out medical care for a chronic pain condition.
The loans were in good standing when a US Federal Judge sentenced me to six months in Federal prison. While I applied for the loans in my own name and had been making the monthly payments, it is of course illegal to make false statements on any federal loan application. Plain and simple, fraud is fraud. It doesn’t matter why you broke the law or what positive actions you have undertaken since. The only thing that matters to the Department of Justice is that you broke the law.
Because of my past medical history, I was not sent to a minimum security Federal Prison Camp, the usual designation for non-violent white collar offenders. Instead I was sent to a Federal Medical Center, a federal prison which houses inmates of all security levels. While my sentence was extremely light compared to those around me, adjusting to federal prison was difficult. I soon realized that equipped with the right information, the experience, especially in the beginning could have been made much less stressful. At that time I began compiling the information that would eventually come to be the basis for Federal Prison- A Comprehensive Survival Guide.
Like many felons, the time since my release has been full of ups and downs. The initial elation that I felt upon being released has subdued as I face the stigma of being a convicted felon and the stress that comes with a mountain of legal fees and court ordered restitution. Of course I am aware that this was all of my own doing. I did not create this site to garner sympathy. And I am extremely thankful to be free with the opportunity to rebuild, no matter how difficult. Many of the inmates I would come to know and even call friends will remain at the prison for many years to come. Some will never be released.
One positive that I have taken from my experience is the realization that nothing and no one should be taken for granted. There are no guarantees in life. Every day is a blessing and happiness can be found in the smallest of things and the most unlikely of places. Challenges and disappointments met with a positive state of mind will make you stronger and wiser. Whether or not you choose to adopt that state of mind is the one and only thing that is under your complete control.
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