New Prisoners Should Prepare Family Before Self-Surrendering

By · Sunday, March 8th, 2009

John was a fellow prisoner at Taft Camp who was going through a difficult adjustment. The trouble was not so much the 14-month sentence he served, but rather the pressure he felt as a consequence of his not being able to meet the financial needs of his family. John said that he could have made better preparations, but living in denial for the years preceding his confinement had clouded his judgment.

John had been a senior executive for a global corporation. In the interests of advancing his career, John had made some decisions that turned out to violate antitrust laws. He had clung to beliefs that he was not guilty of having violated any criminal statutes, as he was only doing what his job required. When prosecutors went after John’s employer, however, senior officers in the corporation made decisions that resulted in John becoming a scapegoat.

Had John cooperated with the government attorneys from the outset, he surmised that he would have received an immunity deal that would have shielded him from criminal prosecution. Such a decision, however, would have implied that John was not on the team and resulted in his being ostracized. His career would have suffered, he said.

As a consequence of John’s having lived under the absolute assumption that he would never serve time, he did not make adequate financial preparations. For years he had earned an income in the low six figures, and John said that he had not lived beyond his means. Still, he had made financial decisions for his family based on the belief that his high income would continue.

John’s trouble with the criminal justice system had lasted for several years. In the beginning, the corporation had covered the substantial legal costs. When decisions were made to sever ties, John not only lost his income, but he simultaneously became responsible for six-figure legal fees. John did not anticipate the financial ruin problems with the criminal justice system would bring to his family.

People who are coming into the criminal justice system would be wise to learn more about the ancillary consequences. The family members often suffer much more than the prisoners once the judge imposes sentence. While John spent his time walking around the track and reading, he knew that he had burdened his wife with having to deal with foreclosure and bankruptcy on her own. He said his life was a disaster, and the sentence was much more difficult to serve as a consequence of his failure to make adequate preparations for his family.

New prisoners ought to learn from John’s anguish before they come in. I recommend they read Preparing to Self-Surrender among other other articles available through the catalog.

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