Long Walk to Freedom—Piecka

Author of Book: Nelson Mandela
Date Read: March 1, 2022

Book Report

Title: Long Walk to Freedom

Author: Nelson Mandela

Genre: Non-Fiction

Why I Read This Book:

Michael Santos was the first author I read that recommended “Long Walk to Freedom”. Several other books I have read mentioned it as well but it is when a former fellow Federal Prison Inmate recommends a book that also tells a story about Prison life, the struggles, and the mental strength that you need to not only survive but to actually come out a BETTER version of yourself is what makes this book mandatory reading for anyone serving a Prison sentence. 

I, like most that are reading this Book Report, am serving time in Federal Prison because of a crime that I 100% admit to committing. I broke the law. Nelson Mandela broke the law also. However, imagine being constantly arrested, found guilty in a court of law, and serving over 27 years in Prison for simply wanting fairness. That’s it. Nelson Mandela wanted ALL people in South Africa to be treated equally. Apartheid is just a fancy word for segregation and racism. The Constitution of South Africa literally said that coloured people, including black and Indian heritage, were NOT equal! They were told where they were “allowed” to live, which were basically third world ghetto’s, what jobs they could and could not have, and they certainly were told they had no rights for things like voting. Even if you TALKED about freedom, you were arrested for conspiracy. If you were fortunate enough to be found “not guilty” of one crime, the government would simply re-arrest you before you even left the court room for new charges based on new laws that were put on the books while you were on trial! 

One question you may be asking–When did all this take place? The 1800’s? No!  The majority of Nelson Mandela’s prison term was between 1960 – 1990. 

The similarities between Nelson Mandela’s time in Prison and what we face were truly amazing. The frustration with unfair treatment from Correction Officers (he calls them warders), the importance of educating yourself, the want for the simple things in life are all identical in this country at this time as it was in Africa during his time. 

Nelson Mandela would one day earn his freedom and not long afterwards become President of South Africa. He certainly had a long walk to freedom. It is a path I highly recommend reading about. 

What I Learned From This Book:

“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”

Nelson Mandela believed in the power of learning even before he was in Prison and pushed for “study time” to be allowed so his fellow inmates (and political prisoners) can educate themselves while being incarcerated. If you are not moving yourself forward while you are in Prison, you will exit Prison the exact same person as you entered. How can that help you in life when you need to compete with others with clean records for jobs and even promotions? The Prison Library may not be on par with your local public library but there is enough there to get you started on a new path. Work with what you have. 

“She was in-doubtedly considering the difficult months and years ahead, of life on her own, raising small children….It is one thing to be told of possible hardships ahead, it is entirely another to actually have to confront them.” 

Here, Nelson Mandela is referring to his wife being left alone after he is found guilty and sentenced to Prison. We are NOT the only ones who receive sentences. Our spouses, kids, and loved ones serve time also. Many of them are immediately thrown into a life of trying to survive, let alone maintain, a household whose income was just cut in half or worse. Prison is tough. But do not forget those who are also serving sentences with us. 

“A small porthole above was the only source of light and air. The porthole served another purpose as well: the warders (officers) enjoyed urinating on us from above.”

There are definitely Correctional Officers that enjoy letting Prisoners know they have authority and power and we have neither. Not to the extreme that Nelson Mandela faced but being beat down mentally can have longer term damage than being beat down physically. Do not give up your internal power. “I realized that they could take everything from me except my mind and my heart. Those things I still had control over. And I decided not to give them away.” I often say that Prison gives you a PHD in how to let stuff roll off your back. Keep your mind and your heart strong as Nelson Mandela did. 

“On the Outside we would have remained acquaintances, but Prison is an incubator of friendship.”

I have 100% met a handful of life long friends that I would NEVER have had a chance to meet had it not been for Prison. We could have even been neighbors or fellow employees and never would have developed a friendship or a future business partnership. If you are open to it, Prison is filled with knowledgeable people despite the reason they are there. Keep your eyes and ears open. 

“Prison life is about routine. Time slows down in Prison; the days seem endless. The cliche’ of time passing slowly usually has to do with idleness and inactivity.”

100% TRUTH!! I have preached this exact thing to several new inmates at this Prison and to see the words in print from someone like Nelson Mandela is truly gratifying. Time CAN go by fast in Prison but only if you set up a routine that you can repeat daily with activities that take up blocks of time. 

There are so many more quotes I tagged that are so relevant to our Prison life but reading them yourself is even more rewarding. 

Why I Will Be Successful After Reading This Book:

Nelson Mandela never should have spent 1 day in Prison. Had he not, would he have become a successful attorney? Probably. Would he have met his wife and had his children and grandchildren? It’s possible. Would he have become a world famous president, author, and inspiration to millions? No way. Therefore, was it worth it? He would say even though so many of his “best years” with his wife and family were taken away, he fulfilled his purpose in life. And that was worth it for his people. 

I should never have gone to Federal Prison. My upbringing showed zero signs of me leading to any criminal activity. Had I not gone to Prison, would I be the same person I am no? Absolutely not. Is that a god thing? Absolutely yes!

Like Nelson Mandela, I believe this was my path to a better life. Going to Federal Prison FORCED me to better myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. This led to learning things that can and will better mine and my families life financially. This led to me wanting to help others more than at any point in my life! 

“Prison is a still point in a turning world, and it is very easy to remain in the same place in jail while the world moves on.”

Being Federal Prison Inmate #44628-509 is not a life sentence to me. Like Nelson Mandela, it is an opportunity to prepare for success the second I leave Prison. Everything that happens to us in Prison, the lack of Freedom, the hardships, lack of contact to the outside world, the limitation on necessities, they all can help prepare you for success. 

“I do not lose. I win or I Learn.”

Refuse to take a Prison Sentence as a step backwards. Use it to move YOUR walk to freedom FORWARD.

About Me:

My name is Jeff Piecka and I was sentenced to 34 months in a Federal Prison Camp in Oxford, WI, after committing a white collar crime several years ago. Before self-surrendering on June 6, 2022, I promised my wife and family that I WILL exit prison a better husband, son, brother, Christian, future employee, and overall better member of society because I am going to better myself in three ways:

1) Physically–Not just for vanity purposes but a better operating body equals a better operating mind.

2) Mentally–Reading only non-fiction books, newspapers, and magazines that educate and elevate my mind and expand my vocabulary.

3) Spiritually–For ME, this means learning more from the Bible but it can also mean whatever “Greater Good” you believe in. 

Shortly after self-surrendering and reading Michael Santos’s book “Earning Freedom–Conquering a 45 Year Prison Term”, it inspired me to want to help just 1 person who is possibly heading to Prison so I started emailing my family Posts that my sister uses to post as a Blog on Reddit dot com called “Letters From Federal Prison”. I believe to date it has over 10,000 views and shares plus there are several comments from people advising that the Blog has helped them. This has motivated me to keep writing (which I have NEVER done anything like this before) and I REALLY want to help more people when I return to society next year.