Journal Entry: Justin Paperny-08/04/2023-Michael White

Journal Entry

Making a Difference

I was so happy to receive an unsolicited comment from Michael White. I got so enthusiastic that I called my partner Michael. We spoke about Michael’s commitment to preparing for success upon release. He is struggling with a lack of financial resources, including many responsibilities, including raising four children. Sadly, he is also facing prosecution.

Michael needed help. He reached out to our community and wrote about the value he found. He attends every webinar. He asks questions. He engages. Those attributes are the sign of someone who wants to recalibrate and rebuild. What I really like about Michael is he does not make excuses. He invests in himself and does it with gratitude and humility.

While serving my term at Taft Prison Camp, I wanted to help people like Michael. I still remember when I sat across the table from my partner. My partner and I discussed how we needed to work toward changing how we measure justice in America. Although I was new to the system, my partner has been imprisoned for over 20 years. He helped me understand the value of measuring justice my merit rather than by turning calendar pages. He invited me to work alongside him, and since then, we have built a community that has reached more than a million people.

When we discussed these changes, we had to be strategic. We could not change the system of justice for one person. Regardless of how much money one person had or what distinction thye had before imprisonment, we could not change it for one person. Only a federal judge could do that. 

Michael helped me understand that we would have to change the entire system. We would have to change policies that incentivized excellence. And together, we laid out a strategic plan. Those conversations inspired Michael to write Earning Freedom. It is based on the same system we accept in America; we reward hard-working people. If a person works hard, the market will reward that person. We need a similar system in prison. 

Slowly we began to make progress. Through our work, we saw incredible change. For example, The First Step Act incentives the pursuit of excellence. When people qualify and work to prepare for success upon release, they earn higher levels of liberty. Seeing the Bureau of Prison profiling our work on their homepage still blows me away. No one will know how much work my partner and I have had to do to open relationships and influence policy and law changes. We cannot do it for one person, but we can do it for a million,

Michae White is the reason we do his work. We need to profile his story and show the impact we are having. It is the reason we have invested so many of our resources to building Prison Professors Talent. You can take a look at our progress by bookmarking our impact page. As of today, we feature about 200 profiles. In a month, we expect to feature 500 profiles. 

  • Are you documenting your story? 

We invite you to become a part of the solution. We know others want a shortened sentence and want home confinement. Through these journal entries, my partner and I show our commitment. 

I invite you to document the commitment you are making. As Michael used to ask me, I will ask you. How bad do you want it?

I am going to invoke a memory of a great commercial. It featured Michael Jordan saying, “Just Do It.” Then it said to be like Mike. Be like Michael White. Commit.