- Michael Szafranski
- Welcome to my blog. For those of you who do not know, I, Michael Szafranski, was recently released from the Federal Prison Camp in Miami, Florida where I spent 11 months. It took six years from the time that I knew I was under investigation to the day I reported to prison. In many ways those six years were worse than the 11 months I actually sat. This blog is going to deal with many of the issues facing people like myself who are just trying to navigate the legal system when they find out they are in trouble and are thrown into the crazy world that is our criminal justice system. My case was kind of high profile so I dealt with it all. I am sharing what I learned so that others will be a little more prepared as to how to deal with various situations and to hopefully shed a little bit of light on what really goes on in the system. Please email me with any questions and if you would like to utilize my consulting services. Appreciate any comments and critiques! Follow along as I publish my book at https://www.wattpad.com/user/whitecollarguru. Email me at email@example.com with any questions.
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
How will children deal with the reality that they had a parent in prison? Preparing children for prison is something that I addressed a couple of years ago when I spoke about the responsibility that parents have toward their children and preparing them for a parent going to prison in http://www.whitecollarguru.com/2017/05/what-to-say-and-what-not-to-say-to.html
Today, I am not referring to the time while the parent is incarcerated, which is a discussion in and of itself. Rather, I am specifically referring to the time after a parent comes home and how children go through life with the reality that there was time when the parent was is prison. The time that a parent was incarcerated was no doubt a traumatic period and its impact will remain with the children throughout their lives. It does not matter if the term of incarceration was one month or 20 years. The bottom line is the children went through a time when a parent was not around because he was either found guilty or pleaded guilty to a crime. Birthdays were missed, holidays were missed, and important events were missed. This is time we cannot get back. However, I am going to discuss how children deal with the time after release.
Last month I wrote about the necessity of the former inmate not to shy away from the fact he was in prison http://www.whitecollarguru.com/2019/11/prison-you-need-to-own-it.html. The same can be said for children. I have found the less a child stigmatizes the fact that a father will be in prison, the less others will as well. Children need to feel that they should not be ashamed that a parent was in prison. That’s not to say that they should advertise it, but when it comes up, or when a situation arises that the child can use it to his advantage, he should not be afraid to do so.
I have not written a lot about my kids for obvious reasons. Each of my kids are very different from one another and each dealt with my incarceration differently and each deal with the past differently. Amazingly enough, my three children dealt with it in their own way and powered through. At any time, any of them could have had the excuse to act out, do poorly in school or just sink into a depression, but they did not do so. They dealt with it as adults when, they were just children. They never needed any professional help, and kept up their grades. I would argue that today they are better people for having gone through a very bad situation. As I grow older, I believe more and more that there is a master plan at work. Some will call it G-d, and some will call it destiny. I believe that there was a master plan for me to go to prison and that I was given children with the constitutions to withstand such a cataclysmic event. I do not believe in randomness.
The road to where they are today has been a long one in the three plus years since I have been released. My kids have not shied away from who they are and who their father is. I have even allowed them to read the various articles about me on the web, since they know that 99% of what the read there is false. They have been forthcoming about their past with teachers, friends and anyone that asks. They have even used it to their advantage as I will illustrate with the following true story.
My daughter is taking a college level class in criminal justice. It is a class that she can probably even give at this point as I certainly can as well. Recently, her professor told the class that federal prisoners must server 97% of their sentences. My daughter, who is a lot like me, raised he hand and informed him that he was mistaken and that federal prisoners serve 85% of their sentences. Incidentally, this is not a teenager one should argue with since she is generally correct in her factual arguments. The professor was not convinced. He was adamant that he was correct, and my daughter was mistaken. Keep in mind that everyone in that class knows that I went to prison, so they knew who was correct in this argument. My daughter would not let this go and pursued the professor after class to prove him wrong. Again, she is a lot like her father. Finally, he said “How are you so sure!” To which my daughter responded as only she can, “BECAUSE MY FATHER WENT TO PRISON AND ONLY DID 85%!”. Now from what I am told the professor went pale white and I can only imagine that at that moment you could have heard a pin drop. The argument was over.
I am not retelling the story to point out my daughter’s inherent confidence. I am retelling it to point out that she is not ashamed of where she comes from. She is not ashamed to use her experiences to her advantage be it by correcting a teacher or even potentially using her experience to her advantage when it comes to applying to colleges next year. It is this type of confidence and lack of embarrassment that every child of a former prisoner should exude. They need to know that there is no shame in having had a parent go to prison. If anything, it helps them be more secure in who they are and will help them develop into productive adults.
Another opportunity unique that former prisoner have is to teach their children the lessons learned both while in prison as well as the time prior to serving. I am not talking about avoiding getting into trouble. Kids can figure that out on their own. I am talking about making them better people. One lesson that is important for children to learn is just because someone went to prison does not make them a bad person or even guilty for that matter. Aside from the importance of children respecting their parents, the truth of the matter is that there are plenty of people who are in prison who did nothing wrong. If a child can learn that just because a prosecutor said something it is not necessarily true, the child will learn the valuable lesson of making a judgment for himself and not relying on what others say. Along the same lines, children can be taught the lesson that everyone makes mistakes, and everyone deserves a second chance. Given that repentance is a basic tenant of every major religion and that they need to give other people second chances, children can also learn that even when they themselves make mistakes that they can recover and thrive as a result of that very mistake.
Just about every person in prison camp was wealthier before he went to prison and am no exception. The road back to prosperity is not an easy one and often decades may pass after incarceration before a former felon can get back to where he was financially prior to going to prison. Children learn from this that they don’t have to always have the fanciest clothes, the newest iPhones, the most elaborate vacations or the largest house. In a time when we as adults and our children are so driven by materiality, it is a good lesson to pass on that they can do just fine with a little or even a lot less. As they enter adulthood, they will have less of an entitlement complex and a greater work ethic since they learned early on that nothing comes easy to them. More importantly, they will have sympathy for those less fortunate than they are and will endeavor to give a helping hand to those in need.
As in every other challenge in life, the real test is how we respond. As former felons, do we blame society for our misfortunes, in this case prison, and wallow in anger or do we respond with strength? Children in this regard are no different than adults other than the fact that as adults we have a responsibility to our children. This continues post release and I would argue that the post release attitude is more important than the pre incarceration preparation. The way we handle our post release and the way our children see us handle ourselves has the potential to mold our children in the most positive ways and turn them into not only normal but thriving adults who will use the experience for the betterment of themselves and society at large.
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