I answered the following question about being a white collar criminal on my Quora profile.
Negative reactions after people find out you’re a white collar criminal
Number 1 of many—in no particular order
“But you said you were an author,” she said.
“Yes, I did and I am. Some authors like me wrote their book inside a federal prison,” I told a pharmaceutical rep over a $16 dollar glass of wine at 1 Pico in Santa Monica.
“But my dad’s a doctor. He would be so stunned if I told him I’m dating someone who went to prison. You seem so normal, nice and you went to USC. You seemed perfect but prison, no fucking way. I have to go,” she said.
Number two negative reaction after people find out I’m a white collar criminal…
“Judge Wilson I worked hard in prison to better understand the motivations that led me to break the law. While in prison I used my time productively to ensure that I would be successful upon my release. To that end, I built a career as a consultant and an ethics speaker. I’m committed to helping others avoid the pitfalls that I succumbed to,” I told Judge Wilson at a restitution hearing after my release from prison.
“The last thing America needs,” Judge Wilson said,” is a felon, a criminal speaking on ethics. What a joke. You’ve got to be kidding. You wrote a book. So what,” he said as he laughed at me in the courtroom.
Number three negative reaction after people find out I’m a white collar criminal…
You were the highest rated speaker at our Summit at Wake Forest University. But we’ve decided that you cannot be the highest paid because you are a felon or criminal. Wouldn’t look right,” an outside professor who coordinated the event told me (Wake Forest had nothing to do with honorariums).
“The data should determine who earns what,” I told the professor. “ If I’m delivering the most value and the data supports it, I should earn more. Pay is based on performance,” I was calm and direct.
“Justin, come on,” with a look of disgust. “You’re a financial criminal,” the contempt was obvious.
Number four negative reaction after people find out I’m a white collar criminal…
“Wait, are you getting paid? You went to prison? No way. I have an MBA and I can’t get a job. You went to prison, wrote some book about prison and you travel the country for money to talk about it. You’ve got to be kidding me,” a corpulent angry student blurted out 30 seconds into my speech at a top 5 business school.
And many more…
The negativity has never bothered me. If anything I feel a great deal of empathy for people who immediately judge me based on my brief time inside federal prison. Ad hominems are alive and well in this country. In other words, I’m a criminal, therefore, I have no character and I’m filled with vice, not virtue.
People with criminal records are treated differently, in part, because breaking the law was something we chose to do. People who have cancer did not choose to have cancer. In our case, it is harder for others to have empathy because we chose to do it. There is a sense of “otherness” that comes our way, even from family.
I am grateful to have a great deal of support and thankfully the Stoics have guided me to overcome some very tough days as a convicted white collar criminal.
I have frequently said that the easiest part of a conviction is the actual time served in prison. The greatest consequence of a felony conviction for many is at the lifelong consequences that follow. Indeed, the scarlet letter F for felon is permanent and can lead to hatred, ostracism and negative people.
The way forward for me is continuing to feel blessed for all I have. I strive to live in a state of gratitude for all the blessings that come my way. When others judge me negatively or dismiss me because of my past, I simply move on. Too many other positive things are going on in my life to be brought down by people who wish to judge me for actions I made so many years ago.
Have you ever found a negative person doing better than you? Me neither.
P.S. You can grab my book for free here.
P.S.S. Read what real clients say about the work we do at White Collar Advice and Prison Professors.