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Does Prison Change You – Paris Vows Yes

April 13, 2008 – Can a three week prison stay change a person? Hotel heiress Paris Hilton says yes. In her comments to people magazine Paris said, „I’m a good person. I’m a compassionate person. I have a big heart. I’m sincere, and they’ll see.“ All comments made from a person who has received more media attention for her incarceration than Martha Stewart received from hers.

The media attention and scrutiny for most people would be unbearable. Paris, of course, is accustomed to the limelight. Yet, with the frenzy of attention she is receiving, we all know that the first slip up will capture the headlines. And, speaking from experience, Paris needs time to reflect beyond her incarceration time. She needs the opportunity to examine what is important and how she can make a difference.

Having served time in Federal prison for a crime more serious than drunk driving, I, too, had the time to experience the isolation and reflection that incarceration brings. Of course, like most, there was no media attention surround my time in jail – only close friends and family cared. But, looking back on the experience, now some eleven years ago, I can honestly say that it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was a life changing experience – one that I will never repeat and one that I will never forget.

Often I’m asked, „So what was that experience like anyway?“ Well, different than most would think. In my case, I was incarcerated in a Federal Minimum Security facility – what some call „Club Fed.“ Let me say at the outset, I was no „club“ but certainly „Fed“ all the way. Each inmate was required to work – other than for medical reasons – no exceptions. You do get paid (it’s against the law to require work for no pay – that’s called „slavery“) – I earned 12 cents per hour. Fortunately at that meager earning level it was tax free!

Paris said of her stay that, „All of the inmates were very supportive.“ I found that to be true as well. Of course, using good God given common sense – there was those folks you just knew to stay away from. But, for the most part, most inmates felt the same as I – we knew we were being punished and had to make the best of it. It seems that after the release – re incarceration fiasco, Paris resigned herself to make the best of the situation at hand. In truth, situations like this can be extraordinary blessings in disguise.

In a quote featured on CNN, it’s reported that Hilton said, „Don’t serve the time; let the time serve you.“ That statement is profound. From personal experience I have seen both approaches to jail time. There are those who are doing time – who see no value to come from it – who just take a day at a time with no expectation gain. On the other hand, there were those who I was incarcerated with who used their time wisely. Many wrote – spent time planning for how they would benefit other once released and there were some of us who benefited other while incarcerated.

Very few people get the (odd) gift that incarceration can bring. As I look back to a time that was less than pleasant – I recall having lost everything. My marriage was in shambles. I had no home – no job – no car – no career and practically no possessions other than some clothes. Yet, being stripped of everything was just what I needed to focus on why I was there and what it meant to „be somebody.“ The time I had to self reflect proved to be some of the most valuable time of my life. It gave me a chance to learn who I was and what my gift to the world could be. Being in prison was one of the best things that ever happened to me. As Paris Hilton said about being incarcerated, it gave her „time to get to know myself.“ What a gift.

As a motivational speaker and sales executive in a publicly traded company, I often have the opportunity to share my experiences. Most people, especially in the business community, don’t know someone who has been to prison – and recovered. Whether through a keynote speech, motivational workshop or ethics presentation, the message can be powerful to those willing to hear. Every choice we make has a consequence. Consequences are unavoidable. The reality, however, is that the consequence can be either positive or negative. Through our actions we choose. My bad choices yielded a negative consequence. Subsequent good choices have provided an outstandingly positive result.

Paris has a unique opportunity ahead of her. With focus and determination she can have a profound and positive effect on those who watch her closely. Perhaps we should all hold out hope that Paris can do on a much broader scale what I’ve had the fortune to accomplish – that is bring a message of hope that there is recovery and redemption to those who make the right choices.

For more information on presentations on Choices visit

By: Chuck Gallagher

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Chuck Gallagher is an international speaker and author who shares his life experience in a way that is meaningful for his audiences. For information on Chuck’s presentations or how to subscribe to his free ezine…visit

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