Whenever I hear about an FCPA sentencing that involves time in federal prison, I think of the day in July 2012 when I faced the judge and learned my fate.
I recall so clearly the anxiety of standing before Judge Richard Leon in DC, knowing that before I left the courtroom a sentence would be pronounced which would have life changing consequences.
When Judge Leon sentenced me to eighteen months in federal prison, I felt anxiety at my custodial sentence instead of home confinement, as the government recommended. But I also felt relief that it wasn’t five years in prison, which was the statutory maximum in my plea agreement with the DOJ.
About a month later, as I was standing on a train platform getting ready to visit a friend in NYC, I received a call from Pre-Trial Services. The courteous voice told me where I was going to serve my sentence and my self-surrender date. Her politeness made it all the more surreal.
I would be at the Prison Camp in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and my self-surrender date would be September 28, 2012.
I didn’t know where Lewisburg was and quickly looked it up on a map. I searched for more information about the Prison Camp but didn’t learn a lot, other than they had a good education department.
On the first Monday of my incarceration I asked the correctional officer in charge of education if there were any openings. He said, “It’s the lowest paying job here,” to which I responded, “If I can help someone, I’d like the job.” I started the following week as a tutor to other inmates who wanted to better educate themselves during their time in prison.
In the summer of 2013, my case manager paged me over the prison PA system to come to his office. He ran through my release-date calculation: Due to the “good time” reduction of 15 percent and one month of home confinement, I would be released on December 17, 2013.
“I’ll be home for the holidays,” I thought. I called and emailed family and friends. And I became more diligent about making sure my last six months in prison would be without fanfare or drama. In prison, every day brings the possibility of something going wrong, where an infraction, even a minor one, can lead to the loss of some or all of “good time.”
I read more — a lot more — and spent most of my time alone in my cell (we called them our “cubes”). I was working to protect my pre-holidays release date. Besides, by then I was infected with the MRSA bacteria and required medical attention, so I really needed that release date to happen.
And so, on December 17, 2013, I was processed out of the Prison Camp at Lewisburg. In a reverse of my reporting day, I walked into the parking lot and, with family, drove directly to the U.S. Courthouse in New Haven, Connecticut, where I would need to be processed back in for my one-month of home confinement.
During my session with a court officer, I was introduced to the ankle bracelet that I’d wear for the next month. Home confinement isn’t probation. You’re still in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. But I would be home.
(My infectious disease specialist still talks about my first visit, when I explained to him why I was wearing an ankle bracelet. He was a great sport about it. More importantly, he helped me get well.)
Today I’m a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog. When not writing about compliance, I’m usually talking about it with members of the compliance community, company executives, and even government officials. Five years ago none of these extraordinary blessings seemed even remotely possible.
A deeply felt thank you for your welcome and generosity. And happy holidays to all.
Richard Bistrong, pictured above, is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog and CEO of Front-Line Anti-Bribery LLC. In 2010 he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to violate the FCPA and served fourteen and a half months at a U.S. federal prison camp. He was named to Compliance Week’s list of Top Minds in 2017 and was one of Ethisphere’s 100 Most Influential in Business Ethics in 2015. He was named by Thomson Reuters in 2018 as a Top 50 Social Influencer in Risk, Compliance and RegTech.
His award winning compliance training video, Behind the Bribe, produced in cooperation with Mastercard, was released in 2017. To request a demo of the full eleven-minute video or a licensing fee schedule, please click here.