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Ethics and Consequences: Lessons from Prison

business ethics, corporate ethics,

Competent, educated and in prison – I would never have considered that this is where I would be some 11 years ago. But, there are consequences to every choice we make and though one might think that we can avoid the consequences – we can’t. They are unavoidable and certain. We just don’t know how or when we will face the inevitable.

As a former CPA who, through a series of choices, became a white-collar criminal, I now take the time to review my time in prison and write about that experience so that others may gain benefit from my experience. Some of us learn lessons the hard way. Yet, through sharing the experience of my incarceration, others have stated that they’ve been able to look at their choices in a different and more productive way.

While the prison experience was painful, as the following excerpt from my memoirs shows, it provided a foundation for an incredible opportunity for growth. Likewise, through the prison experience I found numerous ways to help others.

My journal dated - October 6, 1995 reads as follows:

“8:37 a.m. -- Reading this morning brought up feelings of sadness, once again. I understand I'm here to be punished, and being away from my children and the things I hold dear is punishment.

4:00 p.m. -- Its time for mail call and stand up count time. I live for this time. Being cut off from society is difficult. I hope each day that someone cares enough to send me a letter.

9:40 p.m. -- At dinner tonight I had a revelation, I need to talk to high school children and college kids, about the effects of the choices they make. 70% or more of the people here are here for drug-related crimes. It's sad to see the educational level of most of the inmates. How can anyone expect to ever break the cycle of poverty and crime, if they don't have the education to do so? I don't know my role now, but hopefully someday I can make a difference.”

Now, some eleven years later, I find that the personal growth from the prison experience provided a foundation for help to others. The revelation to speak to high school and college students has manifested through the establishment of the Choices Foundation, which provides a forum to educate young people on the effects of the choices they make.

It’s extremely powerful to see and hear how young people react to the message of choice and consequence. All too often they don’t experience the direct consequence of the choices they make. The detriment of youth is you haven’t lived long enough to see the link between choice and outcome. Likewise, many youth, other than perhaps those extremely disadvantaged, have no connection with anyone who has been incarcerated for their actions. Therefore, being exposed, in a direct way, to someone who has made unethical choices and faced the consequences, to some is profound.

All too often we find that “ethics” and “ethical choices” dominate our media through new events of what has been done wrong. In order to change our focus, we must create an awareness of what should be done right. Ethics and ethical thoughts must begin with an understanding that one cannot escape the consequences of their personal choices.

For a free report on the five most common corporate ethics violations, go to
Published: 2007-01-01
Author: Chuck Gallagher

About the author or the publisher
On a crisp October day in 1995, Chuck Gallagher took 23 physical steps… opened a door… and began a new experience that was life-changing. This series of articles explores that experience and the success that followed… while involving the reader in ways that could be life-altering for them. Gallagher captures the heart of the audience in an honest way that deals with human emotion. For information on Chuck’s keynotes and workshops go to or for a free ezine on Ethical Choices contact Chuck at


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