Aaron Sands/ Class 1: Values

by Aaron Sands

16. Who are you?

Who am I? Metaphorically speaking, I am every person who has ever been imprisoned in America who was wholly ignorant of the criminal justice system (particularly the Feds). I am every person who had a family, job, friends, house, car, two dogs, a community of cats (long story) and who has committed a crime that received prison time far outweighing what might be perceived as ‘reasonable.’ Who am I? I am just a person who has made some mistakes and is reminded of them every time I open my eyes.

17. Describe your background with regard to your education, vocation or career, troubles with the law.

High school diploma

US Army (4 years active, 3 years reserve)

Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education Math/Computer Science from the University of Maine at Farmington

1 year of the Master’s degree program at the University of Florida in Statistics

3 speeding tickets

18. What are you going through now?

‘The only constant is change.’ I am trying to make adjustments for the short-term (less than a year); middle-term (less than five years); and long-term (more than five years up to the rest of my life). I’ve always had a plan and a path laid out for my life and now I find myself revising that plan over and over as opportunities come up or disappear. It is uncomfortable, but not necessarily scary.

Describe your vision of the best person you can become during the following time frames:

19. Time remaining to serve.

Having no desire to become a “model” inmate and take the classes that are offered by the BOP, my remaining time will be spent in opportunities for spiritual, emotional and physical growth. As I have a tendency to become too single-minded in my pursuits, I will try to achieve balance in my life.

20. One month after release.

If I do my work while I’m still incarcerated, one month after release should have been a relatively smooth transition. There will be a lot of anxiety-all change brings anxiety-but it will, hopefully, be eustress as opposed to the other kind.

21. One year after release.

I hope to be fully immersed in my chosen career at this point (whatever it may be). I enjoy travelling, so I hope to have been able to visit some of the cities as other places I have always wanted to. Perhaps this will be part of my new career.

22. Five years after release.

‘Life’s been goo to me so far…’ I hope at this point that I will have been successful enough that my prison experience, while never forgotten, will be such a distant memory that it will seem like a lifetime ago.

23. How do those in society perceive people in prison?

24. Describe how television programs and movies depict prisoners:

25. Compare and contrast your prison adjustment with the prison stereotype.

26. In what ways is your adjustment similar?

27. In what ways is your adjustment different?

Describe what opportunities for personal growth and development exist in the different prison security levels:

28. High security.

29. Medium security.

30. Low security.

31. Minimum security.

32. Prior to release, what do prisoners generally say about their prospects for returning?

33. In what ways, if any, do those who never return to prison serve their sentences differently from those who do return to prison?

34. What steps can a prisoner take to improve chances of success upon release?

Sentence length is not a factor that is controlled from within prison, but adjustment inside prison may influence success upon release. For a better understanding of prison expectations, describe your thoughts on:

35. What length of time would you consider long-term imprisonment?

36. What expectations do those in society have for long-term prisoners?

37. What expectations do you suppose long-term prisoners have for themselves?

38. What do prison administrators and staff members expect of long-term prisoners?

39. How would you define a “model inmate”?

40. How does Michael’s prison journey support or refute prison stereotypes?

41. What role did the prison infrastructure play in influencing Michael’s journey through prison?

42. What vision governed Michael’s decisions as a prisoner?

The Straight-A Guide includes seven attributes that he describes explicitly in the books Triumph!  And Success! What do the following attributes mean to you?

43. Attitude: What level of commitment do you make to preparing for success upon release?

44. Aspiration: Where do you see yourself at various checkpoints in the future?

45. What distinguishes an aspiration from a fantasy?

46. Action: What steps are you taking toward aspiration?

47. Accountability: How are you measuring progress?

48. Awareness: How knowledgeable are you about the atmospherics around you?

49. In what ways do you reach beyond the boundaries that currently confine you?

50. What do you know about the challenges that will confront you upon release?

51. Achievement: When do you celebrate success?

52. Appreciation: What role do others have in your success?

53. Where did those choices lead?

54. What did you value then?

55. How would you guide your children if they were making choices in the same way?

56. What would you do differently if you could?

57. Describe the differences in your life today from the first days of your confinement.

58.  How have your activities from last week led to your activities for this week?

59. Identify the values by which you live.

60. To what extent do your daily activities harmonize with the values by which you live?

61. How do your professed values relate to your perceived role in society?

62. Where does your allegiance lie?

63. Are values situational or absolute?

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