Alphonza Cofield/ Class 1: Values

by Alphonza Cofield

16. Who are you?

I’m a very ambitious, loyal, hardworking and caring man. I love my family. I believe in God, and I try to treat people the way that I want to be treated. I love to learn new things. When I’m interested in something I give it my all. I have a crazy sense of humor. I love to laugh to relieve stress as well as workout.

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

I stopped attending school as a teenager in the eighth grade because I was constantly getting into trouble with the law and would miss too much time from school. Since I’ve been incarcerated I’ve obtained my GED, attended Ashworth University (correspondence courses) business management program, but had to put it on hold do to financial difficulty. I’ve also obtained a forklift license, completed a commercial industrial cleaning apprenticeship program, received core certification through the national center for construction education and research (NCCER) and I’m currently studying for HVAC certification through NCCER and EPA 608 universal technician certification.

18. What are you going through now?

I’m currently trying to get my HVAC certification so I’ll be better prepared to return to society upon my next parole hearing. I try to stay positive because things could always be worse. I have a 15 year old son who means more to me than anything in this world and I want to be the positive role model that I know I can be for him and myself.

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

19. Time remaining to serve.

I can have more patience, and I need to work more on my social skills because I can be an introvert at times.

20. One month after release.

I see myself working and building a foundation for me and my son. Networking with people that can help me achieve my goals.

21. One year after release.

I see myself working as a HVAC technician and earning passive income by purchasing tax liens and deeds. Also attending community college to get my degree in business management.

22. Five years after release.

I see myself obtaining my contractor license, owning several rental properties. obtaining my degree. purchasing my first home. and volunteering to speak to troubled youth. hopefully I can help someone from choosing this life from my story.

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

As though we’re all lazy, untrustworthy, and ignorant. You do have those individuals, but some of us are victims of circumstances and want to and will do the responsible thing if given the opportunity, but you have some good men behind these walls that may never get that opportunity.

24. Describe how television programs and movies depict prisoners:

Television depicts us all as animals and sexual predators. The FBOP has many vocational and educational programs that we take advantage of and television doesn’t give it’s viewers the opportunity to see that side of prison.

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

I was 15 years old the first time I came to prison. i was convicted of accessory to robbery and served 16 months in a maryland state penitentiary. My adjustment compared with the prison stereotype in that I was determined to leave prison the same way that I came in and I knew that I was going to have to do a lot of fighting to earn some respect. it didn’t matter if I won or lost all it took was for everyone to know that I would. so instead of a young man returning to society a young animal was released.

26. In what ways is your adjustment similar?

See above.

27. In what ways is your adjustment different?

My ADJUSTMENT IS DIFFERENT TODAY BECAUSE I’VE LEARNED HOW TO BE A MAN AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY ACTIONS. I UNDERSTAND THAT HARD WORK AND STRONG VALUES ARE WHAT IS NEEDED TO SUCCEED IN LIFE AND GROW AS A MAN, AND THAT THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE IS FOR THE WEAK MINDED INDIVIDUAL. NOTHING WORTH HAVING COMES EASY.

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

28. High security.

IN HIGH SECURITY THE TENSION LEVEL AMONG MEN IS VERY HIGH AND THE THREAT OF VIOLENCE IS ALWAYS NEAR. NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU TRY TO DISTANCE YOURSELF FROM IT THE ACTIONS OF SOMEONE JUST FROM THE SAME STATE YOU ARE FROM COULD CAUSE SOMEONE TO TRY TO TAKE YOUR LIFE SO YOU HAVE TO ALWAYS BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS AND ALWAYS BE PREPARED TO BATTLE.

29. Medium security.

MEDIUM SECURITY IS MORE RELAXED. THERE ARE MORE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS BECAUSE MORE PEOPLE HAVE NEAR FUTURE RELEASE DATES.

30. Low security.

N/A

31. Minimum security.

N/A

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

MOST SAY THEY AREN’T COMING BACK, BUT PLAN TO GO HOME TO BE BETTER MORE CUNNING CRIMINALS, WHICH I CAN’T UNDERSTAND.

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

THEY USE THERE TIME TRYING TO EDUCATE THEMSELVES. THEY ARE THE ONES WHO UNDERSTAND THAT IT ISN’T GOING TO BE EASY ONCE RELEASED AND THE MORE PREPARED YOU ARE THE BETTER YOUR CHANCES ARE OF BEING A PRODUCTIVE CITIZEN.

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

ESTABLISHING A LIFE PLAN IS ESSENTIAL.

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?

FIVE YEARS. I BELIEVE THAT ONCE A MAN HAS SERVED FIVE YEARS PRISON LIFE STARTS TO BECOME NORMAL TO HIM.

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

SOCIETY EXPECTS FOR US TO BE REHABILITATED, BUT THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND THAT THIS SYSTEM ISN’T DESIGNED FOR THAT AND THE MEN WHO REALLY DEDICATE THERE TIME TO EMERGE FROM PRISON BETTER MEN FACE THE MOST OPPOSITION FROM THOSE IN AUTHORITY.

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

90% OF THE LONG TERM PRISONERS THAT I’VE MET OVER THE YEARS HAVE VERY HIGH EXPECTATIONS, TO DO THE SAME THINGS THAT LEAD THEM HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE. THEY ALL BELIEVE THAT THEY WILL BE BETTER THAN THEY WERE BEFORE AND THAT THEY WILL BE TOO OLD TO BE GIVEN A CHANCE TO MAKE THE KIND OF INCOME NEEDED TO SUSTAIN THE RAPPER LIFESTYLE THEY FEEL THEY DESERVE TO LIVE. THEY ALSO BELIEVE THAT FINANCIAL SECURITY IS SOMETHING THAT IS OWED TO THEM AS OPPOSED TO EARNED.

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

THEY EXPECT YOU TO BE CONFRONTATIONAL, ANGRY AND SHORT TEMPERED. THEY TRY TO USE THESE INDIVIDUALS TO KEEP THINGS CALM AMONGST THE INMATES THAT ARE FROM THEIR CITY OR STATE BECAUSE MOST LONG TERM PRISONERS HAVE EARNED A LEVEL OF RESPECT FROM THEIR PEERS, MAKING THEM PERFECT VESSELS FOR THE ADMINISTRATION.

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

ONE WHO FOLLOWS THE RULES AND REGULATIONS OF THE INSTITUTION WITHOUT COMPLAINT OR CHALLENGE. ONE WHO IS ALWAYS SEEKING APPROVAL FROM STAFF AND DOES EVERYTHING HE CAN TO SUPPORT THEIR MEANINGLESS PROGRAMS.

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

FOR ALMOST A QUARTER CENTURY HE HAS DEDICATED HIS LIFE TO BEING A BETTER MAN FOR HIMSELF AND SOCIETY BUT NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU WORK OR HOW MUCH YOU ACHIEVE TO THIS SYSTEM YOU ARE A NUMBER AND IT ISN’T DESIGNED TO ACKNOWLEDGE INDIVIDUALS. HIS JOURNEY REFUTED IT BY HIS CONTINUING TO PUSH ON UNDERSTANDING THAT THE PROGRESS THAT HE MADE WAS GOING TO MAKE HIM A BETTER MAN.

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

THROUGHOUT HIS JOURNEY HE FACED THE SAME OPPOSITION AND OBSTACLES THAT ALL PRISONERS FACE THROUGHOUT THIS INJUSTICE SYSTEM, BUT HE DIDN’T LET IT HOLD HIM BACK OR DETER HIM FROM ACCOMPLISHING HIS GOALS.

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

THAT HE COULD, THROUGH HARD WORK AND DISCIPLINE PREPARE HIMSELF TO BE A CONTRIBUTING MEMBER OF SOCIETY FROM PRISON.

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?

I commit myself 100% to preparing for success upon release in regards to educating myself and avoiding negative influences and people around me who want to see me fail. failure isn’t an option and i will succeed and be a productive member of society.

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

I plan to be released in late 2013 or early 2014. within the first 5 years i plan to have my HVAC journeymen’s license, an associates degree in business management, own at least 3 rental properties, and giving back to my community by volunteering to mentor to at risk youth.

45. What distinguishes an aspiration from a fantasy?

working hard everyday to prepare and achieve the skill and training required for what you aspire to accomplish distinguishes it from fantasy.

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

I participate in a HVAC vocational training program 5 days per week learning hands-on and through course work the skills needed to be a certified technician. I also study independently one hour per day to prepare to take the EPA universal technician test. I read numerous real-estate books and I also work as a electrician apprentice from 7:30am- 3:30pm. Electrical experience is essential in the HVAC field.

47. Accountability: How are you measuring progress?

By constantly reviewing my goals and making sure that I’m always moving in the direction towards achieving them.

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

I am very knowledgeable of the atmosphere around me. I’ve been incarcerated over a decade and although I’ve learned how to do time, I still don’t let my environment dictate how I’m suppose to conduct myself. I strive to be a better man everyday and although negativity surrounds me I understand that I’m the cause of me being here and it’s my responsibility to emerge from here a better man, not the BOP.

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

I communicate regularly with my family and son who support me and help me maintain the level of peace that I have now.

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

I was 19 years old when I was arrested and I’ll be 32 Aug 1st. The world has changed a lot and I try to prepare myself for the things that I am unfamiliar with. I have never been on the internet or seen any of the technology that has been invented in the last decade so I take basic computer classes and typing courses to help me with the learning curve. Building trust, respect and being a positive influence in my sons life is the most important thing to me now and everything that I do is to make me a better man so I can be a better father for him.

51. Achievement: When do you celebrate success?

When I’ve completed a goal that I’ve set for myself. I believe in god and I know that nothing is possible without him so I give thanks and then I set news goals and keep on pushing.

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

God, My son,mom,and sisters play a major role in my success. without God nothing is possible, and my family has been very supportive of me and has really gotten me through this tough journey. there have been many times where i don’t know if I would have made it without their support.

53. Where did those choices lead?

As a teenager I chose to run the streets, sticking up drug dealers with me crew and selling drugs. In my neighborhood you were only respected by the level by which you were feared.

54. What did you value then?

the only things that I valued were my reputation and money.

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

I teach my son how important self worth is and not to let others influence him. I also teach him the difference between real friends and the people who say they’re your friends. As a teenager, I thought that the people who supported me when I was breaking the law were my friends and in the end, those same people assisted the government and help send me to prison. I teach him to put god first and to treat people how you want to be treated and in order to be a man you have to be able to handle and deal with adversity.

56. What would you do differently if you could?

I would have listened to my parents. They warned me of what was to come and they told me that those guys weren’t my friends, but at the time I couldn’t understand that they were once teenagers before and knew exactly what they were talking about.

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

Today I am committed to being a better man for my family, my community and myself. When I first came to prison I was only concerned with earning respect so I wouldn’t have a hard time.

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

Last week I was focused on studying soldering and brazing techniques for copper tubing to prepare for a test that I have this week.

59. Identify the values by which you live.

The values by which I live are: Integrity, honor, dependability, trustworthiness, humility, godliness, and family.

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

My daily activities harmonize 100% with the values by which i live. My values are evident to all that encounter me on a daily basis.

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

My values will relate to my role in society by showing my family, friends, potential employers and others that despite my past mistakes and long term incarceration I am a man who can be trusted with strong moral values by which I live my life and I’m ready and willing to give back to my community in way that I can.

62. Where does your allegiance lie?

My allegiance lies with my son, parents, and two sisters. They have supported me and have been in my corner every step of the way and everything that I do is to be a better father, son, brother and man not only for myself but for them as well.

63. Are values situational or absolute?

Values are absolute.

 

 

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