223. How would you gauge your level of financial literacy today?
I would say my financial situation is not great but I have family members willing to help me and I have a plan to find people to invest in my company and in my ideas. Me and my wife have a house and we have Gorilla Convict so that is a foundation but I am looking forward to working full time and over time to expand Gorilla Convict’s money making ability. I feel I will have a lot of opportunity to do this when I get out and I definitely feel that I am the man for the job. All my immediate needs should be met when I get out and with Gorilla Convict I have something to build on. I am not planning on getting rich with this company, it is a niche orientated business selling gangster and true crime books, but I believe I can bring the company to its financial potential and I believe I can make a living off this company for me and my wife. But I have more plans than just that. This is just what I will have going for me immediately.
224. To what extent would you suppose that financial literacy relates to your probability for success upon release?
I am lucky that my family is willing to help me out with my immediate needs like clothing. Transportation, communications and insurance. With the house my wife has I am good for a place to live and with the book company I am good for a job and something to pursue and build. The book company is already making a profit but with me out there working full time at it the profit can be increased substantially considering that my wife just works at it part time when she has the chance on the weekends. (she works a regular job during the week) But with the house, the company and my family helping with my immediate needs I will be straight right when I come home but anything after that I will have to work hard and long hours to insure my success and my financial literacy.
225. What opportunities exist for prisoners to improve their financial literacy?
I am looking into all different avenues including public speaking and consultation, but that is for when I get out. For prisoners you can make investments, some play the stock market, options or futures. If that is beyond a prisoners means you can work at Unicor and save money or you can hustle ont he compound washing clothes, cleaning shoes, cleaning rooms and making food for people. There are a lot of dudes in here that like to pay other people to do menial chores and tasks for them. So if youare motivated you can always make money and then you just have to save and save and save. Ihave been building my writing career and publishing house from in here (with the help of my wife) so that is another way to make money and provide for your future.
226. How would you summarize the total costs of your imprisonment?
It has been expensive, i would estimate 300-500 a month for going on 19 years now, that I have had sent in and spent. so you are looking at $3600 to $6000 a year that my family has been spending on me. Since I ahve been writing for publication and getting paid for it, since around 2005, I have eased that a bit but the burden still falls on them and I am lucky they are in the position to help me or I would have to be working at Unicor or hustling in here and might not have been able to make the progress I have with my writing career. They also paid for my college course which totaled 150 college credit hours at about $200 a credit hour plus the books so that is a lot of money there also. So like I said I am glad and lucky that they have been in that position to assist me in that manner.
227. Describe ways in which in an understanding of the stock market may help you value investment opportunities.
If you understand the ebbs and flow of the stock market and other financial markets you can better know how to invest your money to make it grow. In prison you have lots of time to learn different things and keep track of stocks and test your knowledge of them by do faux pas buys and sells and keeping records of your successes and losses so that when you get some real money to invest you will already be in practice and know what you are doing. You can go to the library and read the financial papers, there are always floating around. Its like the old saying “If there is a will there is a way.” SO by reading the financial papers, reading any books you can find on the subject and watching any shows you can on the stock and financial markets you can in effect, through trial and error, teach yourself.
228. How would improving skills to analyze the fundamentals of a particular stock lead to becoming a better small businessman?
By analyzing the market trends and things of that nature you can better situate yourself to be knowledgeable of different business ventures. By understanding the market conditions you will be able to see things in the business world more clearly. This will enable you to see what business’s might be worth opening when you get out and then you can develop a plan and proposal and have it ready so when you are released you can seek funding in a variety of ways to start your own small business in whatever field you have determined has definite possibilities for success.
229. Describe the level of thought you are giving to your financial future.
I give a lot of thought to my financial future. I have definite plans and ideas and goals that I wish to implement and achieve. I have specific things I plan to do when I get out to make money and advance my business opportunities in the world. Opportunities that are not available to me now because of my incarceration. I plan to take every advantage of this opportunity when I get out and they will have a direct affect on my financial future.
230. Describe the level of preparations you are making to prepare for retirement.
I have not as yet made any preparations for retirement. But when I get out and make money in the many different avenues and ventures I have planned I will start making a plan for retirement. But that is far from my mind right now. I have to make the first jump to making money and being a success in the world and then I will worry about retirement. I have done almost 2 decades in prison and retirement is the farther thing from my mind right now I plan to work as long as possible on the different and varying ventures that I ahve set up for myself and that I plan on doing upon release.
231. In what ways would an understanding of the U.S. tax code contribute to your preparations for release?
Understanding the tax code could contribute to my preparations for release. I would say I have a rudimentary knowledge of the tax code but I have not studied it in depth. There are certain things that I am well versed in and certain things that I will rely ont he expertise of others for and currently understanding the tax code is something that I will delegate to someone else. But I could see the benefits of knowing and understanding it. Most definitely.
232. What is your understanding of entrepreneurship?
I have a very good understanding of entrepreneurship as I have founded, started, nurtured and helped to run and grow a business from in here. I have been very instrumental in every decision for Gorilla Convict and I will continue to do so. I have learned a lot through trial and error and I am still learning. Besides books, the company has now expanded into t-shirts, posters and stickers. We will continue to put out books and the other merchandise to increase our product line and brand our company name. I will continue to do marketing and promotions as I have for the last 7 years from here. I am a tireless self promoter and I will continue to do what I have done with the entrepreneurial spirit I have developed in the launching of this company and creating something from basically nothing, just an idea and plan I had in my mind.
233. What would you attribute as a primary reason for business failures in the United States, and why?
The primary reason for business failures in the United States is mismanagement and lack of foresight. People don’t know what they are doing and that extends to the fact that they start a business in the wrong place at the wrong time without looking at the market or the long term potential or success of the business they are starting. Just because you are starting a business you want to start does not mean it will be successful several other factors come into play the most important being supply and demand. You can pent he bst restaurant in the world but if its in a bad location there is no demand for the food you are making. The same with products you can have the best product in the world but if no one knows about it how will they know to buy it or where to get it. SO the mismanagement extends to the research that you should do before you open a business up, all factors should be analyzed and put into play before the business is opened so you know what youa re facing and what your chances of success are.
234. If you were going to run your life as a business, how would you describe your preparation to succeed?
You would have to do research on the various aspects which would directly and indirectly affect you. You would have to have a plan. You would have to allocate resources. You would have to know what your doing and hire outside expert opinions to consult with on things you didn’t know. You would have to hire outside experts to do certain things. If you want to have a successful life you have to put some time and effort into your life plan. If you don’t you will be mismanaging your life as so many people in this world do going from event to event haphazardly and with no plan. I didn’t have a plan or a concrete goal before I came to prison except to make money and be the biggest drug dealer I could and look where it got me. Now I have a concrete plan and I have been doing my homework and putting in the necessary effort to bring my plan to fruition.
235. What resources do you have available to you now?
I have limited resources, but I have a company, a vocation, a loving family who will help me when I come home, a loving wife who will provide a home for me and I have the knowledge and contacts I have gained over the last 10 years or so where I have been actively working toward my eventual release and preparing myself for success upon that release. So money wise my resources aren’t much but all my other resources are in good shape. A lot of people just think of money as resources but all I have listed are my resources and I will use them to help me be successful and live a crime and drug free live on the outside and become a productive member of society.
236. What potential markets exist for you?
I believe there are a lot of potential markets that exist for me and for the products I am already producing with Gorilla Convict. I will expand Gorilla Convict, the products we offer and I will work on getting more visibility and promotion for those products which will lead to more sales and I will work on getting national distribution deals in place to increase the units that we have available for sale in stores. I will also put myself out there as a consultant and public speaker and I will get involved in other projects that I wish to pursue including video game production, documentary and film production and other literary forms of production in line with Gorilla Convict.
237. What level of resources do you anticipate having on the day of your release?
I anticipate having all the above listed resources and about $20,000 from my family to meet my immediate needs. I feel this will be sufficient to get clothes, communications, transportation and insurance that I will need. Everything else I will have to work for. I have no problem with that. I am a hard worker and I am ready to work hard and bring all my projects to the market and expand what I am doing with Gorilla Convict already and get it in more markets also.
238. What level of earnings do you project during your first three years after your release?
At first I will work whatever job is necessary for my halfway house stay and to keep my probation officer happy. But as I show that I am not bullshiting and that I am serious about life and staying crime and drug free I will ask my probation officer to let me work for my company Gorill Convict full time. I am sure that I can take this company to increased levels of revenue if I am allowed to work full time running it. After I accomplish my goals with that and take the company as far as it can go I will move on to other projects like film, dvds and video games. I will be happy to make enough to live on when I get out but I anticipate to make more in the first three years. I believe the sky is the limit.
239. What level of earnings do you project during your first decade after your release?
After my first decade of life I project to be a leader in the entertainment industry with my own production company and making big moves in Hollywood and the entertainment world including books, clothes, music, film, documentaries, video games, graphic novels and more. I believe I will be firmly in position to pursue the things I want to pursue project wise and bring my vision to the public and masses through the Internet and other multi media forums.
240. What action steps can you begin taking to increase your financial literacy?
I have already taken a lot of actions to increase my financial literacy. I have founded and started the book company and now it is branching into different merchandising options like t-shirts, posters and stickers. I have written extensively for my website at gorillaconvict.com and other magazines, websites and forums trying to establish myself as a writer and expert on prison life and urban gangsters and prison gangs and things of that nature. I have done as much as I can from where I am at with the restrictions I am faced with. When I get out I will be able to do so much more it will be like taking the handcuffs off finally. I am ready.
241. What relationship do academic credentials have to enhancing financial literacy?
It is a proven fact that people with college degrees make more than people without. It is also a proven fact that prisoners who earn college degrees are less likely to succumb to recidivism. I have earned three college degrees during my incarceration so I hope that all the statistics prove true in my favor. I will continue to work hard to insure all this. I will work hard to enhance my financial literacy from here and when I get out and continue to work hard and put in the maximum effort to the best of my abilities.
242. In what ways would fluency with mathematical concepts and equations enhance your potential earning power or opportunities upon release?
Fluency with mathematical concepts and equations would enhance your potential earning power or opportunities upon release because in business a quick mind with mathematics and equations will prevail. If you are able to understand the facts and figures and put things together quicker this will enhance your chances to do better at business and to get a better job or position wherever you end up.
243. In what ways would developing your skill with regard to reading, writing, and speaking enhance your potential earning power or opportunities upon release?
Developing your skill with regard to reading, writing and speaking would also enhance your potential earning power and opportunities upon release. Employers are looking for people with these basic skills so the more advanced you are in regards to these the better position and job you will be able to get. I have been working on my writing abilities for a minute now and I have gotten good but I figure I can still get better. There is always rom for improvement. I am working on my public speaking now also so that I can speak clearly and enunciate clearly and be understood as to what I am saying and the message I am trying to convey.
244. Describe the types of books that might broaden your financial literacy and thus help you prepare for success upon release?
Books that show the habits of highly successful people, self help books, books that teach different things. I ahve been reading a lot of social media marketing books and stuff about facebook and other social media sites to see how I can utilize them to enhance my books and how I can market using the social media sites and forums. I have also been reading a lot of exercise and diet books so that I can keep my body in the best shape possible as I hope to be on TV and I know I will have to look good so that I appear good on camera and in front of people.
245. What resources will you rely upon to make financial decisions in your future?
I will rely on the same resources I ahve been the last few years. I will continue to ask questions of and inquire of my family as to how they do different things financially so that I will have a foundation in that knowledge and will be able to dot he things necessary that I need to do to secure my future financial freedom.
246. To what extent do you anticipate investment decisions having a role in your future?
I will invest in my ideas and my visions rather than invest in what you would call regular investment opportunities. I will get other people to invest in my ideas and visions. I will be the one who directs the projects and oversees them and the one who puts in the work to make sure they are done and done correctly. That will be my role in investments and the decisions I will be making regarding that will be which one of my projects to bring to the table.
247. Describe the resources you anticipate relying upon as you advance in age.
I anticipate relying on whatever resources I have at hand. My philosophy is you make money to spend money. There is always more money to be made so I see no reason to save or hoard it. As long as me and my family are comfortable I am good. I do not need to live an extravagant life I just want to have enough money to make my wife happy and secure. So whatever she wants to put aside I will make sure it happens so as we advance in age we are taken care of accordingly. But for real I intend to work and pursue the different projects I will be pursuing into an advanced age or as long as I can.
248. What role will these resources play in sustaining your life?
I would say they will play a role in sustaining my life because as I see it with science heading in the directions it is heading there may be more opportunities for those with the necessary resources to live longer and healthier lives and if I am in the position to access something like that I will. I do understand that money will be needed for anything like that and I do intend to make whatever money I need. I would also like to establish trusts for my children (when I have them) and my wife, who I will always love and support with all my being.
249. How will you adjust your tolerance for risk as you age?
I will adjust my tolerance for risk accordingly. No one wants to think about aging but it is a fact of life. I intend to live a long time and I intend to accomplish a lot. I feel I am in good health and I will continue to work out and eat healthy with the objective of extending my life as long as possible and I also plan to keep working and stay busy so that my mind is always occupied. I believe the secret to a long life is to balance your mind, body and soul accordingly and give them what they need in the proper balance.
250. What influence would another problem with the criminal justice system have upon your financial stability?
I have done enough time and I don’t plan on doing anymore. I was young and reckless and didn’t reckon with the consequences of my actions. I better realize what the consequences for living a criminal lifestyle entail and I will definitely not go down that road again. I have done long enough inside that I am through with that life. It is something of the past that I satisfied my curiosity with to the extent that I have basically grown up in prison. I have literally became a man in prison. i look back now and know that I had so much ability but for whatever reason I didn’t use it. So now I am trying to live up to my potential and best ability and accomplish what I can accomplish in the time I have allotted left.
251. What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership to me means being able to see the big vision and not just the small picture. A leader has to have the best interest of the whole in his heart and mindset. He can’t be selfish or only think about himself and his immediate family or friends. He has to think about the whole community in which he resides or even the whole state or country. A good leader takes everything into account. He doesn’t discount something just because he has no interest in it or can’t see the point, he tries to see it all and than base his decisions off of all the information for the betterment of everyone. That is a leader to me, it encompasses a lot, more than most people can deal with. You must be fair, impartial and objective. You have to be able to persuade and motivate but also be diplomatic and sooth over egos. Being a leader is a hard and difficult job that most people are not cut out for.
252. In what ways have your past decisions prepared you for leadership?
I have always been a leader but the number one thing a leader has to know is when to follow. Different people are suited for different roles when different scenarios play out. You can be the leader in one thing but a follower in another. You have to be able to humble yourself in that situation and realize that its not always just about you. Even when I was out in the world leading my own little drug crew I was a leader, I was just leading in the wrong fashion. I have learned from my past bad decisions and from the good ones I have made too. I think my whole life, every situation I have been in has prepared me to take a leadership role in certain situations when I come home. I believe I am good with people, I get a long with everyone and I can motivate people and persuade them to different views than the ones they might originally hold. Everything I have been through has prepared me to take a leadership role in certain projects and in different circumstances in the world when I come home.
253. Where does leadership begin?
Leadership begins with the choices we make. Because how can I be a good leader if I make bad choices. You must lead by example and hope that other people choose to follow your lead. I can’t tell you to do something this way and then I don’t follow my own advice. That is exhibiting bad leadership skills. A leader doesn’t make excuses. He fixes the problem. He is solution based. He evaluates what the situation is, consults with whoever is necessary to consult with and then decides the best course of action and he doesn’t hesitate once a decision or course of action is made. He sticks to the course and rides it home. So leadership begins with the individual and the choices and decisions he makes.
254. In what ways can an individual measure his capacity to lead?
An individual can measure his capacity to lead by making decision and sticking to them even in the face of adversity and by leading by example. It is not what I say but what I do. With a position of strength, understanding and communication, he can effectively lead and influence others just by his presence and a spoken word. he can avert problems and foresee that potential problems don’t occur by heading them off before they happen. A good leader can encompass all these attributes and has to have good vision in all things to see what is going on including what is said but also what is not said. He has to see what is going on in front of him but also what is going on behind the scenes to make calculated decisions that are best for everyone.
255. In what ways can an individual measure his effectiveness at leadership?
A good leader will have many followers and he will be able to see people using his good example of how to act and how to confer with people and how to carry yourself. By expressing his views and then acting accordingly a good leader can gauge the reactions of others and if they are buying and observing the message that he is selling. By persuasion and example and common sense a good leader can sway many people by having them trust in him and his ability to lead. But they must also trust the decisions he makes even if they don’t like them at first. Being a good leader if about trust and belief and effectiveness can be measured by the continuity of his followers and their belief in him.
256. What does it mean to have a vision?
To have a vision is to have an overall goal. A vision encompasses the big picture. Its not something small it is big and direct and is something of grand and epic proportions. Like I have a definite vision of what I want to do with my life and what I want to do with all the material I am creating from here. I can only do the books and some other things from here but when I come home I will be able to expand my whole repertoire so that I can do all types of things and implement all the things that I have envisioned and move on multiple levels and on multiple formats. I have a lot of work to do but I am not afraid of hard work and I am not afraid to do what I have to do to make my visions become reality.
257. How does a leader gauge the effectiveness of a plan?
The leader gauges the effectiveness of a plan by judging its outcome in purely analytical terms and without bias or favoritism in any fashion. A leader has to gauge the effectiveness of a plan without judgment on how it affects him personally. He has to judge it on how it affects the community as a whole. Not everyone is going to be happy all the time, so a leader must gauge the overall effect his plan had in the short term and in the long run, because that is the only way to gauge it. If a plan is part of a greater vision a lot of people won’t understand because they can only see the small picture not the total vision that the leader is seeing. So a plan must be gauged on its overall results int he long term.
258. Why would leadership require accountability tools?
A leader who is not accountable to himself and others is no leader at all. A leader must hold himself to a higher standard than all of those around him. He has to do things for other people at a higher rate than he does for himself. Because as a leader he will put under the microscope and held to a higher standard than everyone else. Those are just the facts of the situation. What one person can do and get away with drama free a leader cannot because everyone will be looking at that leader and trying to find his faults. So a leader has to use all his tools to hold himself more accountable than the next man. The vision is the important thing.
259. How would a leader make the most effective use of accountability tools?
By making a plan and setting out to do it is making effective use of accountability tools. If you have a specified plan you have to do what you do one step at a time to finish that plan or project and bring it to completion. If along the way the plan stumble for any reason whatsoever the leader most look at all facets of the plan and discover where it went wrong so that he can adjust the plan so that the same downfall will not occur again. And if it is a person error than that person must be removed, even the leader himself if he is the one to be held accountable. It happens in our society everyday. A leader is found failing and is removed and a new leader comes in and tries to correct whatever the problem or failing was.
260. How would you describe leadership by example?
Leadership by example is to show what you want done and how to do it by your actions only. Don’t tell, show and than let others follow. A lot of people in leadership positions want to tell people what to do but then by their actions they show they don’t even follow their own advice. This makes people doubt the leaders integrity and intentions. By guiding people with your actions a leader is showing that he is not full of it and is ready to proactive what he preaches. Nobody wants to follow a leader that says one thing and then does another. That is hypocritical; and hypocrites do not make good leaders.
261. What does leading with integrity mean to you?
Leading with integrity means holding yourself to a higher standard than anyone else. A leader with integrity will not criticize someone for something that they would do themselves. If I tell you that you are not doing something right then by god I better show you how to do it and not just harp on it and tell you that you are doing it wrong. Having integrity means leading by example and holding yourself to a higher ground. A leader must give orders yes but he must teach and understand and be diplomatic and more. A leader must be a man of many hats and many facets and most importantly he must know when to take off the leader hat and follow someone else’s lead if they show more knowledge in the task at hand. Having integrity mean being able to honestly look at yourself and recognize your downfalls as a leader and where you might need help in certain areas that others could provide.
262. In what ways does personal leadership require an individual to put the concerns of others ahead of his own?
As a leader you have to look out for the objectives of the whole community or group instead of you own individual desires even when they are in conflict. A leader must do what is good for everybody not just what is good for him. Doing things in that fashion is what separates a leader from regular people because most people will do what is good for them and damn everybody else. Someone with leadership qualities and skills looks at the big picture instead of what just affects him and his immediate concerns.
263. How can our behavior in prison influence the lives of those we ask to support or sponsor us?
By staying out of trouble and living a drug free and productive life in here I can show people that even with the circumstances I am in I can do things and complete projects and be productive, even more so than some people can in the outside world. This is a direct result of my ability to influence people and my leadership skills but it helps that I am who I am and I do what I say I am going to do. That means a lot n this day and age where must people’s word is no good and they have the “Lets do lunch” philosophy but never do lunch. I say what I mean and do what I say. If I don’t mean it i don’t say it and people on the outside respect that.
264. When living within the restrictions of prison boundaries, where can we turn for leadership training?
I have looked to the people how are not in the prison grind and are doing their own thing and not being influenced or pressured by their peers. It takes a strong, focused and dedicated man to do his own thing in prison and not go with the flow or to even go against the grain. People in here are very negative and that negativity is like a virus. Somebody can say something about someone or put a jacket on someone and dudes just ride with it, even when it is not true. I have read a lot and had a few mentors who have shown me the proper path and way to lead. I even watch how others lead and take bits and parts of what they are doing, even if its in a negative form and try to turn it into a positive.
265. Describe an individual who has leadership skills that you admire?
I admire people like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarintino, Kevin Smith, Guy Ritchie- these are dudes that I admire for their leadership abilities. I also admire people that have been in prison or are in prison and exhibit leadership qualities like Kevin Chiles from Don Diva magazine, Wahida Clark, Michael Santos. Anyone that can hold something together and get it done, or holds to a vision or does extraordinary things in fucked up circumstances. That is a true test of leadership and shows the vision and integrity of the person that they are bringing to the world.
266. To what extent would emulating such leadership traits influence your prospects for success?
I try to read and gain insight and knowledge and I talk to people who I admire in the hopes of becoming more like them. I use their feedback to shape and inform my decisions and to shape my plans and I model and emulate myself after them and what they have done. Taking their values and replicating in the things that I do and in the actions that I take.
267. In what ways do our day-to-day actions show our commitment to personal leadership development?
I believe you have to go and get it everyday. You have to do what you say you are going to do. You can’t fake it and you can’t take a minute off. you say to work extra hard from in here to make things happen. I feel my ability to do things in here within this restrictive environment with only my wife for help will translate well to the outside world where I can put a whole team of people together to achieve a goal that I can inspire in all of them. With the manpower and the resources I believe I will be able to lead a group of people to accomplish amazing things and that I will be able to bring all my visions and projects to completion.
268. How can a commitment to personal leadership development while in prison influence your relationship with people you haven’t yet met?
By doing what I am doing on a daily basis and letting my voice be heard through my writing and website and even this program I am setting the stage for myself and letting people who haven’t met me know who I am and what I hope to accomplish. And then when I accomplish what I set out to do I am not just a person saying it or wishing it or wanting to do it, I am a person who stated my intentions, planned accordingly, worked hard and then did what I said I was going to do. That is what speaks volumes about me and who I am and what I am doing and that is the reason I believe lots of people will want to work with me and be involved in joint projects with me.
269. In what way can the Straight-A Guide influence your prison adjustment?
Going through and answering these questions and putting in the time and effort and the work has tremendously influenced my prison adjustment. The SAG program and the RDAP program that I am also going through now has tremendously impacted my life. Just a year ago I thought I was ready for the world but now enmeshed in both of these positive programs I realize that I was lacking in a lot of ways and both these programs have opened my eyes to the possibilities and potential that I hold within myself. For real the possibilities are endless for me. I know that if I apply myself the sky is the limit in what I can do and what I can accomplish when I come home> i have the drive and ambition and the desire to succeed and bring my vision and projects to the world upon completion.
270. In what ways can the Straight-A Guide influence your prospects for a law-abiding, contributing life upon release?
By teaching me and making me gather my thoughts and express them and think about what I am going through and recollecting all the things I have been through the SAG program has taught me and reinforced what I already knew from growing up in a middle class suburban and Christian home. My parents taught me all the values of being a law abiding and productive member of society but I got involved in drugs and fell by the way side trying to live in the counterculture world and be the anti-hero and outlaw I thought I was but I am now realizing that I was severely limiting my potential by living and being and participating in that world. I have so much more to offer in so many ways and for so long I trapped myself in the drug world and now in the prison world where there is no potential to succeed. I have turned my life around and am going in the right direction now and the SAG program has helped me to get to that stage. I still have a ways to go but I am headed in the right direction.
271. In what ways will you use the Straight-A Guide going forward?
I will continue to use the tools I have learned in this program and I will continue to let others know about this program so that they can utilize it as I have. And I will continue my recovery from drug addiction and a life of crime that enveloped me at a young age. I have been working hard to overcome the mistakes of my youth. I am not where I want to be by any means but I am on the right path and I will continue to use the resources of the SAG program and to communicate with the people I have met who are succeeded within the parameters of the program also. Going forward I will implement and put into action all that I have discussed in these answers and hold myself accountable to what I have said here and stick to my goals and values and the accomplishments that I wish to achieve that have all been outlined here. This is my blueprint. This is my foundation. If I stray this is what I will go back and read so that I can readjust my mindset and stay on he course that I have set for myself with the help of this program. This is not only my plan and my blueprint but it is my reminder of who I was, who I am and who I can be. This document represents where I have been, where I am and where I am going. I am confident and positive that I will be ok and be able to live a productive drug and crime free lifestyle when I come home and to do all the things that I have outlined on this website. Thank you.
200. What relationship do you have to others in the world?
I have lots of different relationships with a lot of different people. First and foremost there is my wife, Diane. She is everything to me and does everything for me, without her everything that I have done and everything that I aspire to do ceases to be. She has been the facilitator for me for all these years and helped all my goals to become reality. I have other relationships with my friends and family and professional relationships with editors and writers and magazine owners and people in the entertainment world. I take my relationships seriously and I try to always do what I say I am going to do and to stay in touch with people and let them know what is going on with me.
201. To what extent do the decisions we make have an influence on the lives of others?
The decisions I have made have had a tremendous impact on my family, my community and my friends. My wife has stayed with me for my whole entire incarceration as has my mother. They have both sacrificed a lot of help me and be by my side and I will be eternally grateful. When you are young you think it is all aobut you and you don’t think how the consequences of your actions affect others but you realize as you get older that even though you are the one in prison, your family has suffered greatly also by not having you around. So it works both ways. Even now I have to realize that things that I write can affect other people. Being in here its like I am almost in a little protective shell but I am ready to break out of my shell and enter intot he real world and see the influence my decisions can have on others but in a positive impact this time.
202. In what ways does a relationship with God influence the choices we make or behaviors we pursue?
With a higher power the control of ones life is given to them so anything that happens is through and by them. A relationship with god to me means that you want to err on the side of right. By striving to do the right things I am striving for godliness in all my daily activity and actions.
203. In what ways does our relationship to anyone else influence the choices we make or behaviors we pursue?
Our relationships to other people directly influenced the choices or behaviors we pursue. That is why I try to surround myself with knowledgeable, go getter and law abiding citizens because if you are around a bunch of using drug addicts then most likely you will be a using drug addict also. If you are around a bunch of successful and productive people odds are some of that will rub off on you and help you to be successful and productive also. That is why in my network of support I have a bunch of people that run their own businesses and are successful at it and why I correspond with a bunch of different writers so that I am actively and currently involved with them and what they are doing and going through so that I can use their experiences to my benefit.
204. If everyone in society made decisions from the same code of personal values that we embrace, how would the world advance or decline for future generations, including our children?
If everyone tried to lead a successful and productive live the world would advance significantly for future generations including our children. There is so much hate and jealousy and contempt in our world that it poisons people and makes them want to escape and they turn to drugs or criminality to get what they get from more legitimate or real means. It is a never ending cycle that perpetuates itself and if everyone would just make their own little stand within themselves and their own boundaries it could make a big difference for the future. All we can do is help and hope and try to live our lives by the standards we have set and hope that our example leads others in the same predicament.
205. To what extent do your choices and behaviors match the choices and behaviors you would want your children or people you love to see and emulate?
Me succeeding from prison in my chosen vocation and career is something I want people that I love to see and emulate. In fact it is bigger than that, I want the world to see and recognize and appreciate what I am doing and what I have done and what I will still do. I want to hold myself out as an example as this is what you can do when youa re incarcerated for 25 years. This is the transformation that can take place. I will continue to work my hardest and give it all my best so that I can spread the word of what I have done and how I have changed and show what I am doing. I will continue to hold myself to a higher accounting. I know when I come home I will be an ex-con and there will be a mark on my back but I will not shrink from what I am doing I will be more wary and hold myself more accountable than ever before so that I don’t let my wife and family and friends who have supported me down but most of all I refuse to let myself down and to let everything I have built from in here go to nothing.
206. What does it mean to you to live with integrity?
To live with integrity is to keep my word and do what I say I am going to do and not do the right thing only because someone is watching but do the right thing all the time. That is integrity. My integrity means all to me and I will hold myself accountable at all times and strive to do the right thing and live the right way. We are all human but I cannot afford to slip up in any way and to me that speaks volumes of my integrity and who I am and what I aim to be. My integrity means not coming to prison again or breaking the law or using drugs or getting myself in situations with people who are committing crimes and not living productive and legitimately.
207. What does it mean to you to serve a prison sentence or to confront adversity with dignity?
I have confronted my prison sentence head on. I have confronted adversity. I have walked down a 25 year sentence with my head held high. My first nine years were not productive. I was smoking marijuana and trying to escape the reality of my sentence by not facing it. I was smuggling drugs into prison and putting my friends and family in danger by doing this. I am not proud of the way I was living and the things I did. But I see now it was all a process, an evolution of me as a person. Yes I committed crimes, yes I came to prison and kept committing crimes, yes I was a drug addict and felt a sense of entitlement and thought I was to smart to get caught. These were my faults. I can freely admit it because I have turned the corner. I have turned my life around. It took some time and was not easy, I will be the first to admit, but I am still me and I like the person I am today and everything that I have done and encountered has made me the person I am today. I am a well forged blade, sharpened and true, on the top of my game and ready to go out into the world and make my mark in a productive and legitimate way. I wish I knew all the things I know now about myself when I was young, if I did it would have saved me a lot of trouble and my family and loved ones a lot of heartache and the government a lot of money and resources but I can’t go back in time I can only make sure everything is right and correct from now on.
208. In what ways do your relationships with other prisoners influence your possibility for success upon release?
I try to see who is who and only affiliate or associate myself with men of substance. There are a lot of fake dudes in here and scammers and conmen and dudes who in reality are about nothing. So I try to seperate myself from them but still at the same time I am polite and considerate to them because they could be fans of my work or potential fans. I see prison as my training ground for success int he world. As long as I can navigate these treacherous waters and meet people and establish relationships and business contacts then I will be able to do it in the world easy because it is a lot harder market in here. So I have been using prison as a sort of testing ground for how I interact with other people and how I react to them in both negative and positive situations and I believe this will influence the possibility of success upon my release.
209. How do your relationships with other prisoners influence the way that prison staff members assess you?
If you are hanging around troublemakers or drug takers or dudes that are known as extortionists are knuckleheads then staff will automatically assume that is your M.O. also. So I try to stay away from people like that and just to stay by myself in general so that I will not be labeled as this or that by prisoners or staff. It is just safer in all regards to walk alone and not be considered in a gangs or geographical location group because there are a lot of politics in prison and I would rather not be involved in any of them.
210. In what ways will your relationships with other prisoners influence the probation officer who supervises your release?
I think it will most definitely negatively impact my relationship with my probation officer if I try t be int he company of a bunch of ex-convicts. But while I am still in here I ask questions and try to gain knowledge from other prisoners about what will be expected when I come home because a lot of these dudes have gone home and come back and have experiences with probation officers that I don’t have so it is nice to hear the stories, good and bad from different dudes so that I can form my own opinion andmake my own jedgements as I ready my own individual plan on how to deal with it.
211. What efforts are you making today to influence the relationships you will have in the months and years to come?
I am making every effort possible through the corrlinks system in which we are not allowed to email. I am reaching out to various people and the people I have know for years and touching base with them and sharing what I am doing and my writing and things I am moving forward on with them. I am doing everything possible to love my wife and give her the support she has given me and to be the best husband I can be. I also try to keep in touch with my mother and other family members through email, the phone and visits. I try to be positive and supportive and let them all know that I am here to help them in any way I can even though it is only a limited way in which I can help.
212. In what ways can you influence relationships with people beyond prison boundaries while you’re incarcerated?
I can influence them greatly through my writing. The bigger the audience that reads my work the more I hope I can make things change for the better for me and for the rest of the people in prison. Our system needs substantive reforms and I am working as hard as I can to let people know and to get the word out. I have found a platform with my writing and I intend to keep using it to push myself, my agenda and my ideas onto the world and public so they can see everything clearly and know waht is going on. I look to learn and I strive to meet more people and communicate with them and exchange ideas to make this a better world for myself, my family and eventually when I have them, my children.
213. How would maintaining relationships with people who embrace criminal values influence your potential for success upon release?
Maintaining relationships with people who embrace criminal values is something that I cannot od. It would be detrimental to my rehabilitation and my ability to stay out when I get out. I am a risk taker I know this, I will do things that other people will not do. I cannot put myself in situations where I am tempted to get involved in criminal activities because I get a rush off stuff like that so I am finding other ways to satisfy that urge and I will stay away from people who share or want to engage in those type of activities.
214. In what ways do grooming and personal appearance influence your relationship with others?
I want to be neat and appear proper in all respects to my grooming and personal appearance because I know that a first impression can make all the difference. If I look and act like a convict or criminal and come across that way that can be detrimental to what I am trying to accomplish and can ultimately lead me back to prison. So I have to change in every way even in my appearance if I want to succeed and do the things that I have set forth for myself to accomplish.
215. How do writing skills influence the potential for opening new relationships that may lead to success upon release?
In prison we have limited contact by phone and in person so writing skills to develop new relationships is a must. Every contact I have in my network of support besides my wife, mother and family has been developed through writing. For the longest time it was by mail, then by emails through my wife and now finally that we have email in prison, emails from me here. I have done all my communication by writing. The restrictions we have in prison with our phone minutes and limited visits, plus the distant prisons we are shipped to, so far away from home requires ones to correspond, communicate and build relationships by writing.
216. In what ways are you working now to nurture relationships that may help you succeed upon release?
I am working in numerous ways to nurture relationships which may help me succeed when I am released. I would say almost every relationship I have is based on that. It is a mutual relationship though because my work and my word are quality. I have found that most people in here are full of shit and from what people have told me it is the same in the world so I know that when you are a person who keeps his word, works hard and gets the job done like minded people are attracted to you to work with you and communicate with you. So every relationship I am nurturing right now is one that will help me to succeed when I get out.
217. What influence will your relationships with others have on your possibility for success upon release?
My relationship with others will directly affect my possibility for success upon release. By interacting and proving my worth and showing people that I have established relationships with that I am trustworthy and the type of person that handles business and gets the job done will directly benefit me when I come home and can have more contact with them. They will know that if they give me a writing assignment, lets say for a magazine, like an article or interview, that I will be able to do it, see it through and do it in a professional, timely and concise manner. That is the reputation I have developed in here and my work speaks for itself.
218. How would prospective mentors respond if they were to hear you attribute your predicament to the choices or actions of another?
If a prospective mentor or person who is willing to go out on a limb and help me heard that I blamed my incarceration on anything other than myself, I believe it would be a turn off for them. Because I am not a victim and I will not be seen as a victim. Although I don’t agree with the long sentence I received or all the time I have had to do I will do it and I am doing the best that I can given my current circumstances. I will never make excuses or try to blame my choices or actions on another. I take full responsibility for everything I have done and everything I will do.
219. In what ways does the blaming of outside forces strengthen or weaken your potential for success upon release?
Blaming outside forces weakens my potential for success upon release because anyone who is thinking about working with me in whatever capacity wants to see that I am a responsible person who is accountable and holds myself to a higher standard. To blame others is to not accept complete and full responsibility. If I can’t be accountable to myself and tell myself the truth and level with myself how can I be accountable, tell the truth and level with another person? Especially someone who might be able to help me by working with me to achieve whatever project it is we decide to work on together. Casting blame would weaken my potential for success.
220. How do your relationships with others influence the people closest to you?
My relationships with others directly influences the people closest to me. I work very closely with my wife Diane in all that I am doing and all that Iahve done concerning my writing and journalism career. She enables me to get everything done and enables me to be on point and keep my word in regards to what I am telling people concerning my work and processing things and getting them done. In effect she acts as my manager, my agent, my secretary, my editor, business partner, best friend and wife. I am very grateful and lucky to have her in my corner and on my team. In reality she is my whole team and she facilitates everything I do and makes me look good doing what I do and in my relationships with other people
221. To what extent does living with transparency, or as an open book, influence relationships?
I let people know who and what I am going in so there won’t be anything negative later on when they find out I am in prison or that I have done a lot of time. That is made known off the rip so if they don’t want to deal with me because of that then its already on the table and known. I have no time for people that want to waste my time and I hope people I am dealing with in business or serious matters feel the same about me. If I commit myself to something I am going to give 150% or I wouldn’t commit to it in the first place. SO living with transparency in who I am and what I have done and where I have been is the only way for me to conduct business and go about my life.
222. How would behaving one way with one group of people and another way with others strengthen or weaken your potential for success upon release?
I think you need to remain consistent in how you are and how you act and how you treat people. I try to always remain the same and be the same person so that people don’t have to guess how I am going to react to something, they know before they bring it to me. That is about being transparent also. About being open in how and what I am and the way I like to do things. I intend to work hard on anything I do whether it is for the President or some street corner bum. If I give my word than my word is just that, my word, regardless of who I give it to. That is part of my integrity and values and I take pride in being the same way and predictable in my actions.
174. In what ways do you perceive relationships with people you knew prior to confinement to evolve over the course of your imprisonment?
My relationships with everyone I knew prior to my incarceration has evolved. They saw me at my worst, when I was a criminal and a drug addict. They knew waht I was capable of and witnesses my actions first hand. They have seen me evolve into the person I am today. From an irresponsible, immature, self centered and spoiled little kid into a mature, hard working, caring and responsible grown man. I know they can see the change because they tell me. Even from the beginning of my bid. When I used to ask for money I used to get things like this isn’t for drugs is it and I would have to offer up excuses and convince them that it wasn’t. Nowadays if I say I need some money for some tennis shoes they believe me and send the money so there is a profound difference.
175. In what ways have you nurtured support networks during the time you’ve served thus far?
I have stayed in touch with a number of people and through my writing I have met and maintained contacts with a bunch of other writers and professionals who work at magazines and other legitimate business or who write books and have agents and stuff like that. Most of the people in my network of support I have never met personally. But I write them, email them and call them and I have developed relationships with them, lasting relationships and these people have helped me with my career in writing and helped me to achieve success. I am always looking for new contacts and people to correspond with and share my work with. Doing this provides me with opportunities that otherwise I would not have.
176. In what ways will the support network you have in place now contribute to your success upon release?
I believe the network I have in place now will help me tremendously when I get out. Right now I am severely restricted in my interactions with them due to phone minutes being limited and me being in prison but when I get out and I can go to industry events with these people and meet their agents and the people they know I will be able to impress more people with my work and make new connections that will help me to pursue the goals that I have to get into the film world.
177. In what ways would you build a strong support network while you climbed through years of imprisonment?.
I have always been a big self promoter. i have always been he type to send out loads of letters letting people in the media and magazine worlds know what I am doing concerning my writing. I have worked tirelessly and sent out 10,000 of letters promoting me, my website and my writings and books. Now i can email them so it works out better because i can contact them quicker and maintain a dialogue with them by email to try and advance myself and my work.
178. In what ways do support networks or the lack of support networks influence prison adjustments?
Support networks or the lack of support networks can influence prison adjustments because if you have people on the outside who care about you be they parents, siblings, spouses, kids or whatever it can make your life in prison easier. Either by putting money on your account so that you can use the phone, computer and go to commissary or by ordering and sending you books, magazines and even letters, these little things can give you comfort and convenience and lead to you doing your time easier. If you think no one cares about you, you might be more apt to going off the deep end and just reverting to the “I don’t give a fuck” attitude that got you in prison in the first place.
179. To what extent are the values that those in your support network embrace harmonious with the values you profess to embrace?
By corresponding with law abiding and productive members of society or people that aren’t criminals and don’t live criminal lifestyles it enables you to adapt your change of values more easily. You are always influenced by the company you keep and if you hang out with criminals then you will be talking about criminal things and thinking criminal thoughts. If you are around people that have lived law abiding lives and work for a living it will be easier to adapt and to accept that lifestyle instead of your previous one.
180. What steps are you taking now to build or nurture your support network?
I continue to email, use the phone and write letters and communicate with my immediate family. They visit me and we talk and we plan about my homecoming and what will need to be done to make my adjustment comfortable and lasting. I continue to try and expand my circle by meeting new people through my writing efforts and I am always trying to make new contacts that might be able to help me when I come home so that I can be in a better position. To me its not always what you know but who you know so I continue to build and expand my circle of contacts.
181. In what ways can those in your support network facilitate your aspirations?
By bringing my work to the attention of other people, my support network can facilitate my aspirations of getting what I am doing recognized and noticed by more people. I am trying to get as many people as I can to see what I am doing and to read the stuff I write and visit my website and check out what I am doing. This recognition will lead to me doing what I aspire to when I hit the streets and that is to get into the film industry and make films.
182. In what ways is your support network helping you now?
Right now my network of support is helping me by giving me forums to show what I am doing with my writing either in the form or articles in magazines or on the internet, ads to promote and market my work, or forums on radio shows to talk about what I am doing and let more people hear me talk and see what I am about. My network of supports is allowing me and helping me to sell myself and to seel my books and other merchandise that we have been putting together to help make gorillaconvict.com a successful internet business. That is a business I hope to step into when I come home.
183. What level of allegiance do you pledge to your support network?
I pledge ultimate allegiance to my support network. I am there for them in anyway possible and I seek to capitalize and follow through on everything i am doing so that they look good and smart for supporting me and what I am doing and trying to accomplish. Because they believed in me and held faith in me when there was nobody else. I am loyal to those who are loyal to me. I help those who help me. My gratitude is forever and indefinite.
184. What incremental action steps can you to take to bring people you do not currently know into your life?
I can keep writing and getting my writing posted on the internet so that people can read what I am experiencing and read what I am learning about so that they can learn who I am and what I stand for through my writing. When I make new contacts I seek to open a dialogue with them so that they can enter into my circle and share my triumphs, victories and disappointments. I am always trying to meet new people and advance my ideas and what I am doing and share my writing and my experiences and to get people to correspond with me in a productive manner.
185. What thoughts do you have about people who would be most influential to your possibilities for success upon release?
My thoughts are feelings of gratitude for giving me a chance. For believing in me and for keeping the faith. I seek to repay the kindness and consideration that has been granted me by showing what I can do and being all that I can be. By staying free and living a productive life and working through my projects and bringing them to completion. I seek to show that there faith in me was well chosen. I seek to justify their beliefs that I can change and be productive.
186. Who are they?
My wife, my mom, my dad, my family, my network of support which consists of other writers, magazine editors, other business people I have met that have pushed and marketed and sold my books and other products. These are the people that I owe a debt of gratitude to for having faith in me and what I am doing.
187. What interests do they have?
I would say they have a variety of interest some of their interests are personal in me, some in my writing and what I am doing, some because they believe my products will make money. Its very diverse but I appreciate the interest and I seek to do more when I come home and return the favors so to speak if I can and am able.
188. How can you make them aware of your aspirations?
I believe I have made everyone aware of my aspirations and what I plan to do when I come home. All the people in my network of support know that I plan to make films and that what I am doing now is just a prelude to that. But I ma open to any business ventures that will allow me to work on something I have a passion for and to make money, not necessarily for me but for my wife and family to repay them for the way they have stood by my side and taken care of me. Like I said it is a debt of gratitude that I must repay.
189. What impression would your adjustment through prison thus far make upon them?
I believe that my adjustment in prison over the years has made a good impression on them. They have seen how I have changed and what I have been doing to make sure that I am ready for my eventual release. My hard work speaks for itself and the tremendous obstacles I have overcome in prison to do all that I have done has been appreciated and admired by my network of support as they have been there every step of the way through my trials and tribulations. They have lived this sentence with me and their support has enabled to do what I have done and given me the ability and desire to keep pursuing the things I have pursued and to set my goals and accomplish them.
190. In what ways are you working to cultivate mentors?
Through my website, college correspondence work and emails I have cultivated a lot of mentors that are more than happy to critique my work and what I am doing and offer guidance as they have in the past and as they continue to do so. When I embark on something new, a project or idea or whatever I usually throw it out to my mentors and network of support to see what they say and to see what they think about what I am trying to do. I am always looking for guidance and people that can help me accomplish my goals. I have no problem playing my position and going under someone’s wing if that is what the situation calls for.
191. In what ways does your behavior or activities within prison boundaries influence your relationships?
By staying out of trouble, staying in touch, and connected to my network of support they can see that I am serious about my goals and aspirations. I don’t get into fights, do drugs or engage in negative or self destructive behavior and this is a big change from the younger me who thrived on thing like that. I have been able to recognize my faults and adjust them accordingly and this has directly benefitted and influence my relationships with my family, wife and people in my network of support.
192. How would you assess the preparations and commitment your closest acquaintances make to a law-abiding, successful life upon release?
The preparations and commitments that my closest acquaintances have made to help me with a law abiding and successful like upon release are extensive. My family is ready for me to come home and they are ready to help me in any way i need. They have seen al the changes I have made and the positive outlook that I have on life and they have seen the goals I have set and accomplished. They have faith in me and they believe in me and they are doing everything possible to make sure that I will continue to be successful and accomplish my goals.
193. If you were to receive a disciplinary infraction, in what way would that influence the support network you’re striving to cultivate?
If I were to receive a disciplinary infraction here that would be a huge disappointment to my support network. I have made tremendous efforts and strove to stay on the side of right and be within the rules and regulations of the institution in which i reside. So anything like that would definitely be a let down for them and really for myself also.
194. What relevance does the phrase “It’s not what you know but who you know” have to you?
The phrase “its not what you know but who you know” means a lot to me. Through the connections I have made I have gotten a lot of stuff accomplished and that is and has been a direct result of the help that I have received due to the people that I know. So that phrase has tremendous meaning and impact to me.
195. To what extent would your actions show that you’re conscious of the influence others have on your prospects for success upon release?
I believe my actions are very representative of the extent of my consciousness of the influence that other have on my prospects for success upon release. Without their belief and faith in me I would not have accomplished any of my goals so far. So that belief is still necessary for when I come home because I will still not be in a good position to do everything and get all the things I need done or to happen by myself. I will still be reliant on other people for at least a minute still. But I don’t think that will last too long. I hope to be self sufficient sooner than alter.
196. How can a prisoner open more opportunities to broaden his network of support?
I have been sending out mail for years. What I do is I market and promote myself by direct mail marketing. That is how I ahve gained every contact that I have. I have sent out 10s of thousands of letters. I write to magazine editors, writers, store owners, websites, agents- any address i can find. I have been sending out copies of my unpublished articles, news releases, published clips, info on my books and everything that I have been doing. I just make tons of copies and then send out stuff to all the addresses that I ahve collected and surprisingly I have made a lot of contacts like this. But to do stuff like this you have to be relentless and you have to have something to promote, even if it is just your case. That is what I was doing at first but then it turned into the articles and books and website and more.
197. How would your transition to society change if you had a job offer in place before your release?
If I had a job offer in place before release it would definitely ease my transition. I know at first it won’t probably be much but I will need something when I am at the halfway house, whatever it is I will do it to the best of my ability. Eventually I hope to be allowed to run my company Gorilla Convict and to do the things I need to do to make it successful but I realize at first I will have to do what I ahve to do to get by and abide by the regulations of my release. But having a job in place would be a godsend and a definite stress reliever I am sure.
198. What steps will you begin taking now to broaden, nurture, and protect your support network each week that you remain in prison?
I stay in touch with everyone in my network of support and I let them know what is going on through emails and letters. I feel like I will have so much more to offer when I can have unlimited phone minutes and call people in my network and talk to them. Right now I am just so restricted in the sense of communications with limited minutes and the like. For right now I will continue to do what I do, that is do what I say and make sure everything I do for someone is right and exact.
199. How will you hold yourself accountable?
I will hold myself accountable through my discipline and responsibility. I hold the ideal that if I do something for you then I will do it as good or better than when I do it for myself. If I give you my word I will live up to it. Because if I have no intentions of doing what I say I am going to do than I should not make the commitment in the first place. That is just how I feel so if I make the commitment and give my word than whatever I have agreed to will get done. I have goals, short and long term and I make lists of things to do for today, next week, next year and five years from now. I am very goal orientated and very ambitious and I know I have a lot to do and a lot to accomplish. I just have to stay focused and do what I do.
126. When you assess your environment, what opportunities for self-improvement can you create or seize?
In the harsh netherworld of corruption and violence it is easy to take the well worn road and not the road less traveled, because believe me if you are trying to do something positive in here many obstacles, pitfalls and traps will be on your path. You have to be creative and seize the opportunities for self improvement that present themselves and you have to be even more aggressive and step outside of your environment to get what you need so that you can lead a successful life and be totally prepared upon release. The opportunities here are not much. You can avail yourself of the RDAP (drug program) and get up to 12 months off with 6 months of halfway house. You can take ACE (adult continuing education) classes but these are taught by prisoners so if the prisoner is not a good teacher or doesn’t have good knowledge of the subject the class will not be worth anything. Some prisons offer college classes, like here I am taking an Office technology program through East Arkansas Community College which entails 30 credits and a certificate and some prisons offer various Vocational training programs in building and electronic trades or even computer courses in word and stuff like that. But the waiting lists are long and geared toward people with the littlest time remaining. But you can do like I did and take college correspondence courses to earn your degrees.
127. What is your interpretation on the value of self-imposed structure of free time?
Some prisoners in here need to be programed, i.e. have a job that entails being there 8 hours a day, being in GED programs, anger management or other psychology programs, because they are mentally disturbed. But others such as myself are allowed free reign to structure their own time and do what they want. But you have to earn that trust and show that you are not going to make trouble b/c most of the times the administrators don’t want prisoners to have idle time b/c they have seen that when they have idle time trouble usually occurs. So they try to structure every part of a prisoners day. I have found that by being responsible and staying out of trouble I am cut more slack and allowed to pursue my writing activities and college correspondence course work.
128. What relationship do your daily activities have to the vision you have for your life upon release?
I structure my time and do what I can working toward my goals for when I am released. What I am doing today has everything to do with my vision for when I am released. I work on my writing activities and my wife helps me get things done and turn my ideas into reality. I am working to build Gorilla Convict Publications, the publishing house my wife founded and started for me to put my work out and to bring my ideas, passion and vision to the world. Gorilla Convict is my baby and my wife has been nurturing it for me and making it a reality so that I can express myself and reach out to the world with my ideas from in here and get peoples responses to what I am doing. This whole process lets me live vicariously through my writings and the interactions it involves with my fans and the people who want to comment on what I am doing. I have made a lot of valuable connections and contacts and will continue to do so. The relationship is there and it is solid and I will bring my vision to completion upon my release.
129. Imagine that you were to replicate your activities or use of time yesterday every day or your sentence. If you did, what level of preparation would have to triumph over the obstacles that await you upon your return to society?
I literally wasted the first nine years of my incarceration doing nothing but smoking weed, hustling, playing sports and being in the mix. I do wish I could have that time back now b/c if I applied myself like I have since 2002 I could have achieved way more stuff than I have now. But I will keep working hard. I have a lot to do. There is much I still wish to accomplish. I can’t look back with regrets I just have to plug forward and keep chugging along working with what I have and constantly striving for more. But for real I wasted 9 years but I am on track now and have been going on 10 years so I am confident and know that I will be able to overcome all the obstacles that will await me when I return to society. I am learning how to live pro socially and I am putting these ideals and themes into practice daily so that I will be able to function in society and communicate with people in an appropriate way.
130. What activities within the prison environment can you pursue that will enhance your strengths?
The activities that I can pursue within the prison environment that will enhance my strengths mainly consist of gaining more knowledge through college correspondence courses, earning degrees, reading and increasing my insight into things that I wish to learn more aobut are pursue. Anything positive basically. Be it working out, taking the classes the prisons provide, which are limited and don’t really amount to much. But say if I want to get into writing or publishing then I read books on that subject or if I want to get into public speaking or consulting then I study what I can from that vocation. The opportunities are here but you have to pursue them and go after what you want. They are not going to find you. As a long term prisoner you must do everything you can to prepare for your future and eventual release.
131. What activities within the prison environment would you categorize as a weakness?
There are a lot of activities in the prison environment that are readily available and that can be severely detrimental to you and your future success. When I came in an old convict told me Don’t gamble, don’t do drugs and don’t fuck with punks. He said always be polite and look people in the eye when you talk to them and if you have a problem come and get me. I have tried to live by this code b/c I know getting involved in the different scenes or subcultures in here like gambling or drugs can be viewed as a serious weakness to what I am trying to do for my future. So i stay out of the mix, stay to myself and try to stay focused and out of the way.
132. What activities within the prison environment would you perceive as offering opportunities?
There are different opportunities in education to read and gain more knowledge, in unicor to make money, in vocational training to get an apprenticeship or learn a trade. Stuff is here which presents opportunities but it is not much. They have religion and religious services, psychology services with different programs but you have to avail yourself of them and use what you can within the prison you are at to better yourself for your eventual release b/c no one is going to do it for you. You have to do it yourself.
133. What activities within the prison environment do you perceive as threatening your prospects for success upon release?
There are violent and chaotic people in here who have nothing better to do then just cause trouble. A lot of these dudes have low self esteem and hate themselves so the only way they can have piece of mind is to court chaos and be involved in drama and intrigues. That is what some of these dudes thrive off of b/c they have nothing else. People like this can threaten your prospects for success upon release b/c they will try to use you as a crash test dummy to do their bidding. That is what a lot of the gangs are about. They get young impressionable guys who want to prove their manhood and use that to their advantage getting them to do their dirty work. People like that in prison you must avoid b/c there is no reasoning with them and most of the time they are lost causes and want to convert you to their chaos.
134. To what extent do the activities you pursue inside the prison environment contribute to your strengths and opportunities?
If you surround yourself with positive people who are pursuing positive goals then you will stay positive. if you surround yourself with negativity and dudes who want to be in the mix and do drugs and commit violent acts to enhance their so called manhood and reputation then you will follow along accordingly. B/c they will send you on missions and come and get you and be like Lets go and you don’t even know what is going on but you are expeced to follow since you are part of the clique or gang. Don’t let your homeboys problems become yours. That is a big problem with a lot of dudes in prison. They let other peoples beefs become theirs and they get caught up in it and then they have to pay the consequences for their actions. So getting in trouble for holding a shank for you supposed homeboy or friend is not contributing to your stregths and opportunities. It is limiting them and drawing you into the maelstrom of corruption and violence which exists in all prisons to some certain extent or level and once you get caught up in this cycle it is hard to break.
135. What steps do you deliberately take to minimize your exposure to weaknesses and threats?
There are many steps you can take to minimize your exposure to undesirables and the type of crackhead individuals that inhabit the prison habitat. One is keep to yourself and avoid the chow hall, tv room and other places where you must stand in line and be around a bunch of other prisoners. Avoid hanging out on the yard or in the pool room. Avoid all contact whatsoever with prisoners. Its not as hard as it seems. Sleep different hours, stay busy, always be on the move doing something positive and don’t give anyone a chance to get to know you or to get in your head. I always tell dudes to keep it moving. Keep it moving and keep it positive and keep the negative aspect of prison away from you and out of your life.
136. Using the SWOT-assessment technique, how would you assess your decision-making process prior to imprisonment?
Prior to prison I didn’t really have an assessment technique I was just like whatever. I was stoned most of the time and selling drugs and I thought it was all good. The only thing I was worrying about was moving the package so that I could reup and pay off my connect. I thought I was priviliged and that I would never come to prison. I had a sense of entitlement. I thought I was better than eveyone else and superior. If it didn’t come easy to me a I didn’t pursue it. My thought process and all my decisions were faulty and what I did and what I pursued ended up with me being here with a 25 year sentence at the age of 22.
137. In what ways can the SWAT-assessment technique guide your decisions as you prepare for success upon release?
By going through the identifying aspects of what I will encounter when I come home I can recognize what I need to do in any given situation. By understanding who I am and what I need to do and by recognizing and threats that may occur I can minimize exposure to activities or interactions that might lead me back to prison. By measuring my progress by checking my stated goals I can see that I am accomplishing what I set out to and use this as a barometer of how far I still need to go. I strive for success and I will attain it through hard work, discipline and my own will to move forward and progress.
138. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant one: low-risk/high-reward?
Reading, writing, exercising by yourself, sleeping and staying out of the mix are activities which I think belong in quadrant 1. These are out of the way type of things that you can do with yourself withou minimal or no interaction.
139. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant two: high-risk/high-risk?
Trying to run a business and make money that will lead to my ultimate success upon entrance to the world are two things that are high risk/high reward b/c prison administrators don’t want me to get any kind of acclaim in the world. They just want you to be quiet and do your time and not raise any racket. But if you want to be a writer or get into the entertainment field you have to do what yu want to do to raise your profile so that you can have a career and get recognition for what you do that will lead to future success but this type of behavior, although positive on your future can lead you being put in the hole and under investigation for what the prison authorities would call running a business.
140. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant three: low-risk/low-reward?
Playing cards, watching TV, playing sports, working out with people and doing other group activites are low risk things in prison but also give absolutely no reward or contribute at all to your future. These are things to do to just bide the time but in reality you should be doing everything you can to improve your conditions and your chances upon release. Things of this nature I would consider a waste of time. If its not doing something positive for my future then I don’t see why I should do it.
141. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant four: high-risk/low-reward?
Things like getting high, getting in fights, and other things that lead to disciplinary procedures and infractions are high risk and low reward b/c the only thing you can get from these activities are to enhance your prison reputation and your prison respect. Which means a lot to dudes in here but in the real world means nothing.
142. To what extent do your consider risk-reward analysis when assessing activities, interactions, or time allocation in prison?
You should only allow yourself to be engaged in activities that are going to be beneficial to your ultimate release. Nothing else matters. If you have done all you can and to the maximum of your ability and you want to relax with some liesure time instead of playing cards are interacting with people read a book. Instead of watching TV take a walk. It is better to not be engaged with the other prisoners around you b/c the majority of them are knuckleheads and knowing them can only lead to trouble.
143 What type of self-improvement programs would enhance an individual’s prospects for success upon release?
Getting in shape is the first thing, before you can get your mind and your soul right you have to get your body right. A consistent and definitive workout plan is a must. After that you have to pick a course of study, whatever it is, and pursue it. Read, read, read and read some more. Research thoroughly whatever topic you wish to learn about and learn everything you can about it. Become at peac e with yourself and accept who you are b/c you can’t be anybody else except who you are. In prison you are stripped down to nothing, no fancy clothes, or bling-bling accessories, no expensive cars or houses or cash to flash or dime pieces on your arm. Its just you and how you carry yourself and how you present yourself to others. You must be the real you b/c there is no hiding it.
144. What thoughts have you given to the type of employment you want to pursue upon release?
I would like to get into public speaking and consulting on prison issues and life. Also I want to run my company gorilla convict publications and put out more books and expand our product base to move into graphic novels and video games. Also I want to get into film production, directing and acting and to continue writing scripts and bringing my vision to the world thorough multiple mediums and forums.
145. Define the qualifications necessary for the type of job you want to pursue?
I need to have vision and I need to have the relentlessness and will to carry on and overcome failure. I need to be persistent and honest with myself and passionate about what I am trying to do and how I will accomplish it. I am developing the attributes I will need right now and working on them daily and trying to be pro social and positive and organize everything in my mind and correct my personality defects so that I know who I am and am comfortable with how I truly am and that I am not presenting an illusion of myself but the real me.
146. How do your self-improvement programs prepare you for the type of job you want to pursue?
By interacting on the Internet and responding to what people are saying in their comments on my website and blog I am doing what I have to do and what i s necessary to communicate with and build my audience. This self-improvement training through the straight a guide and the rdap (drug program) i am taking are both also helping me to prepare for the type of job I want to pursue. By standing up and speaking in front of 130 men daily in a community setting I am preparing myself for future public speaking engagements and the SAG program has allowed me to set goals like having 10 books and 10 scripts written by the time I come home so that I can get into film and entertainment like I want also. I intened to be versatile and multifunctional in my job abibilites and not to limit myself to any one thing or vocation.
147. What types of self-improvement programs can you pursue independently that will enhance your prospects as a candidate for employment upon release?
The SAG program will tremendously enhance my employment opportunities as I am creating a record of transparency that is available online that chronicles and records my efforts to change for the better. i am expressing myself and what I plan to do so that there is a permanent record of me and my goals online for anyone to check and see. I believe this will enhance my ability to gain employment significantly upon my release.
148. In what ways do academic credentials influence an individual’s candidacy for employment?
Academic credentials are something that someone has earned that can never be taken away and that show a drive and dedication to finish what one started and come away with the goal that was set to achieve. I believe the degrees I have show my seriousness and my ambition and my ability to stick with something in spite of the circumstances of my incarceration. I could have given up at numerous opportunities because the BOP never made it easy for me to take these courses and get these degrees. To me it was a fight to the finish, a fight I had to win to ensure my ability to be successful upon release.
149. How do prospective employers gauge the value of academic credentials?
I think prospective employers look at where and when you went to school and what kind of degree you earned. earning a degree and dedicating yourself to the length of time it took to get in not only earn’s you a degree but it shows that you can stick with it and not give up and that is an ideal that employers want in their employees. But also to me getting my degree was almost like a life lesson. Like if you want something you work toward it no matter the obstacles involved. You do it day by day and slowly but surely you will get what you want and what you have earned.
150. What types of self-improvement steps trump academic credentials?
I believe showing the ability to do what you say and be held accountable for your actions and be a man of your word trumps all else. As a business partner, a friend or a husband my integrity speaks volumes of my ability to get things done and just coexist with someone else and accomplish goals that have been set either individually or solo. To be a man of your word and to always to what you say you are going to do if a rare quality that not all people exhibit. So in terms of life and business and every relationship that is the most important thing if you want to be taken seriously in whatever regard.
151. Describe situations you can recall when inadequate communication skills led to decreased opportunities in your life.
Being in prison for so long, going on 20 years, I feel my ability to communicate effectively in prison is very high. At the same time my ability to communicate effectively in the real world or a business setting has decreased. Although I never possessed this ability before because I was a kid when I got locked up. I remember when I first got locked up I couldn’t understand some of the different people of various backgrounds that dominated the prison environment. I would have to keep asking them what they said. I couldn’t understand them or what they were saying. Their syntax, the words they used and their accents or pronunciation was very foreign to me. But over the years I have perfected the prison lingo or speech so that now I can understand and make myself understood. This helps to avoid problems. Communication in here is the key and now that I am going back out into the real world I have to work hard on being understood and I have to adapt my speech and what I say and how I say it for the business and entertainment world.
152. Describe situations where stronger communication skills may have enhanced your prospects for success.
Learning to communicate effectively in prison definitely enhanced my ability to dodge the traps, pitfalls, hater and bammers that occupy the netherworld or corruption and violence which resides in our incarcerated nation. By learning the lingo of the land I have increased and enhanced my ability to get by and function and do what I have to do to prepare for my future and inevitable release. Living in prison is like living in a fishbowl and you can’t escape anything or anybody so being able to make yourself understood and to understand others is a valuable commodity.
153. What do communication skills mean to you?
Being able to function and get by and do what I need to do with the least amount of problems and hassle, that is what the communication skills I have developed in prison mean to me. They have enabled me to navigate these somewhat treacherous waters and guide myself through all the bullshit and drama and enabled to stay out of the mix these last ten years and work on the things that will provide success for me upon my release. The communication skills I have developed are really a means to and end just like everything else I have been doing, gearing up and preparing for the outcome I desire when I walk out of these gates.
154. In what types of ways can improving communication skills assuage the burden of confinement?
My communication skills allowed me to traverse the harsh landscapes and environments of the prison world by speaking effectively and being understood so that I could do the things I needed to do to get by and live comfortably and at the same time to pursue the goals and objectives that I needed to pursue in order to have a future in the outside world. It has been a fine line to walk to retain my respect in here and not be a victim or target and at the same time do what I have to do to make the transition and assimilate to the outside world. It is a path that I am still on and learning to navigate since now I am getting closer to the door I must improve my ways of speaking and communicating so that I can enter back into the real world and make that transition like I was never gone.
155. What types of influence do communication skills have on an individual’s prospects for success upon release?
I am constantly trying to cut out the nuances and ways of speaking that I ahve picked up during almost 20 years of incarceration so that I will not be branded or noticed as a convict or long term prisoner. I will not deny who or what I am but as a normal person walking around in America I am not trying to advertise it either and I am trying to adapt my speech and mannerisms back to what society expects. It is a reversal of the transformations I have made in here to adapt and to survive but it is a process that I must go through to make the transition back to society.
156. How can developing communication skills open opportunities through imprisonment?
I have learned to communicate on many different levels and with many different people. Through my writing I am communicating the prison experience that I have been subjected to and endured. I have crafted and honed my message so that it can be recieved in an intelligent and acceptable manner. Nobody wants to have a pity party or feel sorry for me because I sold drugs. I am a man and I have taken my punishment accordingly but still if I think something is wrong than I can’t just say its wrong I must communicate this message in an appropriate way and use an appropriate forum to address my concerns. That is what I have attempted to do with my writing, to create opportunities to communicate through my imprisonment.
157. In what ways can an individual take clearly-defined, measurable steps toward improving communication skills?
Now that I am in the RDAP (drug program) I am using this opportunity, where we are expected to get up and talk in front of 130 men, as a staging board to refine and perfect my public speaking skills. I have just started and know that I have lots to work on concerning my communication skills but I have the will, energy and desire to become an effective public speaker so that I can communicate my story to the public when I come home in public speaking engagements. Using that forum to spread my message and story. It is a task as I have to cut out almost 20 years of learning to speak in the prison lingo and style but it is a task that I will complete so that I can realize my goal of being an effective public speaker.
158. In what ways have you taken measurable, deliberate steps to improve your communication skills?
By asking others in the RDAP community to critique me when I speak in the community meetings I am taking measurable and deliberate steps to improve my communication skills in this forum. Just as before I learned to communicate effectively in prison with people of different nationalities, cultures, races and backgrounds and then as I took it one step further to communicate effectively with the public through my writing and website now I am tackling another area and forum, that of public speaking. I will keep working on this for my last two years in prison so that I can give a comfortable, knowledgeable and precise detailed presentation when I get out in the hopes that people will want to hear what I have to say.
159. What value do enhanced communication skills offer to a prospective employer?
By learning to communicate in the various ways I have described in the answers above I believe this shows my versatility to communicate in a number of different forums and avenues. It also shows my willingness to step outside the box and learn new and different ways to communicate that can be both mutually beneficial to me and any prospective employers or people that wish to work with me on any types of projects or business arrangements in the future.
160. How can a prisoner convey the extent of his communication skills and his personal investment to improve such skills?
By writing like I am doing on my blog, in my books and in magazine articles I have done. By expressing and verbalizing what you are going through and the transitions you are making with the SAG program. By standing up and speaking in the RDAP (drug program) and practicing my speaking and communication skills. Also by making an earnest effort to curtail swearing and speaking in the prison lingo because in the outside world talking like that has no place. Also prisoners can teach classes on different subject through the education department. Standing up and teaching is a good way to learn to communicate effectively. Also by writing letters and calling your family and expressing yourself and what you are going through and what your plans are and how you hope to accomplish them.
161. How does the prison experience influence an individual’s development of communication skills?
It can definitely hinder it if you decide to shut down and stay out of the mix. A lot of dudes in here to avoid problems just don’t deal with people at all on a daily basis. They go in a shell and are real timid and almost scared to speak or to make their presence felt in any way. You have to jump out there and expose yourself to the different cultures and learn how to communicate effectively. It can be a real learning experience. So the prison experience can most definitely affect and influence an individuals development of communication skills in different and varying ways.
162. In what ways do developing communicating skills resemble the development of physical fitness?
Its something that you can work on a little at a time. You can discard bad habits and pick up good ones. Just like when you work out regularly and try new things you can do the same thing with your communication skills. If it is speaking a different language or however you go about it, its gradual and you build up to certian abilities by working hard and sticking at it.
163. What does it mean to read with a purpose?
Read with a purpose is not just to read for entertainment. Most people in here and in the real world read to escape that is why fiction is so popular. People just want to be taken away from whatever world they are living in for the moment while they delve into a book. But reading with a purpose is to absorb what you are reading, to learn and gain knowledge and insight. To think about what you are reading and how it effects you in your daily life and how you can use the knowledge you have gained to better yourself and your situation and maybe even help others.
164. Describe the pattern of books you have read throughout your term in prison. What kind are they and why do you read them?
I have read a lot of fantasy books but also a lot of true crime and prison non-fiction accounts. I was very absorbed in reading about prison when I first entered to learn as much as I could about prison life and the culture it entails. Later on I moved on to reading about publishing and how the business and industry works and lately I have been reading a lot of books about social media and how to apply it to grow my writing career. Also I have read a lot about eating right and exercising, how to get agents, how to write screenplays, some history and books on how to become a better writer. I think my pattern of reading is very diverse and interesting. I read to escape but mostly for knowledge and to learn how to do things and how to apply the things that I learn to my life and to the things that I hope to do and accomplish.
165. In what ways do books you read prepare you for success upon release?
A lot of the books I have read are preparing me for success upon release. I read about 30 books on self publishing and that enable to come up with the plan for my publishing house that my wife put into effect. Today I still continue to read about social media, health and nutrition, writing screenplays and movies, books on directors and people involved in entertainment, so that I can see how they did what they did and accomplished what they accomplished. With their guidance through books I have formulated my own plan of action that I will implement upon my release. But I am doing everything possible right now so that I can get to that point because I realize it is a matter of positioning and I will have myself in the proper position so that success will be available to me.
166. When you consider the amount of free time available to you on a typical day, how do you determine the most effective ways to use it toward preparations for success?
I work on various different projects but I am always working on something. If it is not geared toward my future then I don’t do it. I am not the kind of dude in here who hangs out. I used to for my first 9 years but I realize now that was time wasted. I am lucky to have met Mike Santos because he inspired and motivated me to do a great many things. He taught me to use my time wisely and be productive and to not talk about ideas but to put them in action.
167. In what ways do you work to improve your dexterity with language, using words, sentences, and paragraphs to communicate ideas?
I am constantly trying to improve my dexterity with language by continuing to read and to learn and to converse with intelligent people and have dialogues with them. Both prisoners and people in the free world. Through emails I have widened my network of support and I continue to do so everyday trying to reach new people and a wider audience with my writing and website.
168. How would you describe the argot of the imprisoned class?
People in prison communicate at a very low level in the words and expressions that they use. The average education level is not very high and most communication is done through threats and a lot of feints and counters. It is a constant practice of polite assertiveness. But if you use big words or talk grandiose people in here wil not understand what you are saying and they might even get mad and think you are talking down to them. The lingo is prison specific and over time you can pick up the words, jargon and nuances in how, why and where they are used. Their is hidden meaning in a lot of the jargon and you have to know what dudes are saying and be understood at all times so there are no misunderstandings because that is how problem occur when there are misunderstandings on any type of level.
169. In what ways does the jargon of imprisonment compare of contrast with the language in the society you expect to encounter upon release?
It is a much more base or guttural language used in prison that in regular society. The jargon is brusque and direct because there is no room for misunderstanding. Dudes say what they mean and mean what they say. In regular society I expect that people will dance around things more and be polite and not direct and hope you understand what they say in the meaning of polite society but in here it is vicious and dudes will let you know exactly where you stand and what the deal is.
170. What does an individual speaker’s enunciation convey to his listeners?
In hear the way somebody says something can convey a lot. There is a lot of joking and even playing but when dudes get serious it can happen very quick and you will be able to tell by the way they enunciate their words. The tone will get much sharper and even more direct and an edge will come into the speakers voice. That is when you know it is about to get serious.
171. In what ways do an individual’s grooming habits or manner of dress communicate his values?
Long hair and a beard can be seen as a defense mechanism, like I am looking this way to keep people away. That is the way in prison where a lot of dudes won’t go clean shaven because they don’t want to appear feminine in any way. But in society it is the opposite, you are expected to present yourself in a clean cut manner with short hair and clean shaven. What is normal in prison is the opposite in the real world.
172. To what extent does documenting a prison journey communicate an individual’s commitment to success upon release?
By documenting your prison journey you are providing a record of transparency, like this is who I am, this is where I have been and this is what I think and how I am not. It is a way to pull back the curtain so to speak and give readers and other people a like a way to see into your mind and how you think and what stage of development you are at in your life. Where you are, where you have been and where you are trying to go.
One of the exercises Michael embraced to develop his communication strategy included writing book reports. In Earning Freedom, he wrote that books opened opportunities that contributed in meaningful, measurable ways to prepare him for triumph over the obstacles he expected to encounter. Each book had a purpose, and to stay on course, he used the following format to write his book reports:
- How I came across the book (title of book):
- Why I choose to read (title of book):
- What I learned from (title of book):
- Ways in which (title of book) will contribute to my success upon release:
173. In what ways would writing similar book reports contribute to the development of your communication skills and preparations for success upon release?:
Writing book reports can make you think and relate how what you are reading can be applied to you. by reading of others success and downfalls you can calculate your own path to greatness through relation to others. It is a way to further strengthen your ability to express yourself to the outside world in a written manner while relating to a different world than the one that you are currently residing in.
105. How would you define your life management skills?
Life management skills are resources that a man can draw upon in his time of need and to focus on everyday life and the things that he needs to do in order to reach his highest potential. By setting goals and then using life management skills to clearly define and detail those goals I am able to bring them to completion. My word is my bond and I do what I say I am going to do. There is no in between with me, that is how I manage my life, that is how I use my life management skills. I rely on them in everyday life and in setting my goals and in everything I do. Without them I would not be able to do the things I have done nor accomplish the things I still will accomplish. My success or lack thereof can come down to how I manage my life.
106. What types of decisions influence how you will emerge from prison?
The decision to change, the decision to get rid of any negativity or negative self talk which exists in my mind that might influence my previous criminal thinking patterns. I must replace all in my head and in my life with positivity. I must recognize where I am deficient and what led to my incarceration and the thinking erros that led me here. With self realization comes self awareness and with self awareness change is possible. I have to channel my anger and use it constructively. I cannot lash out and not care as I have in the past. This is my chance to succeed and do something positive in my life for my family, my community and myself. I have done what I can from prison, succeeded with my writings and other endeavors but I can do so much more and I have a lot more to offer. These are the decisions that will lead to my success as I emerge from prison.
107. In what ways does your daily schedule determine your potential for success upon release?
In prison you have to structure your day and routine so that you are focused on your inevitable goal of reemerging successfully into society. Many roadblocks and obstacles will obstruct your path but you must do everything you can to overcome them in a positive manner. If you can accomplish things and get them done in here than imagine how easy it will be when you get back on the street. In prison you will have such severe restrictions on your communications, movements and the things you are allowed to do that setting goals and accomplishing them will seem monumental but where there is a will there is a way and you have to put your mind to work and figure out what you want and what you need to do to get through the day and do your time productvely. Using your time wisely and preparing for your release utilizing every minute of every day during your incarceration will ead you to success in the real world.
108. How do personal relationships influence our prospects for success?
How you adapt and how you conduct your personal relationships will determine your prospects for success. From your family relationships to your spouse or girlfriend to how you interact with staff and other prisoners will all determine your ability to do your time drama and trouble free. Mastering the aspects of life inside will help you even more when you emerge from prison and reintegrate back into society. Your personal relationships define you. How you carry and conduct yourself is paramount to your future success in the real world. You must exhibit the values you have adapted and stick to the code you have used. DOn’t cry to your family about how hard your time is, just do it. They don’t need to hear you. Be strong and be a man and do the time, don’t let the time do you.
109. How can we cultivate and nurture personal relationships that may prove helpful through our prison journey and beyond?
By accepting your limitations and by doing what you can from here you can nurture any relationship. You have to realize every relationship is give and take. If you are used to providing with material means or with your physical presence you have to adapt because when you are in prison you can’t provide or nurture in that way so you have to find different ways, be it a letter, a phone call, an email. You have to realize that exactly what you are going through your family and loved ones are going through also. Not to the same extent as you but they are feeling the effects of your incarceration also. So you have to take heed of that and speak softly and be there with the kind of support that you can provide withich will mostly be mental and emotional. Once you are inside things will change so don’t expect them to be the same. You must change with them if you expect to keep your personal relationships alive and well.
110. In what ways did Michael’s decisions at the beginning of his term lead to the opportunities that opened for him through the decades he served?
Mikes highly-disciplined, values-based adjustment to his preparation to release related directly to the decisions he made at the beginning of his bid to educate himself and do everything he could to make sure he was ready for his ultimate release. Just because you are in prison doesn’t mean your time is frozen. So don’t freeze yourself out. You are still living, you are just living a restricted life. So find out how youc an live and live in the angles and shadows that you are allowed. You have to find the curves of your circumstances and emerge yourself into those curves so that you can live and have an affect on people in the outside world. This outside contact will help you to live and connect with people in whatever way you choose or whatever way you can/ Just because you are in prison doesn’t mean you are dead to the world. You are only dead if you allow yourself to be. I have refused to be dead. I will live through my interactions on this website and all my other work and writing. That is how I have reached out to the world while being buried in the belly of the beast. I refuse not to be heard. My voice has something to say and to me is important.
111. In what ways have the decisions you made from the day of your arrest influenced your life today?
My decisions from the day of my arrest have led to my possible future endeavors. I have chosen to educate myself and stay productive and write books and contribute tot he world from prison. I ahve chosen to stay in shape and work out and keep my body young and in good shape by exercising and eating right and getting proper sleep. I have chosen to let go of things I can’t control so that I can remain focused on the things I can control and keep my life stress free. I do not woory about things in the world that I can’t control. I just worry about myself and what I can do to improve mty chances of being successful when I emerge from prison. Everything for me is forward moving and progressive and I refuse to remain stagnant or be complacent. I am proactive instead of reactive I am getting myself ready for my eventual release everyday and every minute.
112. How would you compare and contrast the initial adjustment decisions of two prisoners who offered their profiles?
Redneck Rick has and kept the convict mentality and that is why he ended up back in prison. He felt safe and secure in prison. He was somebody in prison and when he went to the outside world he found that he didn’t get the same props are respect that he did in prison and he didn’t like that. His whole world and everything he valued and his ideals where built on the prison convict model and he found in the real world that the convict ideal didn’t work. You can’t spend your time in prison trying to get respect and be the man in prison and then come out and expect to succeed, you have to be able to navigate the treacherous waters of prison so that you are doing everything to prepare yourself for your future release. Buying into the prison mentality or street mentality is a sure way to make sure you end up back in prison. Yes you have to be assertive in prison so that youa re not walked and tread upon but you have to practice ideals and values which will lead to your success when you are released. It is a fine line to walk and its obvious that guys like Redneck Rick didn’t have the werewithal to do it. In contrast as you can see from these entries I have had the werewithal to walk the fine line and
maintain my self respect and prepare myself for my evenetual release. Mike wrote about my triumphs in the book too and I will continue to work hard and move forward, accomplishing my goals and doing all that i Have set out to do.
113. In what ways does your prison adjustment compare or contrast with the individuals profiled?
I think that besides Mike, who is/was my mentor, that no one else in the book compares to me and what I have done and accomplished. I have gotten three college degrees during my incarceration, published 5 books written almost 500 articles that have been published in magazines and on the internet and in other books. I believe tyhat besides Mike I am one of the most prolific prison writers whose work is featured on the internet today. I have a goal of having 10 books out and having 10 screenplays written byt he time i get out in late 2013, early 2014 and I will stick to that goal and put in the time and effort I need to get that done. So in essence I compare nicely with the other dudes that experiences successes in the book.
114. In what ways does your prison adjustment compare or contrast with the type of career trajectory That Greg Reyes or some of the other successful businessmen described?
I believe my adjustment compares favorably with the type of career trajectory of some of the successful businessmen that were described. i started out small publishing little pieces in magazines, then i started writing feature stories and little articles and chapters for book and finally I wrote and got my own book published and now I am at five currently in publication. I plan to keep gettting my work published and to write more full length feature scripts. I have three written so I have seven more to go. Then is my objective and plan and I will adhere to it sot hat my trajectory will keep going up and growing.
115. What steps can you take in the time that spans between now and your release date to prepare for a law-abiding, fulfilling life?
I can keep moving on the path I have been on and keep working out and working on my different projects. By applying myself and putting into practice all that I ahve learned concerning my writing, marketing and distributing my books through mail marketing and social media I can help to build the business Gorilla COnvict Publications that I founded into a viable company that will be able to support me and my family. That is my ultimate goal to make a living off my work that I have created from here.
116. In what ways are your interactions with others in prison and beyond purposeful?117. How do your interactions with others relate to the individual you aspire to become?
I work to be positive in my interactions with other prisoners and to let them know taht they can be successful too if they put in the hard work necessary. I try to be a positive role model and lead by example. There is a lot of negativity in here and I try to stay away from that and be diplomatic in my endeavors and help people by using my people skills to communicate with others for the benefit of everyone locked up with me.
117. How do your interactions with others relate to the individual you aspire to become?
I aspire to be the type of person who can communicate and get things done. I aspire to be a man of my word. I believe that these attributes will lead to success when I get out. I am practicing now all that I intend to apply when I get out. From helping to resolve problems and being a part of the solution.
118. What types of activities, interests, and discussions motivate or inspire your closest acquaintances?
We talk about book deals and film deals and moving into the entertainment business and forming production companies and forming companies and running businesses and marketing. We read about social media and try ot imagine the way that we can apply that to what we are doing with our writing. We try to connect with like minded people who have something going on so that we can all connect and bring together what we are tyring to do and help each other in all of our endeavors.
119. In what ways will the relationships you cultivate help or hinder your aspirations?
The relationships that you can develope in prison will help to cultivate your aspirations. You have to realize that when you come to prison you are going to find out who really cares and who really loves you. Because its like that old saying “out of sight, out of mind.” When you aren’t there everyday people will forget you real fast. So anyone that remains a part of your life when you come to prison really want to be a part of your life and what you are trying to do. For most of us going to prison is our lowest point. Most of your friends, associates, wives, girlfriends etc. etc. will abandon you to your fate without a second thought. So when you come to prison you really find out who cares and loves you. SO when you find that out you need to cultivate those relationships and realize that these are the people who will be with you through thick and thin. DOn’t take them for granted. Let them know everything you are doing and thinking and how youare changing and what you expect out of life when you come home.
120. If Red had a stable job with opportunities for growth, what do you suppose would have tempted him to revert to crime?
For a lot of people in prison their is a great temptation to go for the easy cash. They have an attitude like, “If I have a gun I can get money.” They will always take the easy way out. Committing crime, robbing people and selling drugs is the easy way ouot. Its easy for people in prison to risk their life in these endeavors because one common thing about most of the people in prison regardless of anything else is that they are risktakers. They don’t mind taking risks, even with their lives. And also it is easy, that is why they call it easy money. It takes too much to be normal and work a stable job and get gradual growth in salaries and responsibilities. Dudes in here want what they want now and they don’t want to put in the hard work to accomplish their goals over years. They want instant gratification. They don’t like people telling them what to do. They want to be their own boss. That is why they will risk all for a chance at a big score.
121. In what ways could a prisoner manage his life to persuade prospective employers that he lives by different values from men like Red?
By working a program like this, the Straight-A-Guide, a prisoner can show how he has changed and realized his criminal thinking errors that led to his incarceration. By showing his growth and developement with his journal entries on this website he can show a commitment to change. He can showcase the values he has learned and adopted and lived by. In prison it is easy to be bad but it is doubly hard to be good. Even more so than on the street. SO any prisoner that has turned his life around in the belly of the beast can use the record that he is recording on this website to persuade prospective employers that he lives by different values than those that he had when he was out there living a life of crime.
122. How does an individual’s diction influence perceptions?
How you speak and how you address others influences how people see you. Being in prison a long time I have a serious issue with changing how I talk. I talk like a convict because I have been around convicts for 20 years. You have to express yourself in a certain way to be understood and respected by the individuals in here that surround you on a daily basis. hey mistake kindness for weakness and you have to talk the talk and walk the walk even when you are doing something postive for your future. But I know that is a big area I have to l work on, improving my speaking skills so that I don’t seem and come across as an ex-con.
123. How does an individual’s personal grooming and presentation influence opportunities?
Personal grooming and presentation also influence opportunities. In here dudes get tattoos, grow facial hair and goatees, braid their hair or grow it long to look fearsome and intimidating because that is the culture. Prison is a very macho environment. You don’t want to have that smooth baby face or look like a pretty boy because you might get some unwanted attention. But in the real world it is opposite. You need to groom yourself and look clean cut even triple so if youa e an ex-convict. That will already be held against you so you have to be even more clean cut to overcome your stigma of being an ex-con.
124. With regard to the attitude attribute of the Straight-A Guide, what does it mean to make a 100 percent commitment?
Making a 100 percent commitment means that you have to go all in. There is no inbetween, there is no waffling. You have to be committed 100 percent in whatever you do. You have to do things for other people the same as if you were doing them for yourself, better even. Without a 100 percent commitment you will not succeed. You can’t half ass it. You have to be all in all the time. Even more so now that you have the stigma of being an ex-con.
125. How would you assess your acquaintances with regard to the attitude attribute of the Straight-A Guide?
I try to acquaint myself with other positive people who are doing positive things and are committed to them 100 percent. It is a matter of being around like minded people who are moving forward and trying to do something with their life instead of just doing prison/criminal type stuff. That type of life is dead for me. I am all about legitimate oppportunities now. I strive to make contacts in that realm that can help me achieve what I want to achieve. It all about that positive mental attitude.
64. What values might lead a person to success upon release from prison?:
The values that will lead a person to success upon release from prison include responsibility, integrity, perseverance, diligence and continuous hard work. Nothing can be taken for granted. When I come home I know I will have tremendous obstacles to overcome including the length of time I have been incarcerated. Life has passed me by and I have a lot of learn about technology and how things are today because it was a different world when I was locked up in 1993. The values I believe will lead me to success are values I am practicing today. I try to incorporate them all into everything I do everyday.
65. How does a person ever become his values?:
A person becomes his values by putting them into practice on a daily basis. You have to practice what you preach and do what you say. If you are going to talk the talk than walk the walk anything else is a facade. Over time by putting my values to practice I have slowly adapted and incorporated them into my life. As they say practice makes perfect.
66. How does a person strengthen his integrity?:
You strengthen your integrity by doing what you say you are going to do and being a man of your word. You just don’t tell somebody something because that is what they want to hear. You have to live up to your word and be a man. Like they say in here, word is bond, and your word being good is something good and something that will strengthen your integrity.
67. What immediate challenges will a prisoner confront the day his prison term expires?:
When my prison term expires I will face immediate challenges of how learning how to live free and without such severe restrictions. I will still face restrictions as those in any society face and mine will even be a little stricter due to me being on probation and having to meet those terms but I am ready to face them and live according to the conditions of my probation and the conditions I have set for myself commiserate with my values as discussed above. I am lucky in the reagrd that I have a loving wife and a house to go to but I will still have to get clothes, a car and other incidentals like an iphone, ipad and stuff like that so that I can communicate and assimilate myself into the modern world and all it entails.
I am good for housing but I will have to work with my wife and take on a lot of responsibility for the upkeep of the house that she has been taking care of for all these years and I will have to work to help her pay the bills and stuff like that for our living expenses inregards to the house. We are good on household furnishings but I will want to improve and upgrade our household furnishing as need arises. I will have to immediately buy a whole new wardrobe and expect to spend upwards ot $5,000 to clothe myself when I come home since I have nothing in regards to clothes. I will need a car or truck and I expect to buy a late model one that I am looking for it will cost $25,000 or so, I am lucky in the regard that my parents have said they will help me out with this. There are a whole bunch of other little things I will need to get like big screen TV, iPhone, iPad, iPod- all the little comforts that I ahve missed including cooking stuff and a thousand other little things that I will acquire over time but not exactly when I first come home. I will get stuff as I can afford and it might take me several years to get all the little things and accesories that I want.
69. Household furnishings:
73. How much in the way of financial resources should a prisoner expect to need in the way of financial resources to transition to society?:
I am expecting to need around $30,000 or so when I first get out or at the least have enough for the clothes, incidentals and a down payment for a vehicle. I am hoping that my parents can help me buy a truck outright though so I won’t be saddled with car payments. Plus I will have to pay insurance and also I would like to get some dental work done that might cost $5,000, get lasik eye surgery to correct my vision and get my nasal passages operated on as I have a deviated septum from my nose being broken several times. So this will cost even more and possibly I will not be able to incur these costs when I first get out but they will be future costs that I will have to endure to get the stuff needed done that I want and need to get done after 20 straight years of incarceration.
74. How will prospective landlords, employers, creditors, and others in society respond to an individual who discloses his criminal record(s) and history of imprisonment?:
I think they will respond to me negatively but I have taken steps to form a business, my publishing house Gorilla COnvict Publications that I can walk into when I come home and my parents and wife have gotten several credit cards in my name to build up and maintain my credit so I will have certain things going my way and to my advantage since I have been preparing for my eventual release during my whole incarceration. Still I will need to get another job if necessary for probation as I don’t think they will let me run my own business at first but eventually I expect to be allowed to do that and if I am self-employed and already have good credit and my wife owns a house I will be covered in those regards. But still I will have to put up with the stigma of being an ex-con and drug dealer for the rest of my life and just deal with it as I can.
Describe the job market in the sectors for which you would like to find employment::
75. What range of income does the market offer?:
My book company, already makes and generates a little income but I expect to be able to raise that bottom line when I come home and am able to devote more time to it. Not that I will be able to get rich off it but I believe I will be able to live off of it and implement my other future plans which includes expanding my brand with more products to sell and even getting into dvds, documentarys and films. But I will have to learn to do that and get the necessary software to edit and put together the various film elements that I have plans on doing. I have a vision and a will and most definitely I will find a way when I am home just as I have found a way while I have been in here to do the things that I have done during my incarceration.
76. What level of education or experience do candidates for such employment typically have?:
Most people coming out of prison don’t have high levels of education but I took steps ealry in my incarceration to alleviate that concern by getting my AA, BA and MA degress from Pennsylvainia State University, University of Iowa and California State University through correspondence courses, that luckily my family was able to pay for. I have continued my education by reading and learning about thins like social media, writing scripts and making films. Also I have tried to learn as much about computers and all the other technological gadgets that I can by reading magazines and staying current and up to date on what is going on outside with computers and the like. I have been taking as many classes or courses on computers as I can in here to get ahead of the curve and learn the stuff that I will need to know once I get out so that I can help to operate and run my publishing house. Also I might explore going back to school possibly to get my doctorate or at least taking some courses in film making so that I can pursue that avenue.
77. In what ways will a prison record influence possibilities for employment?:
I think a prison record is a big negative for employment opportunities but as I am hoping to get into film, productions, running my own business and public speaking I think it can only be a benefit just as having this profile on the web is and going through the drug program (rdap) as I am now also. I am looking at it all as a plus instead of a negative and I am very ready to test my skills and all the knowledge and tools I have developed in preparation for my release back into society.
78. Where is the general employment rate in your community?:
I don’t even know what my community is. I have been locked up so long. I am going to live with my wife in St. Louis, Missouri and I don’t really know the area that well but I have her to rely on and even if I have to get a job just to get by when I first get out I see better and brighter things in my future and I have a good idea what I want to do workwise, regardless of the local community. But I believe that with the current economical state in our country the employment rate can’t be very good but I will do what I have to do and even take a job paying minimum wage if that is what it takes. I don’t mind working and I have no problem doing what I have to do for now because I know in the future things will get better because I ahve a very good idea and firm plan on what I want to do and accomplish.
79. How would you expect the general employment rate to compare with the unemployment rate for people with your background, considering prison record, educational record, and experience?:
I believe that the general unemployment rate for people with prison records would be worse then for people without prison records. Having a criminal record is a serious detriment to my employability. That is why I am set on self-employment so that I can be my own boss and not have to worry about all that. Of course at first if it is part of my probation and i have to work some place I will but the ultimate goal is to work for myself and run the business that I started from in here.
80. How much time do you anticipate needing between your release date and securing the job you expect to land?:
I expect to have a job within weeks when I first get to the halfway house and I expect to keep that job for a while until I can convince my probation officer that I will be better off working at my own business and for myself. I know that might not happen right away but i expect within 6 months to a year I should be able to make that change so that I can run my own business.
81. If halfway house placement requires forfeiture of 25 percent of gross earnings, of your monthly take-home pay, how much do you anticipate you will keep during the time you’re in the halfway house?:
Since most of my immediate needs such as clothes, car, communication will be met with my families help I will spend the rest of my monthly take pay after the forfeiture of 25 percent to the halfway house on other incidentals I will need like gas, food and stuff like that. If possible I will save but that will not be my priority at first. My priority will be getting into the position where I can run and build my own business that has already been developed and is out there waiting for me.
82. What do statistics show that average households in America earn each year?:
I believe that most households only earn like $20 or 30 k a year.
83. How so you anticipate your income will compare with that average one year after your release from prison?:
I expect to earn much more than that, maybe not at first but when I can dedicate all my time and efforts to my business I think that I can earn upwards of $100 k a year doing what I have a passion to do and that is working on my writing, marketing, getting national distribution and turning my ideas and work into documentaries and dvd’s.
84. What emotions do we introduce when we obsess on issues beyond our ability to influence?:
When you come to prison you have to realize and accept that everything and I mean everything is beyond your control. You are told when to eat, when to sleep, when to work, when to go to the store, when to go to the bathroom, when to stand up, when to sit down- it is an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness. It takes some getting used to but to do your time drama free you need to accept this fact. There is no reasoning with these people. Most of them are morons (staff and prisoners alike) so you just have to deal with it and accept that everything is beyond your control except how you act and how you react to situations. You will feel anger, frustration and more but you just have to hold it in and find a way to channel it productively be it working out, helping and teaching others through classes and the like or just working on your own project, reading and learning. You have to focus and stay within yourself and overcome the feelings you will have and accept the situation for what is is you are in prison, so just deal with it.
85. How can we overcome the despair that accompanies imprisonment?:
You can overcome the despair that accompanies prison by staying busy and setting goals and accomplishing them. Your life doesn’t stop when you come to prison. It is just a more restrictive life. I have accomplished a lot from prison but you have to figure out what you can do and what you want to do and then set about doing it. A lot of obstacles and pitfalls will be put in your path but you have to dodge them just like you have to dodge all the haters, bammers and knuckleheads who reside in the belly of the beast and netherworld of corruption and violence. Stay focused, stay goal orientated and stay connected to the outside world with the email and phone. Your minutes will be severely restricted and if you don’t have funds so will your emails but outside contact is something to look forward to, just like mail and accomplishing your goals, so it gives you a semblance of living, which is all you can expect in prison.
Michael wrote about the numerous ways that his behavior could lead to the extension of his prison term or the aggravation of his prison conditions. No one wants to serve longer prison terms or serve sentences under harsher conditions. :
86. What types of behavior lead to such outcomes?:
I will give you an example of a close friend of mine who I was locked up with at FCI Gilmer in 2005 and 2006. He was a young white kid from the suburbs, kind of counterculture with long dreadlocks and he just didn’t care. He came in with an 18 year sentence for bank robbery, but basically he was just a junkie who was trying to get money for a fix. He was a good kid, had heart and was kind to people but he liked to drink and take drugs. He was like 22. He kept drinking and taking drugs in prison and kept going to the hole and getting dirty urines. I told him “Dude if you keep it up they are going to raise your level and you are going to end up in the penitentiary.” I was referring to the high level security prisons which are called USP’s instead of FCI’s which are medium security prisons and where we resided. But the kid didn’t care or take heed of my advice. He was not a violent dude but he would defend himself. He was just a junkie basically and he couldn’t stop taking drugs or drinking so he got more shots and ended up getting transferred to USP Pollack in Louisiana, a very violent penitentiary with lots of gangs. His points were raised because he kept getting shots or incident reports, repeated incident reports for rule violations make your points and security level go up. So this young suburban kid ended up in the vicious penitentiary and had lots of problems because of his long dreadlocks. The white prison gangs didn’t like that very much so he got into it with the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. Luckily he didn’t get killed but he got hurt pretty bad and got transferred to another USP in Pennsylvania where he still resides and will most likely finish his time because he keeps getting busted with shanks and homemade weapons which he feels he needs to defend himself after the last episode. So that is just one example of what type of behavior leads to an aggravation of prison conditions.
87. How do harsher prison conditions influence an individual’s ability to prepare for success upon release?:
As stated in the previous answer, the young man has to arm himself to feel safe and keeps getting caught with weapons and getting more shots and serving more hole time so it is a vicious cycle he has found himself in and he has no time or inclination to prepare himself for success uopn release because he is just worried about surviving. But he did it to himself. If he would have followed my advice and controlled his drinking and drug taking and not gotten all those shots his level would have dropped and he could have ended up in a loweer securtiy prison like a low or a camp where he could have focused more on the things he needed to do to get out and emerge from prison sucessfully but now he has been brainwashed and transformed into a dude that will do whatever it takes to survive and his hopes of leading a successful life when he gets out will be much harder, not impossible, but he will have to reprogram himself and adapt to society’s standards instead of the harsh penitentiary thinking he has adapted to survive in his brutal environment. So being in the harsher prison conditions has defintely influenced his ability to prepare for success upon release. The person we are speaking of even told me he doesn’t even have time to read a book because he is just staying on point and trying to survive.
88. How does behavior that leads to harsher prison conditions influence the lives of those in our support network?:
When you get in trouble in prison and move up in level you might be in and out of the hole (Special Housing Unit or SHU) more often than not, like the kid in the example above, due to the fact that he feels threatened and had to carry a shank or homemade weapon everywhere with him, thus increasing his chances of getting shook down and caught with it and written a shot and going to the hole. Going in and out of the hole is very disruptive to you and to your family as you are not allowed to use the phone or have access to your property and it makes communication hard. SO in that situation you can lose touch with people in your support network. Also as sanctions for violating the rules your phone, email and other privilges involving communication can be taken for 3 months upwards to 5 years for repeat violations.
89. Although the prison system offered ways to lengthen a prison term or aggravate the conditions under which a prisoner served his sentence, what objective mechanisms exist within the system for a prisoner to distinguish himself in a positive way?:
They have what they call programs, they want you programming, but most of the programs offer nothing but a certificate and they aren’t even recognized outside of prison. You can take vocational courses and enter into apprenticeships and some institutions offer college courses but the chances to get a degree through a prison run program is very rare. They offer computer courses like word and excell and give prisoners the opportunity to get some computer skills but most of the waiting list are long and they go by release date. The closer you are to release the higher up on the waiting list you will be. SO the programs are minimal. In my case i took college correspondence course that my family paid for and took the burden of educating myself on myself and my family who paid the fees. That was the only way I could accomplish what I have. So in reality the way for a prisoner to distinguish themselves in a positive are are minimal.
90. How then does the system encourage individuals to work toward reconciling with society, prepare for law-abiding lives upon release, or earn freedom?:
The system doesn’t really encourage prisoners to work toward reconciling with society and prepare for law-abiding lives upon release. And there is no way to earn freedom. The only program in the whole BOP that even encourages something like this is the RDAP or drug program in which you can get up to 12 months off your sentence for completing the 500 hour residential program which take about 10 months. And you can only get into this program if you qualify and the qualifications are very strict. You had to have previous drug use before your incarceration that is documented in your presentence investigation report. Plus you can only get in this program when you are 36 months short. That is the only program in effect like that and it is very restrictive on who can get into it.
91. Describe the goals you have set?:
I have set many goals for myself, ongoing, short term and long term. I have a goal to have 10 books published and 10 screenplays written before i get out. As of right now I have 5 books published and have written 3 screenplays so I am well on my way to achieving my goals. Also I want gorillaconvict.com, the website that features my work and books to grow and build a fan base so that when I come home and take that business over I will have something to work with. I also have a goal of getting in prime physical condition which I am well on my way to doing also. My other goals include loving, honoring and cherishing my wife and the life and love we share. I also want to become the best and most productive person I can be.
92. Describe how your goals relate to your professed values?:
My goals relate to my professed values because to me everything I am doing and trying to do is connected. It all comes back to the same thing, working hard and being productive and trying to put myself in the best position to succeed when I go home. I am practicing all who I am and all that I want to be today. I am not waiting for tomorrow. I am implementing all my plans, or as much as I am allowed to, right now and will continue to do so to help grow my career and future prospects.
93. How clearly can you gauge your level of success toward each goal you set?:
I feel that I can gauge my level of success very clearly especially in the attention I get for my writing and how many of my books sell. I can see my body changing as I get into better and better shape my exercising and eating right. I can see my mental state improving by how people respond to me and the respect and consideration they give me. But it is all an ongoing process. I am not yet where I want to be. I am a work in progress in everything I am doing.
94. In what ways does one goal lead to the next?:
All the goals are interconnected as they all lead to the eventual desired outcome of returning to society and becoming a productive successful and law abiding citizen. Everything I am doing now is for my future and it will pay dividends when I get out and can put all the tools I have been developing to work. Everything is geared toward that and taking care of and loving my wife and building a future for us where we will be comfortable and be able to do the things we want to do when we want. I also want to leave my work on society with my books and the writing I am doing and get into other things when I come home to help youngsters so that don’t have to pay the price that I have had to pay for my hardheadedness and inability to determine right from wrong. I want to show the person that I am that I have become that I should have become a long time ago before it took these extreme measures for me to wake up and realize the truth of love, live and everything else.
95. If you achieve all of your goals, how will they influence your prison adjustment?:
By achieving goals and accomplishing them in the harsh prison environment that you will be living in you can prove to yourself that if you set your mind to it you can accomplish and do anything you put your mind to. My goals are not just goals and when reached accomplishments they are a part of me, something that no one can take away. They define me, just as my crimes and prison sentence defined me before. But I have shown that I can overcome all that and redefine myself in this negative and harsh environment. My goals and accomplishments have let me transcend prison and reach outside the fences to build a network of support in my chosen field of writing. I have contacts and people that value my work and my word and what I am doing and what I have done. I have a career waiting for me and a business waiting for me and a home and a wife waiting for me. All of this has influenced my prison adjustment in the most positive way and all of this I have created and gained since my incarceration, basically I have created all of this from nothing.
96. How will the goals you set influence your prospects for success upon release?:
My goals will continue to let me live positively and crime free when I go home. My prospects are good becasue of all the hard work I have put in during my incarceration. I have decreased my chances of recidivism by doing all that I have done. That was the goal the whole time and I aspire to be a living example and testament to that when I go home and become successful using all the tools and ideas and the business and my writing that I have developed while in prison.
16. Who are you?
My name is Seth Ferranti. I grew up in the suburbs of California. My dad was in the military. We lived overseas in Europe and than when he retired we settled in Northern Virginia, outside of Washington DC. I had a lot of advantages and opportunities and basically I messed up. I got invloved in drugs and then started getting LSD and marijuana shipped from out of state to me in Virginia and I started selling it all at area high schools and than colleges. This all started in 1987 or so. By the time I was 20 I was supplying about 15 colleges in 5 states with LSD and marijuana. I got busted in the summer of 1991, got indicted federally and took off. I was a US Marshals list top 15 fugitive for 2 years and after I was caught in 1993 I was convicted of a Continual Criminal Enterprise charge and sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. I have been in prison ever since.
I have grown to a man behind these fences. It took me a long time but after meeting Michael Santos in 1999 I decided to start preparing for my eventual release. My first 6 years were spent doing nothing productive. I was working out, playing sports and smoking weed. “Bidding” as they called it. I wasn’t worried about the outside world. But after meeting Mike and listening to what he had to say I decided to start preparing for my future, even though I wouldn’t enter society until 2015. I like who I am now. I believe in myself and I am confident in my abilities to succeed in whatever I put my mind to. I have worked hard to position myself and be ready for my release so that I can become a successful member of society and pursure the various endeavors and activities that I have planned. I consider myself a responsible, hard working, intelligent and productive person who is ready to enter society and contribute.
17. Describe your background with regard to your education, vocation or career, troubles with the law.
I come from a middle class background. I grew up in the suburbs. I had every advantage and wanted for nothing growing up. I grew up in a two parent household with a younger brother and sister. I should have went to college and assimilated into society but I wanted to be the rebel. I wanted to be the outlaw and live that “rock star” like life. I never worked hard at anything and for me being a drug dealer was easy. I can honestly say that I thought I would never get caught and that up until entering prison I had always taken the easy way out in life.
Since I have been in prison I have gotten my AA degree from Pennsylvania State University, my BA degree from Iowa University and my MA degree from California State University. All through correspondence. I have bee lucky that my parents were in a position to pay for my education because without their financial assistence I would have never been able to accomplish what I have accomplished in that regard.
Around 1999 I started writing for publication, getting articles published in magazines and in 2005 I founded a publishing house, Gorilla Convict Publications, which has now published 3 of my books. I have a website at gorillaconvict.com which publishes my blog and has all my articles and reviews of my books and stuff like that. I am very proud of my writing and the fact that I have created something from nothing and Made a viable career for me for when I get out. I have more books planned and they will be coming out shortly and I will keep writing for magazines and for my website as I continue to hone my skills and build my resume so that I will have viable options when I come home. My only troubles with the law are my above stated case. I am a first time non violent offender.
18. What are you going through now?
Right now I am preparing to do my last couple of years on this sentence. i feel very close even though i have 48 months left. With the rdap drug program i can get 12 months off my sentence and with 6 months halfway house and 6 months home confinement i can be out of here by nov 2013. so that is really only two more years to go. i am doing everything i can to prepare myself for that day when i walk out of these gates. Mentally, physically, emotionally and financially. I am trying to get 6 more books ready to be published as i have a goal of having 10 books out before i am released and i am trying to put other peoples books out on my small publishing house and i am trying to write as many sellable screenplays as i can before i go home. Also i am trying to learn as much as i can about computers, social media and the internet. Everyday i just try to stay busy with my various projects and work out and keep my mind busy and stay out of the mix and bullshit that happens in prison.
Describe your vision of the best person you can become during the following time frames:
19. Time remaining to serve.
i need to get these 6 other books i am working on completed and out in the time that i have remaining to serve. i need to write several more screenplays and polish the ones i have written already. i need to bring all the various projects i am working on to their completion so that i have an extensive e body of work to represent myself and use as my resume when i come home. i need to keep my body in good shape and stay strong and lean and in the best shape i can be by watching what i eat and exercising regularly. i need to prepare my mind mentally and get out of any prison mindsets and get ready for the world and for living with my wife and working and doing the things i need to do to be a productive citizen and to accomplish the goals i have set for myself when i get out.
20. One month after release.
One month after release i hope to have all the things i will need on a daily basis such as clothes, car, computer, credit cards, phone, etc. I hope to be settled and working and getting ready to make the transition form the halfway house home to my wife. even though whatever job i have at first will not be permanent i need to work to the best of my ability and continue preparing for my future.
21. One year after release.
One year after release i hope to be working for myself. i want to be building my small publishing house into a profitable company and i want to be developing the land my wife owns in Missouri so that we can make a maximum profit off it and move to California where i hope to get back into school to get my doctorate. I also will be continuing to build my network of support and utilizing all my contacts to set up my move into the entertainment and film business which i hope to have something set up by the time i want to move back to California, 2 years after i get out.
22. Five years after release.
five years after release i will be living in california in my own home and have my own production company. i will have completed my doctorate and will start lecturing and teaching at universities part time to supplement my income while i pursue my various film projects and bring them to completion. i will be a force in the entertainment and academic worlds.
23. How do those in society perceive people in prison?
People in society view people in prison as criminals. They consider us the worst of the worst. They figure you had to do something very bad to be in prison. They can’t see past the crime or past the fact that you are in prison. They believe that we belong here and that we deserve to do the time that we are doing.
24. Describe how television programs and movies depict prisoners:
movies and television depict prisoners as violent and conniving. what hollywood does is take the worst of the worst and use that stereotype for all prisoners. the killers, the conman, the gang leader, the psychosomatic mentally deranged crazy lunatic. this is why people have the view of prisoners that they do. growing up int he suburbs i imagined prison some dark and evil place where you could get killed or raped at any and every moment. Hollywood perpetuates this myth.
25. Compare and contrast your prison adjustment with the prison stereotype.
i have found that prison can be like the stereotypes but that is the rarity and not the norm. what they show in the movies does happen but it happens to like 1% of the prison population. and as you go down in security those percentages are less. like if you are in a USP you might have a 30 to 40% chance of getting stabbed. when you go to an FCI it goes down to 10 to 15% and then when you go a low it is probagbly like a 5% chance and then a camp maybe 1% if that. so that is a lot of people in prison that aren’t violent and aren’t doing all the things that the shawshank redemption and oz would have you believe they are doing. i have been able to write books and get college degrees while in prison. are there a lot of distractions? yes. are people in here loud and inconsiderate? yes. but you have to close out everything and focus and do what you want to do. nobody else is going to do it for you.
26. In what ways is your adjustment similar?
i would say my adjustment is not similar. in tv or the movies they would have you believe that the young white kid from the good family comes to prison and gets raped. that doesn’t happen. can it happen? yes. but it is like a 1% chance. it didn’t happen to me and i know several other white dudes from similar backgrounds as mine that came to prison and didn’t get raped. that is the worst case scenario. i have been in prison for almost 19 years and i don’t know anyone who has been raped. i have heard stories but to actually know someone? no. that is a vicious hollywood stereotype. there are a lot of gay dudes in here though and i’m sure a lot of that stuff goes on, homo stuff, but i have not been around it or even been a witenss to it. so even though you know it is going on it is not that prevelant like you are seeing it or something. i would say my adjustment has not been similar to what a hollywood movie would have you believe. in movies they have the old barred cells and everything is so brutal and violent and for real its not like that. yes peiople get hurt and stabbed and occasionally killed but usually those people bring that problem on themselves. they are involved in something like drugs, gambling or homosexual stuff. those are the danger things. there is a scarcity of resources in prison and dudes are willing to fight and even kill to control stuff like that. but that is more in the higher level places. not the lows or camps they are pretty tame and ot much is going on.
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.
At high security prisons the environment is vary volatile. their are opportunities for personal growth and development but it is most definitely harder in that environment. with all the noise and violence and lockdown and politics it is really hard to stay out of the way. hard but not impossible. everything in prison is about the security of the institution so anyone trying to improve themselves has serious battles to fight. against the administration, against the other prisoners and even against themselves. but it can be done it is just very hard. you have to stay out of the drama and stay out of the mix
29. Medium security.
it is a little easier to accomplish stuff at a med security prison but still difficult. when i began my journey at fci manchester in 1993 there were all types of obstacles they put in my path. i was doing my college correspondence work when they had the crack riots in 1995 and we were locked down for several months. i remember getting some of my college course books and doing the work and sending it in handwritten b/c i didn’t have access to a typewriter locked down in my cell. i was lucky that i had staff in education that supported me at different prisons iw as at. without support it would have been very hard. you run into all types of issue and i am just talking about doing my college correspondence courses.
30. Low security.
i had several bad experiences doing my college correspondence course in lows. one education administrator at fci fort dix approved all these course iw anted to take and then when the books came in he held them and wouldn’t give them to me. he said there were too many books and i wasn’t allowed to have them in my property. i had to get my parents to write a senator, who quickly contacted the prison education administrator. after that he gave me my books. sometimes i have had to go to extremes like this to get my educational and college materials. when i transferred from fort dix to fairton in 2002 fairton lost my college books and didn’t find them for like 3 months. you would thhink a low would be easier to get things done but sometimes that wasn’t the case. at fci lorreto in 2008 when i was working on my masters degree, the education supervisor allowed me to use the computers in the computer lab to write my thesis on and then halfway into it he took that right away. so i have had a lot of false starts and abrupt stops. also during my thesis iw as in the hole for an investigation for almost 4 months, which put that on hiatus. it was enforced of course.
31. Minimum security.
i have had no experiences in a camp yet. but i’m sure it is some more of the same bullshit.
32. Prior to release, what do prisoners generally say about their prospects for returning?
i think a lot of these dudes want to come back. they make it so easy especially in a low like i am in now. over half the people here shouldn’t even be in prison. theya re scared to death to do anything wrong for real. so i don’t sse how they got here in the first place. a lot of dudes going home seem to be really worried b/c they are unprepared and have no prospects, no money and no idea of what to expect. even now with all these dudes going home b/c of the crack law they seem unsure and almost agitated and stressing out. one dude i know just went home after 10 years inside he had 600 in his account no place to live, no job and no prospects, like 50 years old no family it was really sad he was stressing out something fierce before he left i hope he is ok but he will probably be violated.
33. In what ways, if any, do those who never return to prison serve their sentences differently from those who do return to prison?
I have seen guys to 10 or 15 get out and come back 2 years later with a fresh 20. prison isn’t really a deterrent. it is easy living. some dudes get more respect in here then they could ever get on the street or in the real world they are institutionalized and probably like it here better. i think that what i am doing and what mike has done will ensure that we never come back b/c we have a life outside these fences. we are prepared, we have prospects. i think that is what it is all about. being prepared and having prospects. some dudes have better prospects in here.
34. What steps can a prisoner take to improve chances of success upon release?
A prisoner can do everything possible to prepare for their eventual release but education is key. It is a proven and verifiable fact that education cuts down recidivism. Prisoners should do all they can to gain more knowledge in whatever field they choose so that they can apply that knowledge to something productive when they get out. It all has to be a part of the plan. Dudes in here talk about doing time and cutting themselves off from the world but in my opinion that is stupid and counterproductive. A prisoner doing a significant amount of time in prison, i.e. decades, like many of us are in the federal system, needs to have a plan in place and has to do all that they can to implement that plan and bring it all into action in whatever capacity they can. It is easy to say I can’t or they won’t let me or question how you can do that or this or whatever but to make anything work in any type of environment you have to plan, plan and plan some more. The prison administration no matter what they say about supporting rehabilitation will put whatever obstacle they can in a prisoner’s path to try and deter them from pursuing their stated and positive goal. They want prisoners to come back to prison. That is job security for them. So a prisoner must do everything he can to attain whatever it is he needs to attain to become a law abiding and successful citizen of this country 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?
I believe anything longer than 5 years is long term. To take a person out of the world and leave them in suspended animation. Frozen to the outside world and its changes, including family, friends, technology and life in general is a big detriment to reentering society. But that is what the powers that be want because they have created a system of mass incarceration that suits their purposes. The purpose of providing employment for people that would otherwise probably not have anywhere to work due to the continued state of our economy. These people that work here are not brain surgeons or innovators by any means. Basically they are morons and working in the prison in a nice government paying job with benefits is the best they could ever aspire to. I have been in for almost 20 calendars so far and my journey is not done yet. I have learned a lot about this system and seen its effects on people both staff and prisoners. I have know lifers and I thank god that I have a date to get out, a light at the end of the tunnel. But to each his own, the 20 years in to me is the same as 1 year to someone else. Everybody has their own burden they must carry.
36. What expectations do those in society have for long-term prisoners?
I would say that society probably thinks that if we are released or when we are released that we will commit more crimes and go back to prison. they always publicize the cases of recidivism but never publicize the success stories. it is very rare that they put the spotlight on someone who did a lot of time, rehabilitated himself and came out and was successful. that is b/c our country is not about rehabilitation we are about punishment. the current thinking is just throw them away and bury the key. but that is wrong. just b/c you made a mistake like I did, selling marijuana and lasd at colleges while I was a teenager, doesn’t mean that my life should be forfeit or that my life is over.
37. What expectations do you suppose long-term prisoners have for themselves?
I would say a lot of them are very comfortable in prison b/c of the status they have from being in so long. I am sure everyone wants the chance to get out but a lot don’t know what to do when they get out b/c they haven’t prepared themselves. the prisons don’t help in anyway b/c they have no programs and they offer no tools for the long term prisoners to arm themselves with so that they can survive. it is really a sad state that such a world leading country like ours treats their citizens that make mistakes so bad.
38. What do prison administrators and staff members expect of long-term prisoners?
It is unspoken but they expect you to keep the younger and more volatile prisoners in line. there are always several long term prisoners on each unit. they don’t do this by mistake. they scatter the dudes that have been in a long time over the compound to help manage the prison so to speak. but it is all unspoken. they know a long term prisoner will lead in the units by example. after doing so much time a prisoner knows what is expected of him, how to act and how to stay out of staff’s way and let them do their jobs. so in reality that they expect long term prisoners to help manage the prison in their own way, but they would never admit this.
39. How would you define a “model inmate”?
a model inmate is one who always does what he is told and never questions the way things are or why staff is doing something a certain way. they don’t cause trouble or make waves and just take what they are given witho0ut complaining or saying anything. they steer clear of trouble makers and drugs and staying in the mix and all other things like gambling and drinking and hustling that go on in prison. they report the guards what is going on in the units and on the compound. that is a model inmate.
40. How does Michael’s prison journey support or refute prison stereotypes?
mike’s journey refutes the prison stereotype because he should be held up as a model prisoner for what he has achieved but he is not. he is seen as a subversive or radical just because of his writing and his desire to improve himself by gaining a college education. because he seeks routes outside the norm he is ridiculed and held up as an example of someone who thinks they are to good to be in prison. but mike has been doing exactly want he should be doing in a system that is set up for him to fail. a prisoner has to take extreme measures to succeed before they enter back in society and prisoners like mike and other participating in this program are doing the same.
41. What role did the prison infrastructure play in influencing Michael’s journey through prison?
I believe it hardened him and made him want to succeed more despite his circumstances. with so much against him he worked that much harder to get his education and to do the things that will help him to re enter society in a successful manner. it is a battle to get your education and to do positive stuff in here. you have to fight and fight and fight. you would think they would want you to do positive things to improve yourself and your chances to be successful when you emerge into the outside world but they don’t all they do is sit obstacle after obstacle in your path. as mikes journey shows.
42. What vision governed Michael’s decisions as a prisoner?
he knew he had a lot of time to do and that he would face tremendous odds when he got out so he spent every waking hour to do everything he could to improve his chances to succeed upon release. this is a fight, us against them. a tremendous fight. once you are branded they want to keep you down and in the system. they don’t want to let you loose. that is why there are so many negative stigmas attached to someone being an ex-con. the system is set up to make you lose. so you must work twice and three times as hard as the next man to make you succeed and mike realized this at a young age when he was thrust into the system with an extraordinary amount of time for such a young offender.
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 have committed the all of me in everything I do. I know it is succeed or bust. there are no second chances. I was hit with a 25 year sentence for a first time non violent offense, it took a while for the severity of what happened to me to sink in. nine years almost but when I realized what my true circumstances were and the obstacles I would be facing I devoted all my time to improving myself and doing things that would enable me to come home and to live free and to be successful in the field that I have chosen to pursue. this is not something I just decided to do right before I got out this is something I have been working on since 2002. this is what I have devoted all my time to. defining and preparing myself for a career of my choosing so that when I get out I can do what I want and make money and be successful.
44. Aspiration: Where do you see yourself at various checkpoints in the future?
By the end of 2013 I see myself going home to my wife in St Louis Missouri. I see myself furthering my company gorilla convict by getting national distribution deals for my books and other products and further distinguishing and strengthening my brand that I have been developing over the last several years. I see myself getting into documentaries and teaching myself how to make and edit films and trying to bring some oft he scripts I have wrote to fruition. I see myself moving back to California within 2 years and then really getting into the entertainment business with my various projects and ideas and making an impact in the film industry.
45. What distinguishes an aspiration from a fantasy?
the drive, know how, wherewithal and ambition to make it a reality. like obviously if I say I want to go play professional sports that is a fantasy. I am 41 years old and way past my athletic prime. but what I have outlined is possible and I have been working toward those goals with everything that I do and every connection that I make.
46. Action: What steps are you taking toward aspiration?
I am continuing to write books and get them published from in here. I have 5 out now with plans for another 5 at least and I am writing scripts. I have 3 completed screenplays and plans to write at least 7 more before I get out. I have a t-shirt, poster and sticker line featuring the gangsters I write about in my books. I plan to have a line of 15-20 t-shirts, stickers and posters by the time I come home so everything will be in place for me to network and try to get a national distribution deal for my products or to sell the company and move on to my next goal of making documentaries and films. right now I am reading as much as I can on film making, social media and I am taking all the computer classes I can to learn how to operate all the computer programs that people are using in the world.
47. Accountability: How are you measuring progress?
by setting goals and accomplishing them. by publishing books. by taking my ideas and turning them into products and marketing them. I still have a ways to go but I am confident I will have everything done that I want done by the time I get out. each book I publish, each item we create and put up for sale on my website is one more steep I take toward my goals. each book read and knowledge that I gain moves me closer to where I want to go. I move forward all the time and always look toward the future.
48. Awareness: How knowledgeable are you about the atmospherics around you?
I know where I am I know what can happen at any time. I do what I can do to avoid problems. I stay to myself, I work and I workout and I get my projects done. I am not very social able. these people here don’t really have anything to offer me and my involvement with them can only lead to trouble. not to say there aren’t good people in here there are but they are the few and far between. so I stick to my script and stay out of the way and avoid all the drama and politics of prison life.
49. In what ways do you reach beyond the boundaries that currently confine you?
through the mail, phone and email I can communicate with a number of people. I am lucky that my wife helps me do everything that I do. she keeps me in touch with people through Facebook and other networking sites and acts as my agent, manager, secretary and publisher. she helps me edit and craft all my stories and put my books together. so it is me and her against the world. that is how I do my time. one accomplishment at a time. we are a team. I am the inspiration and the idea man and she is the facilitator. she helps to stay in touch with the world. I live my life outside these fences that way. it keeps me focused and lets me accomplish what I am trying to in this very restrictive and oppressive environment.
50. What do you know about the challenges that will confront you upon release?
I know that I will experience many challenges, most of which will be technological. When I came to prison in 1993 there was no Internet, smartphones, ipads or anything like that. I will be going out into a technological and progressive world and I am not the least bit tech savvy but I will learn. I will also experience challenges with just normal day-to-day living and adjusting to being free and living in an unrestrictive environment but I am ready. I have been preparing myself as much as I can to deal with everything I have to deal with.
51. Achievement: When do you celebrate success?
I do not know that I have. I am not where I want to be yet. I am still positioning myself. One day when I feel I have achieved all that I want to and I am in a comfortable position I will look back and celebrate. I hope to be in position one day where I own my own house and properties and where I can travel with my wife to see things we want to see. That will be my celebration but I am not ready to celebrate yet I still have a lot of work to do.
52. Appreciation: What role do others have in your success?
My wife plays the biggest role as she facilitates all that I do with my writing, books and stuff. Without her, the road would be much harder. My mother and father have helped tremendously also by supplying finances to get my college degree while I have been in here and helping me out in other ways financially as I have done my time. In addition, I have a vast network of associates who are either in the magazine business as editors or owners who have helped me a lot with places to publish my work and forums to advertise my books. Also numerous other writers and websites that have helped to publicize my work and me. Without all their help and interest in what I am doing, nobody would have ever known. They have helped to let the world know what is going on with my writing and me and I am grateful for that.
53. Where did those choices lead?
The decisions I made earlier in life when I was a teenager led to me being incarcerated and having all this time that I have been doing. If I had the insight and even foresight that I do now if could have avoided all that has happened to me and focused my talents and desires at a young age but in reality I was lost. I knew I wanted to make money but I went about it the totally wrong way. My thinking process was clouded by all the marijuana I was smoking, all the alcohol, and other drugs I was consuming. Instead of living up to, my positive potential I lived up to my negative potential and a 25-year drug sentence was the result. Thinking back, I needed someone to hit me in he head with a brick. going through this guide and adopting the principles and lessons it holds is the same as being hit in the head with a brick. It makes you realize, it makes you wake up. that is something I wish I did at a much younger age.
54. What did you value then?
I don’t know that I valued anything. I might have valued what I thought I was. The image of being an outlaw or a drug dealer. I thought it was kind of romantic. I wanted to be the bad boy. the martyr the tragic one. I got what I wanted. Would I change who I am today? no but I know I could have made this advancement to the stage I am at now a much easier way. Me coming to prison is akin to me banging my head against a wall for years and years and years before I finally figured it out. not even to say that I have it all figured out now I am still learning with each and every day.
55. How would you guide your children if they were making choices in the same way?
I believe with me it would have taken something drastic b/c when I was young I though I knew everything and nobody could tell me anything so any kids of mine would probably have the same attitude so it would have to be something drastic to make them see the errors of their ways. Some type of tough love b/c I know it would have taken someone to move mountains to make me listen. I was that hardheaded and set in my ways. its like when you are young and an older more experienced person tells you one of those sayings like “a tiger can’t change its stripes” and as a youngster I would think that is stupid. Now as an older wiser man, I know exactly what it means.
56. What would you do differently if you could?
Well obviously, I would not have sold drugs and I would have directed my energies toward some positive pursuit as I have shown that I can do. If I would have known, what I know now it would have been different but you live and learn. I would not change who I am. I like who I am. It is just a shame that I had to go through all this to become the man I am today.
57. Describe the differences in your life today from the first days of your confinement.
I was a kid when I came in naive in some ways, well in a lot of ways. Not just of prison but of the ways of the world. I am much wiser now in so many ways. I am focused where as before I was somewhat lost. I a dedicated now whereas before I was somewhat drifting. I have learned a lot and I have made efforts to apply all that I have learned so that I can be productive and get stuff done and live up to my word as a man.
58. How have your activities from last week led to your activities for this week?
Everything I do builds on the simple premise of all that I am trying to accomplish. one goal fits in with the other. Its all little steps that lead to a whole of me being successful and emerging from prison and not reverting to crime so that I can live in the outside world free. That is something I am teaching myself to do and something that I still need to learn to do due to me being involved in drugs from my early teenage years. I know it will not be easy but I build and I build and I build one step at a time and in tiny increments I have been preparing myself for the ultimate goal which is release and me coping and prospering in the real world.
59. Identify the values by which you live.
I live by the values of loyalty, honor, and respect and not in the twisted prison senses of the world. my strong relationships are with people on the outside and I strive to keep my word to them and to do what I say I am going to do. It can only be who I am and I can’t be anyone else so I try to just be myself and have people identify me with the same values as I identify myself. I am a trustworthy, honest, loyal, intelligent and ambitious person and I tend to gravitate toward like-minded people. I try to live within these codes that I have set for myself and to stay disciplined when it comes to them and how I carry myself and how I act.
60. To what extent do your daily activities harmonize with the values by which you live?
I have to stay out of the mix on the prison compound and not get involved with the people here b/c most of the people in here are pieces of shit. they do not have very many redeeming qualities. You can meet a good guy here and there but most of the people you meet in prison are not worth knowing so I stick to myself and stay out of the way and avoid the drama. its like an obstacle course in here and you have to constantly dodge the different barriers and objects that are put in your way so that you don’t fall prey to the prison mentality or buy into b/c if you do you can go to the edge of that cliff and jump off and who knows what will happen. I am through with that type of behavior. I want to live my life in a productive manner and just spend time with my wife and enjoy my various professional pursuits and projects that I will get into when I come home. Basically in here it is a constant battle to stay focused and do what you have to do to make sure you succeed when you come home but it is very necessary and you are crazy if you don’t do what you need to do to prepare for your eventual release.
61. How do your professed values relate to your perceived role in society?
I believe that I can assimilate to society very easily. I have a structured environment to go do. I have a house, a wife, a business to run and a career to pursue. These are not things I had before coming to prison. These are things I acquired during my incarceration. It can be done, yes I have had some help but the most help to me has a been my own drive and determination. Everything that I am doing will translate to society. I am a man of my word and I don’t bullshit and I know just like in here most people in the world are full of shit and like they say the crème always rises to the top and I am the crème of the crop, in prison or without.
62. Where does your allegiance lie?
My allegiance lies with my wife and my family with my network of support that I have met and cultivated from in here. The people that have overseen my journalistic, writing and college career. The ones who have helped me. That is where my allegiance lies and mostly it lies within me and to myself. I most be loyal to myself and who I am and what I want to do and not let anything get in the way of my success in the real world. I most do all I can, I the most positive sence of the notion, to provide for myself and my wife and my family.
63. Are values situational or absolute?
I believe they are absolute you can’t keep switching what you believe in as the wind blows you must stick to your values and face whatever may come.
97. Describe your thoughts on whether accountability logs would help, hinder, or provide indifferent to your opportunities for success upon release.
I believe that accountability logs will help my opportunities for success upun release. Being accountable to yourself is the most important thing. You can lie to others but you can never lie to yourself. if you do than you are delusional and you have some serious problems. I try to keep my self image and what other people think of me as close together as possible. It is only in this way that i can be real and accountable to myself. I have kept food charts and exercise charts for years. I am always writing out lists of my goals and plans. From weekly to short term to long term goals I have it all listed and I put a lot of time and effort in revising these lists and logs and crossing out things that I have accomplished. It has also given me a sense of moving forward when I can accomplish a goal I have set or wrote down. And in the stagnant and suffocating environment of prison that is exactly what I need to stay focused.
98. In what ways will probation officers respond to efforts you’ve made at documenting your values, goals, and commitment to preparing for a law-abiding life upon release?
I think probation officers will look kindly on it. They want to see someone focused and goal orientated because they probably have so many head cases and dudes that are trying to get over and beat the system that they have to deal with on a daily basis. So I am sure if you can prove that you are re doing something positive through this program or just with your accountability your probation officer will be relieved because you are making his job easy and they will respect that.
99. Elaborate on ways that full transparency with regard to your prison adjustment through accountability logs can influence potential employers or support networks.
This whole program of the straight a guide and all my answers are the ultimate transparency with regard to my prison adjustment and not who I was when I came in but who I am now. It reflects the changes I have made and the man I have become and it records the progress I have made and the things I have achieved. Just this record itself if read can influence potential employers and my support networks.
100. Describe the role accountability logs played in their success:
Being accountable to yourself through the logs and introspection makes you see the real you. You have to analyze who you are and what you are capable of and improve in areas where you can improve. Through careful self introspection and realizing ones failures accountable logs give a clear and definite truth that can help those geared toward achievement to realize the truths of their existence and overcome what is needed to succeed in whatever environment they find themselves in conquering all obstacles that are put in their way.
101. How do universities evaluate which students to admit?
Universities evaluate which students to admit based on their academic, social and sports record. The best universities look for the most well rounded individuals. The pour over their records and select the ones that have been represented best in the various areas that they are looking for achievement in.
102. What information do creditors consider when deliberating on whether to extend loans?
Creditors look at your job and credit history. They check your bank accounts and what you own. They check for outstanding debts and evidence that you have paid your bills on time. It is all in your financial records. It is all recorded.
103. What governs investment decisions that people make?
Data, ups and downs in the stock or commodities that people wish to invest in. Trends and forecasts on certain stocks, businesses and the like and potential growth and opportunities in the fields they wish to invest in.
104. How do your responses to the above questions support or refute the value of accountability logs?
The above answer support the value of accountability logs which show a sustained record of action and consistency. That is what employers and people in general look for. They want someone who does what he says and is the man that he portrays himself to be. You have to talk the talk and walk the walk. You have to back up what you say. You have to keep your word and do stuff for others with the same quality and frame of mind for when you do it for yourself. You have to give your best efforts at all times and not slack off or be complacent or lazy.
When I first got the idea to form Gorilla Convict Publications in 2005 I didn’t know what would become of the company or where it would take me. I didn’t have a plan, only a purpose and a vision. I had a book, Prison Stories that I had wrote and that I wanted to put out. It was me reaching out to the world from prison, expressing myself and giving an accounting of who I was and the experiences that I was living. It was my gesture to the world at large. I didn’t know if anyone would like what I had written and to be honest I didn’t even really care, to an extent at least. I just wanted to put the book out, send it out to the world and see what happened. To my surprise and delight people in the world liked the book. I got very good feedback and the book found an audience. Through my website at gorillaconvict.com I continued writing. I had a blog that helped to grow my audience. I wrote articles for magazines like Don Diva and F.E.D.S., interviewing imprisoned gangsters and as compensation for my articles I got ads for my book and website. These ads helped to promote my book, blog, work and website even more. I started getting offers to write for other websites and magazines and I took advantage of these offers. The first print run of prison stories was 1000 books. We sold all of these and reprinted, changing the cover in the process.
A funny thing had happened with that book. I hadn’t written it as urban fiction but that was the market it fell into. Reviewers and websites were calling it an urban fiction novel set in prison. It wasn’t what I planned but I rolled with it. Plus with the ads I was getting in the street magazines my work was getting exposed to a lot of people who read urban fiction. I kept doing stories and interviews on my blog and website on prisoners, gangbangers, gangsters and criminals. True crime was what I was really writing about. Even my book Prison Stories were fictionalized accounts of real events. I had just called it fiction to protect the guilty. But I found that I had an audience and with access to a world of convicts, thugs, hoods and gangsters I decided to keep doing what I was doing.
Thus the idea for my second book was born. I can’t say it was really my idea. I just did what Don Diva and F.E.D.S. were doing, except I did it in book form. I saw that my peers in prison really enjoyed reading the stories in these magazines and to be honest I did too. I was always searching for more information and stuff to read on the outlaw gangsters who were a part of hip-hop’s lyrical lore. I found there were hardly any books out there in this genre. There were lots of books on mobsters from the Mafia and drug lords from the Colombian cocaine cartels but books on urban gangsters were almost non-existent. So I decided to write my own.
I picked six dudes- the Death Before Dishonor six- who had been in Don Diva and F.E.D.S. and who I had access to, either them or some of their codefendants or relatives, and I began doing interviews and researching. I went over the court records, the newspaper articles on their cases, their interviews in Don Diva and F.E.D.S. and listened to any and everything that their homeboys would tell me about them. I gathered all this info up and wrote. The results were Street Legends Vol. 1. By this time we had printed 2000 more Prison Stories and it was still selling steadily. We printed 2000 copies of Street Legends Vol. 1 and put it up for sale. I got ads in the street magazines and used the websites like hoopshype.com, viceland.com and urbanbooksource.com that I was writing regularly for to promote the book and my website. I was slowly building my brand. One reader at a time.
Street Legends Vol. 1 was a resounding success. The print run sold out and we printed 3000 more copies of the book. Also I researched and wrote Street Legends Vol. 2, which featured six more real life gangsters, straight out of the crime lore of the hood. I subtitled this volume Original Gangsters and printed 3000 copies of the book.
The books have sold steadily on our website, on Amazon.com and through some mom and pop and hip-hop stores we utilize. Nothing big or out of this world, but it was mine and I have been building it from in here. I have 11,000 books in print and almost 10,000 sold. Not bad for doing it from prison with only my wife Diane helping me on the outside and facilitating my activities, by actively running the business and shipping the books.
From in here I have built a brand and created something from nothing. My efforts have proved fruitful and turned my ideas and vision into something tangible. Something that I will be able to continue to work on and build during the time I have left to do (my release date is November 2015) and when I come home. Plus I am ready to put out my fourth book The Supreme Team: The Birth of Crack and Hip-Hop, Princes Reign of Terror and the 50 Cent/Supreme Beef Exposed. With this book I hope to put into play all that I have learned putting out my previous books.
I wrote the first book and started the website for me, I wrote Street Legends Vol. 1 and 2 for my peers in prison and now with the Supreme Team book I am writing for a bigger audience. Readers who like true crime stories, anyone who likes or is into movies like Scarface and American Gangster and the hip-hop generation in general will love this book. By seeing how my books have sold and by studying the marketplace and what type of books are moving a large amount of numbers, I believe I have come up with a formula for success. I already have the grassroots support of the prisons, but now I need to move onto a bigger audience and bring my vision and the urban outlaw gangster to the masses, just as Hollywood has with their films like Menace to Society and Boyz in the Hood. The glorification and romanticism of the Italian mob and Colombian cocaine cartels in popular culture and the media can be repeated with the inner-city gangsters that are lauded in hip-hops lyrical lore. My books on Gorilla Convict Publications tell the stories on these street legends and can be found at www.gorillaconvict.com.
Seth Ferranti has been called “the most potent voice of the streets” and writes for www.gorillaconvict.com, the premier publisher of hard-edge and brutally real true crime stories. Check out his newest book- The Supreme Team: The Birth of Crack and Hip-Hop, Prince’s Reign of Terror and the Supreme/50 Cent Beef Exposed, available from Gorilla Convict Publications and www.gorillaconvict.com for $19.95.
I wonder a lot about what the future will hold, how I will react and what I will be doing, when I finally enter the world after over two decades in prison. I wonder can I cope or am I institutionalized? What will I do with my new found freedoms? Will I be able to live, love and learn like a regular person or am I too jaded from being in here so long? It is really something for me to contemplate and something I have spent many nights thinking about long and hard. I have a plan though and I have spent every waking moment since around 2002 going over and adjusting my plan as I continue to prepare myself for my eventual release.
I would say I have learned my lesson about committing crimes and I have paid a tremendous price for my actions. In retrospect I would hardly say selling pot and LSD to college students is worth 25 years of my life, but that is what the powers that be said was the punishment that fit my crime, so who am I to complain? That does not stop me from questioning the system and how it is set up. Even so, I would not trade the person I am today for whom I was back then. I like who I am. I have accomplished a lot and I have set goals, worked towards them and completed them. That is what I will continue to do when I leave the prison environment behind. By setting goals and accomplishing them while in here I have set the standard for what I expect of myself for the rest of my life.
I think I have prepared myself as much as I can, even more than I could have hoped for, for my future life outside these fences. I have never been an overtly violent person, but I know I am not the same naive or even innocent about the world young man that I was when I came in. I grew up in the upper middle class suburbs ofAmericaand had a distorted view of the world due to my suburban upbringing, which has drastically changed with my submersion into the ghetto prison culture of our country’s correctional facilities.
Because today that’s what prison really is, a ghetto. The ideals and values or unvalues of the street and ghetto dominate in here. No matter what you hear or what the movies romanticize about, there is no honor among thieves and here at the low security prison where I reside, the worst of the worst criminal scum, value wise exist. At least at the higher level institutions you know what to expect. It is more black and white. More violent of course but easier to navigate because dudes go more with their ideals, that are set in stone. You can predict how they will act. Here it is a clusterfuck of whatever.
But I have managed to dodge the pitfalls and traps that I have encountered, both in the higher security institutions and here. I have tried to stay focused so I can accomplish what I have set out to do and I believe I have done a very good job, if I do say so myself. Not that I am looking for any type of recognition. All I am looking for is the opportunity to pursue what I want to pursue when I get out and to make a living from it. But that is a story yet to be written, although I have the outline already done. I just have to fill in the details of the tale and I am looking forward to moving on to that part of my life, which I will tackle confidently and assertively just as I have every other aspect of my existence.
Seth Ferranti has been called “the most potent voice of the streets” and writes for www.gorillaconvict.com, the premier publisher of hard-edge and brutally real true crime stories. Check out his newest book- The Supreme Team: The Birth of Crack and Hip-Hop, Prince’s Reign of Terror and the Supreme/50 Cent Beef Exposed, available from Gorilla Convict Publications and www.gorillaconvict.com for $19.95.