Thomas Ross / Class One: Values

by Thomas-Ross

16. Who are you?

A little I would like to share about myself. I’m married to Angela Ross, we are proud parents of Dashaun, Serena, Trevaughn and Vaughnyae with one grandson Javiaun. I also have a son named Marquis from a previous relationship. I have been incarcerated for over a decade. I was convicted for conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. I was sentenced to twenty years. This is my first offense. I would like to share more about my case but it is still under appeal in the Eastern District.I grew up in East Palo Alto, Ca. I was raised in a loving and caring environment, with my mother Betty Ross, father Cecil Ross and sister Gratina Ross. Both of my parents were employed by the Government and have since retired. My parents were able to provide my sister and myself with all the support we needed to get through school and also the wisdom to help us overcome being raised in East Palo Alto, Ca.  I was also lucky enough to have the privilege of having my grandparents Jack and Corine Ross live with us during my younger years. East Palo Alto was and still is considered a high crime area for its size.

I was an excellent student throughout my school years graduating from Woodside High School in Woodside,Ca. I was considered a great athlete in baseball, football and basketball. Upset about the injuries I had sustained throughout my years of training and playing a few high school buddies and I went down to the local recruiter office and joined the Army. During my Military time I was able to travel the Country. I was able to serve time in Germany as a heavy vehicle mechanic and a squad leader. I also trained in the motor pool to handle hazardous materials. I sustained frostbite and was sent back to the States. I was medically discharged and returned home to East Palo Alto, where  I married my high school sweetheart and had a child. I soon gained employment at a pharmaceutical company and became a Senior Hazmat Tech. After a few years of working at the plant I started pursuing my college education and also working for other hazmat companies on the weekends. Soon realizing I had become a workaholic.

Meanwhile I had got back in shape and started playing semi-pro baseball in Solano County. I had cut my family short from all of these activities and soon became divorced at a young age, leading into single parenthood. After some time I began to date my current wife Angela, we weren’t quite serious at first because I had realized things in my life were not prioritized quite right. Angela believed in me and we became more serious. Angela and I moved in together after a short time and had our first child. She became the young lady in my life that was able to help me get my life in order as far as being that family man I know I had in me. Angela became my soulmate, we realized we had so much in common. She was very supportive of my career, family, sports and schooling. Once we were living the so called “American Dream” I got indicted, convicted and shipped off to serve my 20 year sentence. In my earlier years of being incarcerated, I was very depressed and had no hope of ever coming home to my family. I began to blame everyone for my short comings. I realized that over my years of being so caught up into myself, I made several bad decisions. I had not quite grown up and become the man I thought I was. Angela being my soulmate continued to support me, love me and to make sure that my children and I stay as connected as possible.

Over a decade later I still play a major role in their lives, supporting my children’s sports, education, and just their lives in general. I know my wife and children believe in me, I can say that our family visits are very important to all of us.  After taking several college courses and not knowing which career I would like to engage in after being released, I decided to enroll in the ministry college, what a great choice I realized that after all that I had been through God was not in the center of my life. My mind was so screwed up. This last year and a half I have been attending church regularly while enjoying my ministry classes. I share my learnings with Angela and the children. This has been a wonderful opportunity in our lives. Accepting God has empowered me to look beyond my past and help me become a better husband and father. I look forward to completing my studies and pray that it helps me regain my confidence so I can pursue my career in the environmental field. I feel in my heart with the help of God and my family I will be able to accomplish far more than I had prior to my incarceration. I’m blessed to have been able to set aside for God to work in my life, I guess I needed this experience to become a wiser man. Helping others is a major goal in my life. I thank God for my wife, children and family for their continued support. Family means the world to me, all I can do is pray I get the second chance to be with them all.

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

I’ve already answered part of the question in the previous question. as far as my career was, i was from the military. i started working at a pharmaceutical company. i was employed there for 11 years as a senior hazardous waste handler. I didn’t have any troubles with the law prior to the offense that I am serving time for now.

18. What are you going through now?

Now I’m trying to stay positive , learn more about my christian walk and continue to support my family. I’m very sad about not being able to help my wife with our children because the economy is bad. I’m also hoping that my family continue to hang in there until I get home. I’m very motivated about my future after this experience.

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

I can become a person that continues to achieve my goals regardless of my incarceration.

19. Time remaining to serve:

5.5 years to go and I will work every day, all day preparing for that day, and beyond.

20. One month after release:

I would like to be in a position to obtain employment and help my family because I am familiar on what is going on in the economy.

21. One year after release:

I would like to continue my education in ministry and have my paint company started back up and contributing for my children to have a college fund.

22. Five years after release:

I hope to have a degree in enviromental law, continue to expand my paint company, and have a better relationship with my family.

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

That we are losers, that we will not be able to fit back into society when we get back out, that we will return back to prison.

24. Describe how television programs and movies depict prisoners:

That prisons and prisoners are very evil and dangerous and sexual preditors with no morals for society.

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

Although i got a twenty year sentence I strongly believe that I have made the best out of my incarceration because of the following:1) my military experience.2) my family support.3) my willingness to live.4) opportunities to become a better father and husband.5) setting goals for when i get out.

26. In what ways is your adjustment similar?

I don’t believe my adjustment was similar to the average stereotype because I never wanted to feel like I was in prison. I didn’t come into the prison environment a violent person, and I’m not going to leave as a violent person. I just want this opportunity to become a better person regardless of my mistakes.

27. In what ways is your adjustment different?

I believe my parents played a major part in my not giving into the stereotypes. I was raised with lots of love. just because I was convicted of a crime, I did not want this to change me in my respect of what my parents have done for me.

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

In my opinion, the higher the security, the more opportunity to lose valuable time because of violent conditions or time being taken away because of time lost being locked down. on the other hand, as you work your way to lower security, the more opportunities you have to take advantage to better yourself.1) educational opportunites.2) more family time through visits.3) personal growth.4) putting God in the center of your problems.

28. High Security:

29. Medium Security:

30. Low Security:

31. Minimum Security:

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

No one says they are going back, but so many do. And after a long sentence, society will look down on them. Lack of job training, or educational skills, lack of family support, and no connection to children. It can be tough to go home; it is easier for some in prison. Those that do return do not take the opportunity to prepare themselves for reentry. They become adjusted to the system. they never put their problems to gods hands, they have no family support, and no will to make change.

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

The key is to prepare themselves with educational opportunities, let God into their life, strong family support, and a strong will to do what is right by having another chance learning from their mistakes.

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

Want to make change by bettering themselves, educationally, willingness to learn job skills, keeping strong family ties, making commitments, setting goals, short term and long term, and staying in prayer.

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

It depends on the crime committed. If it’s not a violent crime or not a major lost to anyone, a year is a long time away from your family. Now that I’ve served a long sentence, I realize that a lesson to be learned does not take a long sentence. Especially a first time non-violent offender.

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

That prisoners that serve long sentences will fail and return back to prison. There might be concern of violence, that we will not have patience, and that we didn’t prepare ourselves for reentry to society.

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

Basically none after long prison sentences with no rehabilitation. the majority feel that they will fail once they return to society and violate their release and return back to prison.

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

The majority feel that if you don’t do things to prepare yourself to enter back to society, you are going to meet circumstances that will result in the person returning to prison. Most staff members pay attention to how long term prisoners program to make change and who is not taking advantage of opportunities to make change to reenter back into society. the majority support opportunities for long term prisoners to help themselves.

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

One that follows the rules, respects others, who is willing to make changes to better themselves by taking advantage of opportunities, educational goals, spiritual growth, and one who wants to be reunited with family.

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

Michael has been in prison for 24 years. During that time his adjustment comletely refutes prisoner stereotypes. The stereotype holds that someone who has been in prison for that long would be really negative. He might be involved in a lot of bad things and he might not have much concern for what goes on in society. That isn’t Michael’s life at all. He tries to live as an example of what any prisoner can become. A prisoner can develop himself so that he leaves prison with more skills than when he came in. He can build close ties with his family. He can open opportunities that will enable him to support himself upon release.From what I know of Michael, he hardly seems like a prisoner at all. I know the strategy by which he lives because I live the same strategy. I’m always striving to show my commitment to my wife Angela, to my children Trevaughn, Serena, and Vaughnyae. I am striving to educate myself and contribute to my community.Prisoners do not have to live in accordance with the stereotype. Michael doesn’t do it and neither do I.

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

From what he wrote in the books, it seems like it’s exactly what I would have expected. I’ve been in prison for 13 years and I know exactly what Michael was referring to when he wrote how the prison system tried to block him in evey way. The prison system doesn’t help people prepare for success. It conditions them to live as inmates, always whining and begging for what any normal person would take for granted.Michael wrote of the struggles he had to educate himself. He wrote of how the prison system blocked his support network and made life difficult on his family. He wrote how it locked him in the hole repeatedly and uprooted his life with transfers to prisons across state lines. It introduced all of those complexities even though all Michael was trying to do was prepare himself for a law-abiding, contributing life upon release.In my own experience, I’ve suffered the same indignities. Prison administrators have locked me in the hole for months at a time. They took my visits from my family for an entire year. The limit me from talking on the phone to my wife and children while they paint a bunch of ridiculous signs about “believe it or not I care.”Prison isn’t about helping people emerge as law-abiding citizens. It’s a warehouse that hurts families. Even so, Michael shows that a man can overcome. I’m doing the same thing.

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

Michael wrote about his commitment to preparing for a law-abiding, contributing life upon release. He had the vision of walking out with his family and his dignity in tact, regardless of what prison officials did to extinguish his hope. He never cared about some ridiculous prison certificate or being labeled as a model inmate. He wanted to live as a man, strong, with his family and opportunities for success.Those are the same visions that guide me through these final years that I must serve in prison. I am not going to waste a single day. Every minute that this unjust system confines me and separates me from the family I love, I will work to overcome. That’s my vision. I am going to live strong, as a man, as the best husband to Angela that I can be, as the best father to my children that I can be. That’s what I’m about.

The Straight-A Guide includes seven attributes. What do the following attributes mean to you?:

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

Attitude-I’m moving through the remaining four years of this sentence with a 100 percent commitment to preparing for success upon release. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what that means. In fact, over the past several hours, I’ve been thinking about how I want to emerge from prison. More than anything I want to grow closer to my wife Angela and to live as a role model to my children.

That cannot be happy talk. I need to clearly define how I am going to achieve those goals and I need to work toward those goals every single day. I cannot allow the struggles of imprisonment to become an excuse or an anchor that prohibits from growing into the man I am determined to become.

Nothing is going to get in my way. When I walk out of here, I am going home to angela in ways that will make her proud, that will show her how hard I am working to prove worthy of her love . In a few days we will visit and I will work with her in unifying a vision so that   we both know exactly what we are going to achieve together, as a family, as a married couple brought together by god. I will make that vision a reality with my precious wife.

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

Aspiration- I completely see myself in a position of leadership upon my release. I have four more years to go. So I’m creating a vision where I will be in ten years, six years after my release. I need to clarify that aspiration with my wife.

When I have clarity of that aspiration, we both will have a clear idea of what we’re working to build. Are we working to become business owners? Are we working to create a life that will provide us with more time together? Are we working to build a career that relates in some way to our devotion to Christ? Will I return to hazardous waste business or work with my wife to create something new?

These are the questions Angela and I must answer. Once we find answers to those questions and we make a joint commitment to work toward accomplishing our goals, then our aspiration advances. It then becomes a commitment, one to which we can hold ourselves accountable, defining success every day. I’m eager to have that visit with the love of my life, my Snow White.

Distinguishing an aspiration from a fantasy is the clear thought and commitment that goes behind an aspiration. With an aspiration, I know exactly what I’m striving to achieve. Then I know what I must do to work toward making that aspiration a reality. A fantasy, on the other hand is what many people live by. I am determined to leading a more deliberate life, one that my aspirations govern.

45. What distinguishes an aspiration from a fantasy?

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

Action- clearly I am giving a lot of thought to the straight a guide. My first action step is realizing that in order to move forward, I must unify with my wife. We must decide together how we will live the remainder of our lives. That vision will determine where I devote my energy over the remaining four years that I am scheduled to serve. While working to clarify that aspiration, I will continue taking incremental action steps. That means waking to begin my work before 2:00 am each morning. That means continuing my commitment to physical fitness. That means working every day toward my degree in ministry class. That means spending time meditating on what I want to create in my future for my family. I take those incremental action steps every hour every day.

47. Accountability: how are you measuring progress?   what do you know about the challenges that will confront you upon release?

Accountability- I measure progress today by my disciplined work schedule. That means I know when I wake and I know exactly what I’m going to do. Yet upon working through this straight a guide, I understand the value I can create by documenting my progress. That’s what I’m going to work on in the days and weeks to come. Once I build a unified vision with Angela, clarifying our understanding of what we want, then I will set my plan in motion. I will articulate exactly what I want to build during each of the four years remaining. I will know where I need to be May 2015, May 2014, May 2013, and may 2012. My accountability log will ensure that I remain on track. I’ll be using the straight a guide to document that progress.

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

Awareness, I am learning, requires that I pay close attention to my environment. I have been in prison for twelve years already. Yet I am becoming more aware of my own responsibility to transcend prison, to create opportunities that will allow me to grow closer to Angela and prepare for the magnificent life we are going to create together with god’s blessing and with our mutual commitment.

That awareness is opening my eyes to opportunities that I can harness right now. By setting a detailed plan, I can join my wife in moving forward in a deliberate, purposeful manner. We are going to visit on Sunday to discuss the opportunities available to us. I’m very excited to work toward making our visions a reality.

The second component of awareness that I am beginning to see is that as I become more aware of opportunities to grow, others become more aware of my commitment. I intend to further that awareness so that I can find sponsors and people who believe in my vision and will help me make it a reality

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

I keep in touch with family and friends and I try to stay informed of what’s going on in the economy and the job sector. Education is always a goal that I try to accomplish.

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

I know that the challenges will be difficult, but I am preparing myself to address anything that presents itself to me. I am pretty sure that I will be stereotyped and society will look down on me because of my criminal record. I am determined to address these issues, and I will not let anything stop me or get in the way of my goals in life.

51. Achievement: when do you celebrate success?

Achievement-I am learning to celebrate every success. That means I celebrate god’s blessings of life. I celebrate each morning that I wake before 2:00 am to begin my preparations for the extraordinary life that I am building with Angela. I celebrate each new gift of knowledge that god brings to me through my biblical readings, my studies, and my participation in this program. I celebrate my good health, my diet, my commitment to living as the best man I can become

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

Appreciation- god is my guide and I rely upon my relationship with Christ to achieve all good things. Beside my spiritual commitment, I thank my wife Angela every day for giving me the inspiration to grow. I thank my children, all of them for giving me a reason to live. I am very grateful for all of the blessings in my life. Now I must prove worthy of those blessings by working harder, with more focus than ever before.

The Straight-A Guide measures an individual’s commitment to leading deliberate lives.  As an exercise let’s reflect on the choices you made in the 9th grade, or at any other pivotal point.:

53.  Where did those choices lead?

Once I was injured pursuing my athletic career, I joined the military because i thought I was all grown up and got my high school sweetheart pregnant. because of this, we rushed in marriage at a very young age. as I look back on this, I don’t think that was a good decision because I ended up putting off my education goals in order to support my family.

54. What did you value then?

My only value at that time was supporting my family and trying to continue my educational goals which was very difficult because i had to work two jobs and go to school at night.

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

I would tell my children to continue to pursue their educational goals and make good career choices. I would also tell them not to rush into relationships when they are young. Your whole life is ahead of you.

56. What would you do differently if you could?

I would have pursued all my educational goals prior to having a family. that way i would have been better equipped educationally and financially to support them.

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

Today I have God in my life, my family is stronger and I feel that we are on solid ground. In my earlier days of confinement nothing in my life didn’t count for much. I was lost and had no hope. I don’t believe I prayed much because I was too worried about the wrong things. Now that I’ve let God in the center of my life, with Christ leading the way, I don’t worry at all. All I do is concentrate on family and education.

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

All my activities week-out contribute to my success upon my release. i continue to stay focused on my goals but not letting one day get away from me. my family is depending on me and i will not let them down again. each week my activities bring me closer to being released to be with my wife and children.

59.  Identify the values by which you live:

A typical day starts off with prayer. I study my ministry work assignments. I workout for two hours. I contact my family every morning to see how they are doing.i also have a job . at lunch I do more studying. in the evening I do more studying, contact my family to see how their day went, attend my classes, and pray before I go to bed.

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

My daily activities harmonize with my total plan upon release. my values are important and I must account for my actions to which I am living. it is important to me that I stay focused for myself and my family. I realize that I cannot make up for lost time but I can contribute to becoming a better husband and father for my children so my daily activities must harmonize with my values to which I live because i am responsible for my direction of my life. this direction God has planned for me.

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

My professed values relate to my perceived role in society by stating that all of the values that I have declared are just values and are designed to assist me in being successful in all things I do, including family life and business.

62. Where does your allegiance lie?

My devotion and loyalty belong to God, my family, and my preparation to myself upon release to society. I must be 150% committed because my family is depending on me.

63.  Are values situational or absolute?

My values are absolute because i must stay focused. There is no room for situational issues because that means I must change my values according to the situation. If I stay focused on absolute values, they never change. I must live my life with values that bring structure and a solid foundation to my family.

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