Colin Walsh/ Class 7: Support Networks

by Colin Walsh

174. In what ways do you perceive relationships with people you knew prior to confinement to evolve over the course of your imprisonment?

Relationships are always evolving. People are always changing. Environments change. Rarely does anything stay the same. Unfortunately, when a person goes to prison, relationships continue to change without them. The world keeps moving around them.

Good relationships are difficult to maintain. It is even more difficult in prison. With the various restraints and restrictions that inhibits contact it is inevitable that some weaker relationships will fade. I expect this will happen to me, I have even experienced it to some extent.

Even in the short time that I have been in prison, I lot of relationships have changed. Many people that I talked to a year ago, I haven’t talked to since. Many people that I have considered friends are more distant and talk to me less and less every week. Many other relationships evolved also. As for friends not many remain. The ones that do remain aren’t the same. As for family they are all still there. But even with them the relationship has changed. At the very most I see them once a month, some family twice a year, some once, and some never. Even though I maintain contact through e-mail and telephone, it isn’t enough. I know that the relationship has changed because of it.

Relationships are inevitably going to change. There is no stopping that. I know that being in prison will enhance these changes. All that I can do is try to maintain what I have.

175. In what ways have you nurtured support networks during the time you’ve served thus far?

I try to nurture relationships to the best of my ability. I use the limited resources that I have and try to utilize them to the best of my ability.

I take a significant amount of time daily to build and foster relationships. I use the limited resources of e-mail, phone calls, letters, and visits to build a support network. Because these resources are so scarce and valuable I must use them to the fullest. I try not to waste a character in an email or letter, or a second of a phone call. I try to use ever resource that I have to its full capacity. By doing this everyday, I build and nurture valuable support.

176. In what ways will the support network you have in place now contribute to your success upon release?

The support network that I have in place now will help me break the fall as I am released from prison. The transition from prison to the outside world is not easy. The more people that I have to help, the easier it will be.

Being released from prison is like a bird being nudged out of the nest. They either fall or fly. The more people that can help will increase the chances of flying.

Overall, my support network provides me with some sort of stability. They will help me survive so I will be able to thrive. With my support network I won’t be forced to make decisions out of desperation, or necessity. I will be able to make decision toward success. My support network will do what the name implies; provide support, they will ease some of the burdens of life and make it easier to succeed.

177. In what ways would you build a strong support network while you climbed through years of imprisonment?.

Once I am completed with the Straight-A-Guide, I intend to attempt to further my support network. I intend to do this by using the Straight-A-Guide as proof of my dedication, as a tool to evince my true self.

I intend to emulate Michael and send letters to people of influence. If it worked for Michael, I believe that it will work for me. Through these letters I intend to cast lines beyond the prison walls and hope to build my support network.

These letters will act as bait to attract people to my profile. The profile then will act as a hook, creating enough interest in me to write me back. Then hopefully I intend to pull these people into my support network.

Using letters and my profile, I expect to build my network, even while hidden behind these walls.

178. In what ways do support networks or the lack of support networks influence prison adjustments?

In general, it is a fact that prisoners with stronger support networks are less likely to return to prison. Support networks are very influential to a prisoners success. They help a prisoner keep on foot on the outside while keeping one in.

Prison is a completely different world. There are different edicts, and ethics. It isn’t uncommon for a prisoner to become lost and accept these differences as normal. Accepting these values makes a prisoner act a certain way, a way that is not acceptable in society. Without something to hold a prisoner accountable for their actions, they will most likely become lost.

A support network helps a prisoner by holding them accountable for their actions. Whether actively or not they are constantly holding  a mirror for the prisoner to see themselves in. A person inevitably becomes like the people they associate themselves with. This mirror hold the person accountable, by giving the prisoner standards to live up to. This will guide them to do the right thing. A support network can be the impetus that drives a prisoner to use their time wisely or the angel on their shoulder whispering right from wrong. Either way a support network is influential.

A support network is the light at the end of the tunnel. They give a prisoner hope, and something to attain. Even the stats show that support networks are the most influential factor in a prisoners life. They can determine success, or failure.

179. To what extent are the values that those in your support network embrace harmonious with the values you profess to embrace?

Everyone in my support network is honest, law abiding citizens. The majority of them are professionals. Some are even community leaders. Even though there is a variety of people, they all share these common values. These are all values that we have in common.

180. What steps are you taking now to build or nurture your support network?

Everyday I take steps to build my support network. Everyday in some form I reach beyond these walls to my support network. Whether it is through e-mail, phone, letter, or visits; I correspond with my network. Dong this nurtures my existing support network.

181. In what ways can those in your support network facilitate your aspirations?

The people in my support network will act as a web of support. This web will extend far beyond the people that I know. The web will aid in my future in many ways.

Having a strong support network will aid in my success by creating strength through numbers. In theory, ten people are ten times stronger than one. If one falls off, then the other nine are there to help pick them back up.

My support network extends far beyond the people that I know. A support network grows exponentially. If I just know five people and each of those five people know five other people, who each know five other people that is 125 different people. This is also on a very small scale. There is a theory that says that most people can extend this out six times. This is equivalent to five to the sixth power or 15,625. Most people also know more than five people, which makes this number greater. This shows in theory how a support network extends far beyond the people in the network.

With this great web of support I expect to spread the word of my skills and capabilities. By spreading this to other people in my network, I expect that they will share it, carrying it down the line. I expect the word to spread virally, thus enhancing my chances of success.

Being released from prison, people are going to be suspicious of me. Building a support network of people that know and believe in me will help ease this suspicion, and aid in success.

182. In what ways is your support network helping you now?

As of right now, my support network helps me in innumerable ways. They are the crutch that I lean on for many of my most basic of needs. They make a lot of things possible. I depend on them a lot and they always pull through.

The people in my support network are my liaison to the outside world. They conduct many of the things that I need done. Some order me books, others type, others run errands. My support network are my arms and legs outside of prison. Without them, I would be trapped.

Also, my support network supports me financially. They send me money to care for my most basic needs. Without them I would be forced to work a time consuming job, that pays diminutive wages, which would leave me with less money, and time to focus on my release, than I have now. Their help makes it possible to prepare for release.

Lastly, my support network helps me emotionally. They are a shoulder to lean on, and an ear to listen. They give me hope for the future, and motivate me to be successful. Without them I would be all alone and lost inside of prison.

My support network is the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. They are a great help. They help me in ways that I cannot enumerate.

183. What level of allegiance do you pledge to your support network?

The devotion that I have for my support network is deep. They believe in me and my future. Therefore, it is my obligation to live up to this belief. By constantly striving to better myself, I prove this devotion to my network.

184. What incremental action steps can you to take to bring people you do not currently know into your life?

The steps that I can and will take to further my network, are exactly the same that Michael took in his journey. I intend to reach beyond the walls of prison and invite people into my life.

As Michael continues to do now, I intend to correspond with various people. I intend to send letters to many people, inviting them into my support network. If I send twenty letters out I expect to get maybe two back. Thus furthering  and expanding my network by two.

If it worked for Michael, there is not reason why it won’t work for me. As  miner prospects land for gold. I expect to prospect also.

185. What thoughts do you have about people who would be most influential to your possibilities for success upon release?

People that would be most influential to me are people that are influential to others. Building a support network with influential people will further my network. This influence can open many opportunities. That will ultimately lead to success.

186. Who are they?

The people that I would like to join my support network are everyone and anyone who have mutual interests with me. These people value and live the way that I want to live. These people will act as role models, that I can emulate and learn from in order to better myself.

187. What interests do they have?

Everyone in my support network have various interests. To generally state a few interests for the entire group would not be fair. Although they all have various distinct interests, I believe that they all share the common interest of overcoming adversity and achieveing success.

Everyone loves to hear a rags to riches story. This is because everyone can relate to the adversity in the story, whatever it may be. Every person on earth has encountered some sort of adversity. People like to relate to the stories where the person facing adversity –”rags” succeeds –”riches”.  This is because everyone wants to succeed through adversity. I believe that this is an interest that everyone shares, especially the people who believe in me.

Everyone that is in my support network have distinct interests. These interests are personal to them. But I believe that they still share one common interest. That interest is compassion and empathy for people who are struggling through adversity, constantly fighting for success.

188. How can you make them aware of your aspirations?

Daily, I give my support network the opportunity to see into my life; through the Straight A Guide. I write daily and post my aspirations for the world to see. By simply doing this, anyone is able to see my aspirations.  Thus sharing them with a vast audience.

189. What impression would your adjustment through prison thus far make upon them?

By presenting my prison adjustment to others, I have already made an impact on them. Multiple people have commented on my profile. The comments show that my profile has made a difference.

Many people who have wrote me about it, told me that they have read my profile. The most common response is, ” I never knew that you were so smart” This proves that others are impressed and shocked by the thought and foresight contained in the Straight A Guide responses. Overall, Generally speaking, The people that comment are impressed, one way or another. Seeing this makes writing all worth the while. This is what The SAG is designed to do. This feedback shows that my profile is making a difference, in people’s perception of me.

190. In what ways are you working to cultivate mentors?

As of now I am building myself up to be worthy of a mentor. I believe the first step to gaining a mentor is proving to be worthy of one.

The last thing that a mentor want to do is sponsor someone who is a waste of time, or a failure. A mentor is giving up their, time, energy, and experience. A person must prove to potential mentors that they are worth that time and energy. Otherwise, a mentor will not give it to them.

I intend to show that I am deserving of a mentor, by showing my dedication to success. By working daily, I expect to show that I am serious about the future and devoted to it. Revealing these positive qualities should show any potential mentor that I am worth investing in.

Like a person investing in a security, a mentor must weigh the risk verse reward. If an investor or mentor sees risk with little or no reward, they are not going to invest. A mentor and investor alike must be certain that their investment will generate something, not just simply waste time.

191. In what ways does your behavior or activities within prison boundaries influence your relationships?

I believe that relationships are formed by shared interests. People that don’t have the same interests will inevitably fail. Therefore behaviors and activities will always affect a relationship.

Being in a relationship is like walking down two parallel roads. As long as the roads stay completely parallel, they will end in the same as they started, right next to each other. But as soon as one of the roads begin to go in another direction the roads will eventually diverge, further and further apart. Likewise, in a relationship as long as the people in the relationship have identical interests and stay parallel, they will run the same as they started. But as soon as one changes direction, even the slightest, they will ultimately diverge.

For a prisoner, this means earning support of their relationships. All to often relationships are taken for granted and expected to work without effort. A relationship take conscious effort. A prisoner must prove worthy of the relationship. Nobody wants to be in a relationship with a loser, or degenerate. Therefore a prisoner must be the opposite of that, and prove worthy of every relationship. Proving this starts with behaviors and activities.

Behaviors and activities are the backbone of every relationship. For a prisoner this means behaving and doing activities that are worthy of a relationship.

192. How would you assess the preparations and commitment your closest acquaintances make to a law-abiding, successful life upon release?

All of the people that I communicate with are law abiding. Even the few people that I associate with in prison abide by the ruled of prison, and also they prepare to live by the laws of society upon release.

I’ve learned the true meaning of guilty by association. Therefore, I must only associate myself with people who will help me, not hurt me. I must only associate myself with people who do not break the law, and are focused on success.

193. If you were to receive a disciplinary infraction, in what way would that influence the support network you’re striving to cultivate?

A disciplinary infraction, also know as a “shot” means many things for a prisoner. When a prisoner receives a shot, depending on the severity, they are further restricted inside of prison. There are a number of punishments the prison can inflict on a prisoner. All of these punishments further restrict a prisoner’s life.

Receiving a shot can create a world of trouble and discomfort for a prisoner. The most severe punishment that can be imposed is confinement into disciplinary segregation inside of the special housing unit,or the the SHU. Once a prisoner is sent to the SHU they are immediately cut off from the entire prison population. While in the SHU they are restricted to one phone call every 30 days, restricted visits, and no E-mail. Therefore, being in the SHU completely cuts a prisoner off from the outside world.

The next severe punishment a prisoner can receive is a transfer. A federal prisoner can be transferred to any facility in the country. That could mean that they are transferred hundreds even thousands of miles away from home. This can greatly hinder a prisoners contact with the outside world.

The next punishment based on severity, is the revocation of visiting privileges. The prison is allowed to restrict or even revoke a prisoners’ rights to have visits. These limitations can last for many months, thus distancing themselves from their network.

The prison can also revoke or restrict phone or email privileges. These restrictions can also last for months. These restrictions make it very difficult for a prisoner to communicate.

The prison can invoke any of these or all of them at once. These further restrictions would completely cut a prisoner off from their support network. During the lack of communication will inevitably weaken or may even break the relationship.

Along with the severity of the punishment, receiving a shot would minimize trust within the support network. Getting a shot proves to the network that the prisoner is not what they are proclaiming to be. It is like a persons favorite baseball player. If the player struck out every game. They would slowly lose every fan. They player must prove to be deserving of support.

Disciplinary infractions affect not only the prisoner but the people in the prisoners’ support network. Receiving a shot almost most definitely means a punishment. The punishment imposed usually involves a restriction of communication. This restriction will distance a prisoner from their support network. Along with all of this, receiving a shot will ultimately reduce a support networks faith. Overall, receiving a disciplinary infraction will weaken a support network, may even ruin it.

194. What relevance does the phrase “It’s not what you know but who you know” have to you?

The common maxim, “it is now what you know, it is who you know” is the battle cry of networkers. To me I believe that it is true, albeit a little one sided. I believe that knowing people is influential, thus important. But what you know and who you know move in tandem.

The majority of the time what you know becomes who you know. The more that you know, the more opportunities to meet people will open. Therefore it would be foolish to say that what you know is not a factor. Because it doesn’t matter how many people you know, if they know nothing. They will ultimately be unsuccessful.

I believe that who you know is very important. But I also believe that what you know is equally important.

195. To what extent would your actions show that you’re conscious of the influence others have on your prospects for success upon release?

Actions are the only proof that is available. Words are simply just letters places in an arrangement. Words are meaningless without action. Words should be used to draw attention to action, not be the action.

Actions are the only form of undeniable proof of anything. Action is the factor that gives words life. Action is very influential. For a prisoner, it proves to any possible supporter, whether or not a prisoner is serious. Positive action proves that they are conscious of their future, negative actions prove the opposite.

Without actual action words are meaningless. Action is a requisite for success. Action proves that a person is serious about something. For a prisoner, action can prove that a prisoner is or is not ready for success.

196. How can a prisoner open more opportunities to broaden his network of support?

Michael teaches that there are many ways to reach beyond the confinement of prison and into the outside world. Writing letters is only the tip of the iceberg.

Writing letters is only the beginning of many opportunities. After gaining a small network it is time to make that network wider. Reaching out to mass markets is the most effective way. A prisoner can reach this audience through publishing. A prisoner can publish material through a number of mediums. They can write, books magazine articles, internet material, are only a few examples. Publishing material in this fashion, reaches a much broader audience. This will increase the chances of expanding an network.

Michael teaches that there are many ways to expand one’s network. Even though a prisoner is secluded from society, They are not powerless.

197. How would your transition to society change if you had a job offer in place before your release?

One of the first and most important things that a prisoner must do, upon release, is find employment. I believe that this is the first step in the right direction.

If a prisoner obtained employment prior to release they would be one step closer to success. Having a job would provide a great head start.

Also having a job waiting upon release could also appease the administration, and allow for further privileges. The majority of federal prisoners are released from prison and are sent to a halfway house. A halfway house requires a prisoner to obtain a job. Once a prisoner obtains a stable job they are released from the halfway house, to home confinement. Having a predetermined job in place would speed this process, and a prisoner would be sent to home confinement sooner. This can make a considerable difference.

An awaiting job in society can make the leap into society a smaller jump. It can greatly ease the transition, and reduce the chances of failure. It is a step in the right direction, and provides a great head start.

198. What steps will you begin taking now to broaden, nurture, and protect your support network each week that you remain in prison?

I have stated throughout this lesson how I intend to nurture, protect, and broaden my support network.

I intend to nurture and protect it through constant and consistent correspondence.

I intend to broaden it by first, finishing the SAG. Then using the SAG to show people that I am worth supporting. Then by reaching out to various people and directing them to my profile.

My intentions are to broaden, nurture, and protect my support network daily. Every day for the rest of my life.

199. How will you hold yourself accountable?

I hold myself accountable by setting and achieving goals. Then by documenting them and releasing them to anyone. By doing this an documenting the steps along the way I hold myself accountable.

I know where I am now, point A. I also know where I want to go, point B. In order to get from point A to point B, I must hold myself accountable, and check my progress along the way. Otherwise, I will get lost.

Through meticulous documentation and self assessment, I will always hold myself accountable for my actions.

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