Corey Nelson/ Class 1: Values

by Corey Nelson

16. Who are you?

I am everything that I have done and everything that I will do.  I am a “human being” who is striving every day to overcome obstacles/hindrances that can prevent me from becoming that productive member of society that I strive to be.

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

I was raised in the inner city of Detroit, Michigan by my mother who suffered from drug addiction.  So it goes without saying that I was raised in poverty.  Lack of school clothes and supplies killed my motivation for education.  The negative pull of the streets was more powerful to me and at the age of 13 my troubles with the law began.  I was stealing cars and joyriding in stolen cars.  By the age of 14 I had dropped out of school I just let life happen to me and by the age of 19 I found myself uneducated, serving a 12+ year sentence in the state of Michigan.  During the course of my stay in prison, I acquired education to use.  I was turned down job after job for 8 months due to the state of our economy.  My lack of patience and stability set in and I talked myself into selling drugs.  While selling drugs I brought illegal hand guns to protect my illegal activities and as a result of my behavior, I earned my current charges.

18. What are you going through now?

I’m experiencing a multitude of feelings that centered around my failure to make good with the opportunity that I had after my release from state prison.  Dealing with the disappointment that I caused myself and others has motivated me to work extra hard to becoming a productive member of society.   I’ve been analyzed by others and I’ve completed a self-analysis and have come up with a plan to help get my life on track.  I’m taking college courses and I’m enrolled in an apprenticeship to become an electrician.  These skills will make me more employable.  I’m also engaged in other activities to help re-structure my thought process because in order to change ones behavior, one has to change his thinking!

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

19. Time remaining to serve.

I can become a well-equipped person with the necessary skills and tolls to succeed.  I should be able to build my family support, community support, acquire/advance my education, become a better parent, develop healthy hobbies and strengthen my relationship with The Lord and I can only pray that I build a healthy relationship with my soul mate.

20. One month after release.

Obtain my drivers’ license and a productive job.

21. One year after release.

Have gainful employment as an electrician, having acquired my electrical license, have dependable transportation, be actively involved in a church, maintain a crime/drug free life and have a stable roof over my head.

22. Five years after release.

To be working a career  job in the electrical field.  Have a stable income.  A savings account, own my own car.  Working toward owning my own home,  be established in the community and speak at schools to troubled youth about my experience in my leisure time and have a stable romantic relationship with a woman of God’s choice.

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

People in society view and perceive people in prison different.  It really depends on that individuals experience with the justice system in general, prisoners are perceived as unfit to be in society.

24. Describe how television programs and movies depict prisoners:

Television depicts prisoners in the worse light.  They give us animalistic mentality as if we’re selfish with a core belief of if we want something we can take it with no regards for anything or anyone.

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

Prisoners are human beings.  Some need more mental attention than others.  Some just need a fair opportunity.  For those of us with the mental capacity to prevail in society, we adjust well and set goals so that we’ll have a seamless  reintegration into our respective communities.

26. In what ways is your adjustment similar?

I started working toward correction my first day in and today I’m on a set course to be more prepared for success than I was on my last release date.

27. In what ways is your adjustment different?

I try to give attention equally to all areas to create that balance, instead of just focusing on one area at a time.

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

28. High security.

If your goals is change, then you learn how not to let peer pressure get to you in high security.  You learn how to separate yourself from others and deal with multiple personalities.

29. Medium security.

Medium security offers you more opportunity to be yourself.  If you want to help yourself, the opportunities are more available from this level down.

30. Low security.


31. Minimum security.


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

Prior to release, most if not all prisoners say that they’ll never return.

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

Prisoners who never return generally spend their time productively in the library, taking classes and building with like-minded individuals.

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

Understand that no one got you here but you.  Be accountable and responsible and understand that the thought is the cause of it all.  Take steps to start a change in their thinking!

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?

Seven years and up is considered long term.

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

Expectations from those in society really depends on which society you’re returning to.  To the law abiding members the expectation is that you return rehabilitated.  Again, it’s the prisoners’ job to rehabilitate himself.  He can turn a lemon into lemonade or he can be bitter and place blame elsewhere in which he’ll surely return.

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

I can only speak for myself because every prisoner has his own goals and expectations for themselves.  My expectations are to obtain the tools that I need to help me become a productive citizen and never return to prison.

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

To become model inmates.

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

A model inmate is an institutionalized prisoner who accepts confinement as they way he’ll live the rest of his life.

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

Michael’s prison journey refutes negative prison stereotypes due to the fact that he took the lemons that he was given and turned them into lemonade.

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

Michael saw through the smoke screen and refused to get caught up in it. Prison influenced Michael to not become another statistic.

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

Visions of who he could be motivated Michael. He kept hope alive!

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’m making a 100% commitment to my release preparations. The highest level of commitment; and I approach my release preparation with the attitude that I have to go that extra mile. Good is not good enough. I’m making a lifetime commitment to change and going that extra mile will help me appreciate it that much more!

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

I see myself as having many obstacles to overcome. The system itself places obstacles in your path. If you’re not determined to turn your thoughts into reality, they’ll die (your hopes & dreams) at that obstacle.  I’m at a check point now having just reduced my prison level from a pen to a medium. I have to jump through many loops just to be placed back into my apprenticeship program. I understand that I’m not entitled to anything so I’m willing to go that extra mile to accomplish my objective. And at the future checkpoints, I see myself as still striving and self motivated.

45. What distinguishes an aspiration from a fantasy?

Fantasy is something that’s hoped for and desired but not realistic. Aspiration is a strong desire for something along with deliberate actions that’ll assist you in accomplishing your realistic goal.

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

I’m taking action to regain control over my live. First and foremost, I don’t involve myself into prison politics. For the first time in my life I’m doing something different. I’m participating in this straight-A guide program for self. I expect no certificate, no nothing, just knowledge and tools so that I can apply them to my life. For the first time in my life I’m living a balanced life that’s centered on change. I’m a bit selfish in that I understand that I cannot do anything for my child, family, god or society until I get myself together so that’s my focus and my daily actions reflect my intentions.

47.  Accountability: How are you measuring progress?

I have a planned itinerary where my goals are stated clearly with a planned course of action. I also keep a daily journal. I try to follow my itinerary religiously, but sometimes I slack up. When I find myself slacking, I use that time for introspection where I may switch my plan up for a bit. Hence, the straight-A guide. Michael G. Santos foundations was not part of my plan; However, I  heard about it and thought that it may assist me further in keeping myself accountable and on course with my plan of becoming a responsible productive member of society.

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

I am very conscious of my current environment and of the environment in which I’ll be returning. More importantly though I’m very conscious of self, I understand more than ever that it is very easy for me to use negative self talk and talk myself into self destructing. I understand that I have pride issues, and that I can tend to look at myself as a victim. Part of my plan is learning self, understanding myself destructive cycle and learning how to intervene in my cycle once I recognize that I’m in it. Recognize high risk situations and people and avoid them. And also come up with coping strategies to deal with situations, places and people when I can’t avoid them. Again, I understand my environment, but it‘s more important to me that I understand myself!

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

One way in which I reach beyond the boundaries that currently confine me is that I send out a daily blog – thought of the day – to my family and friends. I’m thinking about creating a facebook page so that I can reach out to more than just family and friends, but I’m trying to overcome obstacles of finding someone to do my daily blog and financial compensation for their time. God willing I’ll prevail.

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

I will be faced with many challenges upon my release. I’ll be 39 years old when I’m finally released and in the job market that’s a major strike against me. On top of that, if our economy doesn’t rebound, then finding gainful employment will be the biggest challenge. I understand that having gainful employment is imperative to ones success upon release. Having a steady income is a person’s lifeline regardless of if you’ve been to prison or not. The lack of finance leads to a lack of stability, which leads some to fall victim to their emotions and make irrational poor decisions. Finding gainful employment is my #1 goal upon release.

51.  Achievement: When do you celebrate success?

I celebrate after every accomplishment I achieve no matter how big or small. It helps keep me motivated to push forward. Every small goal achieved is one step closer to my ultimate goal, so every celebration helps and is a sign of my progress.

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

My family is very supportive of anything positive. The minute that I decided to pursue an education in the electrical field, they pitched in and sent me books on the subject and they did research on the jobs in my area and sent literature whenever possible. I’m blessed to have a supporting cast of family members. They help to keep me on track and because of that I refuse to let them or myself down upon my release. I’m transferring my attitude of “whatever it takes” that I used at times in the streets and applying it to my dedication of not returning to that life.

53. Where did those choices lead?

My deliberate choices and decisions that I made at the age of 14 lead me to a life in and out of the justice system.

54. What did you value then?

I was very selfish and valued money because I didn’t have any. I valued material things because that was one way to measure an individuals worth in the inner city. And I valued the violence of the streets and the life that street people lived, because it appeared that they were having fun, never answering to anyone and was respected within the community.

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

I would try to lead them by example. Saying one thing and doing the other is a problem in my community. I would further show them the workings of the justice system. A scared straight tactic to show them that every action has a reaction and sometime the price is too much. I would offer counseling and introduce them to the risk vs. reward system of thinking. And the most important thing, I would be very active in their lives and try my best to fill whatever void is missing. Communication is very important in understanding and succeeding in any relationship!

56. What would you do differently if you could?

I would do a lot of things different. But the number 1 thing would have been to try and lived with and under my grandmother’s guidance. Listened to the wisdom of others and not think that I knew what was best for me. Again, it’s not effective to live your life one way and give advice of the opposite. I am an example of that. My mother lived the street life and in the beginning she tried to instill good values and morals. After the age of 12, she assisted in molding a lot of my core beliefs that I built my reputation (street rep) on.

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

Today I live a driven life that’s centered around my value system. I did the same on my very first day of imprisonment in the state of Michigan 17 years ago as well. The difference is that my value system has changed.

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

Everything that I do from week to week is preparation. Another way that I judge my progress is the way that I react to situations that arise. This week I was engaged in a situation that I brushed off where before I would not have been able to conduct myself in that fashion. The same goes for my conversations with my family. I find that my family ask my advice in situations that they’re going through, and I would not be able to provide such wisdom if I didn’t prepare week to week and stay religious in my pursuit for growth.

59. Identify the values by which you live.

#1 value is that I have to help myself before I expect anyone else to help me or before I can help others. Simple put I value myself worth.

#2 I value God. I believe in a higher power and I believe that the more I understand self, the more I’ll understand my God as I was born in his likeness and his image. So just like a seed possess attributes from which it derives, so do I. And understanding is the key to bring it together.

#3 Family – Having a sense of belonging to and the support of is like the greatest love. I work daily to never misplace how important family is. Remembering the importance of family helps me keep my priorities straight.

#4 Health – If I fail to take care of myself, eat right and exercise daily, then it all can cease tomorrow.

#5 Freedom – Self explanatory.

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

My value system regulates my daily activities. Everything that I do is in regards to what I value.

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

As long as I maintain this value system, then I’ll make the connections that I desire. I’ll be active in my community because I believe that each one should reach one and teach one. I’ll be a better father, son, man and husband. And I’ll be that productive member of society that I know I can be.

62. Where does your allegiance lie?

My allegiance lies with my community. I have hurt my community in the past by engaging in destructive behavior that has landed me in prison time and time again. I pledge allegiance to be productive in my community and give back to the youth by sharing my story and being a living example of how one can change his life around.

63. Are values situational or absolute?

Values are absolute!


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