Craig Payton/ Class 1: Values

by Craig Payton

16. Who are you?

Written late November, 2011, and posted January 30, 2011

I am Verlyn Craig Payton.  I am 47 years old, married since 1995 (16 years) and have been with the same woman for 23 years.  My family includes two children ages 12 (son) and 10 (daughter).  I am a person whose situations had overcome him which has led the this chapter of my life, finding me now in Federal Prison.  I have never had any encounter with the justice system prior to my arrest in November 2009, not even a traffic ticket for the last several years.  I am a person.  I am not my situation, and I am not my crime.  it is my goal to grow from this experience.  In my view of life, if you are not growing and learning, you are not truly living.  One could choose to resist this situation, to complain and allow oneself to be miserable, to indulge in all manner of emotional suffering.  I could dwell on the past or spend all my time worrying about the hardships the future will bring.  None of this would be at all resourceful.  This attitude  would only serve to create more pain and stagnation in my life.  I have no other choice.  I must grow into a better, more resourceful, more connected person who respects himself and others.  I acknowledge that I have committed a crime, which circumstance I shall go in to detail further on in this exploration.  In no way am I trying to diminish or run away from what I have done.

Therefore without attempting to deny this crime I need to try to find a way to express how far I had strayed from who I see as my true self, in order to have allowed myself to begin and continue the activity which led to my arrest and subsequent incarceration.  Truthfully I felt as if I were two separate people.  One who was engaged in covert activities disguised as the type of business I had done legally and legitimately for years. The other person, a family man with strong interests in personal development, mind body practice, spiritual integration, sustainable culture and natural living.  I had studied acupuncture, acupressure, massage and nutrition.  My career was based upon natural foods and nutritional supplements.  I have been a student of Korean and Chinese martial arts for decades.  I have taught martial arts to children and adults for a number of years.  I have studied Chinese Yoga practices for health and healing for decades.  I have practiced meditation for many, many years.  Despite these pursuits and practices I fount it impossible to extricate myself from influences and circumstances which led me to engage in activities that enabled the production of a heinous drug which is completely destructive to its users.  Most of the time I was engaged in these activities I tried not to think about the results of my actions, while inside the truth was corroding my spirit.  IN the end I felt almost like two entirely different people.  Part of me tried to believe what I was doing was not horrible, and that everything would be fine.  Another part was completely driven by fear and stress.  Being constantly freaked out on the inside was my true inner world.  I was barely functioning while mostly appearing normal to the outside world.  I was engaged in compartmentalizing my worlds.  My “work” life had nothing to do with the rest of my “real” life.

I have described above not only who I am but who I was through my actions, while at the same time having pursuits and aspirations going in an entirely opposite direction.  This other direction describes who I believe I truly am.  In order to become whole again I seek to recognize every day who I truly am and move towards that.  While acknowledging the mistakes I have made I will continue to grow in integrity to reject any attempt to have those mistakes define me and my future life.

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

I would like to start with the caveat that my education and career background are non-traditional and require some explanation. This seems necessary in that without proper explanation my crime does not have a context. This context is important to me and I hope in part to show how and where I went wrong. As this question asks about background it seems appropriate to go into a high degree of detail to provide understanding.

I was born in the spring of 1964 in the San Francisco Bay Area, near what would later be called Silicon Valley. I attended school there and was raised there. My Mother and Father were divorced when I was 6. Subsequently my mother remarried and my brother and I lived with my stepfather and mother from early elementary school age. Therefore I view my childhood as quite stable after the time of the divorce. My mother and stepfather both worked for an early Silicon Valley technology company that provided for a steady middle class income for the family.

My education consists of public schooling through high school followed by several years of community college, but without earning any degree. To make an honest assessment of both high school and college work I would have to say I did not live up to my responsibilities as a student. I got by with very little effort in high school, maintaining somewhere slightly above a B Average. Similarly I would attend community college working my way through general education prerequisites without much enthusiasm or effort. This approach had limited success as some college level courses were easy enough for me to do well without much more than showing up. Other courses I did poorly in and generally had the habit of dropping classes each semester.

At this time in my life I exhibited the tendency not to complete that which I had begun. I was unable or unwilling to go through hard work to accomplish worthwhile goals. As with many young people I had difficulty establishing a direction or aspiration in life. Without such a clear target it was not possible to really achieve. With 20/20 hindsight I would tell my younger self, “just get a degree in ANYTHING and move on from there!” Later on I would appreciate that perhaps one of the biggest lessons of college level work is learning the skill of learning. Of course actual vocational training is important as well. My older brother provided an example of this. He achieved a degree in earth sciences (aka geology) and parlayed this directly into a career that he has pursued ever since.

After meandering aimlessly in college for a number of years I eventually took a full time job while continuing my schooling on a more part time basis. I worked for almost ten years in a small market for natural foods and nutritional supplements. Also during this time of transition from college I explored other education opportunities. I briefly studied at the San Francisco school of Acupuncture, which I quickly dropped out of. I attended at the Berkeley Acupressure Institute, which should have led to a license in massage therapy. I also did not complete this curriculum.

In this case my studies were interrupted by an “Act of God”, the Loma Prieta earthquake that devastated freeways in the east bay and also took the bay bridge out of commission for some time. Of course if I had been truly committed I would have found a way to overcome such a temporary setback. At around this time I also began studying with a teacher of Chinese Yoga (aka Qigong) and meditation. Studying with this teacher did finally lead to some degree of completion when I earned a basic instructor certification from his organization in 1993.

I had studied meditation on my own since childhood along with other similar and related topics. Also in elementary school I learned basic Judo skills and took up TaeKwonDo (aka Korean Karate) beginning in my teens. I attained first degree black belt in this discipline in my early twenties. During my time at community college I spent a great deal of time and energy studying martial arts. This choice had attendant benefits and detriments. One great benefit I recognize was to have the opportunity to acquire teaching experience. I had the opportunity to be the head instructor of a basic self defense and martial arts based fitness program. Also I had the honor of being head instructor for the children’sTaeKwonDo program for approximately 6 years.

Although I received no pay for these programs I feel they were excellent and unique learning opportunities.

For many years I still had the sense that my pursuit of this art was incomplete as with other pursuits mentioned before. In 2006 I finally was able to attain the rank of 4th Dan Black Belt in TaeKwonDo. This was an important milestone as it is the level at which the Korean certification bodies universally recognize the rank holder as having attained “teacher” status. This is an internationallyrecognized certification. I mention the above in detail because although it is not part of a conventional collegiate education I do consider it an important part of my education background and it stands out among the few educational pursuits have carried to some conclusion.

Eventually after dropping out of school I settled into work as a clerk in a natural foods store. The pay was not very good, but I believed strongly in the mission of the natural and organic foods movement. I still firmly believe in the importance of natural, simple food, clean ingredients, making wise choices about what you put in your body and the importance of self-education in this field. In my experience there is a tremendous amount of information available connected with this industry which can be vital to health and healing and that is missing from the mainstream of society and the food industry in particular. During this time I became knowledgeable about the wide variety of food supplements; vitamins, minerals, herbal preparations and other nutrients that are available to promote and maintain health.

This process of self-education led me directly to the next phase of my career. Acting on an introduction from a friend and former employee of the natural food store, I was hired by a company that operated as a broker/supplier for the nutritional supplement manufacturing business. It is likely that I was hired because I already had a good working knowledge of the many ingredients the company dealt with, in addition to having a passing familiarity with the regulatory environment.

This side of the industry is most easily described as the supply side. Companies such as the one I worked for at this time engaged in buying and selling, importing and exporting raw materials, mostly in powder form for use by contract manufacturers or other businesses using these ingredients. Therefore we were not buying and selling pills or bottles of pills to consumers or stores but rather we were selling the ingredients use to make such finished products. I worked with this company from Fall of 1997 through the end of 2001. This was the first company I worked for in the supply side of the industry and it was always entirely legitimate and law abiding as well as regulation abiding within the framework of the industry at that time.

As further person background I feel it necessary to mention that between the 1990′s through 2000 I lived with and helped care for my ailing elderly step-father, then father and then my mother. They passed away in 1993, 1999 and 2000 respectively. Due to various circumstances my pregnant wife and two year old and I found ourselves unable to continue living in the house in which we had up to then lived and cared for my ailing mother. We decided to move from California to Oregon where my wife has family. The loss of my father and mother over a relatively short period of time added to the somewhat sudden loss of our home and the circumstance of moving away from California all added together constituted somewhat difficult circumstances. I will not try to blame my subsequent poor decisions on the difficulty of these circumstances but merely wish to illustrate that as a result I was emotionally and vocationally off balance.

Upon moving to Oregon I resumed working with the company I had worked for in California this time from my home office. Prior to quitting my job in California I had extensive responsibilities at the company. I was in charge of all Purchasing and Inventory management. I achieved about 30% of the sales of the California office overall. I was a central part of the operation. Therefore when I resumed working for the company from my home office solely as a salesperson this was also a big shift. After a while it became clear that this new arrangement was not very profitable, and honestly I was not very productive as I was still in an unresourceful state of mind generally.

I feel it somewhat important to describe my state of mind in order to provide context for the next steps in my career.

In November 2001 I attended a trade show in Las Vegas “Supply Side West 2001″. The entanglements following on from this event would eventually come full circle when I was arrested in Las Vegas 8 years later in the middle of attending the very same trade show. At this event in 2001 I had agreed to meet up with an acquaintance in the industry to discuss potentially working for him in his company. I agreed to check it out and by February 2002 I was working full time for this person whose base of operations was in Northern New Jersey. I began working with this company as the international sales representative from my home office in Oregon. This operation, I later found out, had just barely begun when I had come on board. This was somewhat different than it was represented to me. Later I was to learn that this man, my boss, had left another organization in the industry under adversarial circumstances the details of which were never fully made clear to me.

It is hard for me now to find a way to convey the nature of this man I worked for in New Jersey, or the nature of our working relationship. I will start by saying that I now consider him to be a very effective predatory con man. As such he has a natural instinct to determine a person’s weaknesses and to harness them to manipulate and gain power over others. In hindsight I believe he recognized my value in the industry and also my vulnerability due to my life situation. Of course I do not seek to place any fault for my own decisions upon another’s shoulders I feel there is a value in examining this interaction further. The nearest analogy I can think of is that of a relationship of an abuser and the abused. From the start Mr. S. always restricted access to himself such that one was made often driven to desperation seeking to communicate about even minor matters. Therefore communication occurred on his terms and according to his seemingly random schedule.

This lack of availability and communication style was especially evident when it came time to be paid. I found myself becoming emotionally bound to do what was necessary to please this tyrant who held all the power in the relationship without truly recognizing how abusive it was. When your livelihood is always in question from month to month and you never know for sure each time for years on end whether this person will come through and actually pay you what is due or if they will just someday stop taking your calls and walk away you become accustomed to trying to please this irrational person in any possible way just to make sure he simply fulfills the promise to pay you each time. In the end I would always be paid for my work, but almost without fail the pattern of not being able to reach him or discuss important details always left me off balance and wondering if this was the time when he would betray me.

With this dynamic in place when we would meet in person it would generally be quite different. In person the dynamic between us would be like a child starved for attention from the parent. He was almost always solicitous in person. I would feel that we were partners in this venture and that he valued my input. I felt valued and in control. In person he was very persuasive and convinced me that great things lay in the future. This charm served him very well in sales, which was his primary business background and the basis of his success. However, just like a stern parent, he could go from loving and supportive to cruel and harsh without warning. Usually this capricious nature came out in the form of nasty overwrought emails or voicemail messages. Meanwhile he would often make himself unavailable after such outbursts.

The net effect of this relationship was that in person one felt a valued partner but that would be withdrawn and he would break you down. Over time this dynamic as a whole had the effect of making me feel that I had no options outside of working for him that I had no value in the industry to pursue unless I played his game. This erosion of self esteem and clinging to the abuser as the only safe have I felt in retrospect to be a very similar dynamic to that of the abused partner in a domestic relationship. I believe this dynamic contributed to my inability to extricate myself from the various entanglements associated with our business relationship before it was far too late. In hindsight I view my ” Boss” during this time as a person who does not have normal relationships but only sees all others as a means to and end. A person such as this can use, abuse, lie, cheat and steal without a single pang of conscience. They are simply without such emotional reaction to the harm they inflict upon others.

I will always remember that the same person who first helped me get a job in the supply side of this industry had warned me to be careful of this man, and that he didn’t trust him. I blithely attributed his attitude to the stereotype we Californians have against people with a New York/New Jersey accent and attitude. In the end I would have to say his intuition about this person was right on the money. Thanks for trying Chris!

As a side note: In the future I plan to write a blog on the subject of the “Socially Adept Psychopath”. Meanwhile I invite anyone reading this to Google the term if you are interested and you may learn as I did that such predators may actually be quite prevalent in society.

After working with this man from 2002 through fall of 2004 he reorganized the company under another name and I worked for him at that new company from 2004 through approximately July 2007. Both of these companies were ingredient suppliers similar to the company I had worked for in California.

When the second New Jersey company ceased operations in 2007 the circumstances of the closing of this company were complex and adversarial. The end result of the complexities and manipulations I was subject to was that I had incurred tremendous potential liabilities and actual liabilities from the activities of that company would should never have accrued to me but the to actual owner of the company. At the same time because of the actions of the owner of the company my opportunities to continue to pursue a career in the same or similar work had been dramatically curtailed. By summer 2007 I had been engaged in trying to extricate myself from the entanglements of this company for many months and I had not been entirely successful. These entanglements had by the fall of 2007 the result of draining my bank accounts of all funds I had managed to save and earn.

I had next to no money left and the potential to be on the hook for tremendous amounts in legal fees. In the spring of the same year in the course of trying to work towards leaving the company in New Jersey I decided to try to continue in the same line of business on my own from my home in Oregon. I had been doing business with a customer in Southern California for a number of years during the operation of the two companies in New Jersey described previously. This person was familiar with the problems I had encountered working with my employer and he had some direct dealings with him that had left him with a poor impression. Therefore he had indicated that he would be eager to work with me and would be willing to help me establish my new business.

Earlier in my career in the nutrition supplement, or Nutraceutical business, the companies I had worked for had bought and sold MaHuang extract. MaHuang is an herb used commonly in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is present in many formulae of their Pharmacopeia. In fact of over 3500 herbs, MaHuang stands in the top 25 most used herbs. MaHuang contains the chemical constituents ephedrine, pseudo-ephedrine and other related alkaloids. Ephedrine is a central nervous system stimulant, bronchial dilator (helpful for asthma and related disorders), appetite suppressor and metabolic booster, i.e. it can be promoted to help with weight loss. This herb was hugely popular in the supplement category of weight loss up to the time it was banned by the FDA in 2004. During the time prior to the ban I had bought and sold this product legally. I had many customers who purchased the ingredient, all presumably for weight loss or stimulant applications. In the supply side of the industry most often one only supplies bulk ingredients and is not aware of their intended use, or even who the final customer may be.

In 2007 I was approached by my business acquaintance to sell him Mahuang extract with the highest possible concentration of ephedrine/pseudo-ephedrine for him to export to his customer in Mexico. At this stage any products made from MaHuang were not legal for import in to the U.S. I began making inquiries. My customer had some leads to vendors in India who had expressed that they had the ability to produce herbal extracts containing some percentage of ephedrine content. I followed up those leads and was soon able to procure samples of herbal products containing a certain percentage of ephedrine for my colleague in Southern California. After receiving these he indicated that his customers were satisfied with the quality and we began making arrangements to import the product for them.

All in all this describes a fairly straightforward business transaction in the nutraceutical industry. Quite often in such transactions the supplier, such as myself, would never see the product in transit but would only provide the paperwork to see that the goods made it from the manufacturer to the customer. In this case the customer was my colleague in Southern California and his customer was in Mexico. As far as I was concerned I was selling to the customer in California and had no connection to, or interest in, how the goods arrived in Mexico or to whom they were delivered.

Despite the ordinary seeming nature of the structure of these transactions I was still engaged in importing a product containing ephedrine into the U.S. without proper permits to do so. The FDA ban of ephedrine in MaHuang and other botanical sources made it illegal to import any ephedrine containing product into the U.S. without permits from the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). That is, to say it clearly, at the outset of these import/export transactions I knew I was breaking the law. Throughout our dealings my partner insisted, when the subject rarely came up, that the product was intended for “energy” supplements or beverages. This type of application was the typical use for this type of product prior to the FDA ban. Already in 2007 I had some suspicion that this might not be the case. I was aware that ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine could be remanufactured in order to create methamphetamine. I tried not to think about the fact that I could be facilitating the production of this horribly destructive drug. I wanted to believe the alternative story and I shut my eyes and mind to the increasingly obvious conclusion that what I was supplying was intended for nothing other than the production of methamphetamines. There was no other plausible explanation for the actions of my business partner. He was perfectly aware of the false paperwork we used to bring product through customs and he was often insisting on paying for the product in person with very large amounts of cash.

The above leaves out a tremendous amount of detail of the activity. Although I was selling ephedrine containing material, therefore breaking the law, I still ran my business as straight forwardly as I knew how. I kept my books without attempting to conceal anything monetarily. I used an accountant and paid taxes on the basis of my full accounting of profit and expenses as if I were buying and selling any other ingredient. In fact I did have some sales to the same customer which were of legitimate ingredients. We both maintained some thread of participation in the overall Nutraceutical supply business. These legitimate sales however only amounted to less than 5% of my overall business.

Eventually early in 2009 a shipment of goods was seized by customs. Even after this disturbing event we mutually agreed to bring in another shipment a few weeks later, which was also seized. We spent the balance of the year trying to come up with new ways to carry on with our business. My partner was a seasoned customs broker. He had experienced seizures before and tried to assure me that what we were experiencing was no big deal and only a temporary setback. Over time I had become more and more convinced that what I was selling was definitely being used to produce methamphetamines. I was now certain that our time was up and the authorities would surely be coming for me. Still we carried on for more than six months attempting to resume our business.

We arranged to meet with our Indian manufacturers at the annual trade show in Las Vegas. Two days after our initial meeting we decided to meet up with them again. We could not contact them by phone so we decided to try to contact them directly at their hotel.

On Friday November 13th 2009 my partner and I were arrested in the lobby of a casino in Las Vegas while attempting to make contact with our Indian manufacturers who had, unbeknownst to us, been arrested the previous day. I spent almost a month in prison while being extradited back to Portland Oregon and eventually was allowed out on pre-trial supervision. Twenty-two months later on September 30th 2011 I surrendered myself to Federal Prison.

In summary I had been charged with conspiracy to import a controlled chemical (ephedrine). I was also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. Initially I was confused with being charged with money laundering. I had tracked my inflow/outflow, profit/loss just as I would have a normal operation and paid appropriate taxes on the profits. This activity was still deemed money laundering because of the illegal nature of the product being bought and sold and without reference to any attempt to try to conceal the movement of the money.

I have attempted to detail my background in order to shed some light on who I am and what circumstances my have contributed to my illegal activity. I would describe my state of mind from 2006 through 2009 as increasingly chaotic and disconnected from my values and my true nature. Due to circumstances brought on by the dissolution of my dealings with my boss in New Jersey I had been flailing about in a desperate attempt not to lose everything for so long that II was unable to see any clear way out. I was in an extreme state of denial as to the true nature of what I was involved in. Deep down I knew that I was helping to facilitate the production of a very destructive drug. At the same time I did my best to be a loving and supportive father to my two children and husband to my wife. I was active in my son’s soccer teams, even acting as assistant coach through fall of 2009. I pursued my decades long avocations of Taiji, Qigong and Meditation, all health and wellness practices, alongside friends who were students and practitioners of acupuncture and naturopathy. Such were the start contrasts of my life.

In retrospect I was in a way acting as two different people. I certainly never considered the consequences of my activity. I never spent any time thinking about an arrest and conviction for activity that was equivalent to being a drug dealer. Ironically years earlier when I was still engaged in legitimate business of buying and selling nutraceutical ingredients I had attempted to describe in simple terms to my neighbor what I did professionally. After finishing my description he said, “oh…so you’re a drug dealer.” While somewhat true, at that time I only bought and sold legal “drugs”, but this did not remain the case.

In the end I still find what I did unconscionable. The results of my activities likely facilitated the production and sale of large quantities of methamphetamine. It only takes a bit of investigation to discover how destructive this drug can be to its users. This weighs heavily on my conscience.

Finally to complete this question about my troubles with the law I would like to point out that I have never had other troubles with the criminal justice system. I do not believe I could reproduce the circumstances, which allowed me to conduct my illegal activity even if I wanted to, which I certainly do not.

Due to an agreement with the government I am not allowed to engage in the food, drug or cosmetic business again until 2018. I never could have done what I did without the accomplice who took the ingredients I supplied and moved them from Southern California to Mexico. I do not now, nor did I ever have the connections to re- create such activity.

I accept full responsibility for the horribly bad decisions I made. I strive daily to improve my circumstances and myself in order to atone for that guilt by making a meaningful contribution to society in the future. I was involved in the natural products industry because of my interest in natural healing and health promotion. My criminal activities created the opposite of health and healing. I would like very much in the future to return to the original inclinations and aspirations which brought me into that industry in the first place.

18. What are you going through now?

Since I met Michael Santos on my 2nd or 3rd day at Atwater Federal prison Camp I have been actively pursuing a course of action to strengthen myself using the tools of the Straight A Guide.

As of the time of this writing (Dec 9th 2011) I feel somewhat accustomed to the rhythyms of the prison camp life.  For the most part I have avoided the traps of watching televison and playing games.  The most important aspect o fwhat i am “going through” relates to my family.  I have set as a goal the objective to stay as connected to my wife and children as I possibly can.  I am striving daily to maintain this connection.  Currenlty the biggest challenge to that is limited resources.  My wife is struggling to make ends meet and to maintain her own personal well being, physically and emotionally.  The lack of resources is beginning to impinge on my goals of reaching out to maintain and perhaps enhance my relationshiops with people outside the prison.  Each phone call and each email costs money which I must ask from my wife who definitely doesn’t have enough to make ends meet as it is.  for now this means I have had to curtail the goals of reaching out to more friends and family on a daily basis as well as to contribute to the Striaght A guide website.  Each page typed into the computer email system represents a reduction of funds.  Finally my long term goal of pursuing the completion of collegiate undergraduate work is also difficult to contemplate due to lack of resources.

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

19. Time remaining to serve.

During this time I will have maintained a contributive relationship with my wife and children, other family and friends.  I will be proud to have achieved significant progress, or even to have completed my goal to receive a college degree.

I will distinguish myself from other incarcerated individuals by creating a documentary trail detailing the efforts i have made to better myself during this time.

I will have pursued and achieved advance commitment for employment upon my release.

I will be prepared to positively work with my probation officer to rapidly convince him of my sincerity to leave prison and immediately engage in productive activity, and by my actions and words show that I am not at all likely to be a violator in the future.

20. One month after release.

I will daily be contributing in every way possible to the well being of my family.  This effort will be energetic and dedicated to achieve concrete goals and furthe to provide an example of excellence to my children and wife.  I will not allow any difficulty  to derail my passion to achieve.

I will secure employment to support myself and my family, and will be open to expanding opportunities to secure the family financial security.

21. One year after release.

I will  continue to prove to the probation authority that I do not pose a risk to society with the goal of demonstrating the merits of early dismissal of probation supervision.  I will continue to work and use employment opportunities as a stepping stone to better and more fulfilling work.  I will be steadily contributing to maintain the integrity of the family in order to promote the success of all family members.  This will especially apply towards guiding my children towards greater academic achievement throuigh their high school years and beyond, which will either be underway or just about to begin depending upon my ultimate release date.

22. Five years after release.

I will have established myself in my vocation and other activities as an integral part of our community again, demonstrating the growth and reforn I have committed myself to through this time of incarceration.  I will have achieved a higher level of success and stability than that immediately following my release and will be continuing to pursue growth in my personal and professional life.

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

24. Describe how television programs and movies depict prisoners:

It seems to me that TV and Movies have a fairly universal depiction of prison life.  Violence and continuing crime are prevalent.  Racial violence and gang warfare are sometimes depicted.  It is not my experience that anything resembling reform or “correction” is actually being undertaken insuch depictions.  In general TV and Movies tend to show the highest security prisons with poor conditions and poor safety as these make for better dramas.  The people in prison are typically shown to be brutish or unrepentant criminals plotting crime upon release or even engaging in crime behind bars.

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

I can hardly compare my adjustment to life at Atwater Federal Prison Camp with the stereotype in the media.  People at camp are non-violent offenders.  If someone is from a higher security institutions initially they are now at camp through not getting into trouble within higher security institutions.  Therefore even those with experience in more difficult security situations have great incentive to keep out of trouble.  Camp is set up so that there are relatively few staff compared to the number of prisoners.  This camp has approximately 130 prisoners with 1-2 staff in the dorm during the day and several others supervising work assignments.  There is a great degree of freedom to move about the compound and ther are no cells, bars or razor wire fences, although the very imposing site of Atwater Federal Penitentiary, aka Atwater USP is just a couple hundred yards away with it’s multi layers of razor wire fencing, high walls and multiple gaurd towers.

My adjustment has not included any fear for my personal safety or any sense of hostility directed towards me by inmates of any racial group.  Similar to the stereotype prisoners do tend to keep together in racial groups.  this is most evident in the common television area in the middle of the dorms and in the seperate television rooms.  Mostly these have a dsignated pecking order and control by certain individuals over what programs will be selected.  Blacks generally stay together in one area, whites in another, hispanics in a third.  One television room is generally controlled by pacific Islanders and another is designated officially for Spanish language television but this does not seem to be so controlled by anyone as it is officially designated for latino use and no group strives to contest that.

I suppose all prisoners at various security levels share one thing in common, substandard food.  Outside of prison, ver few American have to eat institutionally prepared food 3 meals a day.  Perhaps the military stands as an exception to this, but I suppose the military is an institution as well, by definition.

Another way my adjustment is similar to the stereotype is that I am engaging in exercise daily.  This is commonly depicted in the media and can be a very positive activity.  Of course in prison some people will pursue exercise to the exclusion of all else.  The result is very fit prisoners who have no other pursuits, which adheres to the stereotype of the brute behind bars.  This camp, like more and more prisons nowadays does not have weights for resistance training.  Most TV and movies will show prisoners working out all the time at their weight pile(prison jargon for weights).  It is my understanding that the rationale for removing these weight piles which used to be more common is so that the system doesn’t end up with prisoners who are so much bigger and stronger than their gaurds and therefore are more easily controlled physically when necessary.  This seems logical to a point, however exercise in general, in my view, is very cathartic as well as providing the feel good chemicals (endorphins et al) whidch are released during such activity.  It believe it becomes a necessity for almost everyone to relieve the tension of incarceration, even at a low security camp.

My adjustment is also different in other ways.  I have been reading since I arrived with the goal of staying mentally active as well as physically active.  Also, unlike what is depicted on TV we have access to email messaging sytem, a recent development to be sure, and this allows for decent access to friends and family in a way consistent with our modern technologically oriented society.  Access to the Internet would be ideal, but I’m not expecting that….Ever!

26. In what ways is your adjustment similar?

See 25

27. In what ways is your adjustment different?

See 25

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

28. High security.

29. Medium security.

30. Low security.

31. Minimum security.

28-31 This question is not one which I am well qualified to answer.  I have spent  3 weeks at the FDC(Federal Detention Center) at Sheridan Oregon awaiting transfer to the Sheridan Federal Prison Camp across the street.  For an as yet unknown reason I was eventually sent to Atwater Federal Prison Camp in Atwater, CA instead.  The three weeks in the FDC were my experience of high security.  We were allowed out for meals and also for approximately 2-3 hours every day.  During those 2-3 hours we tried  to get some exercise walking around the upper tier of the facility as well as trying to fit in other activities such as phone calls, emails, meeting with the counselor in the rare moments w hen she might be available.  The balance of the time we were kept in our rooms(cells) with two people per room.  The only activity available there was reading and perhaps writing.  of course reading and writing can be considered activities which can promote personal growth. I was also aware that there were some education packets I could receive to earn some ” credit” for studying them.  These were on topics such as parenting, nutrition, exercise & stretching, and Spanish.  I completed a few of these packets.  In my view they were middle elementary school level, with the possible exception of the Spanish w hich probably would be considered middle school level material.  This is the Bureau of Prison’s idea of the type of material they would like to see inmates master to show some type of accomplishment.  The utility of doing this work is utterly beyond my comprehension.  I was told this would “look good” on my record.  So I called them “brownie points” work.

I suppose that personal growth and development is always possible, but I still have very little idea about the environment and challenges of pursuing such outside of the environment of a Federal Prison Camp.  As I write this I have less than 100 days total incarceration.

I have pursued self improvement within the environment of Atwater Federal Prison Camp.  I have been reading several books.  Some I have had sent in by my wife, others I have had the good fortune to be leant to me by people who I have met here, and also some I have found in the camp “library” which is really only a collection of random books left behind by former guests of Atwater Camp.  Beyond the opportunity to read and study books of my own interest I am aware that it is possible to pursue education here as well.  there are active GED classes for those without a high school diploma.  I have graduated high school a long time ago (1982) so that is not something I would take advantage of.  It is fair to say that the GED program is a legitimate opportunity for advancement which the BOP makes available and has a policy to strongly encourage inmates to take advantage of it.  I know some inmates have pursued college credit correspondence courses here.  I also know from M.Santos example that it is possible to pursue education in ANY security level if you are determined to do so.  The main difference I perceive here is that in camp there are very few issues to get in your way of that pursuit should you choose it when compared to higher security institutions.  The only barrier a camp sets up is the requirement to hold a “job”.

Some jobs can take up very little time and some can keep you occupied from 7:30 til 3:00 more or less.  This is a barrier to a prospective student as it takes away from time which could be devoted to education.  At this camp it is my understanding that there is very little in the way of vocational training.  Apparently there is generally a great deal more of this available in Low security institutions and “Campers” are generally afforded much less vocational training across the system.  The sole and outstanding exception as far as I can gather seems to be the powerhouse which offers training leading to a union apprentice status in boiler maintenance(I’m not sure of the official terms they use) and at least one former inmate has taken that training and emerged with credentials providing him the opportunity to pursue a well paid career with union benefits.  It is also my understanding that a Horticulture training program is in the works.  I currently work at the “tree project” and I may be able to seek this horticulture training which could lead to actual qualification for work in that industry which is a major part of the agricultural economy where I live.(Nurseries, Washington County, Oregon)

[ -UPDATE: Several months after first writing this there is still no word about this program going forward ]

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

I do not have the lengthy experience of M.Santos but all prisoners leaving here have every expectation to successfully pursue ordinary lawful lives.  Of course this is a camp and many people have relatively short sentences, many of just 1 year or even less.  Therefore the recidivism statistics of the BOP overall are not those of a camp.

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

It seems clear that those who defeat the statistics of 70% recidivism musts have a clear idea and plan of action to overcome the disadvantages created by a prison sentence.  Viewing this question form the perspective of a camp is a bit different.  I believe there are quite a few prisoners with outside resources standing ready to support them upon their departure.   These types have the luxury to be able to view this time as a lengthy enforced “time out” from their regular lives but with every expectation to resume their lives in a very similar fashion.  Even in a camp these are not a majority.

It is clear that for those who do not have such resources available upon release that a much more focused approach is necessary to move beyond prison successfully.  I agree with M.Santos that most do not show the degree of focus to be ready for their day of release and all that comes after while they are marking time inside.  It is all too easy to take it easy and become complacent.  Those who have a plan and pursue it diligently will accomplish things while inside whichy nmay prove to help them move on once outside.  Those who do their best to see their situation realistically and comprehensively are more likely to  understand the degree of difficulties they will face.  this understanding when translated into action can help a prisoner sustain the motivation to achieve success upon release.

Those who ignore or downplay these realities are much more likely to find themselves in a desperate situation which would create the conditions that can lead to probation violation or new charges for new criminal activities.

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

As mentioned in the previous answer first a prisoner must take a clear view of his current status and resources in order to know what his true situation is.  Although this may be painful it will prevent him from living in a fantasy world of comfort provided by not having to pay for food and housing while in prison.  A true assessment of what he will need upon release will help the prisoner to set goals and make reality based plans.  He holds himself accountable to those goals and does not allow distractions to hinder his progress.  He works on self improvement, especially seeking to hone skills which can lead to gainful employment 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?

From my perspective even 6 months in prison is a long term.  With young children, missing even half a school year is a big deal and hurts the family tremendously.  Realistically to answer this question in general I would say any length of time over a year is long term as far as the effects it will have on your career and prospects for employment.  Also 2-3 years is probably long enough to put a huge strain on marital relations.  Of course longer terms such as 5-10 years are for me hard to think about at all.  The answer to this question is definitely dependant upon your own perspective.  My 48 month term is no doubt viewed as fairly short by many here at this camp today.

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

In general I have to say that society expects failure and re-imprisonment from long term prisoners.  Also society expects no reform and rather expects a monster to emerge from the prison system.

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

I believe on the surface of things many such prisoners have a positive image of who they are and what they will do when they get out.  Deeper down however I feel they would be afraid to acknowledge the fact that they are not at all prepared to face the challenges which will present themselves.

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

Before coming to prison I would have thought the expectations of staff would be cautious optimism for the prospects of those they released from a “corrections institution”.  With some experience I would say  that in fact staff expect nothing, or less than nothing.  They actually expect most prisoners to return to prison sooner or later.  On the other  hand a good case could be made that many staff have zero expectations, they are simply not engaged in that way to even think about it or to care.

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

Someone who always does as told and follows the rules set forth explicitly.  Someone who does not cause any trouble or ask any questions.  Someone who hardly rises to the level of being noticed.  This I think describes what the system wants of a “model prisoner”.  In actuality a model prisoner is one who accepts their situation and does everything under their own power to improve it through dint of their own efforts without reference to what “the system” would expect.

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

I believe Michael’s journey entirely refutes stereotypes.  His efforts from almost the outset of his incarceration to seek to improve himself despite the monstrous burden of his sentence goes entirely against the picture one expects from the long term incarcerated.  Earning degrees, especially starting within a Max security situation was almost unheard of at the time.  Staying out of trouble with fellow inmates and staying out of “politics” between inmate groups is also practically unheard of in high security institutions.  The only stereotype Michael might fall under is that of the inmate getting into trouble with staff, although the type of trouble he got into was reflective of his academic and self improvement goals and not from any typical prisoner trouble making or rule breaking.

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

From my reading it seems that Michael was able to single mindedly pursue his goals regardless of the “noise” or any distractions generated by a system which was not acting in any way to support those goals of self improvement. Michael was, however, able to find certain parts of the infrastructure to assist in his goals.  He was able to find jobs which accommodated his academic pursuits.  He was more able to pursue his goals because of the slack time he was able to find.  This aspect of the infrastructure was not there to assist him in this way but he found a way to make it work for him by being determined and focused on what he was trying to achieve.

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

The vision he had was of self improvement as an end in itself.  He had no idea if his pursuits would give him any benefit such as an early release, but he determined to carry on and maintain his own dignity through these pursuits in order to emerge stronger and conquer his imprisonment.

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 am 100% committed to preparing for success upon release. My attitude derives from focusing on the Now.  Dwelling on past mistakes is not helpful.  Worrying about my future is also not a resourceful use of my energies and likewise does not advance any of my goals towards improving that future.  I firmly believe that maintaining an attitude of possibility creates opportunity, or at the very least enables one to recognize and be open to opportunity when it arises.  I also agree with Michael Santos overall description of Attitude.  The typical attitude of prisoners does perpetuate the system which seems designed to foster recidivism.  the attitude of taking positive action, or to even realize that such action is possible and vitally necessary is what separates one from the miasma of defeatism and apathy.

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

I have aspirations. In light of my current circumstances this may be the most difficult topic to drill down into for me personally.  At the same time it is probably the most important topic to come to gris with.  My future goals and achievements and success will flow form the aspirations I set.  At the moment I know that the most useful tactic is to break down my aspirations into achievable, incremental goals and action steps.  Such goals should be set with achievable yet ambitious timelines.  At this stage I am focusing on certain short term goals in order to kick start this process and I am confident that in due course I will aspire to greater and longer term goal setting and achievement.

It is now the end of January 2012 (-when this answer was originally written out-)

By the end of February I see myself several pounds lighter  and satisfied by having achieved my fitness goals which I set late last year.  I see myself setting new fitness goals going into the next quarter of the year.

Right now I have either 37 months remaining on my term, not including halfway house time, or potentially as little as 19 should I qualify for RDAP program and 6 months halfway house. (update – Becuase of the length of my sentence I will probably not receive the full 12 month potential credit from the RDAP program, but I gather it likely that I will receive 9 months credit for completing that program).

Therefore my goals and timelines must be flexible to reflect the different possibilities as well  as the distinct possibility of being relocated within the B.O.P. to another prison camp.

It is my goal  to be at Sheridan Federal Prison Camp within 6-8 months in order to prepare to start the RDAP program.  The Residential Drug & Alchohol Program (this may not be the exact transliteration of the acronym) is the only current program in the Federal Bureau of Prisons which offers inmates a chance to earn a reduced sentence.  My understanding is that inmates who complete this program recieve up to 12 months off of their sentence and also receive the maximum allowable halfway house time of 6 months.  Although initially I tried to maintain the stance of reduced expectations I have heard many times over that the RDAP programs does almost always give the participants the full credit described, i.e. 12 months and 6 months (recently gained a more accurate estimation that it is dependant upon total sentence time).  Nothing is certain but it is my attitude that I will do whatever is required of me to earn any reduction in sentence in order to get back to my family as soon as possible.

At the end of two years from now I see myself having earned an undergraduate degree from a collegiate correspondence course.  At this time my wife and I do not have the resources to support this goal at all, but I hope this may change as she becomes more stabilized in being the sole income earner and caregiver at home.

I have set other daily goals:

To Call my wife and children 2 days out of every 3.  This supports my aspiration to maintain and even if possible improve my connection and communication with my family.  I would call every day but we are allowed only 300 minutes per month.

To communicate with the son and daughter regularly.  I track this daily and do my best to make sure there is an equal amount of attention paid to each child.  This supports my aspiration to create a deeper more meaningful relationship based on clear communication with my children despite the limitations imposed.

To work on the straight a guide daily which goal supports the aspiration to expand my network and stay in touch with those already connected with me.

To communicate with old friends regularly.  This supports my aspiration to maintain and deepen relationships with friends over time, despite current circumstances.

To write at least 30 minutes a day.  This supports my aspiration to write fiction and/or non fiction.  I will publish book reviews/reports on this site regularly covering the non-fiction reading in which I have been engaged.

These are examples of immediate aspirations I track on a daily basis.  I expect that there will be more long term aspirations to follow.

Beyond what I have described there is a barrier.  It has been very difficult so far for me to formulate more concrete aspirations over the longer term.  I suppose there are many careers I could pursue and I am exploring many ideas.  As for now a major aspiration it to expand what I aspire to professionally.

I am attempting to expand my view of what is possible.  for now I have examined and elucidated my primary values.  I  have taken those values into consideration and established some goals, mostly short tem or immediate daily goals as described above.  From this jumping off point I plan to continue the process of incremental goal setting and reaching towards new goals and aspirations.  It may sound odd but for now I will say that I aspire to aspire further!

45. What distinguishes an aspiration from a fantasy?

Any idea is just imagination, or a fantasy, if there is no action following it up.  In order to make an aspiration real it is necessary to do your best to determine a path to fulfill that aspiration and set out on that path.

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

I have described this in some detail above (answer #44).  I have taken action steps towards fitness goals including setting specific exercise goals and a specific weight loss goal, with a time deadline.  I have set goals of communication with family friends which I am tracking on a daily basis towards the aspiration of strengthening my existing network.  I have set goals of completing the Straight A Guide, with a timeline in order to pursue my aspiration to expand my network of people who are aware of and potentially supportive of my pursuits. (edit Feb 6 2012- I realize that my aspiration to complete the Straight A guide by March 1 2012 is exceedingly ambitious as there are 271 questions and I am only now on #46)

47. Accountability: How are you measuring progress?

I have begun, since the beginning of the year, to keep track of my goals in a daily logbook.  I tick off a box for every time I do work on one of those goals every day.  Some of these goals require that I do them each day.  This has already opened my eyes to becoming steady and dedicated to pursuing an ambition and what it means to ALWAYS work on something DAILY which you have set as a requirement for yourself.  Also it has made it possible to see my progress and my failures much more quickly and to make course corrections in my journey much sooner.  Already after less than 1 month I realized that in order to achieve the goals I set out at the beginning of the year I would have to work harder and rearrange my schedule to accommodate the pursuit and achievement of those goals.

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

I believe awareness is somewhat of a strength of mine.  I have throughout my life developed greater awareness of my surroundings on the basis of pursuing the art of self defense in various forms.  This of course does not encompass all types of awareness.  I believe I am fairly well attuned to the disposition of various other prisoners and groups here in camp.  It seems that this is actually a deeper question.  Since first being exposed to M.Santos and his writings I have tried to cultivate the awareness that I have a mountain to climb before I get out of prison.  This mountain is composed in part of the burdens placed upon an individual by a system which achieves over 70% recidivism overall.  I have come to share the awareness that the system seeks overall to perpetuate itself and therefore tends to pull formerly incarcerated individuals back into incarceration whenever possible.  Of course this applies more so to those who are career criminals and with more difficult socio-economic circumstances, however I should not delude myself to think that I am immune to this because my background is different.  The probation system (aka Supervised Release – meaning you are still considered in a way as In Custody)  can violate your freedom for many many reasons despite your best intentions.  I aspire to do everything in my power to satisfy the demands of probation.  This is an example of a challenge which is not entirely under my control.  How my probation officer deals with me is something I could hope to influence through my efforts and examples of adherence to expectations but ultimately I am not in control of his actions or perceptions.  Therefore I am aware of this and know I must do my part to be a model citizen upon release and demonstrate my worthiness to stay out of the prison system permanently.  Beyond awareness of the system and how it functions I am aware of the the difficulties facing me upon release as I re-establish myself within society.  There are many obstacles and prejedices to take into consideration.  I aspire to overcome these as well.  It is the constant awareness of these obstacles which daily provides me with a sense of urgency to pursue my goals and expand my aspirations.

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

I make sure to call my family 2 days out of 3.  I make sure to contact friends and family through email daily.  I seek to expand the list of existing friends who I communicate with regularly.  I reach out to an unknown audience of interested individuals who come to the Straight-A-Guide website already and also those who might find my writing through internet search.

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

(See answer 48)  In addition to what I mentioned after question 48 I can add, the challenge of the unknown.  I am sure there will be challenges I have not yet considered.

51. Achievement: When do you celebrate success?

I celebrate success when I have reached a goal that I have set for myself.  With this guide I have been setting more goals for myself.  This had not been a steady habit in the past.  Now I understand better the benefit of celebrating success.  Each success builds towards the next.  Each celebration marks progress and provides further incentive.

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

Almost everything an individual does relies upon the support of others within society whether they be family, friends or even other members of your society or culture you don’t even know.  It is important to recognize and be grateful for that support.  Further I believe that the attitude of gratitude has a special quality of opening you up to opportunity.  Maybe in part this is because it opens you up to further support.

53. Where did those choices lead?

I recall when I was in seventh grade that parts of school became more difficult.  I seem to recall at some point during that year making a decision that I was not going to stress about school anymore.  Of course deciding to not stress is not the same thing as working for a goal and trying your best.  I think this was a crucial juncture in my schooling.  I definitely had the ability to do much better in school.  What I did though was to coast through school, doing just enough to get passing grades.  Occasionally I would find a subject of interest to me and put in some effort, but generally I received passing and above passing grades for doing very little.  I suppose outside of math I was a good test taker.  I honestly barely remember doing any homework through high school.  Certainly there must have been some.  Definitely there was not the solid hours of work on a regular basis which could have led to high achievement.  The exception to this was my German language study, which still came relatively easily to me, but which I had to study hard to improve.  I had incentive as my step-father’s first language was German.  In retrospect the concept of looking at ones values and setting concrete, incremental goals with accompanying action steps all deriving from known core values would have been tremendously useful to me.

54. What did you value then?

At that time I mostly valued that which interested me.  I spent quite a bit of time reading fiction.  I focused on creative writing and gaming.  Also I took my first part time job shortly after turning 16 in my sophomore year of High School.  I valued being with my friends and having fun.  While I recognize that having friends is an important part of human nature, in retrospect with clearly identified goals in mind I would have tempered the value of cultivating friendship against the value of achievements.  I do not recall ever having a concrete goal about school beyond graduating from High School, which I more or less viewed as automatic.  If I had a goal i could reach for instead of only a vague idea that I would go to college I’m sure it would have clarified my direction.

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

My son is currently 13 and in the 7th grade.  I am very concerned about his focus in school.  I have seen the same behavior in him towards school as I exhibited.  He does work only just in time, and doing the bare minimum.  Repeatedly he has assured his mother and I that his homework is easy and it’s no problem.  Many times he has “forgotten” to do various assignments and had to make them up.  None of this demonstrates focus, or that he has a goal to excel.

I have been trying to impress upon both my children (son 13, daughter 10) of the importance of setting goals.  I have been coaching them about the concept of goal setting.  While putting the idea of goal setting in the context of school, or other activities they are involved in I have been trying to illustrate how to take a larger goal and break it down into smaller steps.  I began this process a month and a half ago and I am not sure I have gotten through at all.(originally written @ end of February 2012).  I am confident that over time the ideas of value judgments and incremental goals setting and achievement will become part of their way of thinking. At the very least they are exposed to the concept much more than I had.  I will continue to push them scholastically as I was not pushed.

56. What would you do differently if you could?

This question is very broad.  To narrow the scope of the question I will focus on goals.  If I could, starting in the 7th grade, have set clear goals in school based upon my values I would likely have had tremendously more focus and clarity about what I was doing and why.  For example if I had a goal of hitting a 3.8 GPA by the end of high school and getting a high score on the SAT test in order to have greater chances of admission to colleges across the nation my efforts would have been quite different and likely also my results.

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

I spent the first 3 1/2 weeks of my confinement at the High Security Federal Detention Center ( Sheridan FDC ).  Apparently it is currently standard operating procedure for inmates destined for Minimum Security Federal Prison Camp in Sheridan to  have to wait  in a High security  detention center until space clears up at the camp.  I gathered in the 20 something days I was there that some prisoners would have to wait until perhaps after December ( 90 days or so) to be transferred to the camp.  All the campers who were placed there had a lot to say about how unfair this practice was, especially those like me who were not transferring down, but coming in under our own power, aka self surrender.  The question of how fair or desirable it was to have to wait to be admitted into the camp was soon a moot point when for unknown reasons I was “rolled up” and sent away.  At first I had no knowledge of where or why.  Eventually I was told, after being in transit a full day, that I was going to Camp Atwater.  Sheridan was close to my home, only about a 45 minute drive, so this was definitely a bad situation added to already poor circumstance.  Atwater is probably 12 hours drive from my family and friends.  One thing Atwater had for me was not awaiting me at camp Sheridan, Michael Santos and his Straight A Guide and related literature.  Prior to surrendering myself to prison I had spent a great deal of time unproductively wallowing in self pity and just pure paralysis as if my life was going to come to an end in prison.  Once I arrived at the detention center I settled into a routine.  I began some exercise out of pure boredom and I wrote emails and made calls to my wife and children.  My only other activities were reading fiction and talking with my roommate (cell mate) and others there at the detention center.  I didn’t have any clear goals or idea of how I could spend my time productively.  I did anticipate finding more productive uses of my time once arriving at camp Sheridan.   When I was sent down to Atwater I was anxious and despondent.  I didn’t know what to expect but knew I would have no access to my family and friends through visitation as I had eagerly anticipated.  This was crushing to my morale, though I recognized I needed to move through that feeling and make the best of things.  On the second or third day after arriving at camp I was introduced to Michael Santos and he suggested I read his books.  I also remember him saying to me that the first days in prison are very important.  I took it to mean that it was the time when you would set the course that might determine how  you spent your time, productively, or just marking time and not much more.

I read two or three of his books right away.  Immediately I recognized that my situation was not at all severe and difficult as it could be.  Beyond that I began to realize that my situation was not beyond help or hope.  There were things to do to gradually improve myself.  I also took on the sense of urgency that I expect to carry with my throughout this journey.  When I refer to my values throughout the day I can see clearly when I am not pursuing my goals in accordance with my stated values.

I have been imprisoned for 141 days now (originally written late February?).  I now daily take steps to move myself forward and improve in any way available to me, and to stay vigilant towards and opportunity which may exist to further the goals I have.  Every day I remember my values and ask myself if I am living accordingly.  Each moment is an opportunity to ask whether I am living my life according to those values and to ask myself, what else can I do?

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

Every day I track my progress in a number of areas.  My communications with my family and friends this week is built upon last week.  My physical training this week is built upon last week.  My writing this week builds upon what has come before.  I am developing these skills and others as I am working my way through the 271 questions of the Straight A Guide.

59. Identify the values by which you live.

I can answer this question readily and I have already submitted a separate blog several weeks ago providing greater detail of this answer.  I recognized early one the core concept of examining and understanding ones values.  What motivates a person.  Ultimately we seek to fulfill that which we value.  If one has placed a higher priority on things which are not in accordance with their core values one will ultimately not succeed and will experience dissonance in their life until this disconnect between actions and values is resolved.

My values which I have listed previously are:

Discipline

Fitness

Spiritual Integration

Industriousness

Integrity

Marriage

Children

Network

My blog about this subject was posted February 16th 2012.  I am not perfectly clear on the functionality of the S.A.Guide site but I am sure it would be easy to find.

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

I strive every day to live in harmony with my values.  Each decision I make refers back to my values.  Even when I decide to read fiction for pleasure, or play guitar, or watch TV or a movie, I am cognizant that these activities are not necessarily advancing any of my goals.  Therefore I acknowledge the fact and minimize unproductive activities, though at the same time recognizing my need for down time, as should any busy professional.

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

Currently my perceived role in society is colored by my imprisonment.  Discovering how to translate my values into vocation is a big part of my current task of self exploration and improvement.  Certain roles are simpler such as Father and Husband.  It is simpler to act upon the values of being a good husband and father.  Right now I can demonstrate to society through this website that I am taking every action possible towards self improvement and a successful transition into society upon my release.

62. Where does your allegiance lie?

My allegiance lies in adhering to my values no matter what.  Primary among those values is to support my wife and children.  Therefore my primary allegiance is to my family.

63. Are values situational or absolute?

The importance of values lies in the fact that they are core principles, not transient, temporary ideas, but ideals.  No matter what activity you are engaged in or what decision you need to make your values should be at the root, always informing your choices and decisions.  Strong values recognized and clearly held should act as a rudder, automatically keeping you to your course.

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