Craig Payton/ Class 2: Goals

by Craig Payton

64. What values might lead a person to success upon release from prison?:

The most important approach to values is to consciously examine and to clearly define them to yourself, and others when necessary.  One must have these values in place in order to refer to them for every decision and action in life.

The key to success upon release is to refer to your values to guide you in taking appropriate action in every moment of every day whether in prison or out.  Appropriate action is that which is guided by your values in pursuit of goals and action steps formed in reference to those values.  Values such as discipline and industriousness are valuable to any employer.  The value of Family should provide any man with the constant of being part of the family and therefore motivated to take action to improve ones situation.  The value of integrity actually refers back to the value system structure.  Integrity means standing firm to your core principles and living by them every moment.

65. How does a person ever become his values?:

Becoming true to your values is a process.  A first step is to recognize and even refine your values, which is a valuable process of self-reflection.  Next, it is necessary to refer to those values constantly.  Set goals to achieve both great and small and see that they are in alignment with your values.  You become true to your values when your every action is in alignment with those values.

66. How does a person strengthen his integrity?: 

Integrity means to make part of.  To make your values part of you is to integrate them into every part of your life.  When you have done this you will mean what you say and say what you mean.  You can be trusted to adhere to your word when you have integrity.  Furthermore, one can strengthen the resolve to integrity by living a transparent life.  The more who are aware of your values and goals and your aspirations to achieve those goals, and who then see that you are true to your word in their pursuit, the more integrity will be demonstrated.

67. What immediate challenges will a prisoner confront the day his prison term expires?: 

One must expect to take care of all physical needs previously being handled by the institution food, clothing, transportation, toiletries, transportation, housing.  In the case of most federal prisoners, we must contend with the regulations and expectations of  a halfway house for a period of time.  I understand that it is demanded that a released prisoner seek employment.  I understand that a prisoner is not allowed to be employed by family members initially after leaving prison.

The logic of this rule escapes me, yet I have to accept the rules and regulations set before me.  I have the challenge of fulfilling any and all expectations laid upon me by the probation officer.  I have the challenge of re-incorporating myself into society which is multi-faceted.   Becoming reacquainted with immediate family and friends and other social contacts.  Depending upon the conditions of release and halfway house, this re-acquaintance will not take place immediately.

68. Housing:

I expect to be with my wife and children who will be awaiting my release.  Housing expenses will be something I do hope to make a contribution towards once employed, but I do not expect I will need to provide any funds immediately in order to have a roof over my head.

69. Household furnishings:

Household furnishings are with my wife and I expect there will be no need for immediate further expenditure in that area.  

70. Clothing:

I should have basic clothing needs handled.  A good part of my wardrobe should be in good condition after my period in prison.  I expect a small expenditure to fill in some gaps may be required.  Perhaps not more than $200.

71. Transportation: 

My wife has two automobiles, I do not know if we will be to afford to keep both over the balance of my term, therefore this is an unresolved question.  If required to purchase a used car and provide insurance, I am sure $2,500 as a minimum would be needed to cover both for the first 6 months.  It is possible other arrangements could be made to bypass the expense of replacing a car.  Gasoline will certainly be a fixed expense no matter whose car I will be driving.  Searching for employment may well involve substantial driving and therefore I should add $200 a month to this total.

72. Incidentals:

I do not expect to require many material items upon release.  I can get by primarily upon what I already possess.  Perhaps occasional expenditures will arise which I cannot enumerate, therefore I will say $100 per month for other items may be necessary.  

73. How much in the way of financial resources should a prisoner expect to need in the way of financial resources to transition to society?:

Tallying up all the answers above, my 6 month figure comes to $4,500!  Actually this is a much larger figure than I anticipated when I first laid eyes upon the subject.  It is daunting to contemplate the financial necessities which will confront me upon release.  It must be tremendously challenging to those prisoners held longer than 3 years who also have limited support or none at all.  How can the bureau of prisons expect anyone to succeed after a long prison term with no resources.  I am finding it difficult to visualize a set of circumstances which can lead to accumulating resources while imprisoned, but I strive to remain open to possibility.

74. How will prospective landlords, employers, creditors, and others in society respond to an individual who discloses his criminal record(s) and history of imprisonment?:

In general all members of society will have trepidations about extending any trust to a former inmate.  This is a known challenge.  As such, it is a challenge which can and should be faced head on.  One should not attempt to obscure the fact of incarceration.  The results of someone learning indirectly of your imprisonment will most likely be more harmful than being direct and honest.  At least this is the ideal way to view the situation.  I know that in fact I will be discriminated against by those in society and trust will be difficult to earn from some and impossible from others.  This is a primary purpose to demonstrate the willingness to work on oneself and perform everything possible to demonstrate your ability to triumph over adversity.

Describe the job market in the sectors for which you would like to find employment:

75. What range of income does the market offer?:

This is a question I am not at this time able to answer.  I do not have a good handle on what employment to seek upon my release.  This is in large part as a result of being banned from working in the food, drug, cosmetic business until 2018.  This is the industry in which I have held employment for 20 years.

76. What level of education or experience do candidates for such employment typically have?: 

77. In what ways will a prison record influence possibilities for employment?:

Many employers will be unwilling to consider a candidate with a criminal record.  It will be upon me to demonstrate a compelling case to convince a prospective employer of my value above any other candidate.

78. Where is the general employment rate in your community?:

As of 2012, I expect unemployment is between 10-11%.  By the time I get out I hope the economy has improved but there are no indications to make this a certainty.

79. How would you expect the general employment rate to compare with the unemployment rate for people with your background, considering prison record, educational record, and experience?:

Of course I expect the unemployment rate for convicted felons to be much higher than the average rate.  I hope that my job experience coupled with good communications skills may help secure employment with a better than average chance of success.

80. How much time do you anticipate needing between your release date and securing the job you expect to land?:

This question can only be answered with complete speculation.  I do not at this time have nearly a firm enough idea of how I will proceed in order to be able to answer such a question.  Having to answer this question in this way does not make me comfortable.  My situation is difficult and I need to continue to do all I can to better it.

81. If halfway house placement requires forfeiture of 25 percent of gross earnings, of your monthly take-home pay, how much do you anticipate you will keep during the time you’re in the halfway house?:

This all depends upon what kind of job I can secure and how soon I can secure it.  I expect that I will like many prisoners be forced to take anything I can find as soon as possible to demonstrate cooperation with the demand of the halfway house and probation.  This will probably mean that with the 25% going to the halfway house, I will save next to nothing while in halfway house time.  Of course there is an alternative to this typical dire scenario.  If I can make contact with a potential employer in advance of my release who might be willing to offer a job, this would put me in an entirely different position.  I would dearly love to find something meaningful and challenging to throw my energies into.  At this point the idea seems like happy talk, yet I will continue to work towards making it a reality.  I must admit that at this point in time, steps towards this nebulous goal are hard to conceive.  I must continue to push with a sense of urgency every day to achieve my goals and continue moving forward.

82. What do statistics show that average households in America earn each year?:


I do not have access to this data currently but I believe that the average is somewhere between $40-45k per year.

83. How so you anticipate your income will compare with that average one year after your release from prison?:

In combination with my wife, I hope that we can earn a family income well above the level of $45/k year.  As of now, I do not know what form that might take.  I am exploring a few general ideas.  I have been working in small companies with a great deal oa autonomy for a very long time.  I have learned a great deal about running your own business.  I would like to explore LEGITIMATE entrepreneurial business ventures.  The halfway house and probation department may act as barriers should I wish to pursue my own business.  I need to learn more about post release job regulations in order to understand what I might not be allowed to do.

84. What emotions do we introduce when we obsess on issues beyond our ability to influence?:

Fear, anger, frustration, worry, despair.

85. How can we overcome the despair that accompanies imprisonment?:

I feel it is very important, not only for the incarcerated but for everyone in life to become more conscious of their attitudes.  I made a decision once I came to prison.  I will not allow myself to become paralyzed with fear and despair.  The way to maintain a resourceful state of mind is to stay grounded in the present moment.  What can I do right now to help myself?  What am I doing that is in alignment with my goals and ultimately, my true values in life.  If I am fearful, I am dwelling and thinking about what may happen in the future.  Does this dwelling provide me with a more resourceful state of mind?  No.  If I am sad or angry about being here, I suppose I must be dwelling on past mistakes.  Does dwelling on stupid, unconscious behavior of the past help me to be more resourceful in the future?  No.  Not only do I look at every action and automatically ask if this is the best use of my time, but I also strive to maintain awareness of my mental and emotional state.  Being in the now means maintaining awareness of your habitual inner voice.  Negative self talk can be revealed.  Once awareness shines upon your inner world you have freedom of choice.  If you want to be positive, yet do not examine and reveal the thoughts and emotional states which underly your actions, you will only put a happy veneer over a painful and enervating inner life.  The more present you are in this moment, the easier it is to gain insight into your mental and emotional states.  Insight provides opportunity for change.  Change can mean recognizing an unresourceful attitude or thought about yourself or the world and becoming able to release it and replace it with a positive thought or affirmation.  This is an effective strategy to make actual changes in your inner states which are substantial and lasting.

Michael wrote about the numerous ways that his behavior could lead to the extension of his prison term or the aggravation of his prison conditions. No one wants to serve longer prison terms or serve sentences under harsher conditions. :

86. What types of behavior lead to such outcomes?:

In prison there are many ways a prisoner can step out of bounds.  If incidents add up, or if any incident is viewed as serious enough by authorities, one can find oneself being transferred to higher security institutions.  Typical behaviors include engaging in prohibited behavior such as violence towards prisoners or even in subordination to staff.  Overall these behaviors can be categorized as acting out in a way inappropriate to your situation.  There are very few ways to make your situation better in prison and many which can make it worse.  If a prisoner were thinking clearly about his environment and circumstances he would realize that the best way to be self serving is to adhere to the rules and seek through good behavior to move to lower security or remain at the lowest in the case of a camp.


87. How do harsher prison conditions influence an individual’s ability to prepare for success upon release?:

Harsher conditions will for must individuals make it more difficult to do the few things one can do within prison to better oneself.  Also, higher security prisons come with more “political” games.  One can be forced ot play these power games and this can result in more infractions and further result in being placed in even a higher security.  Privileges such as phone, visiting and email can be rescinded.  All of these conditions will tend to hinder efforts to seek success beyond prison.

88. How does behavior that leads to harsher prison conditions influence the lives of those in our support network?:

If we exhibit behavior which results in a heightened security status we have with our behavior betrayed the trust of those connected with us.  Our immediate family/friends network will be disappointed and probably afraid for our safety.  Any support network we may have sought for ourselves may well reconsider their stance of support for us.

89. Although the prison system offered ways to lengthen a prison term or aggravate the conditions under which a prisoner served his sentence, what objective mechanisms exist within the system for a prisoner to distinguish himself in a positive way?:

There are almost no objective means within the system for a prisoner to distinguish himself.  One may only maintain the “good time” credit one receives as a matter of course.  Once may complete mandatory education courses which are grade school level at best.  One may earn a GED if not holding a high school diploma.

90. How then does the system encourage individuals to work toward reconciling with society, prepare for law-abiding lives upon release, or earn freedom?: 

The system does not encourage an individual to prepare for law abiding life after prison.  There is no sentence reduction for merit, no way to “earn freedom” early.

91. Describe the goals you have set?:

Insert blogs, goals for Jan 1st, 2012.  Goal update March 1st, 2012.

92. Describe how your goals relate to your professed values?:

See above.

93. How clearly can you gauge your level of success toward each goal you set?:

Since the 1st of the year, I have been keeping an accountability journal to track my progress each day in several different goals.  Some goals have daily progress, some are more intermittent but the record of how often I have contributed effort towards each goal is there for me to see every day.  At the end of two months, I summed up my progress so far and began re recalibrate my goals on the basis of what had been achieved and what needed greater effort or a change in approach.

94. In what ways does one goal lead to the next?:

When one completes a goal and takes note of the achievement, one can at that moment take the opportunity to aspire towards the next goal.  Also the act of achieving goals can inspire you towards greater achievements.  When you have a larger aspiration a goal can mean one step of many towards the achievement of a larger goal.

95. If you achieve all of your goals, how will they influence your prison adjustment?:

I plan to keep setting new goals as I achieve the ones I have already set.  Therefore, I do not plan to ever be finished setting and achieving new goals.  However, to clearly answer the question achieving all my goals,  step by step will mean that I am remaining focused and making meaningful achievements for myself regardless of any environmental factors of the prison and at the same time keeping in mind the ultimate environmental factor of the challenges I will confront upon my release.

96. How will the goals you set influence your prospects for success upon release?:

If my goals are focused on self improvement and oriented towards developing skills and strategies for success son the outside then my goals will by definition aid me in my prospects upon release.  Further, if through my efforts with The Straight A Guide I may influence how I am viewed by the outside world at the time of or even ahead of my release I may create even better prospects for myself.

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