16. Who are you?
My name is Julius M. Lige. I am 36 years old, married with three beautiful daughters. I define myself as being a family man with a strong Christian faith.
I am highly motivated to become a successful business man. I relate to the importance of values such as faith, family, finance, and fitness. I am always in pursuit of opportunities to improve my life. Some of the strategies that I pursue include education, networking, and accomplishing goals I set for myself.
Since my imprisonment began in 2007, I made a commitment to walk out from prison as a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better son, and a better leader. I began working toward that transition by focusing on my physical fitness. I’m proud that through discipline and hard work I dropped more than 100 pounds.
After achieving that goal, I turned my focus to education, with aspirations to work in social services. To that end, I enrolled in Taft Community College through the correspondence program. I’m proud to report that in the spring of 2010, I graduated with an AA degree in social science.
I am now involved in a prison outreach program where I go out to local high schols and speak to the kids about the dangers of drugs and gangs. I have one teenage daughter of my own, and two more who soon will be teenagers. Because of my love for them, I feel deeply passionate about helping young people make better decisions than I made as a younger man.
Through all of the work I do in prison, I feel myself serving God’s will and trying to prove worthy of the many people who love me. I’ve been blessed with a magnificent wife who has supported me through this difficult experience. She is a source of inspiration for me, and because of her love, I am certain that I will walk out of here stronger in every way.
17. Describe your background with regard to your education, vocation or career, troubles with the law.
When I began serving my prison sentence in 2007, I knew that in order to emerge from prison with opportunities, I would have to take advantage of every educational proram the prison had to offer. To that end, I began studying at the Taft Community College. In the spring of 2010, I earned an associate of arts degree in social science. Also, through the Taft prison educational prorams, I received numerous certificates for my mastery of such subjects that include financial planning, parenting, wellness, and public speaking, among others. I am now studying through the National Federation of Personal Trainers through a correspondence proram to become a certified personal trainer. Besides that area of study, for the past year I’ve incorporated studies of the futures commodities market into my daily routine. As a youth growing up in Oakland, California, I allowed negative influences in my community to detract from my education. Although I was a student athlete, I repeatedly underachieved in the classroom. That pattern of behavior resulted in my not graduating from high school. Because of my aspiration of playing college football, I continued my education by enrolling in Junior College. I played two seasons of JC football, earning 30 transferrable academic units. After spending one semester at the University of Texas A&M, Kingsville, I put my education on hold and began to seek employment. In September of 2005 I heard a knock at my front door. The fact that it was 6:00 in the morning seemed unusual for an unexpected guest. I was right. It was the DEA. I was arrested that day and charged with possession of PCP. I am now serving a 120-month sentence in federal prison. Prior to this case I experienced minimal amounts of trouble with the law. I spent one night in city jail in 2002 for possession of marijuana. I’ve never been convicted of any weapons or crimes of violence. Prior to my incarceration, my employment history dates back ten years with consistent work. I developed skills as a home appliance installer, a warehouseman, a delivery truck driver, and I worked in a hospital’s material management department. As an employee, I possess the capable work skills and effective communication skills that are necessary to grow within any company. Because of my hard work, I was always viewed by my employer as a productive employee.
18. What are you going through now?
As of now I have completed four and a half years of my 10-year prison sentence. Being incarcerated has been a learning experience for me. It has given me time to focus on becoming a better person. Because of that focus, I have created many opportunities that will help me upon my release. Through my faith in God and my family support, I am confident that I will not make the same kinds of poor decisions that I made prior to my incarceration. In an effort to hold my family together, I express my love to my wife and children every day, always emphasizing that we must work together to strengthen our family connection. I work hard every day preparing myself for a successful reentry into society.
Describe your vision of the best person you can become during the following time frames:
19. Time remaining to serve.
During the time that I have remaining to serve, I certainly will use my time wisely. I will continue to work on advancing my skill levels in numerous areas. Specifically, I intend to learn more about how the commodity futures markets operate. Also, I will work to improve my public speaking skills through the prison outreach program in which I participate. I expect to devote numerous hours toward my clearly defined aspiration of becoming a certified fitness trainer. I will take the necessary steps toward accomplishing that goal. Each day I renew my 100 percent commitment to walk out of prison as a better man, a better husband, father, son, and leader.
20. One month after release.
I expect to have accomplished all my short term goals within one year of my release. Most importantly I intend to have re-establish a strong loving bond with my wife and children. Through hard work and discipline, I will continue to live a clean and healthly life, exercising four to five days a week, fullfilling my commitment to remain in top physical condition. I will work consistently to contribute to society, providing leadership, while living as a positive role model in my community. Through evaluating my first year of release, I will determine what adjustments are needed to accomplish my long term goals.
With the combination of skill, drive, and preparations that I am making today, I am confident that I will secure employment within one month of my release. That employment should resolve my need to establish financial stability. As long as I am financially stable, I will have time to bond with my wife and children. Indeed, I expect to reconnect with my entire extended family.
As long as I have my family and employment issues resolved, I expect that during my first month of liberty, I also will be prepared to being the next phase of my plan to launch my career as a community leader. I have clear ideas about what that means. I come from an area where numerous young people were exposed to bad influences. It’s my role, I think, to work toward helping people make better decisions. I have a business plan in mind that will lead me to fulfill that role as a mentor, guide, and community leader. During my first month of liberty, I am hopeful that opportunities will be in place for me to advance the vision.
What does that mean?
Well, I’ve given a lot of thought to that question. The people who need my guidance most will never be able to pay me. I must rely on community sponsors. So my job now is to prepare myself in ways that will persuade community sponsors to step up and join my efforts to cultivate leadership within our community.
That’s the reason I’m working so hard right now. I’m using the Straight-A Guide as a model to build my brand, to build awareness among people in society. I want others to know how hard I’m working to overcome the indignities of imprisonment. I want others to judge me. Because I intend to be ready. And during my first month of liberty, I expect to point back to this very document that I’m writing today, on June 28, 2011.
I expect to come home in March of 2014. By April of 2014, I expect to stand in front of an audience of business leaders and community activists. I expect to articulate the vision I had and the steps I have taken to implement that vision. My call to action will be for those community leaders to sponsor me by writing a check that will me to make a living while helping others reach their optimal performance as law-abiding, contributing citizens.
That’s my vision for the first month of my release. First I must secure employment; second I must reconnect with my family; and third, I must begin to implement the plan I’ve been working so deliberately to build.
21. One year after release.
I expect to have accomplished all my short term goals within one year of my release. Most importantly I intend to have establish a strong loving bond with my wife and children. Through hard work and discipline, I will continue to live a clean and healthly life, exercising four to five days a week, fullfilling my commitment to remain in top physical condition. I will work consistently to contribute to society, providing leadership, while living as a positive role model in my community. Through evaluating my first year of release, I will determine what adjustments are needed to accomplish my long term goals.
22. Five years after release.
Potentially through hard work and a profitable business, my wife and I expect to enjoy financial stability five years after my release. With the Straight-A Guide incorporated into my everyday life, I expect to have frequent speaking engagements that will allow me to articulate my Straight-A Guide message to the youth. Because of my commitment to live a positive life, I will play an active role in the church, while spending quality time with family, and coaching football. I expect to have a solid foundation five years after my release.
23. How do those in society perceive people in prison?
Society percecption of people in prison can generally be opinionated. Since over 2.3 million people are in prison, there’s a large population of Americans who have family members in prison. Majority of our society view prisoners as being dangerous, manipulative, dishonest, and a threat to the safety of society. While others view prisoners in a more individual perspective, understanding the fact that all prisoners are not career criminals, and anyone is subject to human errors. Making a bad choice in life doesn’t define who you are as a person, but because of society’s misperceptions, prisoners are often prohibited from lucrative opportunities even after trasitioning into law abiding citizens.
24. Describe how television programs and movies depict prisoners:
Prisoners are portrayed on television programs and movies as being thugs, drug addicts, guy’s with tattooes who engage in homosexual activity. Hollywood has over exaggerated many of these stereotypes, influencing the public to believe all prisoners participate in such a lifestyle. With today’s news media seeking higher rating, crime are often broadcast to support hidden political agenda’s, persuading member of society to vote for laws that are tough on non-violent crimes, which contributes to the United States world leading incarceration rate.
25. Compare and contrast your prison adjustment with the prison stereotype.
26. In what ways is your adjustment similar?
My adjustment is similar to the prisoner stereotype in many ways. I’m constantly reminded that society will view me as being a possible re-offender, despite the significant progress I’ve made to improve my life. The prison system identify each inmate by his or
her number, similar to a product in a warehouse with a serial number or bar code, therefore I
hold myself accountable to prepare for a successful re-entry into society.
27. In what ways is your adjustment different?
My adjustment is different from the prisoner stereotype in that regardless of how challenging prison may be, I will not allow prison to discourage my drive and determination to succeed in life. Through edcation and the mastering of skills in numerous area’s, opportunities await me. Also with a thriving marriage and beautiful children, I will not allow seperation from my family affect our family bond. Unfortunately many prisoners and their families fall victim to seperation, which contribute to a very high prison divorce rate.
Describe what opportunities for personal growth and development exist in the different prison security levels:
28. High security.
Opportunities are limited for prisoners who serve time in high security penitentiaries. In a environment with such hostility and tension, a prisoner primary focus is always on safety. With political rules and racial seperation, prisoners are limited to who they can associate with. To create any opportunities in a high security prison, a prisoner must isolate himself from the negative instutional lifestyle.
29. Medium security.
Opportunities at the medium security level are also limited. In a environment controlled by racially influenced gangs, a prisoners safety is threaten by young gang members who seek to gain respect and prove their loyalty. Prisoners with aspirations of personal growth must remain discipline and focus, while minumizing their social circle.
30. Low security.
Prisoners serving time at low security institutions are exposed to the same level of violence as the higher institution, but with less frequent occurrence. Opportunities for personal growth increases at the low security level, prisoners who are commited to improving their lives, create stratagies that allow them to grow.
31. Minimum security.
Minimum-Security Camps are less likely to have any violence at all, therefore prisoners who are selfmotivated often create opportunities for themselves. Vocational programs and prison workshop are offered at the higher level prison. Majority of the camp population consist of businessmen and corperate executives, therefore opportunities are created through networking and group discussions.
32. Prior to release, what do prisoners generally say about their prospects for returning?
Prisoners are usually confident about not returning to prison. Most prisoners leave prison with the attitude that their going to do right. Unfortunitely the moment things go wrong, their survival tactics come into effect, which usually result to them engaging in criminal activity.
33. In what ways, if any, do those who never return to prison serve their sentences differently from those who do return to prison?
Those who never return to prison serve their sentence differently. They are aware of the many challenges convicted felons face, therefore their focus is on creating strategies and network systems utilizing their time wisely. Those who do retuen to prison usually are prisoners who glorify the negative prison lifestyle.
34. What steps can a prisoner take to improve chances of success upon release?
I believe the necessary steps you must take to improve chances of success upon release began by making positive adjustments in specific area’s of your life. Also committing yourself to accomplish clearly define goals, knowing that these goals will create valuable opportunities 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?
I would consider five years are more to be classified as long-term imprisonment. When a prisoner has spent five years away from society, things can change for the worst. Relationships with family and friends began to suffer, also in most cases, financial stability is destroyed.
36. What expectations do those in society have for long-term prisoners?
People in society have low expectations for long-term prisoners. They view long-term prisoners as liabilities, threat to the community and untrustworthy. With such a negative perception from society, long-term prisoners find it difficult to reach success do to the prejudice they often encounter.
37. What expectations do you suppose long-term prisoners have for themselves?
I believe most long-term prisoners expectations are high. Motivated by such a long absence from society, most long-term prisoners have the attitude that they have something to prove. Unfortunately they fail to give proper consideration to the challenges that await them once their released.
38. What do prison administrators and staff members expect of long-term prisoners?
Administrators and staff members expect long-term prisoners to understand the basic operations of the prison. With that in mine, they rely on long-term prisoners to educate and inform all new inmates on how the prison flows. Staff also suspect some long-term prisoners to use their experience and influence to scheme, conspire and manipulate the system for personal benefits.
39. How would you define a “model inmate”?
A model inmate is a prisoner who abides by all rules. Model inmates are always in quest to impress staff, therefore in every possible way they try to avoid confrontations and any disruption to the prison.
40. How does Michael’s prison journey support or refute prison stereotypes?
Michael’s prison journey support and refute prison stereotypes. During his journey he experienced negative behaviors by inmate and staff that support prison stereotypes, such as violence, racial politics, and discouragement from staff. I believe also Michael’s journey refute prison stereotypes, his decision to educate himself and not allow staff to discourage him, demonstrated discipline, skill, and determination.
41. What role did the prison infrastructure play in influencing Michael’s journey through prison?
I believe Michael used the prison infrastructure as motivation. Serving a 45-year non-violent prison sentence allowed Michael to focus on the many talents he possesses. Despite the obstacles Michael faced year after year he was determine to overcome the difficulties of the system, which allowed him to accomplish valuable goals.
42. What vision governed Michael’s decisions as a prisoner?
Michael’s decisions were results from his vision to emerge from prison with opportunities and resources that would solidify his chances for success unpon release. Although he had to serve a lengthy sentence, he was confident that through education, and skill development he could overcome the obstacles of prison.
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?
The attitude and aspirations that I have regarding improving my life require a strong commitment towards preparing for a successful re-entry into society. I am determined to have success upon release. therefore I utilize the resources that are available to me, to create value to my life. Also my commitment requires daily assessments and personal evaluations.
44. Aspiration: Where do you see yourself at various checkpoints in the future?
I see myself two years from now, at the begining of 2014, leaving prison with the neccessary skills that will allow me to financially contribute to my family right away.
I can then focus on reconnecting with family and friends. Through my strong christian faith, and the blessing from God, I will accomplish all my clearly define goals.
45. What distinguishes an aspiration from a fantasy?
What distinguishes my aspirations from a fantasy, is the significant amount of work I put towards preparing myself for a successful re-entry into society. Everyday I’m constantly seeking opportunities through business plans, employment plans, and skill development.My continuous hard work everyday will distinguish my aspirations from a fantasy.
46. Action: What steps are you taking toward aspiration?
The necessary steps I take towards my aspirations began with my strong spiritual faith, understanding that through Gods blessing I’m capable of achieving success. Being physically fit is a top priority, therefore I utilize 2 hours a day for exercise, knowing that maintaining a good physique can create opportunities. Keeping a strong family bond is very important to me. Therefore I minimize my daily phone conversation, which allows me to communicate with my wife and children on a daily basis through the month. Through out the day I create time slots for studying, and also to participate in educational programs. I research material for future business plans, career plans, and skill development. I am well prepared to over come all obstacles that await me upon my release.
47. Accountability: How are you measuring progress?
I measure progress through my actions. Everyday as I work towards accomplishing my goals, I hold myself accountable to produce result. I’m always in pursuit to gain knowledge and skills that will help improve my life.
48. Awareness: How knowledgeable are you about the atmospherics around you?
I’m very knowledgeable of the atmospherics around me. I understand the dynamics of the prison infrastructure. I strive to break through all barriers that are formed against me.
49. In what ways do you reach beyond the boundaries that currently confine you?
I reach beyond the boundaries that confine me through my public speaking. I’m fortunate to be apart of a wonderful prison out reach program. Our program allows me to visit schools in the Kern County area. Through my experiences, I convey positive messages, describing the consequences behind drug and gang activities.
50. What do you know about the challenges that will confront you upon release?
I’m aware of the many challenges that will confront me upon release. Everyday I prepare myself to overcome these challenges. I anticipate for these challenges to be difficult, nevertheless I am confident in my ability to succeed.
51. Achievement: When do you celebrate success?
I celebrate success when I see the results from my hard work impact other people lives. After losing over 100 pounds three years ago, I am always approached by other inmate who inform me that there inspired by my weight lose. They explain how it motivates them to do the same.
52. Appreciation: What role do others have in your success?
My family plays a major role in my success. Through their support I am motivated each and everyday to work hard towards improving my life. Also I am grateful to have associate myself with intelligent, knowledgeable people while in prison. Men who I consider to be mentors.
53. Where did those choices lead?
Actually the ninth grade was a pivotal point in my early life. As a youth growing up in the inner city of Oakland,CA my mother new she must keep me active in sports to avoid losing me to the street. So every year my brother and I played football for our city’s youth team(Oakland Dinomites). In 1989 at age 14, I had a growth spurt, that year I was to big to play youth football, and to young to play high school football. With countless amount of unsupervised time, I made the decision to sell drugs. That choice lead me to develop a hustler mentality, which contribute to me being incarcerated today.
54. What did you value then?
As a young teenager influenced by street life, I compromised the core values that my mother instilled in me to embrace the values of the streets. I valued money ,respect , and material assets. Those were things that I understood to be important in the drug game. On the flip side, I valued many other things, such as playing football, socializing with friends, and skill development.
55. How would you guide your children if they were making choices in the same way?
If my children were making choices in the same way, from an authoritative father position, I would guide my children towards making smart, discipline choices. Using tactics such as describing my experiences in detail dealing with consequences behind my negative choices.
56. What would you do differently if you could?
If I could rewind time and change some of the choices I made early in my life, clearly I would focus on the few years I spent in high school. My attitude towards education would change tremendously. Education would have been the top priority in my young life. With my priorities in place, opportunities in athletics and business may have been more obtainable.
57. Describe the differences in your life today from the first days of your confinement.
As of today, I have spent over the past five years of my life incarcerated. Looking back on my first day of confinement, I believe my life differs in many ways. First and for most my relationship with God is much stronger. Also because of my 100% commitment to leave prison a better man, husband, and father, I’ve incorporated education, physical fitness, and skill development into my everyday schedule. My attitude towards life today is more focus, and discipline than it was five years ago.
58. How have your activities from last week led to your activities for this week?
As for activities from last week, connecting with what I’m actively doing this week, starts with my fitness training. Last week heavy strength training, this week heavy cardio training. Combining both weeks, gives me a balance exercise routine.
Last week I began researching information on potential colleges for my 15 year old daughter. As a sophomore in high school the information I received emphasize on the importance of good testing skills. Also I received information on tuition cost, room/board cost, percentage of black students, and popular majors.
59. Identify the values by which you live.
I live by values such as discipline, loyalty, integrity, spiritual faith, professionalism, and fitness, just to name a few. These values are important to me as I continue to work towards improving my life.
60. To what extent do your daily activities harmonize with the values by which you live?
My daily activities harmonize with the values by which I live, in every way. From the time I pray in the morning before my work outs, to the discipline I display as I work hard towards improving my skill set, my values create my foundation by which I stand.
61. How do your professed values relate to your perceived role in society?
My role in society will demonstrate leadership, discipline, and hardwork.Those values allows me to redirect my life by utilizing the time I spent in prison to advance my skill set, earn a degree, improve my physical fitness, and strengthen my relationship with God. With these values in place, I will return to society a better man, father, and husband.
62. Where does your allegiance lie?
My allegiance lies with my family. Motivated by their love and support, I am obligated to show my gratitude, by working hard and accomplishing goals. My family inspires me everyday, as I continue to make incremental steps towards a successful re-entry into society.
63. Are values situational or absolute?
The values I live by are 100% absolute. I am committed to live a values based life. I understand that the decisions I make in life must align in accodance with my core values.