Michael Santos – CLASS 2 – GOALS

by Michael G. Santos

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

What values might lead a person to success upon release from prsion? Success upon release from prison begins with the right attitude. An individual must make a 100-percent commitment to avoid criminal behavior. Besides that, he must ensure that he minimizes exposure to situations, activities, or interactions that could expose him to problems with law enforcement. He must remain aware of his surroundings, the atmospherics of his life. With that in mind, I’m convinced that an individual strengthens his possibility for success upon release by leading a life of transparency. When I say transparency, what I’m referring to is the individual’s commitment to live as an open book. He should articulate the values by which he professes to live, then ensure that his goals and actions harmonize with those values. If the individual makes values-based decisions, he enhances his ability to overcome the challenges that are certain to confront every man who leaves a history of imprisonment behind him. The individual who embraces transparency has direction. It imbues him with the added value of discipline, as he must stay on course in pursuit of values and clearly-defined goals. Further, transparency fosters the additional value of integrity, as he strives to show that he lives in a way that invites others to judge him, to hold him accountable. I’m convinced that values such as transparency, discipline, integrity enhance an individual’s opportunity for success upon release from prison. They also allow him to triumph over the stigma of his past in ways that others will judge him as a man of good character, in accordance with the efforts he made to triumph over a difficult situation.

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

An individual makes progress toward defining himself by his values when he lives them every day. It will never be enough to simply say an individual wants to live a good life. He must make decisions every day that demonstrate his commitment to living a life in accordance with the principles of good conduct. When he lives honestly, openly, inviting the world to hold him accountable in all of his actions, others will define him by the values he demonstrates. They become self-evident as time passes.

66. How does a person strengthen his integrity?:

An individual strengthens his integrity by matching words, thoughts, and actions. He must live as an honorable man, holding his head high with dignity, understanding that the power lies within him to respond to adversity in ways that infuse his life with meaning.

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

When a prisoner walks out of prison boundaries he should expect to confront the challenge of providing for his daily needs. That means he should not depend on a chow hall to provide his food; he should not depend on anyone to provide him with clothing or shelter. The responsibility falls to him to provide for his own hygiene supplies, medical coverage, insurance, transportation, and charges related to his prospects for employment. He should have a plan in place, a guide he can follow that will lead to his independence.
How much savings will a prisoner need to accumulate in order to secure the following items::

68. Housing:

I anticipate that a prisoner should have access to $5,000 in order to secure housing. I arrive at that number by adding the costs of first month, last month, and a security deposit to move into an apartment in a safe, low-crime community. I estimate those hard costs would come to $3,000 if the individual were to agree to a monthly rent of $1,000. He should have an additional $2,000 in savings to rely upon as a buffer in the event that anything should happen resulting in his loss of income.

69. Household furnishings:

The costs for providing shelter include more than paying the rent. A prisoner would also need bedding, cookery goods, furniture, and technology. An individual who expects to use his residence as a home base should expect to spend $5,000 in hard costs at the low end to furnish his residence, but costs could exceed $10,000 to get started if he does not budget wisely.

70. Clothing:

If an individual has been incarcerated for a substantial period of time, as I have, he will need an entire wardrobe. I do not own a pair of socks in the world. Although I have not purchased clothing since 1987, I expect that I will have to spend a considerable sum to begin my life in the world. I use a budget of $10,000 to cover the costs of a wardrobe suitable for the career I expect to launch upon my release. Such a sum would cover the costs of shoes, socks, underwear, casual wear, business attire, and accessories.

71. Transportation:

An individual may depend on public transportation, but doing so would severely limit his opportunities to succeed upon release. The world seems to require mobility and independence, both of which require personal, dependable transportation. The low end expectations for dependable transportation, I think, would be $7,000. I am budgeting $25,000 for this expense, plus another $5,000 in operation and maintenance costs through the first year of my liberty. My total transportation costs, then, will come to $30,000 for the first year.

72. Incidentals:

In order to prepare for a less stressful transition upon release from prison after multiple decades, I have budgeted savings to last me through my entire first year of liberty. At $3,500 each month in anticipated expenditures, that requires that I keep a savings balance on hand of $42,000.

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?:

How much in the way of financial resources should a prisoner expect to need to transition to society? Transitioning into society after a prolonged period of time in prison will be costly. Some prisoners return to assets and resources that they accumulated over an extended length of time. Others lost all resources over the course of their imprisonment. The more resources an individual can muster and rely upon to assist his transition, the more likely he stands to overcome the obstacles that await him. The individual who emerges from prison with less than $10,000 to launch his life, I think, will face monumental challenges. An individual who has between $10,000 and $20,000, I think, has a much lower stress level because he begins from a position of moderate stability. If an individual can draw from more than $20,000 in liquid resources, and if he has educated himself sufficiently to open opportunities, I am convinced that he has sufficient resources to advance himself in society.

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?:

I expect to meet high levels of resistance from prospective landlords, employers, creditors, and others in the broader society. It is my responsibility to overcome the many prejudices that will discriminate against me over the course of my life. I intend to do so by living transparently, openly showing all in society that I am not the same young man who lived recklessly and with disregard of the law. Rather than ignoring the realities of my lengthy history of imprisonment, I intend to use it as strength, showing others that as a man responds to adversity, he defines himself.

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

The job market in the United States is difficult in 2011 and economists do not predict that it will improve for several years. As a convicted drug trafficker who has multiple decades of imprisonment behind him, I do not expect that many opportunities would open for me unless I created them. I have secured offer letters from several employers, but I anticipate that I will work for myself, earning an income from opportunities I create to monetize all that I have learned, observed, and experienced as a long-term prisoner. Since I intend to create my own career, it is uncharted territory without a comparable sector. To match it, an individual would have to serve multiple decades and prepare himself as I have.

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

My income will be a derivative of several factors, including the hours I work in a given day, the demand for my work, the market value of the work I generate. I envision multiple income streams that will flow from the work I generate. Some will come as royalties from books that I write; some will come from books I publish; some will come from speaking engagements; some will come from consulting fees; some will come from a business that I operate; and some will come from educational products that I create and sell. Taken together, I expect to generate an income in excess of $80,000 each year.

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

The career I expect to develop does not exist. A comparison may be found in speakers and authors from the self-help or optimal performance genre, but those authors differ from the message I intend to bring to market. My work focuses primarily on preparing offenders for law-abiding lives upon release. A secondary market may include conquering adversity, or thriving through it, though I will teach lessons from what I’ve learned through the context of a lengthy prison sentence. It is the career I’ve trained for since the inception of my prison term. I have earned the academic credentials of an undergraduate and a master’s degree. My experience of longer than 8,600 continuous days in federal prison, along with my professional credentials, have prepared me for this career I intend to initiate upon my release.

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

The reason I began training for the career that I intend to pursue had its roots in my imprisonment. I understood that after I completed a 45-year prison term, few employment opportunities would open for me. That expectation led me to consider the market and determine how I could use my experience as a strength rather than a weakness. It led to contemplations of what credentials I would need to earn in order to build a career as a writer, speaker, teacher, consultant, and advocate for other prisoners. I needed to educate myself, build publishing credentials, learn from the thousands of men with whom I served time in federal prisons of every security level. From that perspective, my prison record became essential for my employment prospects. That record would need to show significant accomplishments over a sustained period in prison.

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

Economic reports across America show unemployment at historically high levels. In March of 2011, they remain above 9 percent as a national average. In the state of California, where I expect to be released, those unemployment rates are far higher, with some communities showing unemployment rates in excess of 15 percent.

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?:

The business I intend to launch might be categorized as a contrarian business. During good economic times it will offer good opportunities, but during bad economic times the opportunities may improve. Because it is a niche industry, highly specialized for people who need the information at a particularly vulnerable time in their lives, I anticipate a constant demand for the type of content I will write, produce, and distribute through multiple mediums. I do not anticipate that unemployment rates will influence my prospects for success.

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

I have been preparing to open this career opportunity since my imprisonment began, longer than 8,600 days ago. My initial preparations began with the pursuit of academic degrees and my education. Steps I took to develop publishing credentials followed. Building a network of sponsors and others who would support my work represented an integral component of the plan. The work that I’ve done has enabled me to begin my career long before my release from prison. It was as if I began planting seeds upon my entrance into the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta back in 1987. I nurtured those seeds throughout my term. A decade before my release, those seeds began to bear fruit that I intend to harvest for a lifetime.

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?:

I do not anticipate spending time in a halfway house. My sentence comes with complications because it was imposed under the sentencing scheme that existed back in 1987, known as the old law. That means I have a sliver of parole eligibility. A parole board will determine my release date. When I appear before that parole board, a release date will follow forthwith. That means I expect to leave prison on parole, either for a period of home confinement or quasi-liberty under the jurisdiction of the parole board. As a consequence of the length of time that I’ve served, and the era in which I was convicted, the fine my sentencing judge imposed has expired. That means my take home pay will derive from various income streams I described above; it will be my responsibility to fulfill my obligations to the tax codes.

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

My understanding is that the median household income for a family in America hovers around $45,000 per year

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

I expect to crush that national average one year before my release from prison. During my first year of liberty, my income should more than double the national average. And to the extent that I work exceptionally hard, I will do even better in the years that follow. Those are my expectations.

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

When we obsess over issues beyond our ability to control we introduce all types of negative emotions that complicate our lives further. Some of those emotions include anxiety, fear, anger, discouragement, sadness, emptiness, worthlessness, impotence, helplessness, hopelessness, apathy, and disconnectedness. I’ve read of such an emotional state in psychology texts that characterized it as anomie, meaning a personal disorientation. Another term for it is psychic entropy, meaning a kind of disorientation that brings with it a lethargy as the negative emotional state robs an individual of energy.

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

I am a huge believer in an individual’s capacity to muster strength from within. I learned this strategy under the harsh conditions of imprisonment. The key to overcoming despair lies in an individual’s creativity and resourcefulness. He must envision how he wants to emerge from the difficulty, then commit to a series of incremental action steps that will lead to his success. While he is in pursuit of the goal, the individual empowers himself in ways that outside influences such as imprisonment cannot deter. Instead of yielding to the atmospherics, the determined man triumphs over them through his deliberate choices. He thereby conquers his apathy, overcomes his lethargy and empowers himself with the much more positive virtue of hope and efficacy.

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?:

A prisoner can make any infinite number of decisions that can lead to a longer prison term or the serving of his sentence under more harsh conditions. Every day, while he shares small spaces with hundreds or thousands of people who may be disturbed because of the many ramifications associated with imprisonment, he exposes himself to volatility. That volatility can erupt in violence at any time. He may be put in a situation where he feels threatens and the threat can lead him to act irrationally. He may want to ease some of the pains of imprisonment by eating an extra slice of bread and that can lead to a disciplinary infraction and time in the hole or transfer to higher security. He may engage in a contraband hustle that results in additional criminal charges and a longer prison term. Any number of scenarios can exacerbate a prison sentence.

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

Prison in any security level can challenge a man’s equanimity. The real struggle of imprisonment is separation from family and community. That separation can bring a mental anguish that torments a man’s nights. His days may be marked by depression, lethargy, apathy. But if he is serving time in harsher prison conditions that limit liberty to movement within a locked six-by-nine cell, or if the prisoner feels threatened by gangs, or if the prisoner serves time under an abusive regime, or if the prisoner feels as if he is a rabbit in a rattlesnake cage, it’s even more difficult to muster the strength necessary for growth. Such conditions do not preclude the possibility for growth, but they make that growth more challenging. In some ways, those harsh conditions can lead an individual into accelerated growth. While I was confined in the high-security penitentiary, I frequently felt vulnerable. I did not have gang alliances and I was unaccustomed to the inner workings of the penitentiary. My determination to transcend the prison experience and emerge from it stronger led me to find or create niches where I could grow and prepare myself. In that way, the harsher conditions served as a motivator for me to reach deep within to pull all of the strength and discipline I could muster. The growth would have come with fewer complications if I hadn’t begun my prison term under such harsh conditions.

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

Those in our support groups have a vested interest in our safety, our fulfillment, our happiness. If we were to behave in ways that led to our being transferred to harsher conditions, we influence their lives in significant ways. First of all, they worry for our safety. The harsher conditions may result in our not being able to communicate with loved ones as regularly. That causes new anxieties and worries when they love us. Another way that we influence the lives of those in our support network if we behave in ways that lead to harsher prison conditions is that we can cause them to question whether we’re worthy of their support. A stigma can come to those who support people in prison. Although we struggle with the day-to-day realities and indignities of imprisonment, they struggle with it from afar. To the extent that they have to share or describe their relationship with people in prison, we make it harder on them when we do not behave responsibly.

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?:

The federal prison system does not offer such mechanisms. At least I have not ascertained any mechanisms through which a prisoner can work to distinguish himself in a positive way. He can avoid disciplinary infractions, but that is an act of discipline rather than an accomplishment. He can participate in a variety of programs, although completion of programs does not entitle a prisoner to any type of positive distinction; he will still eat the same food, wear the same clothes, and be vulnerable to placement in the SHU if he steps out of bounds. There isn’t any formal, positive distinction within the federal prison system. Despite such a barren infrastructure that the federal prison system presents, a man can distinguish himself in a positive way if he focuses on personal growth and development. Prison administrators may not recognize the growth, but those in society will. The more accomplishments an individual makes, the better he increases his chances for success upon release.

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 of prison that I have known for the past 8,600 consecutive days does not encourage individuals to work toward reconciling with society, prepare for law-abiding lives, or earning freedom. On the contrary, it obstructs those who prepare for law- abiding lives upon release. It blocks individuals from nurturing close family and community ties; it interferes with individuals who strive to prepare for the numerous challenges awaiting them. Nevertheless, it is the prisoner’s responsibility to anticipate the challenges and obstructions wrought by imprisonment, prepare, and overcome.

91. Describe the goals you have set?:

In the year 2011 I have set several goals. One is that I will write two manuscripts during the year. Two is that I will write at least one blog for my website each day. Three is that I will read at least one chapter from the Bible each day. Four is that I will exercise every day of the year and run 3,300 miles during the year. Five is that I will find new ways to express my love and commitment to my wife every day. Six is that I will begin my work before 3:00 each morning. And seven is that I will create a program others can follow to prepare themselves to emerge successfully from imprisonment.

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

My professed values include the following categories: 1) discipline; 2) industriousness; 3). fitness 4) godliness; 5) integrity; 6) marriage; and 7) network. All of my goals work in harmony to further such professed values. It is those values that allow me to set the activities that guide me through each day.

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

I track my progress toward the goals I set each day. At the end of each week, I publish my week-at-a-glance journal on my website at MichaelSantos.net. It shows the miles I’ve run, the length of time I’ve exercised, the number of blogs I’ve written, and the work I began doing before three each morning. Through my website I document the entire journey of my imprisonment. Each goal I set has clearly defined points of success, and with daily accountability logs, I continuously evaluate and assess my performance.

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

All of my goals relate to the values by which I live, but they also work in tandem to prepare me for the career that I intend to launch upon my release. By documenting my daily progress, I create a record that I will use later to teach others. Anyone can say that they thrived in prison, but I intend to show those in my audience the work that it takes to triumph over the cycle of failure that prisons breed.

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

Obtaining all of the goals that I set is not an ‘if.’ I am absolutely committed to achieving my goals. I do not set goals haphazardly. I’ve carefully thought through each goal, considering the various ways that achieving such goals would enhance my opportunities to overcome the challenges that will confront me upon release. I work toward the goals I set every day, seven days each week. They influence the time I lie down to sleep each night and the time I wake to begin my work each morning. By living with such discipline I strengthen my mind and my character, beating the prison system by thriving in spite of the system’s hypocrisy. By achieving the goals I set, I sidestep the obstacles of imprisonment. I do not participate in the ridiculous activities that lull a prisoner into a state of being comfortably numb. On the contrary, I evaluate the atmospherics of my surroundings, stay aware, and pursue my goals with deliberate purpose, with absolute commitment.

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

The goals all set work together in ways that will enhance my life in prison and my prospects for success upon release. When I walk out of prison I will put on a suit and tie and no one will know by looking at me that I’ve sacrificed a quarter century of my life in a system exquisitely designed to perpetuate failure. I will emerge physically fit, well educated, with skills, resources, and a career that empowers the lives of others. I’m bullish on the future.

Leave a Reply


Copyright 2017 The Michael G. Santos Foundation