Salvador Castenada/ Class 1: Values

by Salvador Castenada

16. Who are you?

My name is Salvador Castaneda Jr. I have one brother, one sister and  I am engaged to Elidia Soto with whom I have three beautiful daughters.

Throughout my life I have blamed my lack of accomplishment and problems with the law on my troubled childhood.  It is my belief that, although struggles endured while growing up may have influenced who I would become as an adult, the deciding factors were, ultimately, in the decisions I would make when confronted with adversity.

My earliest memories involving guns and drugs dates back to between the age of five or six.  I can recall seeing weighing scales and packages of cocaine in my bedroom, and having to sleep on an uncomfortable bed due to the firearms lining the box spring.  At the age of six law enforcement officers arrested my parents for their dealings in drugs.  The sight of those cold steel cuffs wrapped tightly around my mother’s tiny wrists coupled with the intimidating presence of the federal agents was a cause for much confusion.  I did not comprehend the events unfolding before me, so when my parents were taken into custody I wondered, why had they allowed this to happen?  I resented law enforcement for taking my parents and perceived them as my enemy.  I vowed I would do like my parents only better, I would not be caught.  Upon reflection, I understand how this mindset influenced my future irrational thoughts and behavior.

Meanwhile, as my parents served lengthy prison terms my siblings and I were shuffled to the homes of various relatives.  I was problematic early on – beginning with my first school suspension in third grade, followed by grounding several months at a time – and became unmanageable to the point that I was separated from my siblings and sent to live with other relatives where I’d be arrested for the first time at the age of 11.

Shortly thereafter, my mother released from prison and we moved to Eastern Washington.   Struggling to provide for three children with two and sometimes three jobs she resorted to dealing in dugs again, resulting in a couple arrests, lengthy prison terms, then deportations throughout the years.  During these years my siblings and I had little to no supervision or guidance.  I roamed the streets associated with negative influences and was arrested again at the age of 13.  As my criminal behavior increased throughout my teens becoming the norm in early adulthood, so did encounters with law enforcement.

On October 5, 2006, federal agents arrested and booked me for my dealings in cocaine.    The judge sentenced me to 10 years and my journey in prison began.

Full of hope and optimistic that I could improve myself I decided to earn academic credentials beginning with my GED, except that since I hadn’t fully committed myself – using the excuse of lacking funds required to enroll into correspondence college and not wanting to be a burden to family – my pursuit of a higher education ended.

I became involved in prison politics almost immediately and basically wasted my time resolving issues that concerned others.  Meddlesome staff with their arbitrarily imposed rules easily distracted me and occupied much of my time as well.  I learned to navigate my way through the administrative remedy process when administrators placed me in the hole for allegedly introducing contraband into the institution.  I was like a bee whose hive had been disturbed  The end result was a retaliatory transfer more than 2300 miles from my family.

After almost five years of precious time squandered, I met my friend Michael Santos.  I was inspired by his commitment to discipline and how he carried on with his plans in spite of, as he says, the iron boot of corrections pressing down upon his neck.  He introduced me to the Straight-A Guide workbook and aI attended the Straight-A Guide class he taught at the federal prison camp in Atwater.  Soon though, I’d be transferred to the federal prison camp in Lompoc.

Adjusting to the Lompoc setting as Michael suggests, I have found, is easier said than done.  My participation in the Straight-A Guide program hasn’t exactly been stellar, I know this.  What’s more is I know my weaknesses that cause this to be, mainly that I am particular with every project.  No matter how hard I try, if the end product is less than perfect I become frustrated, procrastination sets in, then I surrender.  I will however, continue with this program.  It may have taken me nearly seven months and more revised drafts than I care to count but this is my extremely condensed answer to who I am.

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

18. What are you going through now?

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

19. Time remaining to serve.

20. One month after release.

21. One year after release.

22. Five years after release.

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

24. Describe how television programs and movies depict prisoners:

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

26. In what ways is your adjustment similar?

27. In what ways is your adjustment different?

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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

45. What distinguishes an aspiration from a fantasy?

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

47. Accountability: How are you measuring progress?

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

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

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

51. Achievement: When do you celebrate success?

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

53. Where did those choices lead?

54. What did you value then?

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

56. What would you do differently if you could?

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

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

59. Identify the values by which you live.

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

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

62. Where does your allegiance lie?

63. Are values situational or absolute?



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