Seth Ferranti/ Class 5: Self-Improvement Training

by Seth Ferranti

126. When you assess your environment, what opportunities for self-improvement can you create or seize?

In the harsh netherworld of corruption and violence it is easy to take the well worn road and not the road less traveled, because believe me if you are trying to do something positive in here many obstacles, pitfalls and traps will be on  your path. You have to be creative and seize the opportunities for self improvement that present themselves and you have to be even more aggressive and step outside of your environment to get what you need so that you can lead a successful life and be totally prepared upon release. The opportunities here are not much. You can avail yourself of the RDAP (drug program) and get up to 12 months off with 6 months of halfway house. You can take ACE (adult continuing education) classes but these are taught by prisoners so if the prisoner is not a good teacher or doesn’t have good knowledge of the subject the class will not be worth anything. Some prisons offer college classes, like here I am taking an Office technology program through East Arkansas Community College which entails 30 credits and a certificate and some prisons offer various Vocational training programs in building and electronic trades or even computer courses in word and stuff like that. But the waiting lists are long and geared toward people with the littlest time remaining. But you can do like I did and take college correspondence courses to earn your degrees.

127. What is your interpretation on the value of self-imposed structure of free time?

Some prisoners in here need to be programed, i.e. have a job that entails being there 8 hours a day, being in GED programs, anger management or other psychology programs, because they are mentally disturbed. But others such as myself are allowed free reign to structure their own time and do what they want. But you have to earn that trust and show that you are not going to make trouble b/c most of the times the administrators don’t want prisoners to have idle time b/c they have seen that when they have idle time trouble usually occurs. So they try to structure every part of a prisoners day. I have found that by being responsible and staying out of trouble I am cut more slack and allowed to pursue my writing activities and college correspondence course work.

128. What relationship do your daily activities have to the vision you have for your life upon release?

I structure my time and do what I can working toward my goals for when I am released. What I am doing today has everything to do with my vision for when I am released. I work on my writing activities and my wife helps me get things done and turn my ideas into reality. I am working to build Gorilla Convict Publications, the publishing house my wife founded and started for me to put my work out and to bring my ideas, passion and vision to the world. Gorilla Convict is my baby and my wife has been nurturing it for me and making it a reality so that I can express myself and reach out to the world with my ideas from in here and get peoples responses to what I am doing. This whole process lets me live vicariously through my writings and the interactions it involves with my fans and the people who want to comment on what I am doing. I have made a lot of valuable connections and contacts and will continue to do so. The relationship is there and it is solid and I will bring my vision to completion upon my release.

129. Imagine that you were to replicate your activities or use of time yesterday every day or your sentence. If you did, what level of preparation would have to triumph over the obstacles that await you upon your return to society?

I literally wasted the first nine years of my incarceration doing nothing but smoking weed, hustling, playing sports and being in the mix. I do wish I could have that time back now b/c if I applied myself like I have since 2002 I could have achieved way more stuff than I have now. But I will keep working hard. I have a lot to do. There is much I still wish to accomplish. I can’t look back with regrets I just have to plug forward and keep chugging along working with what I have and constantly striving for more. But for real I wasted 9 years but I am on track now and have been going on 10 years so I am confident and know that I will be able to overcome all the obstacles that will await me when I return to society. I am learning how to live pro socially and I am putting these ideals and themes into practice daily so that I will be able to function in society and communicate with people in an appropriate way.

130. What activities within the prison environment can you pursue that will enhance your strengths?

The activities that I can pursue within the prison environment that will enhance my strengths mainly consist of gaining more knowledge through college correspondence courses, earning degrees, reading and increasing my insight into things that I wish to learn more aobut are pursue. Anything positive basically. Be it working out, taking the classes the prisons provide, which are limited and don’t really amount to much. But say if I want to get into writing or publishing then I read books on that subject or if I want to get into public speaking or consulting then I study what I can from that vocation. The opportunities are here but you have to pursue them and go after what you want. They are not going to find you. As a long term prisoner you must do everything you can to prepare for your future and eventual release.

131. What activities within the prison environment would you categorize as a weakness?

There are a lot of activities in the prison environment that are readily available and that can be severely detrimental to you and your future success. When I came in an old convict told me Don’t gamble, don’t do drugs and don’t fuck with punks. He said always be polite and look people in the eye when you talk to them and if you have a problem come and get me. I have tried to live by this code b/c I know getting involved in the different scenes or subcultures in here like gambling or drugs can be viewed as a serious weakness to what I am trying to do for my future. So i stay out of the mix, stay to myself and try to stay focused and out of the way.

132. What activities within the prison environment would you perceive as offering opportunities?

There are different opportunities in education to read and gain more knowledge, in unicor to make money, in vocational training to get an apprenticeship or learn a trade. Stuff is here which presents opportunities but it is not much. They have religion and religious services, psychology services with different programs but you have to avail yourself of them and use what you can within the prison you are at to better yourself for your eventual release b/c no one is going to do it for you. You have to do it yourself.

133. What activities within the prison environment do you perceive as threatening your prospects for success upon release?

There are violent and chaotic people in here who have nothing better to do then just cause trouble. A lot of these dudes have low self esteem and hate themselves so the only way they can have piece of mind is to court chaos and be involved in drama and intrigues. That is what some of these dudes thrive off of b/c they have nothing else. People like this can threaten your prospects for success upon release b/c they will try to use you as a crash test dummy to do their bidding. That is what a lot of the gangs are about. They get young impressionable guys who want to prove their manhood and use that to their advantage getting them to do their dirty work. People like that in prison you must avoid b/c there is no reasoning with them and most of the time they are lost causes and want to convert you to their chaos.

134. To what extent do the activities you pursue inside the prison environment contribute to your strengths and opportunities?

If you surround yourself with positive people who are pursuing positive goals then you will stay positive. if you surround yourself with negativity and dudes who want to be in the mix and do drugs and commit violent acts to enhance their so called manhood and reputation then you will follow along accordingly. B/c they will send you on missions and come and get you and be like Lets go and you don’t even know what is going on but you are expeced to follow since you are part of the clique or gang. Don’t let your homeboys problems become yours. That is a big problem with a lot of dudes in prison. They let other peoples beefs become theirs and they get caught up in it and then they have to pay the consequences for their actions. So getting in trouble for holding a shank for you supposed homeboy or friend is not contributing to your stregths and opportunities. It is limiting them and drawing you into the maelstrom of corruption and violence which exists in all prisons to some certain extent or level and once you get caught up in this cycle it is hard to break.

135. What steps do you deliberately take to minimize your exposure to weaknesses and threats?

There are many steps you can take to minimize your exposure to undesirables and the type of crackhead individuals that inhabit the prison habitat. One is keep to yourself and avoid the chow hall, tv room and other places where you must stand in line and be around a bunch of other prisoners. Avoid hanging out on the yard or in the pool room. Avoid all contact whatsoever with prisoners. Its not as hard as it seems. Sleep different hours, stay busy, always be on the move doing something positive and don’t give anyone a chance to get to know you or to get in your head. I always tell dudes to keep it moving. Keep it moving and keep it positive and keep the negative aspect of prison away from you and out of your life.

136. Using the SWOT-assessment technique, how would you assess your decision-making process prior to imprisonment?

Prior to prison I didn’t really have an assessment technique I was just like whatever. I was stoned most of the time and selling drugs and I thought it was all good. The only thing I was worrying about was moving the package so that I could reup and pay off my connect. I thought I was priviliged and that I would never come to prison. I had a sense of entitlement. I thought I was better than eveyone else and superior. If it didn’t come easy to me a I didn’t pursue it. My thought process and all my decisions were faulty and what I did and what I pursued ended up with me being here with a 25 year sentence at  the age of 22.

137. In what ways can the SWAT-assessment technique guide your decisions as you prepare for success upon release?

By going through the identifying aspects of what I will encounter when I come home I can recognize what I need to do in any given situation. By understanding who I am and what I need to do and by recognizing and threats that may occur I can minimize exposure to activities or interactions that might lead me back to prison. By measuring my progress by checking my stated goals I can see that I am accomplishing what I set out to and use this as a barometer of how far I still need to go. I strive for success and I will attain it through hard work, discipline and my own will to move forward and progress.

138. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant one: low-risk/high-reward?

Reading, writing, exercising by yourself, sleeping and staying out of the mix are activities which I think belong in quadrant 1. These are out of the way type of things that you can do with yourself withou minimal or no interaction.

139. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant two: high-risk/high-risk?

Trying to run a business and make money that will lead to my ultimate success upon entrance to the world are two things that are high risk/high reward b/c prison administrators don’t want me to get any kind of acclaim in the world. They just want you to be quiet and do your time and not raise any racket. But if you want to be a writer or get into the entertainment field you have to do what yu want to do to raise your profile so that you can have a career and get recognition for what you do that will lead to future success but this type of behavior, although positive on your future can lead you being put in the hole and under investigation for what the prison authorities would call running a business.

140. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant three: low-risk/low-reward?

Playing cards, watching TV, playing sports, working out with people and doing other group activites are low risk things in prison but also give absolutely no reward or contribute at all to your future. These are things to do to just bide the time but in reality you should be doing everything you can to improve your conditions and your chances upon release. Things of this nature I would consider a waste of time. If its not doing something positive for my future then I don’t see why I should do it.

141. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant four: high-risk/low-reward?

Things like getting high, getting in fights, and other things that lead to disciplinary procedures and infractions are high risk and low reward b/c the only thing you can get from these activities are to enhance your prison reputation and your prison respect. Which means a lot to dudes in here but in the real world means nothing.

142. To what extent do your consider risk-reward analysis when assessing activities, interactions, or time allocation in prison?

You should only allow yourself to be engaged in activities that are going to be beneficial to your ultimate release. Nothing else matters. If you have done all you can and to the maximum of your ability and you want to relax with some liesure time instead of playing cards are interacting with people read a book. Instead of watching TV take a walk. It is better to not be engaged with the other prisoners around you b/c the majority of them are knuckleheads and knowing them can only lead to trouble.

143 What type of self-improvement programs would enhance an individual’s prospects for success upon release?

Getting in shape is the first thing, before you can get your mind and your soul right you have to get your body right. A consistent and definitive workout plan is a must. After that you have to pick a course of study, whatever it is, and pursue it. Read, read, read and read some more. Research thoroughly whatever topic you wish to learn about and learn everything you can about it. Become at peac e with yourself and accept who you are b/c you can’t be anybody else except who you are. In prison you are stripped down to nothing, no fancy clothes, or bling-bling accessories, no expensive cars or houses or cash to flash or dime pieces on your arm. Its just you and how you carry yourself and how you present yourself to others. You must be the real you b/c there is no hiding it.

144. What thoughts have you given to the type of employment you want to pursue upon release?

I would like to get into public speaking and consulting on prison issues and life. Also I want to run my company gorilla convict publications and put out more books and expand our product base to move into graphic novels and video games. Also I want to get into film production, directing and acting and to continue writing scripts and bringing my vision to the world thorough multiple mediums and forums.

145. Define the qualifications necessary for the type of job you want to pursue?

I need to have vision and I need to have the relentlessness and will to carry on and overcome failure. I need to be persistent and honest with myself and passionate about what I am trying to do and how I will accomplish it. I am developing the attributes I will need right now and working on them daily and trying to be pro social and positive and organize everything in my mind and correct my personality defects so that I know who I am and am comfortable with how I truly am and that I am not presenting an illusion of myself but the real me.

146. How do your self-improvement programs prepare you for the type of job you want to pursue?

By interacting on the Internet and responding to what people are saying in their comments on my website and blog I am doing what I have to do and what i s necessary to communicate with and build my audience. This self-improvement training through the straight a guide and the rdap (drug program) i am taking are both also helping me to prepare for the type of job I want to pursue. By standing up and speaking in front of 130 men daily in a community setting I am preparing myself for future public speaking engagements and the SAG program has allowed me to set goals like having 10 books and 10 scripts written by the time I come home so that I can get into film and entertainment like I want also. I intened to be versatile and multifunctional in my job abibilites and not to limit myself to any one thing or vocation.

147. What types of self-improvement programs can you pursue independently that will enhance your prospects as a candidate for employment upon release?

The SAG program will tremendously enhance my employment opportunities as I am creating a record of transparency that is available online that chronicles and records my efforts to change for the better. i am expressing myself and what I plan to do so that there is a permanent record of me and my goals online for anyone to check and see. I believe this will enhance my ability to gain employment significantly upon my release.

148. In what ways do academic credentials influence an individual’s candidacy for employment?

Academic credentials are something that someone has earned that can never be taken away and that show a drive and dedication to finish what one started and come away with the goal that was set to achieve. I believe the degrees I have show my seriousness and my ambition and my ability to stick with something in spite of the circumstances of my incarceration. I could have given up at numerous opportunities because the BOP never made it easy for me to take these courses and get these degrees. To me it was a fight to the finish, a fight I had to win to ensure my ability to be successful upon release.

149. How do prospective employers gauge the value of academic credentials?

I think prospective employers look at where and when you went to school and what kind of degree you earned. earning a degree and dedicating yourself to the length of time it took to get in not only earn’s you a degree but it shows that you can stick  with it and not give up and that is an ideal that employers want in their employees. But also to me getting my degree was almost like a life lesson. Like if you want something you work toward it no matter the obstacles involved. You do it day by day and slowly but surely you will get what you want and what you have earned.

150. What types of self-improvement steps trump academic credentials?

I believe showing the ability to do what you say and be held accountable for your actions and be a man of your word trumps all else. As a business partner, a friend or a husband my integrity speaks volumes of my ability to get things done and just coexist with someone else and accomplish goals that have been set either individually or solo. To be a man of your word and to always to what you say you are going to do if a rare quality that not all people exhibit. So in terms of life and business and every relationship that is the most important thing if you want to be taken seriously in whatever regard.

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