by Steven Dybvad

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Between having my tooth pulled, and then getting a flu shot, a combination of the two really tried to rob me of my energy, and stop me from completing my daily routine, but I wouldn’t let it get the best of me. Halfway through my workout, I had to stop. Before I even started my workout, I felt very sluggish and weak. So I started talking to myself, like the little train that could, I convince myself to power through my weak and tiresome adversity of wanting to quit for the day, realizing I would be kicking myself for not giving it my all, I continue to say to myself I think I can I think I can and before I knew it my workout was complete and it felt awesome! I made it over that difficult hump, and this is the way that I’ll continue to face my adversities in life and power through them head on, until my problems are resolved.

by Steven Dybvad

Friday, September 7, 2012

I realize that even though I stay clear of any form of mind or mood altering substances, I don’t associate with gangs or people for that matter, I don’t get tattoos, I don’t borrow things or get loans until store day, I don’t go to the chow hall, etc.  Plain and simple, even though I stay far away from any and all prison corruption, or activities, I notice that I did take a temporary step back.  I allowed my depression to get the best of me.  I started slacking on my reading, writing and workbook assignments.  I fell into a hopeless state of “Woe is me”!  This is an old and way too familiar and primitive form of living, feeling and thinking for me.  But you know what?  I still see growth.  I’ve done a great deal of good with my strength and knowledge for life.  To be able to notice that I started falling behind is progress.  To say hey, I’ve got 18 months sober!  That is progress.  To stare in the face of adversity at its peak and continue to live above these prison standards, not subject myself to the evils that lurk around every corner is progress!  Every day I continue to thank the Lord for helping me conquer these most difficult times in my life thus far.

by Thomas-Ross

251. What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership is taking action of a situation or a challenge, investing all your skill and knowledge to be the example, taking charge and always continuing to advance.

252. In what ways have your past decisions prepared you for leadership?

The decisions that I made prior to being incarcerated were not mature, but they have helped my reflect on how to mature. I do not like to look back, but I realized that the people I was around and the majority of the decisions I have made was not good for myself and my family. I thank God for strengthening me from within and giving me another opportunity to change my life. By being separated from your family and loved ones something inside of you changes and you realize that you have to grow for the better outcomes. I understand that adversity represents a simple fact of life. I am in a much better place within because I have made my decisions based on Gods spirit. To me a setback is a setup for a comeback.

253. Where does leadership begin?

Leadership begins with choices that we as individuals make. Regardless of the continual challenges we face we can make decisions with regard to how we respond. If we lead we can evaluate the situation and take actions in ways that enable us to make the most of any circumstance.

254. In what ways can an individual measure his capacity to lead?

An individual can prepare himself to lead by taking charge of his life. That means that he beings in a position of strength within. Understanding what values he wants to live by. He then sets goals and holds himself accountable to accomplishing those goals. I believe that making decisions spiritually based leads to a better outcome in life.

255. In what ways can an individual measure his effectiveness at leadership?

I believe that the more effectively a person in a leadership position reaches his objectives, the more it becomes evident that he accumulates his success as a leader. Even if the person of leadership documents his progress he can show where he started from and how he advanced to accomplish his goals. The object is to continue to make progress and never give up.

256. What does it mean to have a vision?

To have a vision means to understand a mental image produced by ones imagination. As a leader, one can see the big picture clearly in his mind and lead others effectively towards the vision. The vision may apply to all aspects of life depending on what goals are needed to be accomplished. The vision then comes to life and pursued until completed.

257. How does a leader gauge the effectiveness of a plan?

To gauge the effectiveness of a plan, one must clearly identify a vision. Then a leader may gauge the effectiveness by setting measurable goals and documenting the progress. Whether it’s daily, monthly, or yearly. The plan is to stay on point. Every step leads to the objective or the goal for completeness of the vision.

258. Why would leadership require accountability tools?

A leader requires accountability tools because he understands a vision that in not materialized by accident. A leader must chart a course that turns a vision into reality. Accountability tools help gauge and measure a leaders progress. If a leader does not have accountability tools, he has no knowledge if he’s moving closer to accomplishing a vision.

259. How would a leader make the most effective use of accountability tools?

A leader would make the most use of his accountability tools my taking things that are normally immeasurable and turning them into quantitative measurements. By doing this, there is much less room for miscommunication because numbers are hard to argue.

260. How would you describe leadership by example?

An individual who leads by example exhausts himself entirely into his vision. He does whatever it takes to accomplishing the objective towards the vision. He leads by showing others all of the necessary steps it takes to embrace the principles by which he lives by. My example of a true leader Jesus Christ who showed his disciples how to live accordingly to Gods plan, preparing them for the Kingdom of Heaven.

261. What does leading with integrity mean to you?

Leading with integrity means to me doing things that align with my values system and beliefs. Doing things that are right, following through with things I say I am going to do, and respecting others as well as expecting them to respect myself.

262. In what ways does personal leadership require an individual to put the concerns of others ahead of his own?

Personal leadership implies that an individual makes value-based decisions. He has a clear understanding of who and what holds the highest relevance to his life. The decisions he makes will demonstrate his commitment to those values. If he holds his family to the highest importance in his life, he then places his family peace, stability, security, happiness, at the center of all his decisions.

263. How can our behavior in prison influence the lives of those we ask to support or sponsor us?

Inmate behaviors in prison can influence the lives of others by showing growth within. Just about every prisoner by the time they start their sentence and make decisions daily that leads to changes towards ones growth. Its an adjustment that takes place. When a prisoner realizes that the sooner his life changes for the better, the more growth takes place to becoming a better person. Improving an education and communication and self-help skills will help with employment opportunities. When a prisoner is released to society.

264. When living within the restrictions of prison boundaries, where can we turn for leadership training?

To be very honest with you the potential followers of interest in my site if a prisoner makes changes to improve himself to be a better person and turns his life over to God, there are no restrictions spiritually, regardless of the boundaries the prisoners can make the best of the situation. By working towards goals and staying committed to them those goals, whether it’s daily, monthly, or yearly.

265. Describe an individual who has leadership skills that you admire?

I have to be honest. After reading the Bible and getting a clear understanding of the teachings of the Bible I have to say that Jesus Christ is my inspirational leader to admire. He displayed total compassion and righteousness for his disciples, and caressed them with love. He also lived a sinless life. I would like to display love within myself in helping others with their prison experiences and pray that it also humbles them. I have a great deal of respect for my wife also. She has taken the lead of our family while i am away. She has kept our family together through all the ups and downs of this experience, and I really appreciate all that she has done. My love has grown so much for her this last decade because she has lived up to all the promises that she has made when I first started this twenty year sentence. She dealt with the hard times with dignity and integrity and never looked back to blame me for anything. She also believes this experience will help her family grow stronger. We both love how God has taken charge of our lives. We are very blessed and we know we are in a good place.

266. To what extent would emulating such leadership traits influence your prospects for success?

Between accepting God to being the center of my life and learning from my wife, I am very motivated to getting out and providing for my family. I want to give my wife a break from all that she has done for our family over the last decade. I know she needs a rest and deserves the best from me. Our objective is for me to not look back but to strive towards success for myself and my family.

267. In what ways do our day-to-day actions show our commitment to personal leadership development?

The actions that we take everyday have an influence on the progress we make. If we choose to idle away our time by watching TV, playing sports, and engaging in actions that result in discipline write-ups, we are missing opportunities. My committing yourself 100% to our success we stay on track. The whole object is to work towards becoming law-abiding citizens.

268. How can a commitment to personal leadership development while in prison influence your relationship with people you haven’t yet met?

I agree with a lot of people that’s a part of this web site that if we make a commitment to personally share, we may achieve goals that people beyond prison do not think that is possible. When we do we go a long ways towards influencing their opinions in positive ways. Anybody can accomplish goals and achieve success if they stay 100% committed.

269. In what way can the Straight-A Guide influence your prison adjustment?

The Straight A Guide has been an influence for myself and my family. We have completely supported the program and have committed all efforts completely. My family and I have gotten closer because of the program. My wife and kids know that I am better prepared to deal with society when I am released. They will hold me accountable for my success. The goal is to live a God-centered life and take care of my family. My success will come in time because I am very patient and motivated to contribute back to society.

270. In what ways can the Straight-A Guide influence your prospects for a law-abiding, contributing life upon release?

The principles that have guided my through prison will effectively help me to overcome harder challenges that I will probably encounter throughout my release. I intend to leave prison with a lot of confidence in myself and my family. The Straight A Guide has helped my ensure this because my family has built up confidence in me and my success.

271. In what ways will you use the Straight-A Guide going forward?

The Straight A Guide will continue to be a part of my life as well as my family. We have realized that this program has been a tool that has molded us together these last couple years. My family depends on my ability to hold us together. I am committed to helping myself, my family, and others. My wife and I have gotten a better understanding of each others goals and plans for the future. We will continue to be an influence to others who want to join the Straight A Guide. It has been a great tool into transitioning into society and to move forward.


by Steven Dybvad

Book Report – 7-30-2012

“Triumph” by Michael G Santos

This book is the first book that I have picked up to read in my first month at Lebanon Penitentiary.I chose to read this book first because the words on the cover caught my attention; “Conquering imprisonment and preparing prisoners for reentry”.  Naturally these words spoke to me.

I learned a great deal from this book.  It has helped me better understand how to work the Straight A Guide program more successfully.  I read about many different men with many different backgrounds and cultures from life’s better and worse.  I learned how each of these men made a conscious decision to prevail when the entire system around them was doing the exact opposite; and that’s trying to bring them down, ensuring that they return to the very system that wants them to come back.  Michael wrote clear and specific instructions
on how to implement each of the seven attributes that help make this program work.  Attitude, Aspiration, Action,
Accountability, Awareness, Achievement and Appreciation.  Each of these words holds meaning and substance, enriching our lives in this great journey to success.  A 100% commitment to using each of these attributes is necessary to ensure the life improvements that we are striving for.

Embracing and living by an empowering attitude positions one’s self to thrive.  Better understanding the nature of our adversity, the more capable and affective we can be at mastering our attitudes in return helping us overcome our struggles.  Good choices start with a good attitude.  Triumph begins with an empowering attitude.

For great aspirations, we depend upon our attitude.  With a great attitude we aspire to live as productive, contributing members of society.
Aspirations to build a new improved life requires 100% commitment to such aspirations turning them into reality. They should synchronize with ones values.

By proving worthy of the network that supports and sponsors me, I must take action.  Any prisoner can say that they want to succeed.  By taking action we make a daily commitment to this program.  We know what we must do each day and we do
it.  We must cut the chains that try to keep us down and we rise toward becoming the best man we can become.  Michael Santos says that with daily action steps, we can transcend the prison experience by preparing ourselves to leave stronger, wiser, happier, living for our family rather than suspending our thoughts.  Meaningful growth doesn’t materialize by accident.

Accountability is a gauge and an invaluable tool.  Keeping a log of our improvement on our goals holds us accountable and keeps us grounded on course.  Accountability logs are maps to success.

Prison dulls our senses, but all of these tools provided sharpen our awareness.  By taking action and holding ourselves accountable, we heighten our awareness to seize opportunities.

When fully involving our mind, our heart and our will in every aspect of our life, we achieve.  We celebrate every achievement, no matter how small, because progress is never made easily.  There will always be rough spots and setbacks with obstacles which make every achievement worthy of praise.

So we celebrate, but we must also show appreciation for the blessings that we receive along the way.  I appreciate my family, for I never could have made it this far without their loving help and resources.  Michael states that if we embrace the Straight-A-Guide and appreciate our achievements, we strengthen ourselves, we begin to climb out. We must apply ourselves fully, with positive attitudes and a 100% commitment to strategic, incremental actions and steps. Together we offer an unmistakable proof that if we follow the steps that
the Straight-A-Guide has laid out for us, we undoubtedly have a future of success ahead of us.

This entire book will contribute to the success upon my release from prison.  Triumph taught me how to more thoroughly implement my tools and knowledge of the Straight-A-Guide.  Because of this book I have already created and activated more detailed goals that help keep me focused on the prize ahead; the life of success and sustaining that success with a 100% commitment to walk out of prison as a strong and honorable man who can stand on my own two feet, living as a role model for my family and community.

by Julius Lige

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

I strongly believe a person success upon release from prison begin with discipline. Having the discipline to avoid any criminal activity, embraces an attitude of willingness to work hard to succeed legitimately. With the right attitude, faith, family, and finance are values that will provide a concrete foundation.

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

When a person makes the commitment to live by their values, everyday life decisions are made in accordance to those values. Living a value based life requires you to demonstrate conduct related to your values.

66. How does a person strengthen his integrity?:

A person integrity is strengthen through their ability to live accordingly to their values. Through actions, they must live by the words they speak, and through thoughts, they must believe in themselves, responding to any adversity from a position of strength.

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

The day a prisoner is release from prison, he will be confronted with the challenge of transitioning his life to complete independence. No longer will he be provided three meals a day, clothing, and shelter. His daily responsibilities will increase tremendously. He must seek housing, transportation, employment, and medical coverage immediately.

68. Housing:

To secure housing cost, a prisoner must accumulate enough saving to pay rent for, first month, last month, and a security deposit. With that in mine, an estimated move-in cost, will be $2500. I suggest a prison save an additional month rent $1000, in case of an emergency situation. Total amount for housing $3500.

69. Household furnishings:

Furnishing a household can become expensive for a prisoner. With that in mind, a prisoner must spend his money wisely for shopping for household items, such as living room and bedroom furniture, cooking and kitchen appliances, also electronics. I estimate a prisoner will spend $5,000 on household furnishings.

70. Clothing:

An individuals appearance plays an important role when seeking opportunities. Therefore, the prisoner must accumulate enough money for a business wardrobe, along with a social and athletic wardrobe. I estimate that an entire wardrobe cost around $5,000

71. Transportation:

Transportation cost for a new dependable vehicle ranges between $25,000-$30,000. Therefore, an individual will need a 10% down payment of $2,500 to $3,000. With a job and good credit, the bank will issue an afforable car note with $350-$400 a month. With that in mind, my estimate for transportation costs is $5,000. $3,000 down payment, $2,000 for five months car payments.

72. Incidentals:

With an estimated monthly spending cost of $3,000, an individual must keep $36,000 in his account. The monthly $3,000 covers bills and expenses. With financial stability in place, a prisoners transition into society is less stressful.

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?:

After spending years in prison, most individuals who are released from prison come home to a limited amount of financial resources. In order for an individual to have a successful transition into society he must have financial resources. Individuals will need $5-$10,000 cash to begin his quests towards creating financial opportunities that will allow an individual to utilize his skill set comfortably in a job environment.

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?:

Perspective landlords, employers, creditors, and others in society will hesitate to offer opportunities to an individual who disclose his criminal record. However, we are living in a society with a large number of ex felons. Therefore, it’s possible to overcome the many prejudices that are shown by members of society.

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

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

With an understanding that the US job market is predicted to suffer for the next few years, I am preparing myself by developing a skill set for two different industries. Plan A and plan B, will consist of me being knowledgeable about the fitness training industry and diesel industry. Both industries are felony friendy, with opportunities to reach pay scales of $45-$65,000 a year. With a stable job in place I could then focus on executing a business plan, establishing residential care facilities.

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

Candidates for employment in the fitness industry are certified through personal training companies that require them to know general information about fitness, nutrition, and anatomy. Candidates for employment in the trucking industry requires them to attend a trucking school, complete an eight week course, and pass the written and drivers test. I am studying to take both fitness and trucking tests upon my release.

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

A prison record influences possibilities for employment negatively. Due to societies perception of convicted felons, there are many obstacles prisoners will face in regards to employment. Each prisoner is held accountable to prepare himself to overcome these obstacles through education and skilled development prisoners will increase their chances to land opportunities in the workforce.

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

According to an article in the Oakland tribune, the unemployment rate in my East Bay community has improved. The unemployment rate is lower than the previous year which is a sign of progress for our economic future.

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?:

Regardless whether the unemployment rate is high or low, an individual with a criminal history will face challenges. In the industry that I plan on pursuing, my individual skillset will allow me to succeed during bad economic times.

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

Preparing for a successful career upon my release, is something I focused on when my imprisonment began. Therefore I plan on securing a job within 45 days of my release.

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 expect to be released to the halfway house, therefore I’m required to pay 25% of my gross earnings to the halfway house. I will budget the remainder of my monthly take home pay, using 25% for daily expenses and depositing 50% into a savings account.

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

The average household in America earns between $40,000 an $50,000 a year.

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

I anticipate my income to be in the same range of the average American household, with that in mind, combining my income with my wife’s income, we will exceed that yearly average.

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

When we obsess on issues beyond our control, we begin to introduce the emotions that create stress, such as anxiety, discouragement, sadness, hopelessness, and anger. Those emotions only complicate the issue, therefore you must focus on things you have control of.

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

Strategically, I overcome the despair that accompanies imprisonment, by focusing my time on preparing for a successful release.

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?:

The behavior that leads to such outcomes usually stems from a prisoner’s involvement in contraband, violence or any disruption to the prison.

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

Harsher prison conditions require you to put up with prison politics, race riots, and prison gangs. In such a tense environment, the ability to prepare for success upon release becomes much more difficult.

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

Behavior that leads to harsher conditions influences the lives of those in our support network with disappointment. It’s a major letdown to our family and friends when a prisoner behaves recklessly and is transferred to a higher level institution. They become more worried, knowing that their loved one’s safety is jeopardized in harsher prison conditions.

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?:

Regardless of how a prisoner is perceived by staff, he is responsible to make an individual effort towards towards personal growth and development. Although his accomplishments may not be recognized by the system, he will receive acknowledgement from members of society on his positive transformation.

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

An individual cannot depend on the system to encourage them to work towards reconciling with society. It is a prisoner’s responsibility to overcome the many challenges of prison and to prepare themselves for law abiding lives upon release.

91. Describe the goals you have set?:

As I complete my final years of incarceration, I have set several goals. I will continue to strengthen my spiritual faith by reading chapters from the Bible daily. I will work hard everyday towards obtaining knowledge in fitness, with a goal of completing the certified fitness training course before my release. I am continuing to study and learn about the trucking industry as I also have aspirations of starting a trucking company. I will continue to improve my public speaking with a goal to one day speak to kids in the community I once negatively impacted.

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

My goals relate to my professed values in many ways. I must show discipline in order to reach my goals. I will use skillsets to execute my business plans. Integrity, fitness, marriage, and spirituality are values that I will apply to my daily life as I work towards accomplishing my goals.

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

Through my everyday activities, such as exercising, researching the Bible, and studying material for future business plans, I have learned to gauge my success by evaluating my performance and knowledge daily. Everyday assessments allow me to work on areas that need improvement.

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

With a clear understanding of my goals and the impact they will have on my life, strategically I work towards combining each goal so they can work in tandem to prepare me for success upon release.

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

By achieving all of my goals, my goals will influence my prison adjustment with a direct impact on my character. It takes discipline, focus and determination to remain committed towards achieving goals. Each day I wake up in prison, my focus is on enhancing my opportunities for success, and not allowing the prison system to disrupt my momentum.

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

As the goals I reach begin to work in tandem, I will apply them to prospective opportunities that will increase the chances for success upon my release.

by Shawn-Piper

251. What does leadership mean to you?

To take the initiative to guide you and/or others to what’s good and profitable. Be at the head and move first in a positive direction, to encourage and show those that have faith in you the path to success. Commitment to advance using our skills to come out victorious no matter the obstacles or road blocks we may encounter in any situation.

252. In what ways have your past decisions prepared you for leadership?

At one point I was the leader of a small private business but I made choices that led me to have everything that I held dear to me stripped away. What I had left was my morals, virtue, ethics and some family. Now I’ve decided to conquer all I can through gaining knowledge that will be necessary for success. I made a commitment and sacrifices to grow and become a better person. I also decided that I can do anything due to my being able to endure this time of imprisonment thus far by overcoming so many adverse situations.

253. Where does leadership begin?

In your heart, it’s a self esteem thing. You must have the right attitude and character for others to put trust in you, it’s taking action first and making good choices.

254. In what ways can an individual measure his capacity to lead?

By the way he takes the initiative and asserts himself. The fact that others are believing and trusting in his choices. One must be an action taker and be accountable for his movements. Setting goals, making plans, and staying on course to achieve completion.

255. In what ways can an individual measure his effectiveness at leadership?

If he stays on course or if he falls short, he doesn’t give up, he reassesses the matter and sets a new benchmark. In one’s actions and what he accomplishes if he fails, succeeds, quits or continues to push forward through adverse situations. Are you’re actions that you profess for others and yourself to live by.

256. What does it mean to have a vision?

If you had an idea or a thought for some to aspire for. To see an end of a plan that you have worked out in your head and moving with conviction to bring the vision to fruition.

257. How does a leader gauge the effectiveness of a plan?

By looking at all aspects of the plan and identify any areas that may cause an obstacle, readjust on a different course that will bring the plan to completion. If adversity arises, the leader must think about the situation, process it, find a different way to complete it and run with it.

258. Why would leadership require accountability tools?

If we fall short of the mark, we can own up to our part and figure out what went wrong and move forward. It will show that you are not one to shirk your responsibility to the progress that is being made in making the plan come to life.

259. How would a leader make the most effective use of accountability tools?

It will be for assurance that you are on course and taking the right steps to reach the goal that you have set. Just like my being held accountable for my enrollment in school and then finishing my portfolio in this book. Not only was I enrolled in one school, but I was enrolled in two. I may have fallen short on finishing my portfolio, but I set a new target and by tomorrow it will be complete.

260. How would you describe leadership by example?

When you talk the talk, you must also be able to walk to the walk. Never ask someone else to do a task that you yourself wouldn’t do or haven’t already done. Actions speak louder than words, and being a leader it’s easier to show someone than to tell them. A visual aid is a lot better than an audio aid.

261. What does leading with integrity mean to you?

One’s actions are aligned with the plan that was laid out and you are adhering to the principles that one speaks on for gaining success. Your character is a take charge attitude to get the job handled to become a success.

262. In what ways does personal leadership require an individual to put the concerns of others ahead of his own?

When people put their trust and faith in you, they expect that you will stand and delivery. Whatever you value and place at the core of your life, should take precedent over you. There are people in your life that you should be concerned about more than yourself, due to the fact that those people have supported you and more than likely have made some sort of sacrifice to do it during this ordeal.

263. How can our behavior in prison influence the lives of those we ask to support or sponsor us?

When you are being driven by your aspirations to better yourself and overcome all you have been through. It can be inspirational, they will more likely to adhere to your attitude, family morals, ethics, standards, dedication and determination. It can show all that hope is not lost due to one pitfall. Practice right principles and commitment shows your discipline to do better.

264. When living within the restrictions of prison boundaries, where can we turn for leadership training?

Those that are around us, news, books, newspapers, magazines.

265. Describe an individual who has leadership skills that you admire?

I would say the lead man in my workout car and a fellow brother in the ministry college, T Ross. He is already acquired his associate’s degree and striving to get his bachelor’s degree. When we got to work out, if the equipment room is locked and are not able to get the right equipment, he always has two back up plans in mind. He has very strong family ties, along with good morals, ethics and principles. He shows there is a time for play and a time for business. Through his long time of imprisonment, he has held his family together and all of his kids, young and old, respect and love him as well as the rest of his family. He’s truly an inspiration to me for as long as he’s been down, he’s a good person with a level head.

266. To what extent would emulating such leadership traits influence your prospects for success?

To the fullest extent of overcoming, any and all adversities, and to accomplish any plan that I put into action. I tell him all of the time that association brings up assimilation. T. Ross is very disciplined and has a very good work ethic of dedication and commitment that is rubbing off on me and pushes me to strive to achieve a better life.

267. In what ways do our day-to-day actions show our commitment to personal leadership development?

It shows in the progress that you make. If you are committed, but your effort is sub par, you are trying to achieve a goal that could have been achieved a long time ago, but you never put your best foot forward to achieve it You are wasting time and may be dissuaded or side tracked if you are not where you want to be or need to be at a set time frame.

268. How can a commitment to personal leadership development while in prison influence your relationship with people you haven’t yet met?

When you document all of you have obtained during your imprisonment it holds weight. Especially when it is seen in your attitude. You will be judged to a higher standard than others due to your criminal history. So achievment and a good attitude are a must when others see you as the new man you claim to be. You can get an idea of what you will be up against as far as some of the obstacles, as far as some of the obstacles you may encounter from staff and inmates. You can fall into the group of slackers and those who’s time is filled with gossip and reality TV, or you can use a Straight-A Guide to build upon. With coping with day to day prison life, and being away from family so long, is hard to tend with.

269. In what way can the Straight-A Guide influence your prison adjustment?

It helps us create a realistic plan. It makes sure we focus on release and take responsibility for our lives.

270. In what ways can the Straight-A Guide influence your prospects for a law-abiding, contributing life upon release?

It can have you take a good hard look at your past, see where you are in your present situation, and decide if you want to be a better person and make a better future for yourself and others. By practicing and utilizing the 7 concepts of the Straight-A Guide, you will have a better chance at success.

271. In what ways will you use the Straight-A Guide going forward?

I will continue to do a self evaluation or should I say a self check, to see if all of the 7 steps are in harmony, for me to stay focused for the foundation I have set. I will also pass those concepts on to others and help them work through them, which means I will constantly be working them myself.

by Kalani Lautele

200. What relationship do you have to others in the world?

My relationship with my family has always been strong.  I also have a few friends who have supported me through this prison journey.

201. To what extent do the decisions we make have an influence on the lives of others?

Everything we do can influence the lives of those close to us.

202. In what ways does a relationship with God influence the choices we make or behaviors we pursue?

I think twice about the decisions I make now days.  As my relationship with God steadily grows, I feel more in control over my storms.  Being humble is a difficult thing to do when others mistaking your kindness for weakness but as I continue to read the bible, I focus more and more on the relevant things in life than others’ immaturities and rudeness.

203. In what ways does our relationship to anyone else influence the choices we make or behaviors we pursue?

If everyone had the same personal value as us, they would not have to go through adversities such as incarceration to discover the importance of such values.

204. If everyone in society made decisions from the same code of personal values that we embrace, how would the world advance or decline for future generations, including our children?

It would advance forward in a straight line, and we would all enjoy better lives.

205. To what extent do your choices and behaviors match the choices and behaviors you would want your children or people you love to see and emulate?

I would want my children to emulate much of my values.  I want them to lead a better life than me.  I believe the values I abide by can assure them of a better life.

206. What does it mean to you to live with integrity?

Integrity means to always be honest with yourself, being accountable for your decisions, and to live by your values 110%.

207. What does it mean to you to serve a prison sentence or to confront adversity with dignity?

It means having integrity, never whining or complaining about the bad situations but assessing what can be gained from it.  A book I’m currently reading quotes, “Every adversity, every failure, every mistake, and every heartache comes with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit”.  This I believe because I’m experiencing it through my incarceration.

208. In what ways do your relationships with other prisoners influence your possibility for success upon release?

I’ve been incarcerated with men whom is serving sentences three times of mine.  I notice a few of them carry themselves differently from the others.  They seem to have a glow around them and is always in an uplifting, ambitious state.  It inspires me to see men with longer sentences then mine not be defeated by the adversities that accompanies imprisonment.  They’re always positive and striving forward to better days.

209. How do your relationships with other prisoners influence the way that prison staff members assess you?

Prison staff members just sees me as another laid back islander from Hawaii.  Most guys from Hawaii carries that stereotype of being mellow and having a physic of NFL players.  Although the prisoners I associate with most of the time are business minded people study so often that we’re usually under the prison staff’s radar.

210. In what ways will your relationships with other prisoners influence the probation officer who supervises your release?

From what I’ve heard, I don’t think felons are allowed to associate with each other in society.

211. What efforts are you making today to influence the relationships you will have in the months and years to come?

I’m going to continue to live by my values.

212. In what ways can you influence relationships with people beyond prison boundaries while you’re incarcerated?

The BOP allows us to correspond by telephone, which we are only allowed to have 300 minutes per month, US Postal Services, emails, and limited visitations.

213. How would maintaining relationships with people who embrace criminal values influence your potential for success upon release?

I could loose sight of my goals and possibly return to prison.

214. In what ways do grooming and personal appearance influence your relationship with others?

People tend to take those who groom well more serious.

215. How do writing skills influence the potential for opening new relationships that may lead to success upon release?

Developing good writing skills can transition into good communication skills which can lead to new opportunities and relationships.

216. In what ways are you working now to nurture relationships that may help you succeed upon release?

With the help of the Michael G. Santos Foundation, I’m able to build a profile on the straight A guide web site.  I can share with everyone, by documenting my journey, how I’m working to achieve my goals and success upon my release.  I can nurture and open relationships this way.

217. What influence will your relationships with others have on your possibility for success upon release?

My relationship with businessmen and my family has all increased my possibility for success upon release.  I’ve learned a lot from businessmen incarcerated with me and I continue to do so.  My family’s love and support adds to my ambitions to be successful upon my release.

218. How would prospective mentors respond if they were to hear you attribute your predicament to the choices or actions of another?

Mentors would be more acceptable of a person who holds himself accountable for his wrong doing than blaming others.

219. In what ways does the blaming of outside forces strengthen or weaken your potential for success upon release?

Blaming others for your mistake weakens the potential for success upon release.  It shows you have no accountability, which I believe is an important trait to have because it portrays leadership.

220. How do your relationships with others influence the people closest to you?

I try to build relationships that will better my family’s lives.  How I represent myself upon release and the rest of my life will influence them.

221. To what extent does living with transparency, or as an open book, influence relationships?

Living with transparency shows what kind of morals a person has.  I’m sure honesty is appreciated by many people.

222. How would behaving one way with one group of people and another way with others strengthen or weaken your potential for success upon release?

Someone with multiple personalities who acts differently among multiple group of people can be seen as not trust worthy.  This behavior can weaken your potential for success upon release.

by Darrell Tatum

200. What relationship do you have to others in the world?


201. To what extent do the decisions we make have an influence on the lives of others?


202. In what ways does a relationship with God influence the choices we make or behaviors we pursue?


203. In what ways does our relationship to anyone else influence the choices we make or behaviors we pursue?


204. If everyone in society made decisions from the same code of personal values that we embrace, how would the world advance or decline for future generations, including our children?


205. To what extent do your choices and behaviors match the choices and behaviors you would want your children or people you love to see and emulate?

they cant match because this lead me to,like in question#204,the decsions&behavior i have now,will be a positive role model that people with the same mind frame will emulate

206. What does it mean to you to live with integrity?

to live with some morals of life.

207. What does it mean to you to serve a prison sentence or to confront adversity with dignity?

to serve a prison sentence for the mistakes that i made in s a life changing live to learn,but bad decisions you have to pay the price.

208. In what ways do your relationships with other prisoners influence your possibility for success upon release?

i only have a couple of good positive friends in here that i can say is on the same mind frame as i. we encourage each other to make the best out of nothing legally when we get released. We share each others goals.

209. How do your relationships with other prisoners influence the way that prison staff members assess you?

i don’t let staff get to me. i keep it simple around them.

210. In what ways will your relationships with other prisoners influence the probation officer who supervises your release?

thats a good thing about this question!i want be on any probation. when i was ,i abide all rules,bur i made that turning point that costed my freedom.

211. What efforts are you making today to influence the relationships you will have in the months and years to come?

staying focus,positive,hardworking,family orientated and god’s child.

212. In what ways can you influence relationships with people beyond prison boundaries while you’re incarcerated?

i can ensure them that i have a game plan of being  law binding citizen. i can show my efforts thru certain things that is beneficial.

213. How would maintaining relationships with people who embrace criminal values influence your potential for success upon release?

personally,i would have to stay away from their criminal activities. i am striving for success&won’t let their values get in my way

214. In what ways do grooming and personal appearance influence your relationship with others?

grooming &personal appearance is a must!that really shows how a person cares about themselves.if you are  nasty&not being rude,but i don’t need u around me.

215. How do writing skills influence the potential for opening new relationships that may lead to success upon release?

i do think u can strengthen yourself successfully with writing skills.when i write out my proposals for various companies,trying to gain a contract with them,it takes writing skills to really spread out the details of how the building should be done.its a big influence that will lead to success

216. In what ways are you working now to nurture relationships that may help you succeed upon release?

staying focus is the main thing for me to nurture relationships.

217. What influence will your relationships with others have on your possibility for success upon release?

well,i have a lot of positive support that will help me stay on the right path of success.

218. How would prospective mentors respond if they were to hear you attribute your predicament to the choices or actions of another?

i think they would have a good response to all of my positive goals

219. In what ways does the blaming of outside forces strengthen or weaken your potential for success upon release?

well,having some of the negative peopl around me now seeing how there are now,really strengten me for success. i see that all they want is the easy way out.

220. How do your relationships with others influence the people closest to you?

well,it really don’t have an effect. we all can relate on certain issues.

221. To what extent does living with transparency, or as an open book, influence relationships?

you have to live your life the best way that you can’t live by other peopl,so to relate to this question,i will live my life as a law binding citizen.

222. How would behaving one way with one group of people and another way with others strengthen or weaken your potential for success upon release?

well,all people is different,so if you keep positive people around you and you want to live right,then you won’t need another group of people to hang with.

by Site Admin

16. Who are you? :

My name is Michael G. Santos. I am married to Carole Santos and through my work I define myself. I strive to live as an example of what a man can become despite the adversity through which he may have to live. I am resourceful, always in pursuit of clearly-defined goals. The goals I pursue stay in harmony with the values by which I profess to live. Specifically, those value categories include the following; 1) discipline, 2) fitness, 3) godliness, 4) industriousness, 5) integrity, 6) marriage, and 7) network.

As I write this entry, on 27 February 2011, I am in my 24th consecutive year as a federal prisoner. I made some bad decisions when I was in my early 20s. I sold cocaine and that decision led to my being sentenced to serve a 45-year sentence. Since my imprisonment began, in 1987, I’ve worked consistently to redeem the bad decisions of my early 20s and to reconcile with society. It has been my aspiration to work toward earning freedom and the value categories by which I live keep me on track.

I am an author who writes about the prison experience. Through writing about what I’ve learned from others, what I’ve experienced, and what I’ve observed, I strive to help others understand America’s prison system, the people it holds, and strategies for growing through it in ways that bring strength. The work has led to the publication of several books and articles that connect me far beyond prison boundaries. Through those connections, I play a role in influencing change that may lead to improvements within this system.

In addition to authoring books, I am a man who lives deliberately, transparently, and with a deep commitment to discipline. Through my website at, I document my journey through prison. Every day I write content with hopes of inspiring others to muster will from within and triumph over the obstacles that separate them from fulfillment, from meaning, from lives of happiness. I urge readers to hold me accountable, as I consider it my duty to work toward earning their support, to live my message. The message by which I choose to live is one of self-empowerment, one that shows a man can pick himself and live his highest potential.

Such a message requires daily commitment. Rather than promising an end, or a destination, it promises incremental progress, continuous advancement, relevance, and fulfillment through meaning. I am a man who lives this message.

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

When I was 23, in 1987, DEA agents arrested me in Miami, Florida. After being extradited to Seattle, I stood trial for leading a continuing criminal enterprise. Despite my not having a history of weapons, violence, or incarceration, I received a 45-prison term after I was convicted. Ever since then, I’ve worked to build a record of accomplishments that might prove me worthy of earning freedom.

To pursue such a vision, I thought about what American citizens would expect from a man in prison. Those thoughts led me to conclude that as a prisoner I should work toward earning academic credentials; I should work toward demonstrating a commitment to leading a law-abiding life; I should work toward making contributions to societies inside prison boundaries and beyond; I should work toward building skills and resources that would help me transition into society as a productive citizen after an anticipated prolonged imprisonment of multiple decades.

Prior to prison I had been a poor student. Through a 100-percent commitment to emerge from prison with resources and opportunities to lead a fulfilling life, I became an excellent student. In 1992 Mercer University awarded me a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors. Then I pursued graduate school. In 1995, Hofstra University awarded me a Master of Arts degree. I completed coursework toward my doctorate at the University of Connecticut, but after my first term, prison administrators cited “security of the institution” as a reason to block me from completing my program that would have led to a Ph.D. degree. It concluded my formal education, or pursuit of academic credentials.

Although prison administrators blocked me from completing my doctorate degree, they could not block my commitment to educate myself. Through independent study and guidance from mentors, I worked toward developing writing skills, knowledge of business, understanding of technology, and my grasp of techniques for optimum personal performance. Those skills contribute to my readiness to emerge from prison strong, unscathed by the decades that I have served.

18. What are you going through now? :

I am completing my 8,602nd consecutive day in prison. My focus is sharp, with clarity about what I must accomplish during the remaining months or years that I have remaining to serve. I do not know exactly how much more time that I will remain in prison. Issues concerning parole and halfway house eligibility complicate the equation. Regardless of how much time I have remaining to serve, I am ready. The decisions I have made throughout the course of my imprisonment have given me confidence that I will navigate my way through any storms that are yet to come and I will do so successfully.

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

19. Time remaining to serve:

During the time that I have remaining to serve I will live in accordance with my seven value categories. With regard to discipline, I commit to waking every morning before 3:00 a.m. to begin my work. I will write content that I will rely upon as a tool that helps me show others what it takes to triumph over the obstacles wrought by confinement. I intend to complete all of the content for a course that I call The Straight-A Guide to Success. I will write daily content for my website at I will run an average of 65 miles every week, with a commitment to working toward that goal every day. I will continue to read at least one chapter of the Bible every day and to thank God for the many blessings that I receive. I will express my love to Carole every day and strive to live as the best husband that I can be, always with an aspiration of making her life better.

20. One month after release:

Preparations I have made through my first 24 years of imprisonment have given me confidence that I will transition smoothly into society during my first month. I have sufficient financial resources in savings to ensure that I can purchase the essentials to launch my career. Those essentials include clothes, technology equipment, a vehicle, and other items from which I’ve been separated throughout the long course of my imprisonment. I will spend that time bonding with Carole and reconnecting with family members from whom I’ve been isolated for years. I will evaluate income opportunities, meet with officials who will set the conditions of my release, and set a plan in place to guide me through the next year, the next three years, and the next five years.

21. One year after release:

Within one year of my release I expect that I will earn the trust of my probation officer. I will have achieved that objective by leading a transparent life. Together with my wife, I will sit with the probation officer so that I have a crystal clear understanding of what he expects from me. That first year will have been an assessment year for me, as if I am being hatched into the world after a quarter century in prison. I will have spent it working to familiarize myself with the Internet, making sense of how I can best prepare for my 60s, and making the most of career opportunities going forward.

22. Five years after release:

Assuming that relief does not come to me, I will be 54 years old when my obligation to the Bureau of Prisons comes to an end. By then I expect that Carole and I will own a home and enjoy financial stability that will allow us to enjoy and build upon our marriage. The work I will have done will provide us with multiple streams of income from ventures such as publishing, speaking, consulting, teaching, business, and investments. Carole will contribute through her nursing career, but to a lesser extent than she will have contributed during the first five years of my liberty.

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

I have not been in society since 1987. At that time I was 23 and I did not give a lot of thought to people in prison. Since I didn’t know anyone in prison or who had been to prison, I don’t think that I gave any thought to prisoners. Although the prison system has grown into a beast that confines 2.3 million people, I suspect that others in society remain somewhat aloof to the prison population. To the extent that people in society to consider people in prison, they likely think of the stereotype. More specifically, they likely think of prisoners as being a lawless group, dangerous, without a sense of direction or belonging to the greater society. They likely think of prisoners as espousing criminal values, being deceitful and manipulative. In society’s view, prisoners may threaten the fabric of America. Such misperceptions feed this monstrosity that swallows $75 billion of taxpayer funds every year.

24. Describe how television programs and movies depict prisoners.:

Television programs and movies provide the prison stereotypes. They portray prisoners as tattooed toughs who prey upon the weak and scheme on ways to con or manipulate others upon release. The image of the prisoner is one of the loser, the man who is incapable of living in accordance with the principles of good conduct. Hollywood portrays the prisoner as an outlaw, a thug, a drug abuser or addict who cannot find order in life.

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 that regardless of how hard I work, I must contend with prejudice every day. This system refuses to consider me for anything other than the bad decisions I made more than 24 years ago. As a man who serves a 45-year sentence, I live with dehumanization every day. Prison guards interfere with my ability to interact with family; they obstruct my efforts to prepare for a law-abiding life upon release; they deny that we share a common humanity, as their stated priority is to preserve the security of the institution. I am like the prisoner stereotype in that I live in an environment that extinguishes hope.

27. In what ways is your adjustment different? :

My adjustment differs from the prisoner stereotype in that despite the steel boot of corrections constantly pressing upon my neck, I thrive. While serving a lengthy prison term I have earned educational credentials and the knowledge I have gained has opened opportunities. Those opportunities have led to my building a strong support network, to my building a quasi-career, to my opening employment offers that await my release, and to my building a thriving marriage. Such accomplishments refute the prisoner stereotype of failure.

Describe what opportunities for personal growth and development exist in the following prison security levels:

28. High Security:

In high security penitentiaries, prisoners live with low self- esteem and few can perceive opportunities for personal growth in positive ways. Such environments escalate hostilities and tensions. They tend to be racial and tribal, with a heavy gang influence. Safety is a constant concern, as is the group-think mentality. Personal growth in such hostile environments as high-security penitentiaries requires high levels of discipline, focus, and awareness of the volatile atmospherics.

29. Medium Security:

Tensions can run just as high in medium-security prisons, where a contingent of gangsters is always conspiring to show their level of commitment to the gang. Staff members try to contain the rage with their efforts at micro-managing lives, but that only leads to higher levels of tension. Nevertheless, prisoners in medium- security may find pockets of space through which they can find opportunities to grow. An essential component of strategies to enhance opportunities for personal growth begins with minimizing threats to personal safety.

30. Low Security:

Whereas high-security penitentiaries and medium-security prisons hold many people who serve natural life sentences, low security prisons hold people with release dates that are scheduled within 20 years. Many of the prisoners inside low-security fences have release dates scheduled within a one-year timeframe, though all prisoners are scheduled for release within 20 years. It can still be a long time, but with higher numbers of people who can see their release dates, and others who have their eyes set on transfer to minimum-security camps, the level of volatility drops considerably in low-security. As such, opportunities for personal growth and development increase. Still, individuals must discipline themselves and make daily commitments to grow as individuals in measurable ways. They should not expect much in the way of encouragement from the prison system.

31. Minimum Security:

Minimum-security camps don’t have any more volatility than a corporate office park. Prisoners in camps all have their eyes set on release dates that are scheduled within 10 years. Despite the lack of threat to personal safety, those in minimum-security camps must contend with the same types of petty harassments and micro-management that exists in all federal prisons. Such has been my experience. Further, camps offer less in the way of vocational training than in high security prisons. Nevertheless, the self-directed prisoner will find ample opportunity to create strategies for personal growth and development.

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

No prisoners have ever told me that they expect to return to confinement after their release. On the contrary, many say that they will never return to prison. They don’t necessarily say that they won’t behave in ways that may return them to prison. Indeed, many foolishly say that they are going to try to do right, but if things don’t work out, a man is going to do what a man has got to do. It’s a refrain I’ve heard from scores of prisoners over the years. Those who never return to prison, I think, prepare themselves for success. They contemplate the challenges that they will face. With an understanding of the obstacles ahead, they put plans in motion that will ease their transition into society upon release. Ideally, they have a job waiting for them and they have a stable place to live. They create new support networks of law-abiding citizens who have vested interests in helping the man adjust upon release. The prisoner who is motivated to succeed upon release spends his time preparing in measurable ways and minimizes time wasted on complaining.

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? :

A prisoner who makes a commitment to succeed upon release leads a deliberate adjustment plan. That means he doesn’t so much focus on the calendar pages that turn as much as he focuses on what steps he can take each month to ensure he has the skills and resources in place upon release to ease his transition into society. Such a prisoner is not interested in earning meaningless certificates or with distinctions for being a model-inmate. The prisoner who commits to success upon release sets his sights on more valuable goals. He works every day toward advancing skills and credentials that lead to employment or income opportunities. He disciplines himself, always focusing on how to navigate through the day, the week, the month, and the years that lead to his release. To the extent that a prisoner commits to a disciplined and deliberate adjustment, carefully evaluating his every activity and interaction, he enhances his chances for success upon release.

35. What length of time would you consider long-term imprisonment? :

I would consider three years in prison to be a long-term. I say that because I know how a man’s life can change when he has three years or more to serve. His family and friends may move on, leaving him alone to contend with the misery that confinement can bring.

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

People in society may expect a prisoner to lack dependability and trustworthiness. The prisoner’s background may deprive him of receiving the benefit of doubt. It is the prisoner’s responsibility to anticipate perceptions of shiftlessness that he may encounter. Rather than expecting a fair shot, or a second chance, prisoners would serve themselves well to expect resistance and to prepare themselves to triumph in spite of the prejudice they are likely to encounter. Instead of waiting for a second chance, the prisoner should build a string of accomplishments that will show others the value that he can add.

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

I’ve served time with thousands of long-term prisoners. If I were to offer a blanket assessment or description of what I’ve heard others say, I would say that most have unrealistic expectations, or delusions. They fail to give proper consideration to the obstacles awaiting release. Those obstacles begin with the sad state of the economy. They continue with the paucity of job opportunities, the high cost of settling into a new routine and establishing oneself after confinement. Long-term prisoners express enthusiasm about the prospects for release, expecting that they will right themselves much sooner than atmospherics make possible. Rather than fantasizing about release from prison, long-term prisoners should focus on steps they can take to ease their transition and lessen the likelihood of returning to prison.

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

Long-term prisoners would serve themselves well to expect resistance and discouragement from the system of corrections. They may encounter pockets of support from some specific staff members who take an interest in the individual, but the culture of corrections breeds more contempt from prison staff than support. It is a culture of minimal trust, one that discourages staff members from being overtly supportive. Rather than focusing on creating an atmosphere that inspires personal growth and development, the culture in every prison where I have been held for the past 24 years has been one that extinguishes hope and values the so-called security of the institution over any human prisoner. Prison administrators and staff members, with few exceptions, expect long-term prisoners to lie, cheat, manipulate, malinger, scheme, conspire, sabotage, subvert, and disrupt. Despite such a malignant, dehumanizing environment that is toxic to personal growth and development, prisoners must grow and develop themselves anyway.

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

A model inmate is a cipher. He lives as a tool of the administration, equivalent to what was once disparaged as the house negro on slavery plantations. In many ways, our prison system of 2.3 million people represents the new American plantation and the model inmate is one who acts subserviently to the system. Rather than striving to prepare himself for the immense challenges that await his release, the model inmate is content to live in prison with as little disruption or challenge to the system as possible. He strives to participate in programs not for the purpose of learning or developing skills, but rather for the purpose of acquiring a certificate. He does his job, abides by all rules, shows deference to staff, enthusiastically participates in activities designed to keep the charade of corrections going. He confuses having a good attitude with preparing himself in meaningful ways for the challenges wrought by confinement.

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

Michael’s journey both supports and refutes prison stereotypes. It supports the stereotype in showing that regardless of how hard a prisoner works, the system itself will never acknowledge openly or formally that he has been ‘corrected.’ Once a prisoner, as far as the system is concerned, the individual is always a prisoner. On the other hand, Michael’s prison journey shows the power of the individual, the will that any man can muster from within to redeem himself and make valuable contributions to the betterment of society, despite limitations and restrictions and dehumanization of the prison system. He refutes the prisoner stereotype in that he shows that even after more than 24 years in prison, a man can live with hope, educating himself and creating meaning through his work.

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

I define the prison infrastructure as the mechanism of policies and procedures that governed my life through the years I’ve served in prisons of every security level. That infrastructure was more like a communistic system than anything else in America. It is a system where every man is equal, where every man serves the needs of the institution, where the institution provides for the individual in accordance with his needs. It is a system that provides a 400-pound man with the same ration of food as a 130-pound man. It is a system that dictates when a man can eat, or when he can use the bathroom. It is a system that rips away a man’s identity, replacing his name with a registration number. It assigns where the man sleeps, with whom he must share closely confined spaces, and deprives him of his right to privacy or personal property. It blocks his right to free speech and eliminates his right to assemble peacefully. Some may call such an infrastructure a gross violation of human rights, but it is the system under which all prisoners must live. Despite such limitations and restrictions that administrators tell us are for our own good, or to preserve the institution of corrections, prisoners must find ways to grow and develop. The infrastructure represented an exquisite design to block an individual from meaningful preparation for success upon release, but careful navigation and deliberate purpose enabled me to overcome such obstacles.

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

I began serving my lengthy sentence with a vision of emerging strong, with resources and opportunities to lead a meaningful, fulfilling life upon release. The sentence was too long for me to contemplate in its entirety. I was 23 when I began and I understood that many years would pass before I returned to society. Instead of contemplating the end, I focused on the first ten years. During that first decade I planned to educate myself. Then I would use skills I developed to forge new opportunities. Whenever release came, I envisioned myself walking out with dignity, confident that I could weather any more storms that were to come.

The Straight-A Guide includes seven attributes. What do the following attributes mean to you?:

43. Attitude: What level of commitment do you make to preparing for success upon release?:

I make a 100-percent commitment to preparing myself for a law-abiding, contributing life upon release. That commitment governs my every decision. It determines what time I sleep, what time I wake, and with whom I interact. My commitment to triumphing over the challenges I expect to encounter upon release is like an obsession, requiring daily assessment and personal evaluation.

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

Within two years from now, in the spring of 2013, I expect to walk out of federal prison. I will reside somewhere in the state of California with my wife, Carole. I will contribute to my family through earnings I generate as an author, publisher, speaker, teacher, consultant, and businessman. I will make contributions to society through the Michael G. Santos Foundation. The work I do every day distinguishes my aspiration from a fantasy.

45. What distinguishes an aspiration from a fantasy?:

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

I wake every morning, seven days each week, before 3:00 a.m. to begin my work. I write manuscripts and articles that build upon my library content I will rely upon to launch my career. I exercise every day. I take measurable steps to nurture my marriage and sow seeds for the career that I expect will support our family. Every day I thank God repeatedly for my many blessings.

47.Accountability: How are you measuring progress?:   What do you know about the challenges that will confront you upon release? :

I use clearly defined goals to keep me on track. Each of those goals harmonize with the value categories by which I profess to live. I record my daily progress through journals that I publish at Through such exercises I hold myself accountable and urge others to hold me accountable as well.

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

I consider knowledge of the atmospherics around me an essential component of my preparations for release. I strive to move through prison as if I’m a submarine. I keep my periscope up so that I can understand the cross currents while I move stealthily below the surface toward my clearly-defined objectives. I reach beyond the boundaries that confine me through my writing. Every day I connect with hundreds or thousands of new people through my website and through the books I’ve written. In addition to those projects, I reach out through letters and telephone calls. By the time I return to society, I will have lived more of my life in prison than outside of prison. It will be as if I am being hatched into the world. I anticipate challenges on many levels, including how to use the Internet, or even computers. I will encounter challenges of obtaining a driver’s license, or a credit card. Nevertheless, I am well prepared to triumph over all obstacles.

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?:

I celebrate success several times every day. My schedule is very well defined. When I am at my desk and working before 3:00 a.m., I celebrate with gratitude to God. When the prison guards open the doors at 6:00 a.m. and put my morning work away, I celebrate the progress I made toward goals I set. When I return to the housing unit after between two and three hours of exercise and walk through a dorm where other prisoners sleep, I celebrate the advancement of my fitness routine. In the afternoon, when I continue toward my writing goals, I thank God for my inspiration as I lie down to rest each day after reading a chapter of the Bible and I pray for strength to carry me through another day. I celebrate my increasing knowledge that comes from reading the Bible.

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

I am grateful to many mentors who have influenced my growth through the many years that I have served in prison. Every day I strive to prove worthy of the generous support and trust that so many have given to me. Most of those mentors have been people with whom I’ve opened new relationships since I began my term in prison. They are community leaders from all sectors of society. In addition to them, I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my family members, who have had to endure the humiliation of my imprisonment since 1987. I am especially indebted to my wife, Carole, who served many years of this term alongside me, managing my affairs and helping me to build a life despite the iron boot of corrections that has pressed upon my neck.

The Straight-A Guide measures an individual’s commitment to leading deliberate lives.  As an exercise let’s reflect on the choices you made in the 9th grade, or at any other pivotal point.:

53.  Where did those choices lead? :

I began making bad decisions during my high school years. I cannot blame anyone but myself, as I was drawn to a crowd of young men who lived by questionable values. Rather than impressing upon me the importance of college, or leading a disciplined life, instead I chose a faster life, one influenced by shows like Scarface or Miami Vice. They led me into the clutches of the criminal justice system, depriving me of all that others take for granted.

54. What did you value then? :

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

The bad choices I made during my early 20s have led to the reality that I will never have a child of my own. If had not surrendered a quarter century to the prison system, then I would have emphasized the importance of making values-based decisions upon my children. I would have urged them to lead lives of integrity, ensuring that harmony existed between everything they said, everything they thought, and everything they did.

56. What would you do differently if you could?:

If I could have a redo from the reckless days of my high school years, I would have made values-based decisions, invested myself more completely in my education, and worked harder to live a life of integrity. It is the lessons learned from the bad decisions of my early 20s that have guided me through multiple decades in federal prison. I will not allow reckless decisions to derail my life again.

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

I now have more than 8,600 days of imprisonment behind me. My life differs in remarkable ways from the day that I began serving my sentence, back on August 11, 1987. I was 23 then. Now I am 47. I have an undergraduate degree from Mercer University and a graduate degree from Hofstra University. I have authored more than a dozen books and I contribute daily to a website that helps me build upon my network of support. My network of support is extensive, including community leaders from all sectors of society. I am married to the love of my life, deeply committed to proving worthy of her love every day. Whereas I entered this prison system as a misdirected young man, I will emerge with confidence and my dignity intact, unscathed by the wretchedness of the prison system.

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

According to my week-at-a-glance journal, I spent last week editing a manuscript that I expect to bring to market late in 2011 or early in 2012. That project freed me to focus on writing content that will help me introduce strategies for growing through confinement to other people. I wrote blogs every day last week; I ran 65 miles and did 2,000 pushups to advance toward my fitness goals for the year. Everything I did last week prepared me to make progress this week, just as what I am doing this week prepares me for the progress I will make next week.

59.  Identify the values by which you live.:

I live by seven value categories that I articulated in my values and goals for the year. Those categories include: 1) discipline, 2) fitness, 3) godliness, 4) industriousness, 5) integrity, 6) marriage, and 7) network.

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

My daily activities harmonize completely with my professed values. The commitment is clear from the time my eyes open in the early morning, through my work ethic in all areas, through my discipline of living through every hour of the prison experience.

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

My role in society will be to show others that regardless of· what adversity they face, values-based decisions can help them overcome. I will strive to document every aspect of my journey through a quarter century in prison, showing others that despite prolonged separation from society, an individual can create meaning in life through the way he responds, through incremental progress toward measurable goals.

62. Where does your allegiance lie?:

My allegiance is to my wife, Carole. All of my activities represent my commitment to proving worthy of the love she has given me through difficult circumstances. She inspires me to work harder, to muster strength that will help me triumph over the many obstacles that await me.

63.  Are values situational or absolute?:

I live in accordance with the belief that values are absolute. As long as I live in accordance with the values that I declare as being integral to my life, I anticipate that I can find peace with the decisions that I make.

Copyright 2019 The Michael G. Santos Foundation