by Oliver Johnson

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

The value sets, i.e. Godliness, discipline, transparency, networking, etc., that Michael and I have listed on our profiles, I believe, might lead anyone who applies them to their life to succeed upon release from prison.  However, one must first erase any and all doubt from his or her mind regarding the infinite good the future holds and have absolute confidence in one’s potential to become successful, even despite naysayers.  Because there will be naysayers.  Just this past weekend for example, I had someone, who I thought once upon a time loved me unconditionally as I loved them, tell me basically that I am worthless and as for as they’re concerned, “I do not exist in their world.”  Years ago when I was at the beginning of my prison sentence similar words from this person haunted me and stymied my progress in pressing forward, but fortunately now I am empowered and have absolute confidence in my ability to succeed.  “I know that I am more than a conqueror.  I can do what I need to do.  I’m a child of the Most High God.”  To become a success on the outside, soon to be ex-prisoners, like myself, must understand that negative words may come our way but cannot change one’s potential on the inside.  Let no one talk you out of applying your God-given potential to live a value-based life and doing what God wants you to do, which is Succeed!

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

With absolute confidence in oneself, one must live via unwavering commitment to his or her value system, emotionally, physically and spiritually.  By habits, one will become his or her values.  Thanks to a 22 March 2010 gift from my mother, this belief was confirmed for me by the written advice of Joel Osteen, pastor of America’s largest church, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, after I read his book, “Become a Better You.”  In part, Pastor Osteen advises, “The potential is inside you.  It doesn’t change just because you don’t believe it or just because you’ve been through some negative experiences in the past.  It has been deposited in you permanently by the Creator of the Universe.  That means God is never going to take back the potential He has poured into you.  He’s never going to say , ‘I’m tired of dealing with you. You’ve tried and failed too many times.  You’ve made too many mistakes.  Let me just have the gifts back.’  No, those gifts, and the calling on your life, will be with you till the day you leave this earth.  But it is up to you to decide whether you tap into them and use them or not.”

66. How does a person strengthen his integrity?:

Every word spoken we should be proud of.  Using intelligent and compassionate communication, we must practice what we preach daily, because our life really does depend upon our doing so.  Always say what it is you will do and just do it.  Live transparently, allowing those close to you and your community to see your values illuminate from you each day.  One’s conduct should be predictable by all at all times, day or night, and in no instance should one allow another to influence him or her to not live by high standards.  Speak the truth at all times and always speak affirmatively about oneself.  Remind yourself daily of how truly great you are with such sayings as “God forgives me and loves me, this I know.  I am worthy of trust.  I am disciplined.   I have absolute control over my thoughts and actions.  My decisions will be good today.  All adversity I will overcome.  Any problem I face today is merely temporary and through my honesty, hard work and perseverance it too shall pass.”

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

After leaving prison, when an ex-prisoner gets off the bus or steps foot out of a car or truck arriving back into society, he or she will immediately be responsible for footing the costs of their basic necessities.  For many, not having borne the expense of providing for themselves for over 5, 10, 15, 20, or 25 or more years, this will be an incredible challenge.  Also, critical to re-entry success, re-creating a sense of belonging to a family, especially for those who lack one, will be an immediate challenge.  Many have lost families due to divorce, death or abandonment and will face starting their new life alone.  For most ex-prisoners, finding employment depends on how quickly one can establish his or her independence:  affording a driver’s license or non-driver’s ID, a place to live, food, resume, insurance, a jalopy or bus pass if mass transportation exist, clothes suitable for finding a job, healthcare, and leisure activities.  I also expect perfecting a high tolerance to rejection will be an immediate challenge for me and most ex-prisoners alike.  To be able to combat these challenges, pre-release preparation and planning is essential to one’s success.

68. Housing:

Every future ex-prisoner needs more than a house to live in to succeed.  We need a home.  A wholesome place to live filled with warmth, forgiveness and encouragement. For every prisoner, the matter of housing should be a well-thought out proposition.  Not only whether a certain residence is affordable or not, but whether the people and neighborhood around one’s release home will or won’t be conducive to reentry success.  For some, moving into a shelter like the Salvation Army or Piedmont House is a better option than settling back into a community of family and associates who will encouraged the ex-prisoner’s returning to criminality.  I suspect most prisoners, like myself upon release, will move in with a loved one, before incurring the debt of a residential lease or home mortgage.  For some formerly incarcerated veterans, VA housing benefits are an option to consider, which I plan to use once I am able to purchase a modest home.  Many prisoners will have to pay the full cost or share the expense of a rental property and therefore should have saved enough to cover the security deposit, first and last month’s rent, prior to release.  Assuming one can find a rental for $700 per month, then $2100.00 by example should be set aside for housing by the prisoner.

69. Household furnishings:

Using my needs for example when I walk out of prison, having slept on a prison steel bunk and eaten prison chow most days for the past six years, I look forward to one day creating and enjoying a comfortable living environment wherever I reside.  Thus, I would like to acquire an array of cookware (I love to cook) to include a variety of kitchen gadgets, as well as a comfortable bed, linen, desk and chair for writing and studying.  As my initial residence will also double as my office, I will also need adequate technology to achieve my goals.  To accomplish this, I expect to need savings in the range of $5000.00 – $7500.00 for such household furnishings.

70. Clothing:

Most long-term prisoners will need a complete wardrobe of work and casual attire.  I would estimate a savings budget of $5,000.00 would be adequate for prisoners seeking blue-collar jobs and $10,000.00 would be the minimum cost to purchase a professional men’s wardrobe to include both causal and exercise wear.

71. Transportation:

Dependable transportation is must-have for any ex-prisoner who expects to succeed upon reentry.  Mass transit is an option for those who live in urban areas, but as no mass transit exist in the geographic region I plan to reside and because visiting my children and my work will require regular travel, I must purchase a dependable automobile or truck and be responsible for the additional expense of insurance, fuel, AAA, and maintenance of such vehicle.  I project to meet my transportation needs, I should expect to spend approximately $30,000.00 my first year.

72. Incidentals:

I have projected a savings goal of $30,000.00 to cover incidental expenses my first two years of freedom, as I hope to be able to support my young adult children, enroll in continuing education programs, attend workshops and seminars related to my field of endeavor and volunteer in my community supporting the work of my city and local non-profit organizations.

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?:

A prisoner who takes ownership of his or her finances as soon as possible after release from prison is likely to enjoy a successful transition into society in my opinion.  For those who lost all their resources as a result of imprisonment, like most prisoners I imagine, starting over financially will be a substantial obstacle for such individuals.  However, if a person has properly prepared for release and has a savings goal of the minimum amount one would need for successful re-entry, then a firm foundation to succeed should exist for such person.  The amount I’ve estimated in the way of financial resources a prisoner will need for successful transition is $25,000.00 or more.  I think this amount would allow the prisoner to excel in executing his or her well thought out reentry plan.

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?:

Such perception will be based on how the formerly incarcerated individual carries and presents himself in society after leaving the prison industrial complex.  Society will clearly distinguish one who demonstrates by word and actions that he or she knows the universe is larger than one’s past crime, one who is all-in striving for reentry success as compared to the idle and complacent ex-con who feels trapped in a life of poverty or repeat offense.   I imagine many in society will be at first blush skeptical of most formerly incarcerated individuals and this is understandable when one considers the stereotypic cloud hovering over the ex-felon.  However, the person who possesses a transparent record of their time in prison, like having created a MGSF profile for example, who maybe builds a personal website or blog as well, has a business card, letters of reference, educational diplomas and certificates, who projects an air of confidence and a firm handshake can overcome such skepticism.  I have faith there will be supporters for those determined to excel who appreciate how love, forgiveness and second chances create a karma that positively transcends the universe.  A power that can outwill bias and heal all wounds as well as inspire and rebuild one’s soul.  To cope with all negative responses from prospective landlords, employers, creditors, and others in society, I encourage those similarly situated as myself to walk tall and refuse to be defined by one’s past mistakes, using one’s talents everyday for the betterment of self, family, community and society as we breathe.

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

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

My background and experience qualifies me to work either as a researcher, teacher, counselor, author, and/or writer.  According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook by the U.S. Department of Labor, the market offers an income range of $27,000 to $75,000 for salaried workers in these occupations.  If self-employed, however, the potential exist to earn an even higher annual income.

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

At a minimum, a bachelor’s degree is the typical path of entry into these occupations.  However, by earning a masters or doctorate degree, higher salary employment opportunities exist for more credentialed job applicants.  Because writing skills are essential in these occupations, many employers like to hire people with degrees in communications, journalism, or English, but those with other backgrounds, like myself, who can demonstrate good writing skills may also find opportunities.  Until I reenter society and jumpstart my career, I plan to use the internet and other media to gain writing experience through blog posts, text messaging and/or self-publishing, which will improve my writing skills and hopefully lead to paid assignments one day.

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

Any such influence will naturally flow from my attitude.  If prospective employers perceive I have a negative attitude toward myself, then I should expect rejection.  Believing no past mistakes I have made are so terrible that my prison record will negatively influence my employability, I refuse to live under condemnation, listening to the wrong voices of society who’d  love for me to live my life feeling guilty, discontented with myself and condemned because of my record.  I expect God has many more blessings in store for me and a great plan for my life.  Therefore, with great expectation, I will boldly seek employment opportunities, even if I have to create them myself.  Based on an absolute faith in my capacity to grasp and achieve the full reality of my proper stature in this world, I will leverage the value of my scholastic and professional achievements, the life lessons I’ve learned from my right and wrong choices and from conquering the “School of Hard Knocks” (prison), to rebuild my life upon release.  Finally, I envision my prison record validating, not hindering, my career goals, which are working as an effective spokesperson and activist for the empowerment of at-risk youth and young adults, a counselor to troubled student-athletes and professionals suffering calamity, and as a contributor to the growth of my family’s funeral services business.

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

In this recession economy, to answer this question and to give my reader a picture of the unemployment rate I will face, I’d like to share a story from my current read. In their phenomenal work, published April 2012, “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto,” the dynamic duo, PBS and PRI broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Princeton professor and philosopher Cornel West reveal their discovery of the unemployment climate in my neck of the woods.  From their book, I learned tonight of their recent visit to Prairie Opportunity, Inc., a Columbus, MS non-profit agency, coincidentally located about thirty miles from my release halfway house, which provides services to low-income, elderly, disabled, and the unemployed in Mississippi’s “Golden Triangle,” comprised of an eight county area including my release residence.  There they met Joann Cotton, who with a marketing degree has been unemployed for three years.  In their book, the authors write:

“Cotton’s husband has several ailments, including emphysema.  He doesn’t get all his medication because “we can’t afford it…we just get some,” she said.  The couple receives food stamps “which is depressing as hell” – but perhaps not as depressing as her job search. The price of gas has made getting to interviews more than challenging.  Cotton says she’s filled out at least 300 job applications.  She’s even been called in for interviews.  At 54, she believes her age is a detriment.”

(Leaving prison, when my job search begins in 2013, I will be almost 52 years old)

“Interviewers always compliment her years of experience but they never call back. “I just know they’re going to hire someone 25 or 26 and not pay them as much,” Cotton explained with evident frustration.”   “I can do anything. I’ve opened clothing stores, I’ve managed, and I spent 16 years as an administrative assistant.  All I want to do is get my foot in the door.  Let me work,” Cotton said.  “I’ve aged 10 years in the three years that I’ve been looking for a job.  My emotions are on high; my sense of humor is gone. You have no energy, you can’t do anything,” Cotton told us (Smiley and West).  “I’d like to exhale.  I want to get a job so I can just relax and exhale…but I can’t.  After a while you just give up.”

How remarkable it is while completing this question of my profile, I was reading a most profound book, relevant to unemployment not only in Mississippi but in America overall.  Unfortunately, the the general unemployment rate in my community far exceeds the national average of 9% and is one of the highest in the nation, probably hovering around 19% today – 16 June 2012.  If Mrs. Cotton’s battle is a fair indication of what I should expect, pray for me.  However, let us all pray for the Cotton family and the other 14 million unemployed in America.  For anyone who cares about poverty and unemployment in America, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto is a must-read.

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?:

I am optimistic the high unemployment rate in Mississippi will not affect my plans for success as I will offer an valuable set of skills and experience to my community and state.  Also, my eagerness and ability to launch a non-profit or business model designed to help others avoid the perils of life I have experienced appears to be an opportunity for me to avoid the negative impact a high unemployment rate imposes on most formerly incarcerated individuals.

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

Since my employment options are limited to non-physical labor due to my health, I am presently in search of opportunities in the sectors I identified earlier in my profile.  Members of my support network have committed to assisting my efforts, which I greatly appreciate. I am open to all opportunities and will accept the most favorable one available to me once I am assigned to a halfway house.  I predict it will take at least one to six months to secure gainful employment that is a good fit for me.

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 anticipate after deducting my basic living expenses during my stay in the halfway house, I will save the remainder of my take-home pay, which I estimate will be 50% of my income, in preparing to meet my transitional housing, clothing and transportation needs upon leaving the halfway house.

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

Based on Annalyn Censky’s CNN Money piece, “How the middle class became the underclass,” published February 16, 2011, an American “in the top 1 percent takes in an average of $1.3 million per year, while the average American earns just $33,000 per year.”  I discovered the median American household income for 2011 was $49,455.

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

I expect my income will exceed the amount the average American earns, but I would be doing well to earn at least the national average one year after my release from prison.  As I plan to tirelessly work trying to improve the quality of life in my community, with the hope that I will be fairly compensated for the value I bring to any organization or company.

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

I imagine every prisoner, as I, long for a chance to breathe freedom, to build a successful life, and to mend or maintain strong family and community bonds.  However, to obsess over these issues beyond our ability to influence these outcomes

invites emotional harm and instability into our lives.  We then, as I did during the first years of my imprisonment, allow feelings of depression, fear, anxiety, low self-esteem, helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and self-doubt control our lives and escort us to a dark place.  A no-man’s land….

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

By believing in the power of one, me, I am convinced I can overcome the despair that I have felt, at times, during my prison journey.  As prisoners, we must emerge from behind the fences empowered, resolve unbroken, as a symbol of resilience and commitment to high ideals.  The ideal life for me is to become an effective participant in our country’s ability and efforts to rescue those at-risk of failing as I have.  I know what it feels like to let people down and I know I can help others not follow in my footsteps.  Lastly, I emphatically refuse to be remembered for the worst thing I’ve done in my life.

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?:

If I were asked this question on the TV game show “Jeopardy,” my response might be: “What is the BOP Inmate Discipline Program?”  Or as most prisoners might ask: “What is “shot” behavior?”  In case you’re wondering, a “shot” is prison jargon for formal notice of an alleged prohibited act committed by a prisoner to include the possible sanctions one may receive pursuant to the Inmate Discipline Program.  An infinite list of “don’ts” in other words..

“Shots” are ranked by the severity of the prohibited act, from one hundred series (most serious) to four hundred series (least serious).   For example, a one hundred series “shot” would be issued to a prisoner suspected of killing, escape, starting a fire, rioting, or taking hostages, to name a few acts on this level.  Two hundred series acts include fighting, threatening another with bodily harm, having sex, wearing a disguise or mask, adulteration of a food or drink (ex. making “hooch”), or possessing any officers or staff clothing.  Three hundred series covers indecent exposure, possession of money, refusing to work or obey an order, insolence or lying to a staff member, being untidy or unsanitary (which unfortunately, is rarely enforced), as some examples.  Some four hundred series prohibited acts are feigning illness, using abusing or obscene language, improper conduct with a visitor, kissing or embracing another prisoner, or, the catchall, the infamous “conduct which disrupts or interferes with the security or orderly running of the institution or the BOP…, which could result from a prisoner simply telling the wrong lady guard, “ma’am, you sure look pretty today!”

I actually know a prisoner who received such a “shot” and afterwards, was promptly thrown into the segregated housing unit (SHU) for three months for doing just this very thing.  As a matter of act, there are prisoners whose behavior results in “shots” almost daily, in various scenarios, from unscrupulous staff harassing a prisoner simply because they can to a prisoner’s sheer “dumb luck” of being snitched on to prisoners who just don’t give a damn about right or wrong behavior.  I better stop here before I get a “shot” for answering this question honestly.  So really, just about any brain fart in prison has the potential to lead to such outcomes.

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

In my opinion, it depends on the individual.   Like how Michael, as I read in his book “Earning Freedom” for example, didn’t allow the harsher prison conditions to which he was subjected stifle his efforts to obtain a higher education and write several books from prison.  Many prisoners would have become discouraged if faced with Michael’s challenges.  Therefore, I feel most prisoners’ efforts towards successful reentry would be seriously compromised by harsher prison conditions, such as disciplinary segregation, parole date rescission or retardation, forfeiture of earned statutory good time or non-vested good conduct time, a monetary fine, housing change, removal from prisons programs and/or group activity, loss of job, impoundment of personal property, extra duty, and loss of privileges (e.g. visiting, telephone, commissary, movies, recreation), to identify some of the official sanctions prisoners actually face.

Such harsher conditions are designed to demean, isolate and punish prisoners as an approved sanction for his or her committing a prohibited act, which often are minor infractions like sneaking a small milk, fruit or a honeybun out of the chow hall or not having one’s T-shirt tucked when returning from the rec yard, resulting in possible humiliation, depression, hopelessness and/or anger controlling a prisoner’s psyche.  Prisoners who are trying to improve their situation, if unable to utilize prison resources and/or effectively communicate with the outside world, would find it all but impossible to continue  working towards the goal of transition success.  I have been fortunate to not have received a “shot” during my imprisonment and can only imagine the negative effect on my morale and confidence if my prison conditions were made harsher, especially if done so wrongfully, as I understand was the case with Michael, time after time.

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

Since my 2007 incarceration, as I was certain my life choices, the consequences of which were conviction and imprisonment, disappointed those in my support network, I was too embarrassed to reach out to anyone except my parents and children, until recently.  I was also convinced that the only measure by which I could possibly redeem myself in their eyes was my future success.  During a visit this past weekend, I promised my nineteen year old son I would make him proud again of me one day.   His response was “Dad I’m already proud of you. All I want is for you never to get in trouble again.”  So the above question really hits home with me.

Now is the “time to cash in my bad luck,” borrowing a lyric from Fun’s “Some Nights.”  I love that song! It could be a prisoner’s as well as a soldier’s anthem.  From my support network’s perspective, I assume my positive behavior, while confined, will begin to and forever speak volume of my commitment to deserving their forgiveness, continued support and belief in my rededication to living a wholesome life.  As a prisoner, I accept that if I were to commit any prohibited act, resulting in my being subjected to harsher prison conditions, my misbehavior would only re-wound the hearts of my support network and most likely be perceived as indicative of my inability to excel.  When one is at “rock bottom” as I am, any further negative behavior only serves, I believe, to distance oneself from the trust and loyalty of a support network, by tarnishing the faith, encouragement, hope, investment and prayers extended by those who wish the prisoner Godspeed and much success.

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?:

In reading Michaels’ book, “Earning Freedom,” about his “bit” at FCI “Dream” McKean, I learned about the only BOP facility of the many he served time in which offered such mechanisms. According to Michael, because of its then Warden, Dennis Luther, an “intelligent” leader who did not “cling to the simplistic notion that prisons should exist solely to be isolated and punish.  Instead of relying on polices that crush hope, and managing by threat of further punishment, Warden Luther uses a highly effective system of positive incentives.”

From 1993 to 1995, I understand Michael and the other prisoners assigned to FCI McKean with him, some serving life sentences, reaped the benefit, as he wrote, of “a token economy where prisoners can earn points individually and collectively. We redeem the points for privileges and rewards that ease our time.  The progressive system vests the prison population with incentives to exercise self-control.  By keeping rooms and housing clean, prisoners can earn the privilege of more access to television and the phones.  Those who accumulate enough points earn the privilege of having a portable television and VCR in their rooms.  By minimizing disciplinary infractions, prisoners can participate in family picnics, order food and goods from local businesses, and wear personal rather than institutional clothing.”   Other prisoners I have talked to who served time in the “Dream” in the 90s, as well, confirmed this and reported that some state and county penal facilities offer such incentives.  Some still today.

What I have been told by other long-term prisoners confirms Michaels’ assessment of the positive effect these mechanisms have on the productivity, aspirations, morale, security and self-esteem of prisoners fortunate to be assigned to an institution that not only punishes those who negatively behave but rewards prisoners for positive behavior as well.  It is also my understanding that after Warden Luther retired from FCI McKean, all of the mechanisms he put in place to rehabilitate and empower prisoners were immediately discontinued by his successor, Warden Meko, and have never been reinstituted by any subsequent warden or in any other BOP facility to this day.

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

Today is 14 July 2012.  The prison system I have experienced these last 1661 days is pathetically in the business of human warehousing as oppose to human empowerment.  A small percentage of the prison population I have observed, nevertheless, goes about the business of dutiful reentry preparation, as best we can, despite adequate prison-provided resources.   Assigned to our prison’s education department since my incarceration began, I have not seen any accredited educational degrees, vocational agency certification or apprenticeship programs offered, although such opportunities are advertised publically to exist.   Only prisoners who are fortunate enough to have a diligent support network and sufficient financial resources can accomplish building a solid foundation for reentry success, as accredited educational opportunities are allowed by mail at prisoner expense.

One solution could be the offering of online courses to prisoners, but I have been informed by education staff members that prison security concerns outweigh the need to afford prisoners such opportunity.  My response was that “web browser lock-down” technology exist to alleviate any prison security issues involving inappropriate use of the internet by prisoners, to which I received a blank stare from the staff member.

There is one area where a most precious incentive, i.e. early release from prison, exist, but only for a microcosm of the BOP prison population.  This exception is the mechanism of entitlement to an up to one-year sentence reduction for non-violent prisoners who successfully complete the BOP’s 500 hour Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP), however our RDAP Director informed me this morning that less than 5% of the prison population assigned to one of the limited federal institutions offering RDAP are lucky enough to be enrolled in the program.  For Forrest City, he reportd only about 1% of the prisoners particiapte in RDAP.  Considering the fact that over 75% of prisoners BOP-wide are substance abusers and only a fraction of these prisoners receive the benefit of the RDAP, this status quo is alarming.

91. Describe the goals you have set?:

The goals I have set are as follows:  I will love and trust God with all my heart by serving Him and remain faithful that God is working miracles in my life to use me for a mighty purpose.  Despite the obstacle of despair surfacing at times, I will endeavor to always remain positive.  I will remain committed to consistently working to translate my vision for good health and future success into physical reality.  I will continue to love, protect and encourage my children as much as a father from prison can and never stop reminding my mother, father and friends how much I appreciate their prayers, uplifting words, love and support.  I will endeavor to earn forgiveness from and bond one day with my children I have been separated from.  I will write daily, continue to grow my support network, complete the MGSF Straight-A-Guide curriculum and often update my MGSF profile.

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

My professed values fall into ten value categories:  1) Godliness, 2) family, 3) fitness, 4) self-esteem, 5) character, 6) creativity, 7) ethics, 8) network, 9) volunteer, and 10) legacy.   The fulfillment of my goals is harmonious with my professed values, therefore I see my value system as the pathway to my identity wholly reflecting said values.

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

As a result of my daily effort, I can clearly gauge my progress through my extensive writing, the gradual growth of my support network, and the improvement of my health – spiritually, physically, and emotionally, through prayer, fasting, exercise, and reading.

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

For self-empowerment, one’s goals must be synergistic in my opinion!

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

My goals are not  matters of “If,”  as far as I ‘m concerned, but rather matters of “When” I achieve them.  I rise every morning with this belief, thankful for life and the opportunity to achieve them, willed to move forward incrementally,  and so grateful that each step I take toward my goals, carries with it a constant sense of freedom for me within.  As I go about my daily business of overcoming adversity,  I also find great comfort in knowing that achievement of every step will evolve into my future stature as an empowered formerly incarcerated individual.  Therefore, my prison adjustment is greatly influenced by the goals I have set, as I am committed to being as productive as possible, day after day, as I satisfy my sentence.

You see adjustment to prison life reminds me of the process of my dream to restore a classic automobile one day.  Certainly, I have been stripped of the old useless parts of my former life, as well as had removed all the past wear and tear I have endured as I drove myself excessively to this junction.  During my restoration, I often measure, adjust and re-examine the parts of my character which put me here, to insure I will arrive to the destination God has created for me to shine again.

So I work in earnest, everyday, to empower every aspect of my life, strengthening my health – mind and body, as well as increasing my spirituality, knowledge and skills.  I refuse to live idly like so many other prisoners I see, the sort of life in prison which permeates the likelihood of future failure and recidivism.

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

My goals goad my actions.  They are the inspiration behind the words I regularly post on my MGSF profile.  Often I ponder if those who read my content sense a real pattern of progress on my part, which progress I trust, will influence the universe to grant me the favor of success upon my release.  Therefore, as long as my actions signify my goals and the Lord says the same, I can expect prospects for success to come my way upon release from prison.

by Steven Dybvad

June 28, 2012

My bunky was shipped out to Madison penitentiary yesterday
morning. I got a new bunky from R unit less than an hour later. My new bunky is
a year older than me. This is a good thing. I just didn’t want to get stuck
with another young boy. Plus he’s already served an eight-year prison sentence.
This just means that he already knows the respect for another cellmate’s space
and privacy.

CRC (Correctional Reception Center) is overcrowded. As a
result, they’re doing emergency ride outs to other prisons to make more room
for new prisoners.

I just got back from being cleared for mental health in
order to be classified to another prison and very possibly be on emergency ride
out list for tomorrow. I only hope and pray to God that I don’t because the
only prison that takes emergency ride outs and Friday is Noble.  Noble is one of the worst prisons in Ohio.
Noble is what is called a gladiator camp it’s full of a bunch of young boys
that have ‘Buck Rogers’ time and are trying to make a name for themselves. They
want their name to ring bells. That’s slang for one to be well known by others
99.9% of the time, being well-known in prison is only done by hurting others.
Not to mention that this prison is further away from home than any other
prison. People say that you can literally see and throw a rock at Virginia from
Noble. Well, this is all the worrying I’m going to do for the evening. Stress
is very unhealthy, so I’m just going to give this one to God.

by John Broman

16. Who are you?

I am a peaceful person, someone who tries to stay centered and true to who i am, no matter what is going on around me. I’m very passionate and dedicated towards the things that take my mind beyond these walls. Meditation, yoga, music, exercising, the things that i need to do to keep my sanity in here are my freedom.

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

I got a semester in at college, during the semester, the police came looking for me with warrants for trafficking weed out of Arizona. This was like my 4th arrest at that time, but it’s what really sent me down hill. I went to jail for a little bit, when i got out all my friends that were just smoking weed, all turned to heroin. I was already a junkie when i went to jail the 1st time, but after i got out, it went really bad, which eventually after a lot more arrests for drugs lead me to a bank robbery and a 16 and a half year prison sentence.

18. What are you going through now?

Dealing with all the negativity that surrounds me. People trying to drag me down to their level because of their misery and lack of focus. I’m also dealing with the break up of my girlfriend, which talking to her was always such an escape from here. Trying to NOT call her is one of the hardest things for me to do. Calling and NOT getting an answer breaks me down every time. so right now…….. I’m trying to move forward with my life.

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

19. Time remaining to serve.

To REALLY learn about my self, to be able to no matter what stay centered and Positive. To learn spanish, to develop skills and contacts so that when i get out I won’t fail and be able to have a good job. To write more of my stories and tyr to put them together in a book. I need to learn Music theory, WELL, so that I can sit down and play with anyone.

20. One month after release.

Have a good stable job that i enjoy. Get out of the halfway house and live with family. Start to get established in the community, find a yoga studio to try to work at. I need to get music equipment and find musicians to play with, surrounding myself with positive people and learn how to fit everything i learned in prison into life on the street.

21. One year after release.

Become a certified yoga instructor. I need to get my own place to live. Getting started on a career in……something that really interests me and will keep me away from going back to my old life. Playing music as much as possible, and being as independent and self sufficient as possible.

22. Five years after release.

Owning my own yoga studio and being an established instructor. Being a homeowner and having a family.A music career that allows me the options of CHOOSING my own direction [shows, albulms] would be…amazing!I need to be free of the legal system and be able to travel to different places. FULL INDEPENDENCE!!!!

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

As being dangerous and harmful to the community. That as soon as they are released they’ll retune to crime. They feel that most prisoners are violent drug addicts who will never change, and therefore belong in prison.

24. Describe how television programs and movies depict prisoners:

They show prisoners in the same light as how society perceives them [hence societies perception]! That they’re also sexual deviants that are always trying to lay down a con in some way.

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

The way that i am in prison is the complete opposite as what society thinks i should be. I’m the most peaceful person who wouldn’t hurt a thing. i was a drug addict, but have been clean for almost 3 years now. With all the bad influences that are around here, and to stay true to who i am. I meditate and practice yoga EVERY morning no matter what. If i was depicted in a movie or on TV i think that I’d be the farthest thing from what anyone would think a prisoner would be.

26. In what ways is your adjustment similar?

I don’t find my adjustment to life in prison to being similar to any of the perceptions and depictions. I don’t lie or cheat. I DO very much have the Me v. them attitude though, which i guess is something that is portrayed, and i have a hard problem losing.

27. In what ways is your adjustment different?

In the way that I do my time towards finding peace, as apposed towards trying to get power in the prison. When most of these guys are trying to find a gang or group to get connected with, I’m trying to get as far away from everyone as possible!

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

28. High security.

There isn’t many oppurtunities in the Penitentiary for growth. They don’t really offer classes that mean anything. They just have classes for recreation, and if you need to get a GED. The other little bit of classes that they have are taught by inmates that don’t really take it seriously and are just in it for the certificate to get their points lowered so that they can get OUT of the pen. Your personel growth comes from what YOU put into your bid. That and by learing how to stay OUT of the way of something that will get you into serious trouble and could cost you your life.

29. Medium security.

In the medium you have alot more freedom to move about and do things. The FCI that i was in offered college classes and culinary classes. It also allowed for me to get certified as a spin instructor. With the risk of violence way down in the FCI you really have more of an opputunity to allow your mind to drift towards what you need to do when you get out. As apposed to the penitentiary where survival is more of what you’re trying to have.

30. Low security.

I’ve never been to a low and really have no idea what they offer. I’m sure that it’s much more then in the Pen, and FCI’s.

31. Minimum security.

I’ve never and will never be able to make it to a camp to even know what that life is all about. I’ve never even met someone in the prisons that i’ve been in who HAS been to a camp. But I’m sure that i do know one thing that life has to be way more……peaceful there then it is in here.

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

Everyone ALWAYS say’s that they aren’t coming back. That this is it for them, they learned their lesson and all that.Most of the time I see them come back while I’M still here!!! When they come back they say how the halfway house was this, or their PO is that. Not just saying “Yeah,I messed up.” They always blame it on someone else. While i’m sitting here thinking “Man…..if i just had the CHANCE to get out now I wouldn’t do ANYTHING!!!”

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

They’re usually the ones that are always out doing something. The quiet ones. The ones that are gone all day. They usually stay out of the way that you never think twice about them. The ones that come back are ALWAYS the loud ones. The ones that tell stories about what they did out there and what they have. About what they’re going to do when they get out (as in sell this, or start doing that) but have no plans in the works to make it happen. Just alot of talk.

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

The best thing that a prisoner can do is to make contacts while they’re inside.So that when they get out they’re not starting from nothing. With nowhere to go and no one to help them out. They also need to make the most out of their time. Instead of sitting in front of the TV all day, or playing cards. They need to learn something new, something that can help them out in some way after they get out. If it’s just learning how to exercise right, or meditate or something that will help them relieve stress for when they get out and everything is going so fast.

Sentence length is not a factor that is controlled from within prison, but adjustment inside prison may influence success upon release. For a better understanding of prison expectations, describe your thoughts on:

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

Before I started my time, I thought anything over a year was WAY to long!!! Now that i’m 10 years into my sentence I’d say anything over 10 is long term. But compared to some of my friends with 800 + years, my 16 and a half years is nothing.

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

I think they either expect that they would’ve learned their lesson and won’t come back. Or (which I feel is the more perceived expectation) that they get out and go right back to what got them locked up because, after all, what else do they know?

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

Alot of long term prisoners just want to keep the hope that they’ll get out someday. That this won’t be the end of the line for them. That they won’t be scared by this or “institutionalized” that they won’t be able to function after they get out. basically hoping that the world didn’t pass them by, that much, while incarcerated.

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

That they’ll help keep the prison in balance. Without people that have been locked up for awhile, the prison would get pretty crazy. Prisons run themselves by how the inmates control each other.

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

For me, a “model inmate” is someone that stays out of the way and does their own thing. Also someone that you can go to if you have any problems on the yard. They can’t be a junkie, alcoholic, or gambler. Someone that does their time, and doesn’t let their time do them.

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

his journey is the complete opposite of EVERY stereotype of prisoners. With all the time that he had and doing the things that he’s done. Man it’s hard for me to even fathom all that he’s accomplished. Most dudes would’ve just given up and accepted prison as there life and …….went into the normal routine of……madness. what he did is extraordinary.

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

He adapted to what he could do. Which in prison is an hourly experience. With all the different interpretations of the rules by all the different staff members. With the lockdowns and violence that occur all the time. Really the only thing that you can do is role with the punches. But what he did was role with the punches in still creating a future for himself. Where most of us role with the punches in what we’ll get/accomplish in prison terms.

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

To get out of this with a future. To not let this be his life. To do his time and not let his time do him. It’s pretty amazing that a man that has that much time will continue to work as hard as he has for so many years without giving up. Very inspirational.

The Straight-A Guide includes seven attributes that he describes explicitly in the books Triumph!  And Success! What do the following attributes mean to you?

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

In all honesty….none. Up until now my whole goal was to get through this time and still be sane, still be….me! I’ve always looked at this time as this, If I’m true to myself, If I bacome and stay the man that I want to be, then I’ll have won over “them”. And I think I’ve done a pretty good hob so far. But now, I need to get it together.

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

i see myself in the future as being fluent in spanish. Having one of my stories published in my friends book, and having other stories completed that i can add towards a short story book.also i see myself as being able to reread music and know my theory so that when i get out, i’ll be able to teach music as a supplemental income. i’m also going to see about trying in some way to start toward a yoga certification while i’m in prison. Which is what i want to teach when i get out.

45. What distinguishes an aspiration from a fantasy?

first it is something that is actually accomplishable. second it is something that you can work towards while you’re in prison. if you can’t accomplish it then it’s a fantasy. when you CAN accomplish it then it’s an aspiration.

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

Right now i’ve been working for an hour everyday towards writing a story for my friends book. i practice yoga/ meditation for 2 hours every morning. I also teach the bass to someone and drums to another person a couple times a week, along with playing music, keeping my skills sharp. I try to watch the spanish tv to pick up on parts of the language (which right now they talk WAY to fast for me.) but i also ask/ speak spanish to several Mexican’s in here.

47. Accountability: How are you measuring progress?

Right now I’m not. Not writing it down anyways. I KNOW when i’ve had a good day towards my goals and when i’ve disappointed myself. Also not to mention when i don’t practice yoga/mediation then my body and mind yell at me at night for depriving them of what they need to stay at peace.

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

I’m right now knowledgeable about what’s going on in here as to what i need to worry about. As to what is going to cause me to get into a bad situation. The things that will bring me down. I do my best to stay away from them all. And as of last night the last remaining problem that i was involved with (my ex celly) is no more!

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

I reach beyond the boundaries right now by talking with my mom everyday by email. Also through the straight a program. I speak with my mentor a couple times a week (seth) and he’s REALLY good about keeping me in line and on the right path.

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

I KNOW that it’s going to be EXTREMELY difficult when i get out. My codefendent has told me how hard it is to get work, as well as my friend that i’ve done alot of time with. But I have a great family that will support me and provide me with a place to live. My friend can also provide me with a job at a club when i’m home. Knowing that my record will stop alot of employment opportunities, I’m working towards job’s that a record doesn’t really mean that much. (Yoga and Music instructor.)

51. Achievement: When do you celebrate success?

Everynight when i go to sleep. If i did everything that i want to do. (Yoga,run,write,music) Then i’m happy. I’ll tell myself that i had a good day. When i don’t do everything that i want to do, then i’ll tell myself that it was a wasted day. I’m really my own worst critic.

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

With my family’s support i know that i’d have to do things in here to get by. With their support I have the time and resources to focus on what i need to do to stay sane and now use what i’ve been doing for the last ten years to keep me at peace towards a career. And if it wasn’t for my mentor pushing me to write then i know that i wouldn’t be focused on it at all.

53. Where did those choices lead?

Those choices led me to use and deal drugs, which got me into the system at the age of 16 and never getting out of it. i didn’t really care about school or anything else. I played music with my bands and did my own thing. Had to go to rehab for the better part of 2 years while in HS because of all the legal issues that i had.

54. What did you value then?

I valued playing music with my bands. Getting high and partying with my friends. Spending time with my girlfriend. I didn’t really value my family for really being there for me, which i regret now. Everyone else always comes and goes.The kids i was with in HS i don’t even talk to anymore, and the ones that are taking care of me are my family.

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

I’d show then my whole path. I’d let them know where it got me, which is alot of time in prison. I can speak to them by experience, not just telling them that what they’re doing can affect there lives forever, but SHOW them that it affected mine. It’s kinda hard for them to say “but dad you don’t understand.” because “oh…..I LIVED it kiddo!”

56. What would you do differently if you could?

I’d of gone to school and on to college. Actually tried to learn and do well instead of just doing enough and going enough to get by. I wouldn’t of started selling drugs to make the extra money and free drugs. I would’ve been an actual kid and grown up how everyone else i knew grew up, instead of growing up in prison.

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

During my 1st days of confinement i was extremely dope sick! Stuck in the hole because they wouldn’t let me out in population for being  “the city kid that came and robbed their bank!” LIfe pretty much seemed hopeless and i was basically looking for ways to kill myself. Or just telling myself that once i made it to a prison i’d buy a bunch of dope and OD. i had NO intentions of doing all the time that I was looking at. Today, I have almost 10 years in the system, with 5 more years to go. It doesn’t seem that long to me. Actually with all the things that i want to have perfected before i leave it almost seems like it’s a crunch. I’m happy and I’m at peace. I’ve really become what I’ve wanted to be on the street before i got into drugs. i’m happy with myself now, and if anyone asked me if this is how i wanted to be in here i’d tell them “ABSOLUTELY!”

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

I’ve been doing alot or writing for a story that i’m putting together. It’s been something that i’ve been working on and off with for almost 2 years. It’s something that brings up alot of bad memories but is something that i have to get done. I’ve read all the Straight-A books that i’ve received in the last 3 weeks.I didn’t read anybooks in almost a year because of living with who i was living with and being surronded by so much drama. So from last week to this week i’ve been accomlishing working on something that will help establish me in the future as a writer and i’ve read inspirational things to KEEP focused on the present moment to stay positive and focused.

59. Identify the values by which you live.

I value keeping my mind and body sharp and calm. Staying focused on what keeps me at peace in prison. Living for what makes me feel like I’m the best person that i can be.

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

Practicing yoga/meditation every morning for over 7 years, along with playing and teaching music is something that I’ve lived by for almost my entire bid. Running and Working out 6 days a week to stay in shape.

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

Really….sadly they don’t. I’m labeled as a convict in society, although I’m far from what an expected “convict” is thought of. Like Michael said, nobody will pay you for how many pull-ups you can do.

62. Where does your allegiance lie?

Towards myself. But I also very much do things for dudes in here that have gotten me into trouble, so looking at it I need to be 100% loyal to myself.

63. Are values situational or absolute?

They can change depending on where you are and what you want out of life. But your core values should stay absolute all the time!

 

by Julius Lige

16. Who are you?

My name is Julius M. Lige. I am 36 years old, married with three beautiful daughters. I define myself as being a family man with a strong Christian faith.

I am highly motivated to become a successful business man. I relate to the importance of values such as faith, family, finance, and fitness. I am always in pursuit of opportunities to improve my life. Some of the strategies that I pursue include education, networking, and accomplishing goals I set for myself.

Since my imprisonment began in 2007, I made a commitment to walk out from prison as a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better son, and a better leader. I began working toward that transition by focusing on my physical fitness. I’m proud that through discipline and hard work I dropped more than 100 pounds.

After achieving that goal, I turned my focus to education, with aspirations to work in social services. To that end, I enrolled in Taft Community College through the correspondence program. I’m proud to report that in the spring of 2010, I graduated with an AA degree in social science.

I am now involved in a prison outreach program where I go out to local high schols and speak to the kids about the dangers of drugs and gangs. I have one teenage daughter of my own, and two more who soon will be teenagers. Because of my love for them, I feel deeply passionate about helping young people make better decisions than I made as a younger man.

Through all of the work I do in prison, I feel myself serving God’s will and trying to prove worthy of the many people who love me. I’ve been blessed with a magnificent wife who has supported me through this difficult experience. She is a source of inspiration for me, and because of her love, I am certain that I will walk out of here stronger in every way.

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

When I began serving my prison sentence in 2007, I knew that in order to emerge from prison with opportunities, I would have to take advantage of every educational proram the prison had to offer. To that end, I began studying at the Taft Community College. In the spring of 2010, I earned an associate of arts degree in social science. Also, through the Taft prison educational prorams, I received numerous certificates for my mastery of such subjects that include financial planning, parenting, wellness, and public speaking, among others. I am now studying through the National Federation of Personal Trainers through a correspondence proram to become a certified personal trainer. Besides that area of study, for the past year I’ve incorporated studies of the futures commodities market into my daily routine. As a youth growing up in Oakland, California, I allowed negative influences in my community to detract from my education. Although I was a student athlete, I repeatedly underachieved in the classroom. That pattern of behavior resulted in my not graduating from high school. Because of my aspiration of playing college football, I continued my education by enrolling in Junior College. I played two seasons of JC football, earning 30 transferrable academic units. After spending one semester at the University of Texas A&M, Kingsville, I put my education on hold and began to seek employment. In September of 2005 I heard a knock at my front door. The fact that it was 6:00 in the morning seemed unusual for an unexpected guest. I was right. It was the DEA. I was arrested that day and charged with possession of PCP. I am now serving a 120-month sentence in federal prison. Prior to this case I experienced minimal amounts of trouble with the law. I spent one night in city jail in 2002 for possession of marijuana. I’ve never been convicted of any weapons or crimes of violence. Prior to my incarceration, my employment history dates back ten years with consistent work. I developed skills as a home appliance installer, a warehouseman, a delivery truck driver, and I worked in a hospital’s material management department. As an employee, I possess the capable work skills and effective communication skills that are necessary to grow within any company. Because of my hard work, I was always viewed by my employer as a productive employee.

18. What are you going through now?

As of now I have completed four and a half years of my 10-year prison sentence. Being incarcerated has been a learning experience for me. It has given me time to focus on becoming a better person. Because of that focus, I have created many opportunities that will help me upon my release. Through my faith in God and my family support, I am confident that I will not make the same kinds of poor decisions that I made prior to my incarceration. In an effort to hold my family together, I express my love to my wife and children every day, always emphasizing that we must work together to strengthen our family connection. I work hard every day preparing myself for a successful reentry into society.

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

19. Time remaining to serve.

During the time that I have remaining to serve, I certainly will use my time wisely. I will continue to work on advancing my skill levels in numerous areas. Specifically, I intend to learn more about how the commodity futures markets operate. Also, I will work to improve my public speaking skills through the prison outreach program in which I participate. I expect to devote numerous hours toward my clearly defined aspiration of becoming a certified fitness trainer. I will take the necessary steps toward accomplishing that goal. Each day I renew my 100 percent commitment to walk out of prison as a better man, a better husband, father, son, and leader.

20. One month after release.

I expect to have accomplished all my short term goals within one year of my release. Most importantly I intend to have re-establish a strong loving bond with my wife and children. Through hard work and discipline, I will continue to live a clean and healthly life, exercising four to five days a week, fullfilling my commitment to remain in top physical condition. I will work consistently to contribute to society, providing leadership, while living as a positive role model in my community. Through evaluating my first year of release, I will determine what adjustments are needed to accomplish my long term goals.

With the combination of skill, drive, and preparations that I am making today, I am confident that I will secure employment within one month of my release. That employment should resolve my need to establish financial stability. As long as I am financially stable, I will have time to bond with my wife and children. Indeed, I expect to reconnect with my entire extended family.
As long as I have my family and employment issues resolved, I expect that during my first month of liberty, I also will be prepared to being the next phase of my plan to launch my career as a community leader. I have clear ideas about what that means. I come from an area where numerous young people were exposed to bad influences. It’s my role, I think, to work toward helping people make better decisions. I have a business plan in mind that will lead me to fulfill that role as a mentor, guide, and community leader. During my first month of liberty, I am hopeful that opportunities will be in place for me to advance the vision.
What does that mean?
Well, I’ve given a lot of thought to that question. The people who need my guidance most will never be able to pay me. I must rely on community sponsors. So my job now is to prepare myself in ways that will persuade community sponsors to step up and join my efforts to cultivate leadership within our community.
That’s the reason I’m working so hard right now. I’m using the Straight-A Guide as a model to build my brand, to build awareness among people in society. I want others to know how hard I’m working to overcome the indignities of imprisonment. I want others to judge me. Because I intend to be ready. And during my first month of liberty, I expect to point back to this very document that I’m writing today, on June 28, 2011.
I expect to come home in March of 2014. By April of 2014, I expect to stand in front of an audience of business leaders and community activists. I expect to articulate the vision I had and the steps I have taken to implement that vision. My call to action will be for those community leaders to sponsor me by writing a check that will me to make a living while helping others reach their optimal performance as law-abiding, contributing citizens.
That’s my vision for the first month of my release. First I must secure employment; second I must reconnect with my family; and third, I must begin to implement the plan I’ve been working so deliberately to build.

21. One year after release.

I expect to have accomplished all my short term goals within one year of my release. Most importantly I intend to have establish a strong loving bond with my wife and children. Through hard work and discipline, I will continue to live a clean and healthly life, exercising four to five days a week, fullfilling my commitment to remain in top physical condition. I will work consistently to contribute to society, providing leadership, while living as a positive role model in my community. Through evaluating my first year of release, I will determine what adjustments are needed to accomplish my long term goals.

22. Five years after release.

Potentially through hard work and a profitable business, my wife and I expect to enjoy financial stability five years after my release. With the Straight-A Guide incorporated into my everyday life, I expect to have frequent speaking engagements that will allow me to articulate my Straight-A Guide message to the youth. Because of my commitment to live a positive life, I will play an active role in the church, while spending quality time with family, and coaching football. I expect to have a solid foundation five years after my release.

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

Society percecption of people in prison can generally be opinionated. Since over 2.3 million people are in prison, there’s a large population of Americans who have family members in prison. Majority of our society view prisoners as being dangerous, manipulative, dishonest, and a threat to the safety of society. While others view prisoners in a more individual perspective, understanding the fact that all prisoners are not career criminals, and anyone is subject to human errors. Making a bad choice in life doesn’t define who you are as a person, but because of society’s misperceptions, prisoners are often prohibited from lucrative opportunities even after trasitioning into law abiding citizens.

24. Describe how television programs and movies depict prisoners:

Prisoners are portrayed on television programs and movies as being thugs, drug addicts, guy’s with tattooes who engage in homosexual activity. Hollywood has over exaggerated many of these stereotypes, influencing the public to believe all prisoners participate in such a lifestyle. With today’s news media seeking higher rating, crime are often broadcast to support hidden political agenda’s, persuading member of society to vote for laws that are tough on non-violent crimes, which contributes to the United States world leading incarceration rate.

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

26. In what ways is your adjustment similar?

My adjustment is similar to the prisoner stereotype in many ways. I’m constantly reminded that society will view me as being a possible re-offender, despite the significant progress I’ve made to improve my life. The prison system identify each inmate by his or
her number, similar to a product in a warehouse with a serial number or bar code, therefore I
hold myself accountable to prepare for a successful re-entry into society.

27. In what ways is your adjustment different?

My adjustment is different from the prisoner stereotype in that regardless of how challenging prison may be, I will not allow prison to discourage my drive and determination to succeed in life. Through edcation and the mastering of skills in numerous area’s, opportunities await me. Also with a thriving marriage and beautiful children, I will not allow seperation from my family affect our family bond. Unfortunately many prisoners and their families fall victim to seperation, which contribute to a very high prison divorce rate.

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

28. High security.

Opportunities are limited for prisoners who serve time in high security penitentiaries. In a environment with such hostility and tension, a prisoner primary focus is always on safety. With political rules and racial seperation, prisoners are limited to who they can associate with. To create any opportunities in a high security prison, a prisoner must isolate himself from the negative instutional lifestyle.

29. Medium security.

Opportunities at the medium security level are also limited. In a environment controlled by racially influenced gangs, a prisoners safety is threaten by young gang members who seek to gain respect and prove their loyalty. Prisoners with aspirations of personal growth must remain discipline and focus, while minumizing their social circle.

30. Low security.

Prisoners serving time at low security institutions are exposed to the same level of violence as the higher institution, but with less frequent occurrence. Opportunities for personal growth increases at the low security level, prisoners who are commited to improving their lives, create stratagies that allow them to grow.

31. Minimum security.

Minimum-Security Camps are less likely to have any violence at all, therefore prisoners who are selfmotivated often create opportunities for themselves. Vocational programs and prison workshop are offered at the higher level prison. Majority of the camp population consist of businessmen and corperate executives, therefore opportunities are created through networking and group discussions.

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

Prisoners are usually confident about not returning to prison. Most prisoners leave prison with the attitude that their going to do right. Unfortunitely the moment things go wrong, their survival tactics come into effect, which usually result to them engaging in criminal activity.

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

Those who never return to prison serve their sentence differently. They are aware of the many challenges convicted felons face, therefore their focus is on creating strategies and network systems utilizing their time wisely. Those who do retuen to prison usually are prisoners who glorify the negative prison lifestyle.

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

I believe the necessary steps you must take to improve chances of success upon release began by making positive adjustments in specific area’s of your life. Also committing yourself to accomplish clearly define goals, knowing that these goals will create valuable opportunities upon release.

Sentence length is not a factor that is controlled from within prison, but adjustment inside prison may influence success upon release. For a better understanding of prison expectations, describe your thoughts on:

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

I would consider five years are more to be classified as long-term imprisonment. When a prisoner has spent five years away from society, things can change for the worst. Relationships with family and friends began to suffer, also in most cases, financial stability is destroyed.

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

People in society have low expectations for long-term prisoners. They view long-term prisoners as liabilities, threat to the community and untrustworthy. With such a negative perception from society, long-term prisoners find it difficult to reach success do to the prejudice they often encounter.

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

I believe most long-term prisoners expectations are high. Motivated by such a long absence from society, most long-term prisoners have the attitude that they have something to prove. Unfortunately they fail to give proper consideration to the challenges that await them once their released.

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

Administrators and staff members expect long-term prisoners to understand the basic operations of the prison. With that in mine, they rely on long-term prisoners to educate and inform all new inmates on how the prison flows. Staff also suspect some long-term prisoners to use their experience and influence to scheme, conspire and manipulate the system for personal benefits.

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

A model inmate is a prisoner who abides by all rules. Model inmates are always in quest to impress staff, therefore in every possible way they try to avoid confrontations and any disruption to the prison.

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

Michael’s prison journey support and refute prison stereotypes. During his journey he experienced negative behaviors by inmate and staff that support prison stereotypes, such as violence, racial politics, and discouragement from staff. I believe also Michael’s journey refute prison stereotypes, his decision to educate himself and not allow staff to discourage him, demonstrated discipline, skill, and determination.

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

I believe Michael used the prison infrastructure as motivation. Serving a 45-year non-violent prison sentence allowed Michael to focus on the many talents he possesses. Despite the obstacles Michael faced year after year he was determine to overcome the difficulties of the system, which allowed him to accomplish valuable goals.

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

Michael’s decisions were results from his vision to emerge from prison with opportunities and resources that would solidify his chances for success unpon release. Although he had to serve a lengthy sentence, he was confident that through education, and skill development he could overcome the obstacles of prison.

The Straight-A Guide includes seven attributes that he describes explicitly in the books Triumph!  And Success! What do the following attributes mean to you?

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

The attitude and aspirations that I have regarding improving my life require a strong commitment towards preparing for a successful re-entry into society. I am determined to have success upon release. therefore I utilize the resources that are available to me, to create value to my life. Also my commitment requires daily assessments and personal evaluations.

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

I see myself two years from now, at the begining of 2014, leaving prison with the neccessary skills that will allow me to financially contribute to my family right away.
I can then focus on reconnecting with family and friends. Through my strong christian faith, and the blessing from God, I will accomplish all my clearly define goals.

45. What distinguishes an aspiration from a fantasy?

What distinguishes my aspirations from a fantasy, is the significant amount of work I put towards preparing myself for a successful re-entry into society. Everyday I’m constantly seeking opportunities through business plans, employment plans, and skill development.My continuous hard work everyday will distinguish my aspirations from a fantasy.

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

The necessary steps I take towards my aspirations began with my strong spiritual faith, understanding that through Gods blessing I’m capable of achieving success. Being physically fit is a top priority, therefore I utilize 2 hours a day for exercise, knowing that maintaining a good physique can create opportunities. Keeping a strong family bond is very important to me. Therefore I minimize my daily phone conversation, which allows me to communicate with my wife and children on a daily basis through the month. Through out the day I create time slots for studying, and also to participate in educational programs. I research material for future business plans, career plans, and skill development. I am well prepared to over come all obstacles that await me upon my release.

47. Accountability: How are you measuring progress?

I measure progress through my actions. Everyday as I work towards accomplishing my goals, I hold myself accountable to produce result. I’m always in pursuit to gain knowledge and skills that will help improve my life.

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

I’m very knowledgeable of the atmospherics around me. I understand the dynamics of the prison infrastructure. I strive to break through all barriers that are formed against me.

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

I reach beyond the boundaries that confine me through my public speaking. I’m fortunate to be apart of a wonderful prison out reach program. Our program allows me to visit schools in the Kern County area. Through my experiences, I convey positive messages, describing the consequences behind drug and gang activities.

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

I’m aware of the many challenges that will confront me upon release. Everyday I prepare myself to overcome these challenges. I anticipate for these challenges to be difficult, nevertheless I am confident in my ability to succeed.

51. Achievement: When do you celebrate success?

I celebrate success when I see the results from my hard work impact other people lives. After losing over 100 pounds three years ago, I am always approached by other inmate who inform me that there inspired by my weight lose. They explain how it motivates them to do the same.

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

My family plays a major role in my success. Through their support I am motivated each and everyday to work hard towards improving my life. Also I am grateful to have associate myself with intelligent, knowledgeable people while in prison. Men who I consider to be mentors.

53. Where did those choices lead?

Actually the ninth grade was a pivotal point in my early life. As a youth growing up in the inner city of Oakland,CA my mother new she must keep me active in sports to avoid losing me to the street. So every year my brother and I played football for our city’s youth team(Oakland Dinomites). In 1989 at age 14, I had a growth spurt, that year I was to big to play youth football, and to young to play high school football. With countless amount of unsupervised time, I made the decision to sell drugs. That choice lead me to develop a hustler mentality, which contribute to me being incarcerated today.

54. What did you value then?

As a young teenager influenced by street life, I compromised the core values that my mother instilled in me to embrace the values of the streets. I valued money ,respect , and material assets. Those were things that I understood to be important in the drug game. On the flip side, I valued many other things, such as playing football, socializing with friends, and skill development.

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

If my children were making choices in the same way, from an authoritative father position, I would guide my children towards making smart, discipline choices. Using tactics such as describing my experiences in detail dealing with consequences behind my negative choices.

56. What would you do differently if you could?

If I could rewind time and change some of the choices I made early in my life, clearly I would focus on the few years I spent in high school. My attitude towards education would change tremendously. Education would have been the top priority in my young life. With my priorities in place, opportunities in athletics and business may have been more obtainable.

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

As of today, I have spent over the past five years of my life incarcerated. Looking back on my first day of confinement, I believe my life differs in many ways. First and for most my relationship with God is much stronger. Also because of my 100% commitment to leave prison a better man, husband, and father, I’ve incorporated education, physical fitness, and skill development into my everyday schedule. My attitude towards life today is more focus, and discipline than it was five years ago.

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

As for activities from last week, connecting with what I’m actively doing this week, starts with my fitness training. Last week heavy strength training, this week heavy cardio training. Combining both weeks, gives me a balance exercise routine.

Last week I began researching information on potential colleges for my 15 year old daughter. As a sophomore in high school the information I received emphasize on the importance of good testing skills. Also I received information on tuition cost, room/board cost, percentage of black students, and popular majors.

59. Identify the values by which you live.

I live by values such as discipline, loyalty, integrity, spiritual faith, professionalism, and fitness, just to name a few. These values are important to me as I continue to work towards improving my life.

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

My daily activities harmonize with the values by which I live, in every way. From the time I pray in the morning before my work outs, to the discipline I display as I work hard towards improving my skill set, my values create my foundation by which I stand.

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

My role in society will demonstrate leadership, discipline, and hardwork.Those values allows me to redirect my life by utilizing the time I spent in prison to advance my skill set, earn a degree, improve my physical fitness, and strengthen my relationship with God. With these values in place, I will return to society a better man, father, and husband.

62. Where does your allegiance lie?

My allegiance lies with my family. Motivated by their love and support, I am obligated to show my gratitude, by working hard and accomplishing goals. My family inspires me everyday, as I continue to make incremental steps towards a successful re-entry into society.

63. Are values situational or absolute?

The values I live by are 100% absolute. I am committed to live a values based life. I understand that the decisions I make in life must align in accodance with my core values.

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?

I HAVE A STRONG LOVING RELATIONSHIP WITH MY KIDS,FAMILY&TRUE FRIENDS. THE ONES WHOM WASN’T HEALTHY FOR ME IS GONE,SO I TRY TO KEEP TIES WITH THE ONES WHOM BEEN VERY SUPPORTFUL TO ME.

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

IT MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE IN OUR LIVES. IF YOU WANT TO DO GOOD&STRIVE,YOU WILL MAKE IT!BUT,IF YOU WANT TO KEEP A NEGATIVE IMAGE AND JUST MAKE BAD DECSIONS,YOU WILL STAY IN THAT SMALL BOX!

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

I HAVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD!I’VE ASKED FOR FORGIVENESS OF MY SINS. NOBODY IS PERFECT,SO I HAVE TO  REALLY CONTROL MY BEHAVIOR&MAKE A BETTER CHOICES IN LIFE.

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

I DID LET MY CHOICES INTERFERE WITH MY RELATIONSHIP. SOME WAS YO KEEP US ABOVE WATER,BUT SOME GAVE HURT TO MY FAMILY MEMBERS DUE TO THE ABSENT.

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?

I CAN SPEAK ON MY BEHALF.I’VE MADE GOOD PERSONAL VALUES,BUT SOME BAD DECSIONS. THE PATH I WENT WILL DECLINE THE FUTURE GENERATIONS,BUT THE POSITIVE IMAGE I HAVE NOW WILL ADVANCE OUR CHILDRENS

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 prison.now,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 life.it s a life changing situation.you 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.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 Steven Dybvad

16. Who are you?

My name is Steven A Dybvad.  I am 32 years old.  I am a sensitive man, compassionate, loving, nurturing and many qualities that I could share with others and help make a difference in others lives.  I have yet to display these characteristics in full  force for I have locked myself in the handcuffs of a terrible disease of addiction.

As a result of these handcuffs, I have made poor choices which have placed me in the face of a prison sentence.

2nd Version 8-2012

16.) I am now a man, striving to be a better man, with goals, values and improving code of ethics and morals that will enable me to conquer the adversities I currently face as a ward of the state. I’m a sober sensitive man with a great deal of passion and pride for everything I set my heart and mind on. I’ve made a conscious decision to completely change my life. I’m taking steps forward every day, constantly changing my opinion of myself and exactly who I am.

 

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

I would have graduated from  High School in 1997, but my trouble making behavior had already lead me to a number of run-ins with the law.  I was placed on juvenile probation for stealing a deck of playing cards form the Mall.  I then began smoking pot on a regular basis.  My continuous poor choices, dirty urine from probation and the final straw was taking a book of music CD’s from a kids locker that ended me in being expelled from High School.   I then went to a facility called West Central to finish my schooling and obtain certification in machining.

As a result of the additional education, I had some really good paying jobs with great benefits, but I was never able to hold onto my job because my drug addition would lead me to not showing up for work or even calling in.  My marijuana abuse led me to trying much worse drugs.  The worst one I’ve ever experimented with is rock cocaine (crack).  Once you start you can’t stop.  You have to have more at any costs.  I would trade any and everything I owned for more crack.

I had a great family life during all this but always had a void from my missing biological father.  My mother did a wonderful job at providing financially for us and love and nurturing me as well.   She married my true father at the age of 9.  He is a great father but I always still had that longing and wondering of why my biological father did not long to be in my life.

2nd Version 8-2012

17.) My parents tried very hard to teach me right from wrong my whole life. And they did, I just chose not to follow their lead. I chose to hang out with the cool kids who are always up to no good. I always tried to hard to be accepted by my peers. Through my blatant disregard for the strict morals and values that my parents tried so hard to instill in my life, I discovered drugs at the early age of 16. My drug use only lead to more and more problems. I created a dependency for drugs, causing me to steal, which led to the final straw with my high school expelling me my junior year for stealing electronics out of other classmates lockers. My juvenile probation officer put me in a locked down facility where I obtained my GED and a certificate in metal machinery. Drugs have continuously been my life’s kryptonite. I’ve had short 6 to 12 month bursts of sober clarity, where I was able to obtain great jobs, homes and transportation, but it never lasted because I would lose everything from drug use and divert back to my primitive ways of stealing for more drugs, which in return would land me back in jail as a result. My reckless life, once again cause me to still a car, as a result of that car theft, I was also charged with and found guilty for robbery. This conviction led to my five-year prison sentence that I’m currently serving. This is probably the best thing that happened to me. My arrest saved me from death and my sentences given me a fighting chance at a good life.

18. What are you going through now?

I have been in jail since April of 2011 waiting for my case to be heard by the Judge.   My case which is a direct result of my untreated drug addiction.  I’ve been put in jail taking myself away from my children and family and facing multiple years in prison.

2nd Version 8-2012

18.) Right now I’m going through really hard times. But just like this program, I always welcome these trials and tribulations. This is all an experience I must learn from. If the experience isn’t difficult than how much will I learn? Of course I will learn, but I don’t want to adjust to the prison machine, I want to be repulsed by it. I’ve been asking for what I’m going through right now my entire adult life. I’ve been throwing rocks at the prison Gates for a long time and they finally open their door and let me in.

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

19. Time remaining to serve.

My time remaining to serve is the most critical time.  When will I ever have another chance to completely focus solely on things that I need to do to change my life for the better, every hour of every day!  When I’m released, I’ll have to worry about a job, providing for my children, mending relationships, child support, paying bills etc.   Now is the time to deeply soul search and be accountable for what poor choices I have made and understand the true ethical morale ways to live life going forward.

2nd Version 8-2012

19.) These last 3 1/2 years that I have left to serve are the most critical years in my journey to a great life. I have signed up for college courses so that I can obtain a degree, become a physically fit model of health and strength. I’m also working to strengthen my spiritual and mental stability. I’m doing all of this with the help and guidance of the straight a guide and mentor Justin pattern he. My mother and father have been and always will be the backbone and guiding force of my life. Because of them, I’ve at least always known what I was supposed to do with my life. I will walk out of prison prepared for a successful life in every way, shape and form. This won’t just materialize and happen by accident, it’s only through hard work and dedication that I am and will accomplish this task.

20. One month after release.

I am not sure if I should be in a treatment center to further strengthen my fight for success or in a half-way House establishing a career and saving money for a home.  What ever I’ll be doing one thing is for sure, I’ll be implementing the core values, perfecting the rigorous task of disciplining myself to be a success in every area of my life with deep passion, leaving a lasting impression on any and everyone I come in contact with.

2nd Version 8-2012

20.) One month after my release I will have my feet planted firmly in the ground. I have high hopes of obtaining employment before being released from prison. I would thoroughly enjoy earning wages helping other troubled individuals that are headed down the same destructive path that I followed. Being able to help others would also be therapeutic for me, to do that and get paid for it would be awesome!

I will be fully immersed in recovery programs such as AA and NA, with a healthy support structure, full of positive individuals who have already substantiated a successful way of life and maintain it through proven daily practices that work.

I will be making substantial contributions to the support of my children whom I’ve neglected over the years, so that I may work on repairing our relationships and building our relationships into what we’ve always wanted. Through all of these efforts, I hope and pray that a newfound bond will form between the rest of my family and me. A bond stronger than ever, one that will not break Ever!

21. One year after release.

Continuing to fulfill my goals of being a law abiding family oriented man.  Having established an excellent group of healthy friends with similar ambitions and a powerful desire of attainment to success and attributes that co-exist with my goals helping me to evolve into the man that I’ve always wanted to be.

2nd Version 8-2012

21.) After one year of my release I still have many short-term goals on top of my long-term goals that will enable me to stay on track, stabilizing my foundation for the rest of my life.

Spending a lot of time involving myself in many programs in meetings that focus on recovery from substance abuse is a critical factor in my life success. Having established a good rapport with my parole officer, I might be extend the privilege of traveling to places where I can speak about my life experiences in and outside of prison to people like me struggling to find a better life. Spending quality time with my children in finding a proper balance between work, meetings, family and contributing to the help of others as well as myself.

22. Five years after release.

Stable home, stable job, stable friends, stable life!  It would be a goal achieved to have established an excellent environment in a home that my daughter and son would want to come stay at and feel safe and loved.  Being so stable and trustworthy that their mother would have absolutely no worries or problems with them being there.

Providing financially for my children and being totally independent.  Attending classes and meetings to continue to work on myself improving more and more.   Being able to give back to others that are struggling with addiction and providing them with a safe compassionate supportive friendship.

2nd Version 8-2012 

22.) Five years from my release, my family and I be reaping the benefits of my hard work I can’t say that it’s not difficult to have a good view of where I’ll be a half years from now. Believe it or not this is the most I’ve ever thoroughly thought about my future this far down the road, but I sure can talk about what I want for my life and my kids.

I hope to be happily married to a woman I can spend the rest of my life with and perhaps even have more children. I will have great relationships with my son Taylor, and my daughter Caitlyn. We will be living in a nice home that they are always welcome to come to at any time. It would be a dream come true for my children to someday live with me.

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

One of the hard facts of life is that people in general are usually very judgemental of prisoners.  Even I myself perceived people in prison as very bad and scary people.  Animals that really should be locked in a cage because they’re a threat to society.  They just don’t have capacity of functioning in society like normal human beings.  Even after I had already broken the law, I thought I wasn’t like other people who were in prison.  I always told myself that I wasn’t the type of person who belonged in prison.  I thought I was better more special than the others.  I thought that since I had a good heart and I’m not a violent man then I don’t deserve prison.  Boy was that wrong thinking.  

There are many in here that have made wrong choices and now those choices, whether it be 1 or many, have defined them as a bad member of society, a prisoner, a criminal.   Violent or not, prisoners.

2nd Version 8-2012

23.) Society views prisoners as caged animals. Let’s be real here, some of these guys are caged animals. It’s all they know. It’s the lion attacking the gazelle on the Discovery Channel, predator versus pray, the only thing different is the jungle the week run in packs for protection, some hide in their cells, others blend in with their surroundings, I stay neutral, avert, blend in using intellect over dominance.

24. Describe how television programs and movies depict prisoners:

Many TV shows and movies describe prisoners as horrific hell bound murderers and violent rapists.   There is always some one getting their throat slit, stabbed or raped in the shower.  While that does happen a great deal, the majority of the time is filled with monotony and silly games and push ups.  A very small percentage of personal growth work happening at any time.

2nd Version 8-2012

24.) Televisions and movies depict prisoners very similar to the way they really are. Only difference is that they highlight the violence, drugs and homosexuality that is prevalent in all higher security prisons like the one I’m in. What they don’t show much of are the people on the path to righteousness, the ones who have made a conscious decision in the fighting effort to completely change their life around.

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

I have not yet made my journey to prison; jail is very different from the prison environment.  I can say that my adjustment to jail is rare and abnormal compared to the norm.

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25.) I worked hard to prepare myself for this long and difficult journey through prison. I’m one of the 1% of prisoners in here changing my life into a successful one. I life worth living Erie it every decision that I continue to make in here is well thought out, and relates directly to my release and the lifer and rich with great morals and values that I will continue to live by once I’m given the privilege of being a contributing member of society.

26. In what ways is your adjustment similar?

I’m still very much exposed to the serious threats of violence, thefts, disease, rule and law violations, such as gambling, smoking, drug usage, making of hooch/or alcohol, etc.

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26.) My adjustment is similar to others because I still have to overcome and conquer the fear of the lines. I still have to make the decisions of saying no to the many temptations of drugs, alcohol, tobacco and the many many other indulgences that are unhealthy against rules and laws and just simply tap someone into the wrong crowd. I pray and practice every day to stay strong and far away from all the temptations that are opposite of the life I’m living.

27. In what ways is your adjustment different?

Even though I’m forced to witness such things explained in question #26, I do not partake in such acts.  I have adjusted my sleep schedule to minimize exposure to the inmates and have quality time completing my daily regimen:  working out, reading self-help books, journaling, completely therapeutic assignments such as this, etc.

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27.) My adjustment is very different. Because of it I stick out from the crowd in my own weird for prison way. I’m very thankful for this because I’m bothered less by others. They’re starting to realize they’re wasting their time and breath. I love it! I don’t drink or use drugs, I don’t want any cigarettes, I don’t want any tattoos and I don’t run with the pack. I’m living opposite to the destructors way of life I was living on the streets and it feels exhilarating. I feel as if my mind, heart and soul have been baptized with a brand-new way to live.

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

28. High security.

29. Medium security.

30. Low security.

31. Minimum security.

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I currently reside in the level III and four Prison. Ohio considers these levels as medium and high security. This prison provide substance abuse help, anger management, money management, courses for better parenting, some vocational and college courses. This prison provides a lot of help for personal growth to the people who seek it. I’ve signed up for everything I can, but the major downfall is a ridiculous waiting list for everything. I’ve turned in several sign up sheets and I still haven’t heard word back.

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

Well, that is really a tough question.  A lot of men say that they’re never coming back.  Often when inmates are in heated discussions they admit that being in and out of prison is just a way of life for them.  Many men, including myself have said “I’m never coming back”, while all the other men say “Oh yeah you’ll be back.”  And it’s true.  More often than not, prisons, jails and institutions have become a revolving door for offenders often re-offend.

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32.) Most prisoners say that they’ll never return to prison, but they lie to themselves. The burden of truth reveals that they’ve done nothing to ensure that they never return.

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

The difference is black and white.  Prisoners are either doing their time or letting their time do them.  Prisoners who don’t return to prison serve their sentence with purpose.  They make goals that are directly linked to a successful law abiding life upon re-entry into the public.  They have prepared their self for the next step, and the step after that, and are willing to make as many steps as it takes to function in society.

Prisoners who re-offend tend to live their life in prison the same way they live on the streets.  They do drugs, steal, rape, kill, extort, etc.  To some, prison life is all they know, they function better in prison.  They’re guaranteed three meals a day and a bed to sleep on.  This is why so many prisoners become institutionalized.

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33.) Those who never return very the fruits of their labor long before they ever leave the razor wire behind. Those who ensure their success live in prison accordingly. We don’t have time to hang with people. Our extra time is spent preparing for our release. Studying, writing, prayer, meditation and living healthy are many of the core values I must train myself to live by in order to ensure successful and permanent freedom.

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

The more steps we take the more we strengthen our opportunity to success.  Participating in as many programs the jail has to offer such as college courses, drug and alcohol meeting, speaking, etc.  Taking time to read and study books based on recovery, self-help, success, even philosophy.  Improving dialect, studying new words, expanding vocabulary, even health has a direct link to your soul.  Mind and body work together as one.

Disciplining oneself to a strict and rigorous daily workout makes it that much easier to be devoted to all other goals.  Improvements on all aspects of life where we once fell short is a step towards a better future.

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34.) First a prisoner must be true to their self and know in their heart that they want to change their old ways of life for a new one. Then they have to reach out any and every single resource available that will make a permanent improvement on their life such as educational programs motivational programs, programs that will all-around help your interaction with society, ensuring your place in the real world, not the world behind these prison walls.

Sentence length is not a factor that is controlled from within prison, but adjustment inside prison may influence success upon release. For a better understanding of prison expectations, describe your thoughts on:

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

If I had to pick a number, I would say three or more years.  Any length of time in prison is too long for me.  Whatever amount of time I do get a sentence to serve will be used to my advantage for life improvement and growth.

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35.) I would consider any length of time away from family loved ones, and freedom to do as we wish within the parameters of the law as long-term imprisonment, whether it be months, or years.

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

It’s a little difficult to answer this question because I’m looking at this from the other side of the spectrum.  I would image that some expect us to be rehabilitated, others probably think there’s no hope for us, and they will expect that it’s only a matter of time before they return to prison.

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36.) Before I myself become a prisoner institutionalized is a word that always came to my mind when I would attempt to assess the long-term prisoner.

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

I would have to say the answer is about the same as the answer to question #36.  If a prisoner has the goal of attaining success a law abiding, functional citizen of the United States, then he will perform the necessary tasks to evolve.  If a prisoner just wants to lay down and sleep his sentence away until he gets home then he should expect to be the same man he was before being sentenced to prison.

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

I would imagine that most of them expect long-term prisoners to continue being the law/rule breaking criminals that they/we have already earned a label for.  Staff treat everyone of us as if we had incurable diseases, they treat all of us with the caution that we might attack them, kill them, spread disease, conceal drugs and/or weapons, etc.

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

From reading Michael Santos and Justin Paperny’s books, I would say that they are classic examples of a “model inmate”.  By following the rules, using the available resources provided by the institution for rehabilitation and growth, possibly volunteering extra classes, helping others learn, or something of that nature.  Even decision made must be with purpose driven to make a change for a better future.

There is no room for deceit, negative instant gratification, or any kind of criminal behavior for that matter.

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

Michael Santos stands in, and has created a bold new category.  He is an excellent role model for any prisoner serving time across the globe.  He has surpassed beyond all stereotypes.  Michael as well as Justin are both my role models, and I intend to follow their righteous path that they have paved for so many inmates to follow.

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

I have not had the fortunate pleasure of reading all of Michaels’ books for the strict rules here in the

county jail disabling me from any books brought in from the outside.

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

 

The Straight-A Guide includes seven attributes that he describes explicitly in the books Triumph!  And Success! What do the following attributes mean to you?

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

My commitment level to preparing for success upon relase is to the highest degree.  Even though I’m not yet in prison, Ihave many goals with an extensive formulated plan that I will activate in full swing, once I cross the threshold of the prison gates.  I’m currently doing everything wihtin my capability to prepare while currently locked in this county jail.

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

My next future check point, I see myself on a regular scheduled workout plan, signing up for as many programs that I can, perhaps even running a class for the Straight-A-Guide.  I will continue my daily journaling and even make time to write a book of my own for a side project.

45. What distinguishes an aspiration from a fantasy?

An aspiration is a reachable desired goal.  A fantasy is an unattainable waste of time and space in one’s head.

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

My answer to question #43 entails the many steps I’m currently taking as well as my formulated plan of action once I enter my parent institution.

47. Accountability: How are you measuring progress?

I’m currently measuring progress through the many temptations that I’ve overcome here, my consistent, daily journal entries, reading the books (self help and spiritual) that are available to me.  Identifying the problems that have lead me up to this point of incarceration and formulating my plan of attack.

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

After being stuck here in the county jail with the worst of criminals, I have become extremley aware of my atmosphere and it is finely tuned like an instrument on a daily basis.

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

This is a tough question.  Or maybe I’m just thinking too hard about this.  One way that I reach beyond my confinements is working on my daily blogs, looking towards the future of my successful release.  Other ways of reaching beyond the boundaries that currently confine me are; writing letters to my family members, talking on the phone with family and Justin Paperny.  Having visits and receiving letters and pictures from home.

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

Being released from prison will be my greatest challenge yet.  This is why I know without a doubt in my mind that the harder I work in preparation for that moment, the more that I learn, by conditioning my mind, body and soul on a daily basis, constantly changing goals and moving forward willl make my success so much easier and failure difficult.  But failure is not an option for me!  I know failure, I’ve been down that road so many times, I could drive it with a blind fold on.

51. Achievement: When do you celebrate success

I dont belive that I should ever celebrate success.  Success is constant, consistant and always changing; but never ending.

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

Appreciation; without having a positive, loving, stable and support structure of my family, I wouldnt even have knowledge of this life changing program that I’m involved in.  The love and support of my family and friends is above and beyond what I could ever ask for.  I am truly grateful for their support and I have taken them for granted for far too long.  It’s time that I show them just how grateful I am by taking consistent actions towards love and success for the duration of my existence on this earth.

53. Where did those choices lead?

This is a question that I’m not ready to answer yet.  What I can do is answer this from my past, poor choices.  Those choices lead me to my current predicament.  My children suffer, fatherless, my relationship with my oldest child is poor because I’ve been constantly in and out of her life since the very beginning.  My loving parents can throw me further than they can trust me.  I’ve ruined so many excellent opportunities for success and Ive close so many doors that will never re-open.

54. What did you value then

During my drug addicted life, I valued nothing.  Nothing except for innebreation.  Don’t get me wrong, I have always had a big heart with a love for my children and family like no other.  I allowed drugs to consume me.  I had a choice to seek treatment, but the potent power of addiction kept me living in denial.

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

I hope and pray every day that neither of my children have to make the choices I have sending them down the same horrible path.  I hope that the choices I’ve made and the life I’ve lived is enough to show them this is the wrong way to live.  But I won’t stop there.  I will talk to them as much as they will listen, trying to make them understand through stories and lived lessons.  Through guidance and spending as much quality time with them that I can.  Enlightening the righteous way to live successfully.

56. What would you do differently if you could

What would I do diffently?….Everything!  Starting with listenting to what my parent have been trying to show and tell me my entire life.  If I was even trying to be half the man my father has been, or even half as successful as my mother, I would be a great man myself.  Someone who focuses on the good, putting others needs before my own.  I’m ready for that.  I will be that!   I’m going to be a good father, a son that m parents will be proud of and a loving husband that a good wife would want to spend the rest of her life with.

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

Today I see my confinement as a great opportunity to change my life around and be a success.  When I was first arrested and jailed for my charges, I thought that my life was over.  I even considered the thought of ending it.  Now, this is nothing but a fresh start for me, a new and great opportunity to change my life around for good.

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

Every day I stay focused on my goals.  There’s not much that I can change in the county jail, except for my confidence in a successful future.  What does change from day to day, week to week, is my ability to read people.  I’m an excellent judge of character.  With each inmate with a new personality that I come in contact with, the better my judgement.  This is a great tool for my entering prison.

59. Identify the values by which you live.

The values that I currently live by are; treating my body with respect by watching what I eat, working out and most importantly, being drug free.  Staying close to my spirtuality.  By my daily bible readings and the Purpose Driven Life.  I also have made a personal commitment to not faulter, becoming complacent, stagnent, never taking a step back, only forward.  Ofcourse I am only human, with many flaws, but I’m no longer under the influence of narcotics.  Therefore, I make decisions with a conscence and my conscence tells me to raise and stabilize my values.

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

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

62. Where does your allegiance lie?

63. Are values situational or absolute?

 

 


Copyright 2018 The Michael G. Santos Foundation