Adjusting to Prison

Prisons Fail to Prepare Prisoners for Society

A noted historian named David Rothman wrote in his book, Asylums that prisons were total institutions. Those of us who live in prisons must function within the rules and policies that prison administrators set. Prisoners do not necessarily abide by all of the rules and policies, though they must function within them. For example, prison […]

Serving a Prison Sentence Without a Gang

Prison environments frighten those who have never been exposed to confinement before. Television shows and popular myths influence perceptions. New prisoners have heard stories about  prison gangs, prison rape and brutal guards. In reality, the worst part of prison is the unknown. When I began serving my sentence in 1987, I didn’t know anything about […]

How Prisoners Focus on Goals in the Midst of Negativity

Prisons are volatile environments. The infrastructure is one that extinguishes hope. Many of the men who serve time choose to abandon thoughts of the outside world because they cannot project themselves decades into the future when release dates loom. Some respond with violence, or with bullying others. Despite my having served more than 21 years […]

Was My 45-Year Prison Sentence Just?

As readers may know from my books and articles available at, my position is that we could create a more effective system that better serves the needs of society if we created programs that encouraged prisoners to prepare for law-abiding lives upon release. Justice should not be determined with the initial sentence, but rather […]

Why I Set High Standards for Myself in Prison

I strive to be the best in the world at what I do. That means I must measure my progress not in accordance with what others in society achieve, as they have resources that are beyond my reach. I measure my progress every day, and I compare the growth I make with others who have […]

Prison Reforms We Can Believe In

Ultimately, society relies upon these prisons as tools to encourage law-abiding behavior. Yet flaws within the design of the prison system render it less effective than its potential. Statistics show that more than six of every ten people in America’s prison system return to confinement after their initial release. Reforms can lower those recidivism rates […]

Does Writing Influence My Status in Prison?

I’ve never fit the profile of a long-term prisoner. Rather than adjusting in ways that would bring me power through violence, I focused on educating myself. Instead of thinking about living in prison, my total commitment was in preparing for the life I wanted to lead upon release. That strategy required me to suspend my […]

Does Anyone In Prison Respect Nonviolent, Goal-oriented Prisoners?

My focus has never been on earning respect in prison. I strive to prepare for the life I want to lead upon release, and I do not allow anything to interfere with my progress. In books I’ve written about prison, and articles published at, I’ve described how a different set of values pervades higher […]

Religious Programs in Prison

Although I have not participated in organized religious programs in prison, many prisoners find them soothing and therapeutic. Every prison where I have been held has had a room or rooms that were reserved for chapel services. They were nondenominational, as prisoners from every faith used the chapel rooms for worship services. With staff budgets […]

How to Avoid Problems and Violence in Prison

During the more than 21 years that I have served in prisons so far, I’ve never had a single altercation with another prisoner. I’ve been in minimum-security prison camps since 2003. Prior to that year, however, from 1987 I served time in prisons of higher security. I walked through many puddles of blood, lived amidst […]

Extortion Targets in Prison

I received a letter from a reader who asked whether other prisoners had ever extorted me in prison. The answer is no, I have never succumbed to extortion. That does not mean prisoners have not tried. I spent the first 16 years of my sentence inside higher security prisons. When I was locked inside the […]

Relationships Between Prisoners and Guards

The relationships between prisoners and guards differ in accordance with security levels. In minimum-security camps, there is a much less hostile atmosphere. I have been confined in minimum security camps since 2003. Currently I am confined at Taft Prison Camp, and I find the officers here to be friendly and unobtrusive. They do not go […]

Seeking Protection in Prison

Protective custody, known as PC in prison parlance, is a choice that can have severe consequences for any prisoner. In minimum-security camps, it is not a valid concern as these types of institutions are no more volatile than a corporate office park. Yet in higher security prisons, where there are gang influences and threatening prisoners, […]

How Conservative Policies Influence Privileges in Prison

I received a question from a reader who wanted my opinion on the ways that conservative court policies influenced privileges in prison. My experience as a long-term prisoner has convinced me that federal judges rarely intervene in prison matters. They generally defer to prison administrators to make the rules. When courts do intervene in prison […]

Stay Out of Trouble and Keep a Positive Attitude while Serving a 45-years

Living in prison is not easy. I know because I began serving my sentence when I was 23-years old. Now I am about to turn 45. It’s been a long time, yet I feel blessed with all the opportunities that have come my way. Although I expect to serve between three and five more years, […]