How Does Michael Santos Help Other Inmates?

By · Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

I received an email message from Marlene, at Kirkland and Ellis of Chicago, asking how I help other inmates. That’s a question that would require a book-length response. Since 1987 I’ve been serving a 45-year prison sentence. I’ve tried to live as an example for my fellow prisoners, showing and guiding them to adjust in ways that will help them emerge from prison stronger.

Here at Taft Camp, where I am currently confined, I facilitate a course called The Entrepreneurial Compass. This 20-hour course introduces strategies participants may employ to make the most of any given situation. I follow a syllabus designed by Scott Evans, a Los Angeles consultant. In delivering the course, however, I tweak it to help the prisoners in my audience. Many of them struggle with the loss of hope, as the prison experience has decimated their sense of efficacy.

Because I have served longer than 21 years in prisons of every security level, I have a measure of credibility with other prisoners. They know I have been through the struggle, and my accomplishments demonstrate that with discipline, prisoners can thrive. They can build strong marriages, they can educate themselves, they can prepare in myriad ways for the challenges that follow release.

Since the late summer of 2008, more than 100 inmate participants have earned certificates of completion from successfully finishing The Entrepreneurial Compass course. None of those students has been removed from the camp for misbehavior, and many seem more motivated to lead directed adjustments that will help them average from confinement successfully.

Besides the personal involvement I take with inmates who share the same boundaries with me at Taft Camp, through my published writing, I strive to reach and contribute to the lives of prisoners across America. My hopes are that they find courage to overcome confinement through the examples I set. My work contributes to the lives of my fellow prisoners, their families, and to American citizens whom I hope will support prison reform legislation. I write about the need every day and my wife, Carole, publishes those writings.

I am convinced that as a long-term prisoner, I have a personal responsibility, a duty to work toward changing and improving this system. I feel inspired by our new President. During those remaining months or years that I must serve, I am documenting every day of my confinement. I hope others will see the discipline necessary to overcome the obstacles wrought by confinement, and an example in the adjustment I chose. I hope to inspire others to support prison reform legislation, and laws that will allow offenders to earn freedom.

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