My Values and Goals for 2009

By · Saturday, January 10th, 2009

I write my goals for 2009 early on this first day of the New Year. It is just after 4:00 a.m., and I sit alone at a table in a quiet room of Taft’s federal prison camp. I may be well into my 21st year of imprisonment, but I have much for which I can feel grateful Regardless of what changes may come, I know that I am scheduled to walk out of a federal prison within four years. Considering the historic election of President Barack Obama, the bottom-up philosophy in which he believes, and a more liberal Congress, I recognize that my release date could advance in a significant way.

My wife, Carole, and I must prepare for the possibility of my imminent release. The goals we set for the calendar year 2009 reflect our belief in the possibility that we may begin our lives of living together as husband and wife, as a real family, much sooner than my currently scheduled release date. Although we remain grounded in reality, and we stand fully committed to growing through whatever adversity the bad decisions of my early 20s created, we have been infused with the audacity of hope.

As I wrote on the first morning of 2008, I remain committed to focusing on five areas for personal growth, but for 2009, I have added a sixth. These values reflect my commitment to lead a balanced, goal-oriented life. To achieve that end after a quarter century of confinement, I am convinced that I must define my goals clearly; further, I must invite others to both evaluate my progress and to hold me accountable. By doing what I say I will do, I empower myself through the struggle of confinement.

The value categories on which I concentrate follow alphabetically:


My faith in God has been the cornerstone of my adjustment through this journey of imprisonment over the past 21-plus years. Since the gates first locked me inside, in 1987, I have felt strengthened because I accepted that I was living God’s plan. With God’s grace, I embraced the opportunities that came my way, and I feel as if I have grown because of the many blessings I have received.

Although my faith in God powers me through every day, and sets my mind at ease before I sleep each night, I consider this value personal. Since I build my faith through silent prayer and living in a continuous state of gratitude, measurements of spiritual growth are internal. Through my contributions to society and the lives of others, I hope to live as an example of the blessings that come to those who allow faith in God to guide them.


More than 21 years in confinement has hindered my ability to live and interact closely with extended family members. Since my imprisonment began, my father and my grandfather have passed away. I was not able to participate in their funerals, and imprisonment has hardened my ability to grieve.

My mother married, lived with her husband for longer than 15 years, and divorced, though I had minimal presence in their lives. My younger sister has enjoyed a long marriage and reared two lovely daughters, though my imprisonment has meant that I hardly know my younger sister’s family. My grandmother, thank God, advances into her eighties with a lucid mind and excellent health, through travel distances and restrictions have made it difficult for her to visit me in prison. My older sister and her husband have made nurturing a relationship with me a priority in their lives, and they have brought their two children to visit me regularly each year. Yet state lines have always separated us. Distances and prison restrictions limit my interactions with her to no more than a few times each year.

Despite family wishes that I could have played a more integral role in their lives, I remain imprisoned, a stranger to the next generation. My primary connection, for which I am eternally grateful, is to my wife, Carole.

Carole has now passed through seven holiday seasons with me, and her love makes me feel whole. Limitations imposed by the prison system restrict my telephone and visiting access, so I reserve all of my phone and visiting privileges for Carole. We are authorized to speak an average of only ten minutes per day, and rules prohibit us from visiting for more than a maximum of a few hours, one day each week.

Despite the complications wrought by a rigid prison system that effectively discourages and limits family ties, Carole and I continue to nurture our marriage in every way possible. She is my link to society and my hope for a better future. Through her, I find the strength to persevere. Together we set the goals and commitments that will carry us through these remaining months or years of my imprisonment.

With Carole’s love and commitment to our marriage, I feel a driving inspiration to push myself harder through 2009. I must prove myself worthy of all she sacrifices to endure the challenges of imprisonment that she accepts alongside me.


Included among the many ridiculous obstacles erected by prison policies that effectively block those striving to emerge successfully includes a rule that prohibits inmates from “conducting a business.” As a long-term prisoner, however, I have always considered it my responsibility to prepare for a successful transition into society. After more than a quarter century in confinement, I will need financial resources to transition from the life of a prisoner into the life of a stable, contributing citizen.

Expenses for clothing, shelter, transportation, insurance, and sustenance to carry me over until I am stable will require that I build a substantial savings account. I will have to draw from those savings to launch my life upon release. I estimate that I will need to accumulate a sum somewhere in the mid five-figure range to fund a stable transition into society without stress; after 25 years of imprisonment, I do not want to endure financial stress. Plans that Carole and I have made together keep us on track to reach the necessary savings we will need upon my scheduled release. With hopes that my release could come sooner, Carole and I must make adjustments and sacrifices in 2009.

Through earnings generated by my work during imprisonment, I created the resources necessary to fund Carole’s nursing education. She earned her first nursing credential in the summer of 2008, which enabled her to begin working in a respectable career that pays her a livable wage. We are both grateful that she now lives a life of stability. With Carole’s national nursing credential, she is able to contribute to our family savings plan and to continue studies that will lead to advanced nursing credentials. We expect Carole to graduate as a surgical nurse in 2010; her earning capacity will assure financial stability in our lives.

The detailed financial goals that Carole and I set will enable me to pursue a career as an author / speaker / teacher / and consultant upon my release. Such a career choice will require that I work independently, without the certainty of a steady paycheck and benefits. Yet I have worked to build a career that would not require shame or hiding from my past since the beginning. I intend to live as a testament to each individual’s ability to thrive through adversity, and I expect to build a career that will inspire others to reach their highest potential. Such an aspiration requires that Carole and I create the financial strength to sustain us, and the goals we set reflect our commitment to this life plan.


On January 15, 2009, I will celebrate 45 full years of life. I have been blessed with excellent health, though I am convinced that a disciplined exercise commitment contributes to my tip-top physical conditioning. In the year 2008, I ran 2,600 miles. That was the longest total distance I have run in a single year. I intend to continue this commitment to long-distance running and strength training in 2009. This commitment reflects a deep sense of responsibility that I feel, as I owe my wife a duty to do all within my power to emerge healthy and fit. I will renew that commitment to Carole on the first day of each month for the rest of our lives.


As a long-term prisoner, I have few genuine friendships that precede my confinement. I feel the generous support of one childhood friend and his family, though other than the Karis family, the friendships Carole and I have built are with people who came into my life through this prison journey. We both are grateful for the love we feel from so many. Yet prison restrictions interfere with the type of intimacy that grows with most long-term friendships. I do not have the freedom to make phone calls or to visit, and I am prohibited from accessing modern technologies like e-mail that people take for granted in contemporary society.

Despite limitations, I try to stay connected through my access to writing paper, pens, and postage stamps. I am grateful for the friendships with which I have been blessed. I feel as if I am building the final steps of my ladder. It will lead me out from the caverns of imprisonment I have known since 1987. With my eagerness to emerge into the light, I feel myself devoting more of my energy to the preparations I must make, leaving less time available to keep us with personal correspondence. I ask those friends who stand by me to continue their support, as it has been a great source of strength for me.


To carry me through 2009, I have added a sixth value: community. In making this addition, I acknowledge the increased time I am investing in broadening my reach into society. As a long-term prisoner, I feel as if I have an obligation to help American citizens understand this growing subculture of imprisonment. Our country confines more than 2.3 million people, and it releases 650,000 people each year from places of confinement. Statistics show that more than six of every ten people who serve time return to confinement after their release. We need prison reforms that will lower those recidivism rates and thus make society safer.

<>In an effort to influence improvements to America’s prison system, Carole has launched a new platform to publish my work at Through that Web site, I intend to build a larger community and make regular contributions to the debate on the need for prison reform. Since I have served considerable lengths of time in prisons of every security level, and I have built a sustained record of working to reconcile with society, I feel well positioned to help others understand the need for prison reform.

Below is my list of clearly defined and measurable goals for 2009. Each of these goals relates to the advancement of my six values, including faith, family, finances, fitness, friends, and community:

  1. I will devote a minimum of 40 hours each week toward preparing for my career as a writer/speaker/teacher/consultant.
  2. I will read at least 25 books in 2009 that contribute to my preparations for success upon release.
  3. I will publish weekly and quarterly reports that describe my progress toward the goals that I set.
  4. I will average at least 50 miles of long-distance running each week of 2009.
  5. I will thank God every day for the blessings Carole and I receive, and I will pray for guidance to reach our highest potential.
  6. I will work closely with Carole to preserve our savings and to achieve year-end savings goals.
  7. I will nurture my relationship with Carole and continue striving to live as a better husband and partner to her.

Personal growth and development do not come by accident. As I wrote in prior years, by living a goal-centered life, I am confident that I am doing everything within my power to emerge successfully. I encourage readers to follow my progress through the quarterly reports I publish in 2009.

Thank you for your interest in these preparations I make for release, and please visit my daily posts at

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