Blog Article 

 12—Heads Up 

Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

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People who overcome challenges know how to focus precisely on their goals. When they make a 100 percent commitment, they cut off distractions. Their commitment influences the friends they choose and the activities they pursue. You have to go all in to work toward your best outcomes.

In federal prison, the Executive Assistant reports to the Warden. The Executive Assistant is one of the few staff members authorized to communicate with the media. I remember an interaction I had with the Executive Assistant at the penitentiary that confined me at the start of my journey.

As I recall, her name was Ms. Sheffield. I approached her one day to inquire if it would be okay if I reached out to the media. She told me that I was within my rights to connect with journalists. With her permission, I started writing to radio stations. 

I wanted to speak with a news announcer, hoping to build awareness for the first book I wrote from inside of a prison. Surprisingly, I got an invitation to participate in a talk radio program.

A few days after I completed the interview, a lieutenant at the prison paged me to his office. He told me he would lock me in the Special Housing Unit. 

I asked him why. 

He said I wasn’t allowed to give radio interviews at his institution. I told him that Ms. Sheffield authorized it. He looked shocked. The lieutenant let me leave until he spoke with her directly.

The following morning, Ms. Sheffield accosted me at the office where I had secured a job. She scolded me for causing her trouble. I reminded her that she authorized me to speak with the media. Ms. Sheffield said that she didn’t expect that a journalist would want to talk with me. Then she told me that if I ever wanted to reach out to a journalist again, I should request through her office.

When I sat at my desk, my work supervisor told me to be careful. She said that drawing so much attention to myself could potentially set me up for problems. I told her that my primary concern was preparing for success upon release and that I understood the goal could lead to potential issues in prison.

I wasn’t trying to create problems for myself in prison. Yet I understood that I’d have to take measurable steps if I wanted to build a career upon release. 

Developing a broad support network would be an essential part of my plan. If I could generate media awareness, I explained, that would allow me to communicate with thousands of people at one time. That strategy, I explained, could lead to a broader support network. 

She admonished me, telling me to be aware of the risks. Staff members could bring problems that disrupt my adjustment, she said.

Although I headed her warning, I understood how to set priorities. Without a doubt, there would be risks to the strategy I pursued. A “model inmate” served time quietly, avoiding attention that could annoy staff members. Yet rather than striving to live as a model inmate, I set a goal of preparing myself in every possible way. 

When I got out of prison, I intended to succeed. That meant I had to keep my head in the game, always searching for an opportunity to grow or accelerate preparations for success. 

  • In what ways are you keeping aware of opportunities to grow?
  • In what ways does your behavior show that you’re striving to overcome the challenges of confinement?
  • In what ways do people who succeed after confinement behave differently from those who face further challenges after incarceration?
  • In what ways do you adjust your behavior when administrators change rules unexpectedly?
  • How would you say administrative decisions influence your preparations for success?

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