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 Holidays in Sheridan Federal Prison Camp 

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Michael Santos

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Holidays in Prison: Sheridan Federal Prison Camp

If you’re facing challenges that could lead to a federal prison term, or if you have a loved one in prison, it’s always helpful to know what’s going on inside. Our team at Prison Professors strives to provide as much insight as possible, from as many voices as possible. We have a close friend that is serving time in the Sheridan Federal Prison Camp. He sent us this letter with a report of life at Sheridan Federal Prison Camp. We hope it’s helpful to you.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

The last month has been quite a ride. A slow ride, but a ride nonetheless. Trying to get settled in and find my routine. I think I have finally found it and days are starting to go by faster and faster.

I continue to make friends, acquaintances, and learn new names of people on a regular basis. I make a point to introduce myself to people, get their name when possible, and learn their story. The idea of two ear’s – one mouth – allows me the opportunity to educate myself in a unique way, only possible in a place like this!

It’s amazing how far a, “How are you doing today,” goes. People love to tell you their stories and followed up by just a few questions, they share interesting tales of wild adventures! You would be amazed. I can’t really share them on this platform as I am sure you understand, but just know – wow! 🙂 Some tales are how they got here in the first place, and others just about lives before this. If someone wanted to, they could make an entire Netflix series on just a few guys stories here (and likely have).

Rest assured though, my story will not be one of them! The power (gov), motivations, and capability of that which lurks around us, but cannot be seen – is immense. I am lucky, so lucky and grateful, that my experience with it will be a limited one. 

I started my “job” in the garden last week. It’s a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the camp where almost every single program is closed down. Not much of a job right now. More of a place to read and study. The indoor recreation room is closed which forces everyone to exercise outside or in the dorm areas where its warm. The sun comes out from time to time and the weather is very similar to Sonoma County’s weather.

It is beautiful here in many ways with the changing of the seasons, green grass, fresh air, and wooded hillsides. As I look out, it reminds me of home. I am not sure how the cold will affect outdoor activities in the winter, but I have a feeling that guys will still be running the track and exercising, snow or no snow! Think Rocky 1, when he was in Philadelphia and there was snow on the ground while he ran up the stairs!

I’m getting in good shape. The love handles have melted off and so far I have lost about 15 pounds. I think I have gained some muscles too. Hopefully, but likely because I am getting stronger.

It’s amazing how much guys work out here. Many are doing 1,000 push-ups a day, some even 2,000! I couldn’t believe it until I did a workout with them one day. It was a slow day, so we only did 45 sets, 15 reps each set, a 15 second brake between sets! I was tired! and, “not doing that again” came to mind when I was done. No reason to pre-emptively wear out the body! Nonetheless, I work out every day and I’m feeling good.

More importantly, I have gained lots of traction in my “self-study” program I created. I have been reading a series of books, newspapers, and magazines. Mostly books and the magazines which have begun firing cylinders in my brain. And what better place to do this then in my own private study quarters – the green houses in the garden.

You might be wondering why quiet time is so special. Well, it’s because there is absolutely no quiet place here. Nowhere. Considering there is only a few places you can be, there is no place to just sit and study. I thought there would be somewhere to study, I was wrong.

When they say there is a “library,” they mean there is a room that will hold about 6 guys, one copy machine (for 340 guys) and two small tables. And most of the time the “Library” is closed because there is literally, hardly ever, any staff here ever (staff is needed to open and close rooms).

Then there is the housing wing. Or should I say the “fraternity” house! Which are wild at time with guys talking, joking, cooking, hanging out and laughing, or trying to sleep. Speaking of sleeping; have you ever heard a symphony of 30 guys sleeping in the same room? Well – the snoring becomes a musical composition with your occasional “trumpet” sound firing off in the distance. Let’s just say its not the Ritz. Good thing there is a steady air flow in the room that keep things circulating.

Luckily, I am in the back, back corner of the wing. I’m mostly removed from the nightly traffic of guys walking in and out of the wing and bathroom. And when its loud, I put in my ear plugs. Then Mozart finally stops playing.

When you go to bed tonight, do what I used to do before I came in here. Feel those comfortable sheets as they wrap around your body. If you have someone next to you, tell them you love them, all things I wish I could do right now but will again soon.

Days here are relatively good, compared to anything you have seen on TV. But make no mistake, it’s still the “belly of the beast” and that is never to be forgotten. Neither is the fact that the men here under pressure, mostly from things happening on the outside, things going on inside their head, or from the fear of being released (yes, some guys get terrified of leaving. You would think it’s the opposite, but it happens and is strange). Respect goes a long ways.

There is a cadence here you get used to; no devices, surrender to the environment and what you can control, and a lack of outside news. From what I have experienced so far, nobody really talks about any current events on the outside other than if something will affect, or could affect, their early released. Like the First Step Act.

As of January 15, 2022, finally, under the First Step Act the BOP is going to start giving people (I say people and not “inmate” for a reason, that’s what they are – people) credit for their time in programing. And it has been confirmed that this is going to happen.

What that means is that for every month of programing, a person can get 15 days of home confinement instead of inside. This is huge! There are many people that have spent 1000’s of hours in programing in hopes that one day they will be able to go home sooner. That some of their hyper-long-(mostly) undeserved remainder of their sentences will be served at home. That they will be able to hold their wife again after being gone so long. Put their children to bed again after not being able to for 5, 6, 7, or even 8 years. Be free to live in a way most take for granted each day.

We will see what happens with the FSA. It was passed 2 full years ago. Was funded. Then nothing… It doesn’t really affect me because of the length of my visit. For many guys, it could be life changing and I hope the best for them. The amount of effort and time guys have put into this just for the “hope” of it being something that MIGHT help them is a testament to the human spirit. Working for hope 

And then there is my first formal holiday here! Today, Thanksgiving (I don’t’ count Halloween). I started the day off with a nice work out, outside (cold!), then count (we must stand by our bunks 3-4 times a day), and the food! What do they serve you on Thanksgiving in federal preserve you wonder!? Well I’m gonna tell you.

A big slab of turkey breast, roast beef, mash potato’s & gravy, corn (canned of course), stuffing (yes real stuffing), a freshly baked onion roll (think puff pastry onion roll, yum yum!), cranberry (no, not cranberries from the package made fresh with grand marnier like my beautiful parents make!), and a piece of yummy yummy pumpkin pie (yes, likely Safeway brand!)! It was really good! Then for “dinner” (at 2pm) they really hit it out of the park and gave us our final meal of the day – baloney sandwich! If you know me, you know that I said I would never eat a baloney sandwich again. And to this day that holds true! haha. All good though, the turkey meal was enough for the entire day. Oh, and not to forget the fresh cinnamon rolls this morning. The BOP did good today. Oh, no, I forgot – the people here cooked the meal. Nothing to do with BOP!

As this month comes to a close, I am two months down with not many more to go. In the scope of life, it’s a blip in time. I know it will be over before I know it. I am absolutely grateful that I can say that as I sit here and write this. I plan on diving deeper into my self-study program. I say self-study, because in here they teach you nothing but you learn fast that you never want to come back. It’s not a hard one to learn.

Right now I’m spending time building (metaphorically) a “house” that one day will be inhabited by a “who” (a product or service) that will help humanity in some special way. I don’t know exactly “who will live in it,” “who will buy it”, or “what they will look like.” I just need to know what the home needs to be able to do, to accommodate, to provide so that the “who” (product or service) can thrive in the environment I’ve created. Just as I am currently building this metaphorically invisible “house”, right now there is an invisible product or service (the “who”) searching for what I am creating. You know how that old saying goes; “the teacher will appear when the student is ready.” Boy, and am I getting ready for that teacher to appear! This time though, I am going to make sure the teacher doesn’t piss-off the powers-at-be! 🙂  

Part of my study program and mission while I am here is to help and be of service to as many people as I can, as often as I can. Use my skills (whatever they are, I am still trying to figure what to call them.) and knowledge to serve others in meaningful ways. What is fascinating is what other people here go through daily.

There aren’t many secrets when you live this close to a bunch of other people. Guys have problems at home, their minds run wild with fear and insecurity, and everyone is facing the same future variables – the unknown. And in that unknown guys seem to find a commonalty between them.

We have guys that got pulled off their G5 jet by a SWAT team while flying back into the country, and we have guys who grew up on the streets. We all mix here. The dynamics are just crazy. The whole thing is just plain interesting. I have learned a ton so far in the short time I have been here through others’ experiences. That was what YPO was all about. Maybe I could start the first BOP chapter! haha.

I have also been doing meditation, quieting that voice in my head so I can focus on the “NOW!” You know – The Power Of Now! haha. A book that helped me through pre-trial written by Eckhart Tolle. “All is now,” they say. The past is over (I don’t think about it anymore) and the future is unwritten, that leaves right NOW. It’s not easy to always remember but I try each day to stay in that space.

I try to stay grateful for the “now,” even if it means being in this physical cage. Most days I am not here though, at least in the mental sense. I absorb my mind with the books / magazines I read. Like the Wall Street Journal, flying around with Richard Branson, drinking a cup of coffee with Howard Schultz, or learning about how Nike started by Phil Knight.

My mediation practice has become this hybrid of human stories, adventures, business stories, and traditional mediation! Which I super enjoy! I’ve always appreciated money for the experiences and impact it can have on people. The opportunities it can create and the way it can positively change people’s lives. But it’s the stories. The “how they did it,” the adventure along the way that most intrigues me. As Phil Knight said in his book, Shoe Dog after starting & running the company for 40 years; “I don’t know if I picked Nike or if Nike picked me.”

What is going to pick me next I think about?

There is a wonder to all this. In a weird sort of twisted way! I don’t know whoever thought up the idea of prison, camps, or cages but these were not very sophisticated people. As I have said before – the biggest waste of humanity. Don’t get me wrong, some people need to be in cages, there are some very bad and violent people out there. But beyond that, what a waste, we can do better. The intelligence and potential innovation that is locked up in here is massive! just a waste. I think one day the world will look back on this “system” and say to themselves it was a mistake. A product of an unenlightened, ignorant, lazy society. With today’s technology – there is no reason for this.  

Finally, here I am, and I am here! That’s for sure! 🙂 I have my health, I have good food to eat, good company to chop it up with, time to think and create, and in a short time – I will not be here anymore. I will be somewhere else. Home.

I definitely miss home, putting with my 2-year-old to bed, giving my 14-year-old a hung whenever I want. Cuddling with my wife.  I definitely miss home. But until this time period is over – the adventure of tomorrow continues!

I hope you are doing well this Thanksgiving.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! I look forward to hearing from you!

Warmest Regards,

(A person in federal prison)

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