Journal Entry 

 Be the Change 

Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

The Niskanen Center published a commentary report titled Safer, Smarter, and Cheapter: The Promise of Targeted home confinement with electronic monitoring. This subject should interest every person in prison, and I want them to know how they can work to advance such arguments. Advocacy requires many voices, including the voice of the justice-impacted person.

Although people in prison cannot access the internet, they can find copies of the report on our website at Prison Professors, or they can access the article with the URL below:

Safer, smarter, and cheaper: The promise of targeted home confinement with electronic monitoring


The scholarly article includes many facts that support the thesis that if a person has a place to live, a job, a support system, and an effective release plan, the Bureau of Prisons can accomplish its mission by transitioning the person to a home-confinement setting. Niskanen cites the following statistics:

— The CARES Act of March 2020 temporarily expanded the authority of the Bureau of Prisons, allowing them to send people to home confinement.

— As of May 27, 2023, the Bureau of Prisons had transitioned 13,204 people to home confinement.

— As of May 1, 2023, only 22 people that transitioned to home confinement returned to prison for committing a new crime.

Based on those facts, Congress should pass a permanent law that will empower the Bureau of Prisons to send people to home confinement, provided that the person:

— Can show that he is not a threat to society.

— Has a well-documented and reliable release plan.

— Has a residence and a pathway to employment.

Tools for Advocacy:

We’re working to advance these arguments. I can only speak for myself, but I like to point out Frederick Douglass’ story inspired my pursuit of advocacy. He used his personal story of being enslaved to fight for the abolition of slavery. I use my personal story of serving 26 years to fight for changes that will liberate others from unnecessary confinement.

But I’m only one voice. And I constantly must counter opposition from people who argue: “Not everyone can do what you did while you were in prison.”

The irony is that adversaries told a different story when I began serving a 45-year sentence. For example, I will never forget my prosecutor telling the judge I should remain in prison, even if I live 300 years old. Today, I listen to other adversaries. Donald Trump recently told Fox News that if he were elected President again, he would argue that our country should execute anyone convicted of a drug offense. Governor DeSantis argues that we should repeal the First Step Act, which he labels a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Personal experience convinces me that we incarcerate far too many people, and those people serve sentences that are far too long. That isn’t only my position. Justice Kennedy said the same thing when he spoke to the American Bar Association, and so did former US Attorney Eric Holder. Ironically, Mr. Holder made that statement to the American Bar Association on August 12, 2013. I’ll never forget that day because it was the same day that I finished my obligation to the Bureau of Prisons.

Since completing my term, I’ve devoted my career to advocating for changes. And through that work, I’ve advanced arguments to persuade people with voices far more influential than mine. I’ve worked with leaders at Stanford Law School, Berkeley, the University of San Francisco, Federal Judges, US Attorneys, and state and federal prison directors.

To advance arguments further, I need to gather more evidence. I need to build a database showing tens of thousands working to prepare for success upon release from prison. That’s why I invested resources to build 

I’m doing the best that I can to make sure that this service is free to people in prison. If they can do their part to cover the cost of sending an email, our team will do the rest. To the extent that we have resources available, we will help people build a profile that shows how they prepare for success upon release.

If you want to learn more, send an invite to [email protected]. Or have your family visit the website to see how we’re working to bring more awareness for reforms that will lead to policy and legislative changes. We advocate for:

  1. Expanded use of incentives that will allow people to work toward earning freedom,
  2. Bring work-release programs to qualified people in federal prison,
  3. Provide meaningful access to compassionate release and commutations, and
  4. Reinstatement of the US Parole Commission.

Be a part of the change that you want to see.

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