Journal Entry 

 Book Reports 

Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

Today’s daily journal will reveal how a deliberate reading strategy influenced my preparations for success upon release. 

Several years into my sentence, I remember lying on the rack in my cell. I felt so grateful that I could read. I was alone, with decades remaining to serve. I felt thankful that I could see. Without vision, I wouldn’t be able to read. And if I couldn’t read, my time inside would challenge me. I wouldn’t feel productive if I couldn’t engineer ways to make my time count.

By reading, we can make our time count. We simply had to figure out how to read deliberately.

While staring at the ceiling and trying to sleep, I didn’t count sheep. Instead, I tried to recall all the books I had read since DEA agents arrested me. 

More than 35 years have passed since my arrest in 1987, but I still remember the first book I read in prison: The Flight of the Falcon. Before my arrest, I watched The Falcon and the Snowman, an espionage film with Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton. The film described two adolescents from good families who got into trouble. They broke the law and went to prison. In The Flight of the Falcon, I learned that one of the characters escaped. 

In that solitary cell, I realized I had a choice. I could read books that would entertain me, or I could read books that would contribute to my preparation for success. Either option would help. 

By reading well, I would learn how to structure language in ways that would make me a better communicator. Yet while trying to sleep and counting the books, I realized that I didn’t remember all the books I had read since I began serving my sentence. 

I started to project all the years that I would serve. By reading at least 50 books each year, I would read 500 in ten years. I could learn a lot. But if I had a record of each book I read, I believe I would have an asset that would open opportunities.

That idea prompted me to write book reports. Those book reports would memorialize the books I read. With hundreds of book reports, I’d have a record that I could use to open new opportunities. 

The idea that began in that jail cell evolved into a template. Each time I read a book, I would write the author’s name, the date I read the book, and then offer a response to three simple questions:

  1. Why I chose to read the book,
  2. What I learned from reading the book, and
  3. How the book would contribute to my success upon release.

That tactic became a part of my long-term strategy of preparing for success upon release. People viewed me differently when I showed the record of my accomplishments in prison. They opened opportunities for me. My detailed descriptions that showed how I used time in prison to prepare for success persuaded my case manager in the halfway house and my probation officer to grant me a higher level of liberty.

In what ways are you using your time today to prepare for success in the months, years, and decades ahead?

Our community at opens opportunities to memorialize your preparations. If you’d like to begin building your profile, email our team:

[email protected].

Prison Professors Charitable Corporation
32565 Golden Lantern Street, B-1019
Dana Point, CA 92629

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