Journal Entry 

 Community Engagement 

Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

Community Engagement

When I first stepped into the expansive yard of a high-security federal prison, I found an unexpected sense of gratitude. The year-long isolation in a pre-trial detention cell had been stifling. Once I got to prison, amidst the towering 40-foot walls, I found a different kind of freedom. Although the walls blocked my view of the horizon, I could look up and seek the open sky. That view gave me hope and possibilities.

Knowing that I wanted to engage with the broader community, I had to figure out how I could transcend those walls and connect with other people. By learning to communicate better, and developing critical thinking skills, I found many mentors. I began writing letters to people, introducing myself and sharing how I intended to use time in prison to prepare for a better future.

I had decades to serve, but I had hope. 

My journey in prison was not just about serving time. I felt the need to forge connections beyond those imposing walls. I realized the power of community engagement as a tool for reentry into society. The key to transcending physical barriers lay in enhancing my communication skills and honing my critical thinking abilities. Through these efforts, I connected with mentors and supporters, expanding my network and opening new doors.

As my support network grew, opportunities opened. Our course, “Preparing for Success after Prison,” embodies this ethos. It’s designed to guide individuals in prison to reach out, engage with the community, and build a robust support network. This course isn’t just about learning; it’s about transforming how people in prison see themselves and their future possibilities.

We invite participants to actively engage with our mission. 

By emailing [email protected] with “Request a Book” in the subject line, individuals can access valuable resources. Our nonprofit organization provides books such as “Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Sentence,” “Success after Prison,” “Prison! My 8,344th Day,” “Release Plan 2024,” and “Preparing for Success after Prison,” depending on available resources. These books are not just reading material; they are tools for empowerment and beacons of hope.

Critical Thinking:

In the spirit of community engagement, I challenge our readers to a task:

  • identify a community project or initiative that resonates with you. It could be anything from a local literacy program to a community garden. Research this initiative, understand its impact, and consider how you can contribute to such projects after reentry.
    • This exercise is about envisioning your role in a community and understanding the value you can add. 

Remember, community engagement is more than just a reentry tool; it’s a bridge to a new life. It’s about building relationships, contributing positively, and seeing yourself as an integral part of a larger community. As you look up to the sky from within the prison yard, let it remind you that the world outside is waiting for you, full of opportunities for connection, growth, and positive change.


Michael Santos

Founder, Prison Professors Talent

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