Journal Entry 

 Opportunity Costs / Success and Failure Upon Release 

Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

Every decision a person makes in prison comes with an opportunity cost. I learned that lesson early on during my journey, which lasted 9,500 days. At the beginning of the term, after a jury convicted me but before a judge sentenced me to 45 years, I had to think about how I wanted to get out. 

What are you thinking about while you work through your sentence?

People used to advise that the best way to serve time was to forget about the world outside and just focus on the adjustment inside. That made sense if a person wanted to live the rest of his life inside. 

I hated being in prison. 

Some people may serve time because the injustices of big government lead more people into prison. Others, like me, served time because we knowingly violated the law. I embarrassed my parents and my sisters. I wanted to reconcile and make amends. The only way I would know how to make amends would be to prepare for success upon release.

What do you need to do to prepare for success upon release?

I believe every person in prison should ask that question every day. Sadly, some people think they can put off such questions until they get out. For people who did not prepare well, the real problems start when they get out. That is when they struggle to build sufficient resources that will lead to permanent housing, working capital, and stability. Without those basic resources, people truly struggle to make it from the halfway house into a better life.

We all must choose how we will adjust to the challenges and obstacles that accompany confinement. Some people are locked inside for a few months, while others are inside for a few years and others for a few decades. People should remember that it’s never too early or too late to begin preparing for success upon release.

To prepare for success, however, a person must consider the consequences. Take two people I know who came from similar backgrounds.

Both John and David began their sentences around the same time. They were close in age, had similar education levels, and had families they left behind. When they entered prison, they faced the same challenges and had access to the same resources. Neither John nor David believed that they would ever return to prison.

John decided to use his time inside to better himself. From the very first day, he set a plan. He enrolled in educational programs, attended vocational training, and participated in every rehabilitation program available. But John didn’t stop there. He took a self-directed approach to his preparation. He developed his vocabulary by reading extensively, honed his writing skills through continuous practice and journaling, and improved his math skills by tackling increasingly complex problems. John understood that knowledge and skills would be his ticket to a better future.

Through his dedication, John built a network of support. He stayed in touch with family and friends, sharing his progress and his plans for the future. Impressed by his determination and growth, they rallied around him. Before his release, John leveraged this support network to raise $25,000 in working capital from friends and family. With this seed money, John had a clear plan: to build a real estate portfolio and start a business.

Upon release, John hit the ground running. He invested the capital wisely, purchasing and renovating properties. His hard work and the skills he developed in prison paid off. John’s real estate business grew steadily, providing him a stable income and the foundation to support his family. He became a respected figure in his community, proving that his time in prison had been a period of transformation and preparation for success.

David’s story was starkly different. He believed the best way to serve his time was to forget about the outside world and focus on getting through each day. He watched television, played cards, and socialized with other inmates. David thought he could figure things out once he got out. He didn’t see the need to plan or prepare for the future. To him, prison was just a waiting game.

Years passed, and eventually, both John and David were released.

David left prison with no new skills or plans. He struggled to find stable employment and moved from one dead-end job to the next. Always being underemployed took a toll on his self-esteem and left him feeling emasculated. Frustrated and without a clear path, David found it challenging to reintegrate into society. His relationships with his family became strained as he struggled to provide for them.

Unable to cope with the pressures of life outside and feeling like he had no other options, David reverted to crime. Although he never thought he’d return to prison, authorities arrested him, and he ended up back inside. This cycle of failure became intergenerational, affecting his children and perpetuating a legacy of incarceration and hardship.

The difference between John and David was not luck or circumstance. It was the choices they made during their time in prison. John’s decision to invest in himself, learn, and plan for the future made all the difference. David’s decision to wait and hope for the best left him unprepared for the challenges of reentry.

What will your story be?

Every decision you make today will shape your tomorrow. Use this time wisely. Invest in yourself, learn new skills, and prepare for success. No matter how long you have left, it’s never too early or too late to start planning for your future. The effort you put in now will determine the life you build when you walk out those gates.

Remember, success is not an accident. It’s a choice. Make the choice to prepare for success, and you’ll be ready to seize the opportunities that await you.

Today’s Question:

  • Analyze your current mindset: How can shifting your focus from merely serving time to actively preparing for the future change your life?

Steps to Build Your Profile:

1. Send an invite to [email protected]

2. Once accepted, send an email to the interns with the following information:

   – Your name

   – Your number

   – Your location

   – Your sentence length

3. Respond to any questions presented in the newsletter by sending your answers to the email above.

By taking these steps, you can memorialize your journey and demonstrate your commitment to a better future.

Keep striving for greatness. Your efforts today will pave the way for your success tomorrow.

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