Journal Entry 

 Reclaiming Identity 

Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

Reclaiming Identity: Personal Branding After Release

Going from prison to liberty is not just a change in physical location. It is also an opportunity to redefine and reclaim our identity. I still remember the day that my wife picked me up from the federal prison in Atwater, California. The day was Monday, August 13, 2012. I had been in custody since the day of my arrest on August 11, 1987. I looked for liberty.

While incarcerated, people would ask if I considered myself a convict or an inmate. I would always answer: I am an American. I refused to let prison define who I was or what I would become.

As we drove from the Central Valley in California to San Francisco, I remember telling my wife that within five years, I would build a successful business. It would sustain us, and put us further ahead financially than statistics would suggest. In liberty, I could start to show how preparing for success while in prison could lead to financial success in liberty.

Anyone can do the same! It’s never too early, and it’s never too late to start preparing for success.

The brand I built in business has led to millions in revenue and opened opportunities to do what I love–working to improve outcomes for all people in prison.

At Prison Professors Talent, we recognize the power of personal branding as a crucial aspect of this transformation. Our course, “Preparing for Success after Prison,” is designed to guide individuals in shaping their brand, and turning their experiences into assets for a successful life post-release.

The Essence of Personal Branding

Personal branding is about how you present yourself to the world, and how you communicate your values, skills, and experiences. It’s about creating a narrative that reflects your journey and aspirations. For those who have experienced incarceration, personal branding becomes a tool to redefine their identity and showcase their growth and potential.

  1. Defining Your Brand: Start by reflecting on your journey, your strengths, and the lessons you’ve learned. What unique perspectives and skills have you developed? How do these elements combine to define who you are now?
  2. Communicating Your Story: Your story is powerful. It’s about where you’ve been and where you’re going. Develop a way to communicate your story that is authentic and resonates with your audience, whether it’s potential employers, business partners, or your community.
  3. Building a Digital Presence: In today’s world, a digital footprint is essential. Create professional profiles on platforms like LinkedIn, showcasing your skills, experiences, and aspirations. Share content that aligns with your personal brand and professional goals.
  4. Networking and Relationships: Your network can significantly impact your success. Engage with individuals and groups that align with your goals. Attend events, join online forums, and actively participate in discussions that relate to your interests and industry.
  5. Continuous Learning and Adaptation: Personal branding is an ongoing process. Stay informed about trends in your field, continue learning, and adapt your brand as you grow professionally and personally.

Your Strategy for Success

We encourage you to think strategically about how you can use your time in confinement as a resource for building your brand. Consider the skills you’ve developed, the knowledge you’ve gained, and how these can be translated into a compelling personal brand that opens doors for you post-release.

Share Your Progress and Plans

We invite you to share your journey of personal branding with us. Send your stories, progress, and aspirations to [email protected]. If you include “Request a Book” in the subject line of your email, we will donate a book from our resources to support your journey, provided our nonprofit has the resources available.

Books to Inspire Your Personal Branding Journey

  • Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Sentence
  • Success after Prison
  • Prison! My 8,344th Day
  • Release Plan 2024
  • Preparing for Success after Prison

In conclusion, remember that your past does not define your future. Through personal branding, you have the power to shape how the world sees you and to open new doors for your post-release life. Let’s work together to turn your journey into a compelling narrative of resilience, growth, and success.


Michael Santos
Founder, Prison Professors

Critical Thinking:

Create a detailed “Personal Brand Plan” that includes:

  1. Identity Reflection: Write a brief narrative about your past, present, and future.
  2. Consider how experiences have shaped your strengths, values, and aspirations.
  3. Identify skills and knowledge gained during incarceration and how these can be applied in a post-release context.
  4. Craft a personal brand statement encapsulating your unique identity, strengths, and goals.
  5. Action Plan: Develop a step-by-step plan to build your personal brand, including digital presence, networking strategies, and continuous learning opportunities.

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