When DEA agents took me into custody, I was 23 years old. That was August 11, 1987. I was living the high life back then in an oceanfront condo on Key Biscayne, off the coast of Miami. The bad decisions of my youth would keep me in prison for the next 9,500 days. When I concluded my obligation to the Bureau of Prisons, on August 12, 2013, I was 49. The world had changed.
In the course I created, Preparing for Success after Prison, I did my best to show the lessons that leaders like Mandela, Socrates, and Frederick Douglass taught me. They helped me climb through the 9,500 days that I served. Although I never met those mentors who guided my decisions, they taught me how to think differently. Rather than complaining about external factors that I could not control, they helped me learn about how I could develop.
From leaders, I learned how to anticipate my role in society, and how I must use time inside to prepare for the challenges I must overcome once I got out.
- In what ways are you using time in prison to prepare for success on the other side of the journey?
If you can answer that question with confidence, you’ll go a long way toward overcoming the prejudice that many people find when they get out of prison. Each person in prison should anticipate that resistance from employers. They should expect financial institutions to block them from credit. If they try to move into some communities, they should anticipate rejection.
For these reasons, I encourage people to prepare. As I do in every column, I offer a critical-thinking question. Use that question to populate your journal on Prison Professors Talent. If you do not have a profile on Prison Professors Talent, then submit an invite by sending an email to [email protected]. If you have access to an app that distributes our journals, then use the app to answer the question.
Get ready for the challenges ahead. No one will care how long you serve in prison if you can show how you can bring value to an organization. At the same time, no one will listen to excuses on why you’re not ready.
If you’re memorializing your journey on Prison Professors Talent, consider responding to the following question in your journal:
- Why should a prospective employer open an income opportunity for you, rather than a person who does not have a criminal conviction?
If you don’t feel confident in answering that question, then please go to the education department. Connect with your Supervisor of Education or your Reentry Affairs Coordinator. Ask them to sign you up for the First Step Act course, Preparing for Success after Prison. If you qualify, you will earn Time Credits. If you do not have access to the workbook, then request a workbook by sending an invite to [email protected].
Be strong. Be resilient. Be ready.
Founder, Prison Professors