Journal Entry 

 Thursday, July 6, 2023: Your Online Profile 

Michael Santos

Michael Santos

We launched Prison Professors Talent to help more people develop tools, tactics, and resources. When people memorialize their preparation for success after release, they open opportunities to help them overcome the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. 

Those consequences can include: 

  • Unemployment,
  • Underemployment,
  • Fewer opportunities to launch a career or build credit,
  • Complications with the law, and
  • Recalibration with society.

We need this tool in our advocacy efforts, too. We advocate more effectively when we can profile people who prepare for success upon release. If a person has a residence, job, is not a threat to public safety, and can show support in the community, the Bureau of Prisons could manage that person through a work-release/home-confinement program.

We can show this data thanks to published statistics from the CARES Act.

Opposition:

Of course, many people and organizations oppose such plans. Some organizations have a vested interest in growing prison populations and intergenerational cycles of recidivism. For example, Governor DeSantis of Florida calls for repealing the First Step Act.

We fought for many years to persuade government leaders from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches that we need laws and policies to incentivize the pursuit of excellence. Rather than manage prisons through the threat of punishment, we support laws and policies that allow people to work toward earning higher levels of liberty.

To succeed in our efforts, we must:

  • Show why our nation incarcerates too many people who serve sentences that are far too long,
  • Overcome objections from people who argue that the First Step Act is a get-out-of-jail-free card.
  • Demonstrate that incentives lead to community safety and lower costs to taxpayers.

Although people in prison are justifiably concerned about their status, success comes from policy and legislative changes that apply to all people in federal prison. We need to build coalitions that include:

  • Businesses: Get them behind the call for more reforms that incentivize a pursuit of excellence,
  • Citizens: Show them profiles of people whose commitment to excellence and reconciliation advance them as candidates for release,
  • Administrators: Persuade them that incentives improve the culture of confinement for staff and lower recidivism rates.
  • Judges: Convince judges that society benefits when we encourage people to work toward reconciliation.
  • People in prison: Show how documenting pathways to success empowers them to overcome challenges upon release.

If it interests you, email our amazing advocacy director, Aleyah:

[email protected]

She will accept all requests. Once your institution authorizes, Aleyah will email you. To begin building your profile, she will ask you for basic information and your biography. Then, she will build a profile on Prison Professors Talent (dot) com.

Reframe Your Story:

The internet didn’t exist when I went to prison in 1987. Concepts like making video calls, sending emails, or researching online didn’t exist. To build my support network, I had to write by hand.

I began reading about the internet in the late 1990s. The more I read, the more convinced I became that it would change the world. Thanks to the supportive network I built, I launched a website to memorialize my prison journey.

I encourage others to use this same tactic. It will help them going forward, particularly if they ever want to pursue a commutation, compassionate release, or resentencing.

An online profile helped me immensely throughout the journey. With an online profile, I could persuade adversaries to advocate for me based on their ability to read how I prepared for success. 

I used an online profile to tell my story. With a comprehensive biography, I could begin to restore my reputation. Although a jury convicted me of violating drug laws, I could reframe my life story. Instead of using government reports of my crime to judge me, people could read how I used time in prison to make amends. I described my three-part strategy:

  1. I worked to educate myself,
  2. I worked to contribute to society in meaningful, measurable ways, and
  3. I worked to build a support network.

Through those efforts, people came into my life. Some of those people would have been natural adversaries to me. For example, a US Attorney joined my coalition to campaign for my liberty. I didn’t even know him. But based on my preparations and what he read about me, he reached out to my wife. He said the system should release me based on the “extraordinary and compelling” record I built. 

Before the First Step Act, mechanisms didn’t for judges to let a person out. Nevertheless, the AUSA used his influence and reputation to persuade pro-bono counsel to represent me. 

I didn’t get out a day early, but I appreciated the effort. It motivated me to dedicate my career to advocating for legislative and policy changes that would allow people to work toward earning freedom.

Without an online profile, I would not have built so much support that led to my success upon release.

With respect for all, I send my regards.
Michael Santos