Journal Entry 


Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

If we succeed in our advocacy, you will have more opportunities to argue for a higher level of liberty. 

  • Will you be ready?
  • What will be different in your life from the day your judge sentenced you?
  • In what ways are you extraordinary and compelling?

If you cannot answer those questions, I highly encourage you to work through our course, Preparing for Success after Prison. That course teaches strategies anyone in prison can use, regardless of external circumstances. In your view, the prison may offer little in the way of meaningful classes. 

Yet complaining about such realities will not move the needle if opportunities open for you to advocate for a transition to a work-release program or a resentencing before your judge.

Build Your Tribe:

Our nonprofit has built a new platform, Prison Professors Talent. That platform gives participants an opportunity to show why they’re extraordinary and compelling. We’re now investing to build a new feature called “Tribes.” 

Each profile on the platform will include a visual representation to show the number of people a person has influenced. Since we cannot send images to people through the prison’s email system, the workbook we’re writing will show what I mean by building a tribe. Active participants should expect to receive a copy in August.

As of today, July 28, 2023, our platform features 184 profiles. For advocacy purposes, we want a visual graph highlighting how many people are using time in prison to prepare for success upon release. We’re striving to profile 10,000 people. To do so visually, we’re investing to build a data graph.

The data graph will have a nucleus bubble. Lines will extend from the nucleus bubble. If our technology success, each participant in the program will have a data graph to show the influence he or she has had on helping more people prepare for success. That is a pathway to excellence.

Since I invited each of the 184 people into our system, the profiles on the initial image will have a direct line to my bubble. But each person can build a tribe.

Let’s use Frank as an example. Frank is working to share the program with others in the facility where he is serving time. He is also teaching people. Those people may mention that Frank introduced them to the program. They may cite him with teaching and mentoring them on preparing for success upon release. Frank’s bubble will have lines that go to each person in his tribe. He will have a visual representation of the ways that he has worked to make the world better.

If our technology team succeeds in creating this data graph, each person’s profile will include an image. The image will highlight how they’ve worked to change the culture of confinement. We’ll have a data graph to highlight how we’re improving the outcomes of the system. We want to show that cultures change when more people prepare for success. 

I anticipate that this data graph-building strategy will advance our conversations on the need for reforms that incentivize excellence. If people in prison work to influence others around them, we can obliterate the harmful messages that many people in prison receive: “The best way to serve time is to forget about the world outside.”

Further, the data graph will show how each participant influenced the lives of others for the better. That visual graphic can help a person’s self-advocacy. It can show why the person is extraordinary and compelling, which may influence a stakeholder later.

Each person needs to build tools, tactics, and resources to bolster arguments that he is worthy of relief. I encourage people to build a tribe. If a person doesn’t do anything extraordinary, stakeholders will not grant relief.

Let me give an example.

Lawrence Jay Levine:

Consider the United States of America vs. Laurence Jay Levine, case number CR 98-864-RSWL-1. It’s a case from the Central District of California. I am using Larry as an example because although he asked for relief, the Court found him to be an example of mediocrity. According to a federal judge, Larry did not engineer a pathway to success.

Don’t be like Larry.

Larry Levine filed a motion in Court to request early termination of Supervised Release. In denying his motion, the judge wrote: 

“More importantly, Defendant has not demonstrated a significant change to warrant early termination. Defendant has argued that he has paid all his fines and penalty assessments in full and has no outstanding obligations insofar as the sentence was imposed. However, it is expected that a defendant comply with all the terms of his sentence. A defendant should not obtain early release for doing what is already legally required to do. Courts have generally found that a showing of an exceptional circumstance beyond mere compliance is needed. Here, the Court finds that Defendant has not made any showing of an exceptional circumstance beyond mere compliance with the terms of his supervised release.

The Honorable Ronald S.W. Lew, Senior U.S. District Court Judge

If you’re striving for excellence and you want to engineer a pathway that will lead to a better outcome, start preparing now. Show show why you’re worthy of relief. What makes you extraordinary and compelling?

Build your tribe and be exceptional.

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