Prep for Prison 

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Prep for Prison

Develop plans to thrive through crisis


No one wants to go to prison. But in this era of big government, the United States incarcerates more people per capita than any other country. To reform this system, I’ve built a personal ministry. Part of that ministry requires me to teach others how to prepare for a successful journey through prison.

My name is Michael Santos. I made bad decisions as a young man that resulted in my serving 26 years in federal prison. Fortunately, an officer passed me several books that changed my life during the first year that I served. Although I could not change the past, I learned that I could change the way that I think. If I changed the way that I think, I would be able to develop a strategy that would help me recalibrate and make amends with society. The better I plan during my preparation for prison, the  more effective I would be at opening opportunities to succeed in prison and beyond.

Anyone who is facing a federal prison term can do the same. To succeed through prison and beyond, a person needs to prepare.

Understanding Prison:

Start with a clear understanding about the environment. No one will argue that federal prisons are a family-friendly place. By taking away liberty and separating people from the people they love, prisons can obliterate hope. No one should go into prison thinking that the environment exists to make life easier, or better for the individual. 

Whether a person is going to a minimum-security camp, or a high-security penitentiary, the person should expect to encounter resistance. To overcome that resistance, create a plan that begins with a SWOT analysis. Determine strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Then, figure out how to succeed, regardless of external circumstances.

Perhaps an example will help. 

After a federal judge sentenced me to serve a 45-year prison term, I accepted that I would need a plan. That plan required a time frame that I could process. I was only 23 years old when I began serving my sentence, so I did not know how to process the concept of 45 years. Instead, I focused on the first 10 years.

What would be the best possible outcome for me after a decade of confinement?

I hope that people reading this lesson will not face sentences that are so long. A sentence of 1 year, or ten years, can extinguish hope. To restore confidence, a person must define success by developing a plan that will lead to the best possible outcome.

In my case, I thought about the stakeholders that I would meet in the future. What steps could I take during my first decade in prison to prepare for more opportunities in the future? That kind of open-ended question led to my three-part plan. I could work toward:

  1. Educating myself and earning academic credentials,
  2. Contributing to society in meaningful, measurable ways,
  3. Building a support network.

That three-pronged plan could serve as a compass for me. It helped me tune out the negativity and use a hyper focus toward reconciling with society.

Your Prep for Prison:

Each person is different, and each person should develop a similar strategy that will lead to a better outcome. Preparing for a successful prison journey isn’t about what I did, but about what you did. Contemplate the strategy that will work for you. To assist others with this task, I always encourage people to use our the same strategy that helped me:

  1. Define success as the best possible outcome.
  2. Set goals that align with how you define success.
  3. Move forward with the right attitude, defined by a 100 percent commitment to your success.
  4. Aspire to something more than what you’re going through now.
  5. Act in ways that align with your commitment to succeed.
  6. Measure progress with your personal accountability tools.
  7. Stay aware of opportunities to grow, and make others aware of your progress.
  8. Live authentically, always pursuing excellence.
  9. Celebrate the incremental achievements along the way.
  10. Live in gratitude, appreciative of the blessings that have come your way.

That strategy worked for me, and now I work hard to teach others. The following video series may help.

Preparing for Success After Prison: Video 1

Introduction /

Time: 21:55

This intro reveals the bad decisions that brought me into prison with a 45-year sentence, and shows a commitment on using the inside to reconcile with society and prepare for success.

Preparing for Success After Prison: Video 2 

Socratic Thinking /

Time: 21:51

This second video reveals how an officer gave me a copy of a book discussing the life of Socrates, and shows how Socratic thinking led to better decisions in prison.

Preparing for Success After Prison: Video 3 

Purple Cow /

Time: 22:14

The third video shows people the opportunities that open when a person rejects the criminal lifestyle and builds a record of incremental progress.

Preparing for Success after Prison: Video 4:

Adversaries into Advocates /

Time: 22:45

In the fourth video, we show how a commitment to excellence can convert adversaries into advocates, opening more opportunities that translate into success upon release.

Preparing for Success after Prison: Video 5:

Penitentiary to Camp /

Time: 22:32

In the fifth video, participants see how a sustained commitment to positive behavioral change can lead to better conditions, such as transfers from a penitentiary to camp, where more opportunities open.

Preparing for Success after Prison: Video 6

Success after Release /

Time: 20:36

In the final video of the series, I show how decisions in prison influence prospects for higher levels of liberty and success upon release.

I hope you find this information helpful and that you grow stronger through your journey (as I grew stronger through mine). We offer many more articles on our website.

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