Preparing for Success after Prison: Transformative Education Programs by Prison Professors
Nelson Mandela famously said:
- “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
This especially poignant sentiment applies to people in prison. They must prepare for the daunting task of reentering society and finding employment post-release. No one can make preparations on behalf of someone else.
As a person who went into the prison system at 23—and I didn’t get out until I crossed through 9,500 days as federal prisoner number 16377-004 when I was 49—I know a lot about the importance of preparing. For that reason, I wrote Preparing for Success after Prison, a Productive Activity course that we’re introducing throughout the Bureau of Prison’s North Central Region.
My name is Michael Santos, and I’m the founder of Prison Professors. One promise I make to everyone in our community is that I never ask anyone to do anything I did not do while in prison and that I’m not still doing now. Each person serving a sentence should appreciate the importance of preparing for success.
Regardless of what courses administrators offer, a person can always work to:
- Develop a better vocabulary,
- Become a more efficient writer,
- Improve upon reading skills,
- Advance critical-thinking skills, and
- Show a self-directed work ethic.
Those skills will help people navigate the challenges of securing employment after release.
Statistics paint a grim picture. In April 2014, the Bureau of Justice Statistics published “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010.” That study showed that more than 75 percent of people released from prison faced another arrest within five years.
The Brookings Institution found that only 55% of people released from prison reported any earnings during the first year of release, and that group had median annual earnings of $10,090.
These numbers suggest that many people struggle to find stable employment after serving time in prison.
While I served my sentence, leaders helped me learn that a person’s past decisions don’t have to dictate our future. At any time, we can start sowing seeds for something better.
In all the courses, lessons, and books we publish at Prison Professors, we show how people can use time in prison to learn, grow, and pursue self-directed paths to develop skills. Those skills build value and show how a person can become a more desirable candidate in the job market or a bankable entrepreneur.
Start by pursuing education.
Many prisons offer vocational training programs, GED courses, and college classes. Yet regardless of whether the prison offers courses or is on lockdown, a person can always work in self-directed ways to develop the five attributes I mention above. And a person can always work through Prison Professors’ programs.
Our programs show participants how to build valuable skills and qualifications. By working through daily lessons, a person can demonstrate a commitment to personal development and dedication to personal growth.
Employers and prospective business partners also value soft skills—like communication, problem-solving, and teamwork. Participating in group activities, actively participating in programs, or avoiding conflicts can lead to higher competency levels and more opportunities.
I encourage people to take advantage of the resources available. Our courses will show you how to spot them.
Those participating in the Preparing for Success after Prison Program will find examples showing how to secure income opportunities before they leave prison. I encourage people to take a self-directed path and to work toward creating self-directed release plans.
Industries such as construction, manufacturing, or the service sector may not be as discriminatory against people with felony backgrounds. In the Prison Professors’ courses, however, participants will find many examples of individuals who succeeded at building businesses and becoming licensed professionals like attorneys or nurses, despite a felony background.
A person’s past does not have to foreshadow the future. To succeed, a person must learn the art of critical thinking and become the CEO of his or her life. Start by:
- Defining success,
- Developing a plan,
- Putting priorities in place,
- Building tools, tactics, and resources, and
- Executing the plan every day.
These skills lead to the right mindset, and they open opportunities.
Your time in prison can also be a time for introspection, identifying your passions, and finding a career path aligned with those interests. As you explore different job prospects, keep an open mind.
Never underestimate the challenges ahead. Every step leads you to new opportunities or threatens your progress. Choose wisely. Your decisions will determine the person you will become. They will influence your experiences when you walk out of prison.
As a person who returned to society successfully after 26 years inside, I have a duty and an obligation to every person in prison. To prove worthy of the lessons leaders taught me, I must share them with those still serving time.
Each person is making daily decisions that shape destiny. Those who have read this far have already taken a step in the right direction.
Now, let’s go further.
Our team at Prison Professors is excited to announce our scholarship program for justice-impacted people. We’re building relationships with corporate sponsors. If we can show that more people are working to prepare for success upon release, we’re able to advance our advocacy efforts in the following ways:
- We persuade business owners to cover the costs associated with the books and lessons we distribute;
- We persuade administrators in the Bureau of Prisons to allow us to partner to work to improve the culture in confinement;
- We persuade university interns to join our efforts of helping justice-impacted people document their pathways to preparing for success upon release;
- We show leaders that when people prepare for success upon release, they avoid disruptive behavior in prison;
- We build coalitions that help legislators understand why they should empower the Bureau of Prisons with more opportunities to incentivize the pursuit of excellence; and
- We build stronger arguments to advocate for the introduction of a federal work-release program, home confinement programs, and access to higher levels of liberty by showing how people prepared for success upon release;
- We open income opportunities for those who documented their efforts to prepare for success upon release.
We can only succeed in our advocacy efforts by showing how people in prison prepare for success upon release.
We invite you to apply for a scholarship by taking the following steps:
- Send a Corrlinks invite to [email protected]
Aleyah, our Advocacy Director, will accept and respond with a request that you answer the following question:
- How are you using your time inside to prepare for success upon release?
We will publish your response on our website, profiling why business owners should sponsor you through our self-directed course, Preparing for Success after Prison.
Remember Mandela’s words:
- “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”