PRISON YEARS 5 THROUGH 10: 1992 THROUGH 1997-ACADEMIC CREDENTIALS
In the summer of 1992 I began studying toward a master’s degree at Hofstra University. I read extensively and worked to further develop writing skills. By earning another academic credential, I anticipated that I would become more resourceful, capable of opening more opportunities to succeed upon release. By working toward the clear goal of a master’s degree, I felt as though I were building a ladder that could lift me from the pit of problems I created and take me into the light of liberty.
To develop communication skills, I developed habits and patterns. If I didn’t make a conscious effort to learn how to write and speak with more eloquence, I worried that I would become weaker. Decades in prison could leave me with a “prisoner’s voice,” making me more vulnerable to prejudice and discrimination in the job market or business community upon release. I needed to disrupt thoughts others would have about a man who served decades in prison. If I could train myself to communicate well, I anticipated that I would be able to walk into any setting unscathed, without the handicaps that follow for most people with a prison background.
Besides working toward a master’s degree, I incorporated self-directed learning strategies to train myself how to communicate better.
- I engaged in vocabulary-building exercises.
- I committed myself to writing a minimum of 1,000 words every day.
- I wrote systemic book reports to document what I read, what I learned, and how reading would contribute to my success upon release.
- I initiated a public-speaking group so that I could learn how to communicate ideas better.
- I began building mentor relationships by sending unsolicited letters to leaders in society.
- I created a portfolio of accomplishments to document the journey
- I began writing op-ed articles in newspapers.
In 1995, Hofstra University awarded my master’s degree. I began studying toward a Ph.D. at The University of Connecticut. After my first year of study toward the doctorate, the prison system put a block to my program. To remain productive, I switched my focus to self-study of business and the stock market.