As mentioned earlier, people in prison often give unsolicited advice. They have clear ideas on how to serve time. Some people mistakenly believe that they can’t influence life beyond prison walls. They make decisions to ease their life in jail or prison. They think it’s a waste of time to think about the outside and that such thoughts complicate time inside. While serving a sentence, they say it’s best to forget about the world outside prison.
I didn’t think like a leader before I went to prison. I didn’t give much thought to my future. Since I wasn’t thinking about my future, my decisions didn’t matter. That type of thinking led me to problems. I didn’t know how my decisions and actions influenced the lives of others. Instead of thinking about my role as a citizen (as I later learned from masterminds), I focused only on myself. That thinking led to bad decisions and actions leading to my prison term.
Making a Change:
I wanted a different life. During the many months of my pretrial detention, I saw and heard a lot. Hundreds of prisoners told me their stories. Many described serving time previously and spoke about the problems they faced after release.
Ironically, men spoke as if serving multiple terms gave them credibility. They were prison leaders dispensing advice. Indeed, they cultivated solid images as stand-up convicts. People in the jail “respected” them. Those cellblock leaders:
- Decided which television shows other people could watch,
- Influenced who could sit in which seats in common areas, and
- Perceived themselves as being stand-up convicts.
Such strategies and tactics may or may not lead to influence in prison communities. Yet in the broader community, people expect different adjustment patterns. For example, when going to a restaurant, no one knows or cares about people seated at a nearby table. When getting fuel, people typically don’t concern themselves with the decisions of other customers.
- How does a stand-up convict differ from the path to preparing for success upon release?
- How would the avatars I chose respond to someone that built a reputation as a stand-up convict?
Those types of critical-thinking questions helped to guide the adjustment strategy I engineered.
When I understood that my conviction carried a mandatory-minimum term of 10 years, I knew that I would have to overcome many obstacles. Although ten years would be the minimum sentence, I could anticipate that my judge would inflict a much longer sentence. The statute gave the judge discretion to impose a life term.
Regardless of sentence length, my adjustment inside would influence my future. Even if the judge sentenced me to serve a life term, I could still work toward influencing a better outcome. I aspired to leave prison with my dignity intact at the earliest time.
My definition of success has always remained at the forefront of my mind. For that reason, these modules will repeat the three value categories that helped to frame every decision I made. I thought of how my choices would relate to:
- Educating myself,
- Contributing to society, and
- Building a support network.
The pursuit of those three value categories would define my adjustment strategy.
Anyone serving a lengthy term in prison (and I understand that a single day in prison might feel like a long term) could benefit from investing the time to describe their value categories. That exercise in personal development is essential for a person determined to grow. We all need clear goals.
In what ways do clear goals guide your behavior?