Hello I am Michael Santos with prison professors.com. I’m presenting the second video in a series that I started yesterday. It’s a series I call the White Collar offender and the Shot-caller.
Why would I present a series of videos like this? Well, the idea stems from a letter I received from George, a man who is currently in a maximum-security prison.
Path to Maximum-Security Prisons
George is in his 35th consecutive year of confinement. Had George made better decisions at the start of his term, he could have been released after three to five years.
Well George was convicted when he was still a teenager. He went inside of a federal prison. He encountered the types of challenges that many people in federal prison face. George’s response to those challenges resulted in disciplinary infractions. Those disciplinary infractions led him into higher-security prisons. The higher-security prisons resulted in George having to make new decisions.
Unfortunately, George didn’t prepare. He didn’t have the mindset for success. He didn’t know how to respond in an environment that others designed to perpetuate failure. Succeeding in such an environment requires preparation. Since George didn’t know another way, he picked up a knife. He settled disputes with weapons. George attacked people. Officers disciplined him in prison. He lost good-time credits. He lost opportunities for parole. Prosecutors charged him with new criminal conduct. Consequences followed.
George should have gone from medium-security prisons to low-security prisons, to camps, to liberty. He should have been released before he turned 25. He could have gone to college. He could have built a life of meaning and relevance in society. But choices George made early in his term brought a different outcome.
George transferred from medium-security federal correctional institutions to a high-security United States penitentiary. When he arrived, he made a knife. When problems came to him, he responded with a knife. Guards transferred him from the high-security USP Terre Haute. They sent him to USP Lompoc. He responded the same. Guards sent him to USP Leavenworth. He responded the same. Guards sent him to USP Marion. George responded the same. Guards sent him to the ADX federal penitentiary, which is the nation’s most secure federal prison—maximum security.
George wrote a letter after he finished a course I created. In his letter, George wrote how the course would have helped him at the start of his journey. Lessons in the course would have given George a different mindset. Instead of thinking about surviving the penitentiary, he would have thought about using his mind to prepare for success.
George has 35 years of prison behind him. He does not know if he’ll ever get out of prison.
Critical Thinking for White Collar Offenders
Anybody who was going into the federal prison system should think. Think about how every decision can lead to threats, or lead to opportunities. Decisions can threaten success, or they can advance prospects for success. All decisions come with opportunity costs, even in prison.
In the first video, I spoke about a client of mine. He is a professional engineer. Somehow, he found himself wrapped up in the criminal system. He now deals with the complications and fallout of a mail fraud charge.
The video describes what leads to a mail fraud charge. A lot of people don’t understand mail fraud. Basically, the charge alleges use of the mail in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy. Examples include sending an invoice with fraudulent pricing. Or sending marketing materials that mislead people. If prosecutors allege that someone used the mail to violate a law, they may bring charges. A jury can convict. Then, the person that fancies himself a businessman becomes a defendant. He may see himself as a professional, a family man, or a law-abiding citizen. To the system, he is a defendant. He will enter the criminal justice system.
Regardless of whether he’s going to a minimum-security camp, a Federal correctional institution, or even a detention center, he will face challenges. He will live with people who have a criminal mentality. He will meet a shot-caller.
Shot Caller in Prison
Some of you may have seen the movie called Shot-caller. I saw Shot caller on Direct TV.
Shot-caller portrays a white-collar guy who finds himself immersed in the criminal justice system. He responds to pressures that he feels in the criminal justice system. The responses change the person. While in prison, he doesn’t act like a white-collar professional. Consequences followed.
My client is an engineer and authorities charged him with mail fraud. He found himself inside the Federal Detention Center, or the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.
He did not expect to stay in the detention center long. But his nationality and immigration status brought complications. He was held in the detention center for about two weeks before he received bond.
Anyone who is held in a detention center for more than a few days will encounter the shot-caller, or someone who aspires to be a shot-caller. For the purposes of this lesson, we’ll refer to the want-to-be shot-caller as being the same as the shot-caller.
The shot-caller searches for information. He’s going “to prospect.” He wants to learn everything about new people in prison. Shot-callers don’t only mind their own business. They want to get into the business of everybody else. They want to pressure others. A person’s response to pressure will have a material influence on the journey through prison. Learning more about prison can help people prepare.
The Prison Test
I gave an example of “pressure” or a “test” that came to my client, the engineer. When the engineer was detained in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles, the shot caller asked questions. He wanted to find out more about his background and crime.
The engineer was not accustomed to being questioned. He didn’t know how to respond to the intimidation. The engineer’s response led the shot-caller to push further, to test further. He wants to see how the engineer will respond.
The engineer tells me the next step. After exercising, he returned to his cell. When he opened the door, the engineer saw the the shot-caller lying on his bunk. Such a scenario can be traumatic. Imagine. You walk into your cell. You think it’s your cell. You think it’s your bed. But a man is laying there—on your bunk.
How do you respond to that challenge?
We know how George would have responded at the start of his term. He now lives in maximum-security prison. He serves additional sentences because he always picked up a knife. He stabbed people. He used violence. Consequences followed. George got new sentences. He may serve the rest of his life in prison.
How does the engineer respond?
He uses resources.
What is your strongest resource when you are in prison? What is your biggest asset?
It’s your intellect. It’s your mind. It’s your ability to assess the situation. A fight or violence is not the way to respond to a problem. In prison, a fight can lead to a war. It can lead to a war with cliques or tribes. It can lead to a war with the administration. Violence does not have a good outcome.
In prison, pressure is ubiquitous. Do not resolve problems with violence unless you want to live in that world. You’ve got to think creatively. Think about how to avoid problems in the first place.
The engineer had very good critical thinking skills. He responded well when he saw the man lying on his bunk. The engineer knew this was a test. His response to the test would influence life ahead. What does he do?
Keep Your Head in the Game
He enters the cell with his eyes wide open. He looks at the shot-caller. The engineer doesn’t say anything. He stares. The shot-caller stares back. Tension, as the moment of truth approaches.
Who is going to break? Who is going to say something? What is going to happen?
The Shot-caller stares. The engineer stares.
Finally the engineer speaks. “I think that when you checked into this hotel, they gave you a room. I’ve seen your room. It’s better than mine. But maybe you’re tired of it. Maybe you want another room, maybe you want to switch. It’s okay. I can switch with you. I like your room better. No confrontation. I don’t mind switching cells. Or, you keep your room and I’ll keep mine. Maybe you got confused maybe. Maybe there’s a mistake. But I’d appreciate it if you didn’t sit on my rack.”
There was no confrontation there was no violence. The shot-caller saw that the engineer didn’t look away. He didn’t run away to seek help. The engineer was not confrontational, but strong and firm in his resolve.
The shot-caller agreed. He walked out. But the engineer knows there will be more tests. What follows? The engineer knows he is in an environment that he doesn’t quite get or understand. As Stephen Covey says, first seek to understand before you try to be understood.
So what happens next?
The engineer uses his intellect. He wants to understand the environment. What are his strengths? He’s got math skills, and he uses them in his new environment playing poker. The engineer purposely loses several hands during the day-time games. By losing, he knows that people will talk. Word will circulate. Others will say the engineer doesn’t know how to play. The players in the evening will welcome him. In the evening, poker stakes are higher.
In the evening, the engineer cleans up. He wins $3,000 the first night. People are angry. They feel that the engineer swindled them. What does he do next? He tells the other players that everyone in prison is a brother. He doesn’t want to take their money. He returns all the money to the people who lost. The shot-caller was one of the people who lost. The shot-caller holds up the arm of the engineer and makes an announcement. “This guy is okay. Anyone who has a problem with him has a problem with me.”
Not all situations work that way in prison. By using his intellect, the engineer made things easier. He didn’t shake. He didn’t quiver when pressured. He used his mind to figure out how to master the environment.
There are many ways to exist in any prison. The key is to learn the environment before you go in. Prepare for challenges and tests. The challenges are inevitable. They come from staff and they come from other prisoners. The challenges come in high-security prisons and in minimum-security camps.
Regardless of where authorities send a person, there will be people who have served decades inside. Some of those people fancy the prison as their domain. That person may not have your intellect. He may not have your advanced degrees. He may not have your level of accomplishment. But he may run the prison yard. Understand how you will live with that dynamic.
Remember that your objective is to go home at the earliest possible time. You may not go home early, but make decisions that will not result in you staying longer. That’s the objective. Pass through the term in the most successful way possible. Never forget how you define success.
I will share more videos through YouTube. Through those videos, I will share strategies that powered me through 26 calendar years. Anyone can apply those same strategies to prepare for the best possible outcome. Subscribe to us just by hitting the button if you’re on YouTube. We strive to give away more free content than we sell.
My partner, Sean Hopwood, and I understand that not everybody has the resources to hire us. That’s okay. We don’t have time to work one-on-one with everyone that reaches out to us. We publish videos, articles, and podcasts to help.
I make a commitment to share what I learned from masterminds. Those masterminds empowered me through 26 years in prison. They allowed me to come back successfully. They can help anyone who chooses to learn. Subscribe to us on YouTube, “like” on Facebook. Connect by reaching out to [email protected]