PBS Episode

Glad to play a role in helping others understand steps we can take to improve outcomes in our nation’s prison system.

PBS NewsHour Profiles our Work



I am grateful to the crew at PBS that brought our work to the attention of others.

PBS NewsHour Profiles Our Work To National Television Audience

PBS NewsHour

PBS NewsHour

This morning I received an email message from Merrill, a producer at the PBS NewsHour. In early February, Merrill and her team filmed me as I taught inside of a San Francisco Jail, at San Francisco University, and at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Following those filming segments, I met with national news correspondent Jeff Brown in my home, where we completed the interview. This evening PBS will broadcast the episode. Carole and I do not have a television in our home, so we will miss the broadcast. I’ll look forward to seeing the online version later.

Straight-A Guide PowerPoint for Day 1 of Training for San Jose Gang Prevention Task Force

This link will take you to the PowerPoint Slideshow that will guide the first seminar that I lead for the San Jose Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force. I look forward to teaching them the leadership principles of the Straight-A Guide.

Seminar Agenda for Teaching 8-hour course on Straight-A Guide

Straight-A Guide Logo

Straight-A Guide Logo

San Jose Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force

Day one of four-day seminar on Straight-A Guide (7:30 to 5:00 pm)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Session 1: 8:00 until 8:50 (Introduction)

  • Pass out name cards and make introductions
    • Get to know something about participants. (8:10)
    • Acknowledge the challenges of their job as interventionists and working with people who may not want to change. (8:15)
    • Explain my background. Some may know about me from previous speeches. Since I’d like to use the context of my journey as a teaching tool, permit me to elaborate.
      • Discuss growing up as son of an immigrant. (8:20)
      • Driving down the road, hear an ad for Scarface on radio.
      • See the movie. Make a choice. (8:25)
      • Describe era, what my thought process was.
      • Explain how I recruited others and efforts I made to distance myself. (8:35)
      • Talk about how little I knew on both buy and sell side of transaction. (8:40)
      • August 11, 1987. Guns drawn.
      • Facing life without parole.
      • Jail cell.
      • Lawyer’s guidance. (8:50)

Section 2: 9:00 until 9:50 (Jail 9:15 / Trial 9:30 / Socrates 9:50)

  • You may be asking what, if anything, a person with my background can offer. After all, you’re working with a high-risk population. Many of the people you serve don’t want to change. Still, I’m convinced that lessons I learned may add some value to your courageous work. To explain why, I’ll ask you to indulge me through another hour as I tell you what happened after that day of my arrest, on August 11, 1987. Because in order to get the full gist of what I’ve learned, I’d like you have a better understanding of the process that I went through. If I can hold your attention through the story, I’d like you to question what I’m telling you.
    • Evaluating options.
    • Messages from others in jail. (9:15)
    • Trial
    • Operations continue.
    • Delusions influence response.
    • Perjury (9:30)
    • Convicted / bottom
    • Praying
    • Socrates
    • Is there anything I can do to influence future?

Section 3: 10:00 until 10:50 (Breakout session)

  • Describe purpose of group discussion. Break into groups of 5-7. Looking for insight from group, based on experience.   Ask each group to assign a reporter and a presenter. We’ll discuss various challenges in the group discussions. Strive to learn from each other. In this first group break out, discuss how an interventionist could reach a character like the one I described:
    • Prior to his dealing.
    • While he was dealing.
    • After his arrest.
    • After his conviction. (10:25)
    • Whiteboard exercise
    • Have spokesperson discuss
    • Lead class through discussion

Section 4: 11:00 to 11:50 (Visualize 11:20, Plan 11:30, Execute, 11:50)

  • Return to context of prison for purpose of learning. Facing decades inside. What reasonable outcomes could he expect?
    • White board exercise
    • Visualize (11:20)
      • Nonjudgmental
        • Discussion all options
        • Explore plan for different options (11:30)
          • What opportunity costs accompany each decision?
          • Evaluate strengths and weaknesses of plan
          • Execute (12:00)
            • How would he measure progress?
            • How would he assess effectiveness of plan?
            • How does progress influence decisions and prospective outcomes?
            • In what way would plan create opportunities or threats?

Section 5: Strategy that guided me (1:00 to 1:50)

Describe for class the deliberate strategy that guided me. Began with questions.

  • Visualize (1:20)
    • Would it be possible to earn respect from law-abiding citizens?
    • What would prison culture expect?
    • What would citizens expect?
  • Plan (1:40)
    • Write letters
    • Explain predicament
    • Ask for help
      • Story
      • Publish
      • Support network
  • Execute (1:50)
    • Interconnectivity
    • Transparency
    • Accountability

Section 6: Straight-A Guide (2:00 to 2:50)

Describe how it began. Learning from leaders. Lee Nobmann’s influence and questions about work I chose.

  • Walk through entire Straight-A Guide program and describe what each attribute means.
    • Values
    • Goals
    • Attitude
    • Aspiration
    • Action
    • Accountability
    • Awareness
    • Achievement
    • Appreciation

Section 7: How does Straight-A Guide apply to everyday life? (3:00 to 3:50)

  • Explain how I learned this lesson from leaders in all sectors. Everyone can relate to the investment they made in personal growth. Once they made commitment to change, individuals could leave past and say never again. (3:10)
  • Show video that illustrates work of success. (3:20)
  • Group exercise: On piece of paper, identify five role models (3:25)
  • Exchange cards with partner.
    • Explain reasons behind your selection to partner (3:35)
    • Group Takeaway
      • Call upon partners to reveal reasons behind choice.
      • Identify common characteristics or reasons for choice. (3:50)

Section 8: Case Study (4:00 to 4:50)

  • 100 monkey story
    • Teach these lessons to others (4:10)
    • Case Study Exercise
      • Describe someone you’ve worked to help.

Introduction from Stanford Professor Joan Petersilia to California Forward Readers

With my friend Professor Joan Petersilia at Stanford University

With my friend Professor Joan Petersilia at Stanford University

Michael Santos: A journey back to society

I am writing to introduce Michael Santos to the readers of The Partnership for Community Excellence. Michael is an amazing and inspiring person and I encourage all of you to read closely the insights he will be sharing in the coming months about his personal prison reentry experiences.

Over the past several years, I have become friends with (and a great admirer of) Michael, a federal prisoner who was just released on August 13, 2012 after serving 25 consecutive years in federal prison for distribution of cocaine.
There were no weapons and there was no violence involved with his case and he had never been incarcerated before that arrest when he was 22. Nevertheless, the judge imposed a 45-year sentence. Michael is now living in a federal halfway house in San Francisco. He will be there for several months and then likely settling in the Bay Area.

Michael is unusual in that he became quite a scholar while behind bars — earning degrees, writing several books (e.g., About PrisonAdjusting to PrisonEarning Freedom). You can see a picture of Michael and his lovely wife, Carole, along with details of his life on his blog. Carole and Michael have been together for 10 years and she has stood by him throughout his prison term. She also writes about being the wife of a long-term prisoner in her blog.

I wrote a letter supporting Michael’s petition for parole release. I had never before written a letter supporting a release action for any prisoner. But Michael’s case was so compelling that I had to write. I felt he was the safest possible candidate for release. Not only does he enjoy an existing support network from his family and the wider community, but he also had a great future awaiting him in productive work. In fact, he already has a job. But what he most wants to do now is help other prisoners reintegrate successfully, inform the broader community about prison life, and help reform draconian justice policies. To foster these goals, Michael will begin sharing his reentry experiences—the challenges and the joys—on this website.

I encourage you all to follow his journey, as I know his insights will benefit us all. Also, please join me in welcoming Michael and Carole as they join our community. We wish them all continued success!

~Joan Petersilia 
Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law, Stanford University & 
Co-Director, Stanford Criminal Justice Center

From California Forward: http://www.cafwd.org/pages/michael-santos-a-journey-back-to-society

Presentation for Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force in Santa Rosa

Journalist Jamie Hansen Covered my Presentation

Journalist Jamie Hansen Covered my Presentation


Newspaper coverage of presentation I made for Santa Rosa Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force.

What Can People Learn from a Man who Served a 45-year Prison Term?

Michael Santos Biography

Michael Santos Biography

To introduce myself to others, I created a document that shares my history.

  • My Journey
  • http://michaelsantos.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/My-Bio.pdf

Santa Clara Juvenile Hall Update

Santa Clara Update, March_Page_1

Santa Clara Update, March_Page_1

I wrote an update to publicize the work that we’ve been doing at the Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall. Those who have an interest may read the update by clicking on the PDF link below.

Santa Clara Update, March PDF

Stanford Presentation

A few months I made a presentation at Stanford University for students of the NAACP. Emma Hartung, a student who is scheduled to graduate in 2017, wrote an article about the event. Those who’d like to read it may click the following link:

Michael Santos on Conquering America’s Commitment to Mass Incarceration.