Release From Prison Journal: Day 462

Monday, November 17, 2014

I am making great progress on the new venture that I’m building. I’ve now written all of the content for PrisonProfessor.com, the website. Previously I wrote an abundance of content that I’ll make available through the site, but I still had to write all of the content, create all of the effects, and design the navigation. It’s really exciting to advance these types of projects. I invest hundreds of hours in the work long before anyone sees it. My expectations are to launch the new site sometime in mid December. It will feature scores of videos that show why the products and services that Prison Professor offers can lead to better outcomes for individuals who face lengthy sentences in prison. Any sentence in prison is lengthy, of course, as time away from family is painful. Yet I’m convinced that strategies for overcoming the difficulties of imprisonment can be learned, and Prison Professor will offer products to teach those strategies. I anticipate that this new website will play a significant part of my career in the years to come. Carole and I have been blessed with many opportunities that brought stability to our life, but Prison Professor is a passion of mine, as I live to show people in struggle how they can achieve a higher potential if they’re willing to make a 100% commitment.

 

Days since my release from prison: 462

Miles that I ran today: 0

Miles that I ran so far this week: 12.25

Miles that I’ve run during the month of November: 101.83

Miles that I ran so far in 2014: 2,151.97

Miles that I need to run in order to reach my annual goal of 2,400 miles: 248.03

Miles I’m ahead of schedule to reach my 2,400-mile goal by the end of 2014: 36.43

My weight for today: 168

Release From Prison Journal: Day 461

Sunday November 16, 2014

If you were asked to create a plan to improve our nation’s prison system, how would you describe your plan?

My plan to improve our nation’s prison system would follow the plan that has made America great. Instead of focusing on punishment and isolation, I would change the focus to preparing individuals for law-abiding lives as contributing citizens. The first challenge would be to change the management culture, policies, and procedures. I would want to train staff to encourage individuals to work toward developing values and skills that translate into success. Rather than governing through the threat of punishment, I would govern through the promise of rewards. Individuals would have opportunities to earn gradual and incremental increases in liberty, based on merit. Currently, such mechanisms do not exist. That fundamental flaw results in extremely high recidivism rates and intergenerational cycles of failure.

People may begin prison terms with lengthy sentences and anti-social values, but prisons are perfect institutions. Administrators have opportunities to carry out valuable social experiments, by encouraging individuals to work toward better meals, better clothing, better access to visitation and communication with family. By encouraging individuals to develop a strong work ethic, administrators would see results. Instead, we see an abundance of gang activity and people returning to society with the values and skills necessary to live in prison; unfortunately, the values and skills that lead to status in prison lead to failure in society.

 

Days since my release from prison: 461

Miles that I ran today: 12.25

Miles that I ran so far this week: 12.25

Miles that I’ve run during the month of November: 101.83

Miles that I ran so far in 2014: 2,151.97

Miles that I need to run in order to reach my annual goal of 2,400 miles: 248.03

Miles I’m ahead of schedule to reach my 2,400-mile goal by the end of 2014: 43

My weight for today: 168

Release From Prison Journal: Day 460

Saturday, November 15, 2014

How effective would you consider prison as a resource for helping prisoners change for the better?

Prisons do not focus on helping people change for the better. They may change titles to “correctional” institutions, but they do not make any pretense about wanting to change people for the better. Prisons are about security, isolation, punishment. Their policies and procedures are designed to extinguish hope and to remove an individual’s sense of efficacy. The guards and administrators routinely say that their number one concern is protecting the security of the institution. During the 26 years that I lived as a prisoner, I never perceived an emphasis on “corrections.” In fact, by studying to earn academic credentials, some staff members—including a warden—said that I was interfering with security of the institution. As a consequence of emphasizing security, prisons feed incredibly ineffective and negative atmospheres. Wicked subcultures proliferate in such an environment, and people leave prison less likely to live as law-abiding citizens than when they began serving the term. Prisons are extremely effective of isolating and punishing people, but they are woefully ineffective at helping people change for the better—as recidivism rates show.

 

Days since my release from prison: 460

Miles that I ran today: 12.3

Miles that I ran so far this week: 38.78

Miles that I’ve run during the month of November: 89.58

Miles that I ran so far in 2014: 2,139.72

Miles that I need to run in order to reach my annual goal of 2,400 miles: 260.28

Miles I’m ahead of schedule to reach my 2,400-mile goal by the end of 2014: 38.78

My weight for today: 168

Release From Prison Journal: Day 459

Friday, November 14, 2014

What would you change to make the halfway house more effective?

As I wrote in the previous post, I would implement changes that would make halfway houses more like a successful business operation. First I would visualize the outcome that I wanted to achieve. Then I would put a plan in place that would lead me to the outcome. Finally, I would execute the plan in methodical ways.

The halfway house experience focuses on the wrong outcome right now. Administrators emphasize the need to fill out a bunch of useless forms. It wastes resources and time by requiring people to participate in classes or programs, regardless of need. In my case, the fact that I served 25 years in prison was the data point administrators uses to determine how they should manage me; they did not concern themselves with the disciplined adjustment I pursued through each of the more than 9,000 days that I lived in prison. The fact that I had higher academic credentials than they had infuriated my case manager, as she didn’t believe someone in prison should have access to university studies. I would remove people who had that mindset.

My vision would be to prepare more individuals for law-abiding, successful lives as contributing citizens. Accordingly, I would establish plans that would make the best use of my resources. Rather than treating everyone the same, I would reward those who pursued excellence with greater levels of liberties. Such a plan would encourage more people to pursue excellence. All of my accountability metrics would focus on the outcome I wanted to achieve rather than on maintaining the bureaucratic process. Living in a halfway house is like living in the DMV, with too many processes that have no apparent value.

 

Days since my release from prison: 459

Miles that I ran today: 0

Miles that I ran so far this week: 26.48

Miles that I’ve run during the month of November: 77.28

Miles that I ran so far in 2014: 2,127.42

Miles that I need to run in order to reach my annual goal of 2,400 miles: 272.58

Miles I’m ahead of schedule to reach my 2,400-mile goal by the end of 2014: 31.59

My weight for today: 168

Release From Prison Journal: Day 458

Thursday, November 13, 2014

On a scale from 1 to 10, how effective would you consider the halfway house as being useful for preparing a former prisoner for society?

I am not a fan of the halfway house as they currently operate. They operate under the “custody” model. In other words, they are very much like prisons. Administrators emphasize the urgency of security and control. Obviously, security and control are essential. But there comes a point when an emphasis on security and control becomes disruptive, interfering with an individual’s prospects for making a successful rebound into society. Case managers in the halfway house that oversaw my final year in custody resented the stability that I had created for myself. I walked out of prison after 25 consecutive years and I had a job waiting for me, resources in the bank, and a strong support network. Rather than offering encouragement and liberty, they burdened me with a need to participate in ridiculous course such as anger management, budgeting, family planning, resume writing, communication skills, drug awareness. Those mandatory classes wasted my time and interfered with the progress that I was making. I had a strong fortitude and will, so I could overcome those frustrations. Yet most people who emerge from prison are much more fragile. They do not have strong support systems or options. When administrators place a massive emphasis on security and control, the discourage people. They block them from being able to make the transition into society effectively.

A proactive administrator could easily reverse this unfortunate circumstance and make the halfway house experience much more effective. The administrator would replace the commitment to bureaucratic forms and procedures with incentives that would incentive excellence. On the scale of 1 to 10, I would say the halfway house earns a 4 because it offers a place to sleep and food for people who need that during the transitional phase.

 

Days since my release from prison: 458

Miles that I ran today: 0

Miles that I ran so far this week: 26.48

Miles that I’ve run during the month of November: 77.28

Miles that I ran so far in 2014: 2,127.42

Miles that I need to run in order to reach my annual goal of 2,400 miles: 272.58

Miles I’m ahead of schedule to reach my 2,400-mile goal by the end of 2014: 38.16

My weight for today: 168

Release From Prison Journal: Day 457

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

If you could change one thing in prison and out of prison to enable and ease the transition from prison to the outside world, what would it be?

(Before answering the above question that I received from a student, I want to wish my mom a happy birthday. She may be the only reader of this blog, and I love her. Now I’ll answer the question.)

Prisons have a design flaw. I attribute high recidivism rates to that design flaw. The primary flaw of prison designs, from my perspective, is that they extinguish hope. Rather than incentivizing people in prison to pursue a path to excellence, prisons send a different message. Rules inside, both tacit and expressed, tell an individual that “you’ve got nothing coming.” That means regardless of what good deeds you embark upon, or what efforts you make to redeem yourself, mechanism do not exist for you to undo the crimes you’ve committed. Only the passing of time and the avoidance of disciplinary infractions have relevance in prisons where I served time.

That design flaw differs in fundamental ways from society. In society, we incentivize a pursuit of excellence. Those incentives keep people striving to achieve their highest potential. Yet since administrators govern prisons through the threat of punishment rather than through the promise of incentives, few people work toward preparing for success. And most people leave prison less capable of functioning as law-abiding citizens in society than when they began their sentences. If we changed the design of prisons, we would change the outcome.

 

Days since my release from prison: 457

Miles that I ran today: 0

Miles that I ran so far this week: 26.48

Miles that I’ve run during the month of November: 77.28

Miles that I ran so far in 2014: 2,127.42

Miles that I need to run in order to reach my annual goal of 2,400 miles: 272.58

Miles I’m ahead of schedule to reach my 2,400-mile goal by the end of 2014: 44.73

My weight for today: 168

Release From Prison Journal: Day 456

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Which would you consider to be the most effective: prison, halfway house, or rehabilitation program when compared to each other?

The question above presupposes that I know what the end goal is. I don’t. Prisons are extraordinarily effective at separating people from society. But they’re a dismal failure at preparing people who were convicted of breaking laws for law-abiding lives upon release. Halfway houses provide temporary way station for prisoners who return to society and need a landing spot. Yet personal experience and anecdotal evidence suggest that halfway houses are ridiculously ineffective at providing resources or guidance for people who’ve been released from prison. I do not have any experience with “rehabilitation programs” that I would consider effective at preparing individuals for success. They may exist, but I never encountered any programs during the 9,500 days that I served as a prisoner that I would describe as being designed “to rehabilitate” individuals. Instead, administrators use “programs” as a mechanism to reduce inmate idleness because inmate idleness has been found threaten security. An effective rehabilitation program would encourage and incentivize a pursuit of excellence. I never experienced such a program while I served my sentence.

When we compare and contrast prisons, halfway houses, and rehabilitation programs for the purpose of determining which system would be most “effective,” we must acknowledged that each type of institution serves a different purpose. Prisons are designed to confine, to keep people separated from society. They’re very effective in that regard. Halfway houses may be a great solution against homelessness. I do not know any rehabilitation programs that are effective. They may exist—I just don’t know any.

 

Days since my release from prison: 456

Miles that I ran today: 1.25

Miles that I ran so far this week: 26.48

Miles that I’ve run during the month of November: 77.28

Miles that I ran so far in 2014: 2,127.42

Miles that I need to run in order to reach my annual goal of 2,400 miles: 272.58

Miles I’m ahead of schedule to reach my 2,400-mile goal by the end of 2014: 51.3

My weight for today: 168

Release From Prison Journal: Day 455

Monday, November 10, 2014

What do you believe are some of the struggles parolees face when attempting to reintegrate into society?

The federal prison system abolished parole with the implementation of the 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act. All prisoners who were convicted of crimes that took place after November 1, 1987, did not have eligibility for parole. For those who don’t know, parole is a release mechanism. Administrators can release prisoners on parole if they were sentenced under “indeterminate” sentencing laws. In other words, if a judge sentenced an individual to a term of ten years, and he was eligible for parole, an administrative board could review the sentence after a given length of time to determine whether continued confinement was warranted in the individual’s case. Typically, under the parole system, an individual would serve a third of his sentence in custody before a parole board would consider releasing him. If the prisoner had a record of good behavior and an acceptable plan for release, the parole board may release him.

But parole is no longer an option in the federal system. So I suspect the student who asked the question above wanted to know about struggles that anyone released from prison can expect to encounter.

The answer is many, many struggles.

My situation differed from most prisoners. I prepared myself well during the quarter century that I served and I was blessed with an adjustment that differed from what anyone would expect. I’m in contact with many individuals who served lengthy terms in prison. They struggle to find employment that pays a livable wage, they struggle to secure housing, and they struggle to build empower support networks.

Prisons place their emphasis on “preserving security of the institution.” Although security is important, when administrators focus exclusively on security, they create toxic environments that condition people who serve time for cycles of failure. Those cycles frequently become intergenerational. Overcoming the challenges of confinement requires a strong fortitude, discipline, and commitment.

 

Days since my release from prison: 455

Miles that I ran today: 12.1

Miles that I ran so far this week: 25.23

Miles that I’ve run during the month of November: 76.03

Miles that I ran so far in 2014: 2,126.17

Miles that I need to run in order to reach my annual goal of 2,400 miles: 273.83

Miles I’m ahead of schedule to reach my 2,400-mile goal by the end of 2014: 56.62

My weight for today: 168

Release From Prison Journal: Day 454

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The university semester is coming to an end. Although I no longer teach at San Francisco State University, I still have a great relationship with many of the students. One student who is about to graduate is preparing a research paper. She asked if I would contribute to her research by responding to a series of questions she had about prison. I pledged to respond through a series of blog posts, as I thought others might want to consider my responses.

Question: How would you describe the lifestyle in federal prison?

Although others may have different perspectives, experience convinces me that life in federal prison is what a man chooses to make of it. Clearly, while traversing through weeks, months, years, or decades, a prisoner may feel as if architects designed prisons to extinguish hope. The system does not provide a mechanism through which an individual can distinguish himself in a positive way. Administrators govern through the threat of further punishment, or harsher conditions, rather than through the promise of incentives. That negative environment spawns a subculture that discourages positive, individual growth. Recidivism rates, it would seem, tend to support this view as I experienced it.

Nevertheless, individuals who choose can grow through prison. They can choose to reject the criminal lifestyle and reject the discouragement from the infrastructure of confinement. Those who’ve ready about my journey know that I served time in prisons of every security level. While in multiple prisons, I always had opportunities to grow and prepare for a successful return to society. The ‘lifestyle’ of prison did not encourage people in prison to pursue the type of adjustment that guided my journey. But I found that an individual who chooses can succeed in leading a meaningful, relevant life in spite of the prison lifestyle and culture.

 

Days since my release from prison: 454

Miles that I ran today: 13.13

Miles that I ran so far this week: 13.13

Miles that I’ve run during the month of November: 63.93

Miles that I ran so far in 2014: 2,114.07

Miles that I need to run in order to reach my annual goal of 2,400 miles: 285.93

Miles I’m ahead of schedule to reach my 2,400-mile goal by the end of 2014: 51.09

My weight for today: 168

Release From Prison Journal: Day 453

Saturday, November 8, 2014

 

Today I wrote content for Alternative Investment Seminars. This content is entirely new, part of a project that I’m working on with an international real estate developer. The business has been extremely successful by any metric. The developer owns more than 20,000 acres of oceanfront property. To provide some perspective, the total land area exceeds that of Manhattan, in New York. Over the past several years, the developer presided over a massive master plan, carving out thousands of home sites. He installed an infrastructure that includes roads, water lines, and power. Through a brilliant marketing strategy, he has sold more than 1,000 of the home sites. His success really impresses me and inspires me. To spread awareness, he uses a combination of Internet marketing, and traditional advertising through television, radio, and print. He also employs hundreds of people who help make this project so successful. I’m working on a new project with him to develop a different sales channel through live events. We truly believe in the project, as we’re convinced that with the growing number of retirees, thousands of Americans will want to retire in a tropical paradise. The content I’m writing will bring this project to the attention of investors. I’m looking forward to working on this idea in the weeks to come, months, and years to come. After we I write all of the content for the website, I’ll write some marketing material. Then I’ll work to create a slide show that will me present the story to a audience of prospective investors. We’ll test the market with a few live events, likely in California first. If audiences respond to the offering well, then we’ll try to scale the model by taking the live events to different cities across the United States. I’ll enjoy making the presentations, assuming we get this project off the ground. Stay tuned.

 

Days since my release from prison: 453

Miles that I ran today: 0

Miles that I ran so far this week: 50.8

Miles that I’ve run during the month of November: 50.8

Miles that I ran so far in 2014: 2,100.94

Miles that I need to run in order to reach my annual goal of 2,400 miles: 299.06

Miles I’m ahead of schedule to reach my 2,400-mile goal by the end of 2014: 44.53

My weight for today: 168