To introduce myself to others, I created a document that shares my history.
- My Journey
To introduce myself to others, I created a document that shares my history.
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.
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:
The time has come for us to pivot markets with regard to our sales strategy for the Straight-A Guide Program. The investment we’ve made in developing our program requires us to think about the best possible markets. Initially we wanted to focus on the prison system because we’re passionate about teaching the strategies that empowered me through 26 years of imprisonment to others who have had struggles with the criminal justice system. Yet the message should have a much further reach, and I am determined to find new markets.
Schools represent another option beside the prison system. We’ve succeeded in opening relationships with several schools based in Los Angeles County, Orange County, and also in Santa Clara County. Those schools have federal funding available to purchase innovative programs. Administrators who work with young people who are vulnerable to suspensions or troubles with the criminal justice system may find value in our Straight-A Guide Cognitive Skills Development Program. We’re exploring those options now. In May I will keynote a conference that will allow me to speak with a room packed with administrators from across the state of California. Perhaps we’ll walk away with many new purchase orders from school administrators.
But I’m convinced that we should tap into additional markets that may be even more receptive to our message. Those markets should include the multi-billion dollar corporate training market and also the personal development market.
Our story about the Straight-A Guide is not exclusive to prisons and schools. We present a human story. All people face struggle at some point during the journey of life. My struggle happens to have been severe consequences that followed bad decisions I made during a reckless youth. I sold cocaine. As a consequence I served 26 years in prison. Yet others can learn from the deliberate, values-based, goal-oriented strategies that empowered me through each of the 9,500 days that I lived as federal prisoner #16377-004.
I am working hard to convey this vision to Justin. If I succeed in getting him to embrace the vision, he’ll join me in building a sales team. That team should lead to the development of a national brand that we’ll build around the Straight-A Guide. We can create new products that we’ll sell to professional organizations that invest in staff leadership development or sales training. In addition, we can create products and services for end users. Creating those products and services will take a considerable amount of my time. Before I make that investment, I need to convince Justin and others that we can build a sustainable organization around this effort. Then we need to build a sales team. That sales team must work to market our products in all markets. Then we must work to execute the plan, with each member of the team doing his or her part.
Vision. Plan. Execute. That transparent strategy guided me through 26 years of imprisonment. I document everything along the way. Consequently, we can teach others how to use this same strategy to reach a higher potential in their personal life and in their career. Expect to see more as I advance through 2014.
On Friday, February 7, 2014, I spoke at the Santa Clara Convention Center about mass incarceration. An audience of more than 1,200 people listened as I described why we must embrace the same innovative and disruptive approach to problem solving when we contemplate strategies to resolve the greatest social injustice of our time. We’re taking a three-pronged approach at the Michael G. Santos Foundation as we:
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share thoughts on how we can improve.
I’m driving to Stanford University to make a presentation on mass incarceration at the Robles Theater. I’ll help those in the audience understand why I’m taking a three-pronged approach to change this system. Those prongs include:
- Working to help people in custody understand the challenges ahead and prepare to triumph over them by rejecting criminal lifestyles and developing critical thinking skills.
- Working to help the formerly incarcerated transition into the workforce as law-abiding citizens.
- Working to bring more awareness to the greatest social injustice of our time: mass incarceration.
If I’m successful, I’ll persuade those in the audience to join this effort. Together, we can take incremental action steps to build a more effective criminal justice system, one that makes society safer while reducing intergenerational cycles of failure.
Social impact bonds are exciting. They encourage investors to take a role in building better, more effective communities. Indeed, social impact bonds allow investors to profit by making society better in a measurable way. The Wikipedia entry on Social Impact Bonds describes the investment vehicle as a “Pay For Success Bond.” I like it!
Pay for success bonds would go a long way toward improving the outcome of our nation’s prison system. If we measured the success of prisons by the number of people they warehoused for a given length of time, we’d say they were a resounding success. Yet if we were to measure the success of prisons by the number of people they prepared for law-abiding, contributing lives upon release, then recidivism rates showed that prisons failed miserably.
We need a more innovative, disruptive system. Social impact bonds could finance this innovation. Goldman Sachs recognized this value proposition when it invested $10 million in a social impact bond to reduce New York City teen recidivism rates. The storied investment house profits by financing programs that lead people to success.
The Michael G. Santos Foundation has a lot of ideas on how we can encourage more people in prison to pursue self-directed paths that will prepare them for law-abiding, contributing lives. We’re grateful to be working with innovative, courageous leaders at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, at the National Guard’s Challenge Youth Academy, at the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, and at the Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall. They’re deploying resources to pilot our Straight-A Guide Life Skills Program. They may not have access to funding from social impact bonds, but they’re leading the way by diverting resources away from warehousing human beings. Instead, they’re investing resources in community renewal, preparing more people in prison for law-abiding lives, tax-paying, contributing lives.
Last week I visited with Brant Choate from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Brant directs the educational based incarceration system that operates within the LA County J
ail and he is a true visionary. Rather than focusing on warehousing human beings, he works with a team to inspire the men who are serving time so that they prepare for law-abiding lives upon release. Together with Deputy David Bates, Brant oversees MERIT, a program that encourages inmate leaders to teach classes inside of the jail. I had the privilege of touring one of the jail facilities with Deputy Bates and a commander from the LA County Jail. Their work will go a long way toward community renewal and increasing community safety by lowering recidivism rates. I like the model of change from within that MERIT promotes.
Russell Hancock, CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, invited me to participate in his one-hour radio show on KLIV. Here is a link to the broadcast on iTunes.
While in Los Angeles for a series of sales meetings with our Straight-A Guide curriculum, my partner Justin and I drove more than 600 miles. We visited clients and prospective clients in various locations between Orange County and Ventura County. On every freeway, we passed alongside busses that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department operated. I consider myself blessed for so many reasons. I’m especially grateful to be finished with the prison system, but I feel a sense of responsibility to continue working to help those individuals going through confinement. I know that many of the individuals on those busses that the LA County Sheriff’s Department operates are beginning lengthy terms in confinement. I want them to emerge just as I emerged, with values, skills, and resources that will help them transition into society as law-abiding, contributing citizens. We designed and produced our Straight-A Guide Life Skills Program for that specific reason, and I feel a great sense of fulfillment in knowing that thousands of people will learn from the work we’ve done. We’re living as the change we want to see in the world.
While awaiting transfer from the county jail in Pierce County Washington to federal prison, I made a commitment to work toward reconciling with society. This website documents my journey through 9,500 days of … Learn more.
Please be patient with me. I was released from federal prison on August 12, 2013 after 26 consecutive years. I intend to add new content daily that will help others understand prisons, the people they hold, and strategies to overcome struggle in their life. Please watch the daily content that I add through my DAILY LOG entries and visit regularly for new content.
You will learn from observations and experiences I gained from overcoming imprisonment. During the 26 years I served as a federal prisoner, I achieved more than anyone would’ve thought possible. Through the career I’m building, I show those who retain me how to take deliberate steps to achieve optimal performance, regardless of external influences.