San Francisco State University, The Architecture of Incarceration, Class 1

Michael-with-Inside-BookSan Francisco State University

The Architecture of Imprisonment

Class 1 lecture: August 29, 2013

Michael G. Santos

 

Today I delivered my first lecture for students at San Francisco State University who enrolled in The Architecture of Imprisonment. In an effort to summarize the class for my students, for those who follow my work, and for those interested in an overview of how our criminal justice evolved, I’ll write this recap of the class.

My official roster indicated that 45 people enrolled in The Architecture of Imprisonment. Professor Jeffrey Snipes told me that I should expect that other students would want to add the class. I welcomed all students who showed an interest in my work. As a man who served a quarter century in prison, I feel as though I have a responsibility to share what I experienced, observed, and learned from interviewing others inside America’s federal prison system. Teaching brings a sense of fulfillment, as if I’m making a positive contribution to society.

By the time class began, at 4:10 in the afternoon, every seat appeared to be taken. I passed a roll sheet around the room. Sixty-nine students signed their name to the roster. The students who were not officially enrolled asked me to assign them permit numbers. Since I did not know how to assign permit numbers, I asked them to place a note beside their names on the roll sheet and I promised to find a response for them by the time we met for our second class on Thursday, September 5, 2013.

 

Beginning the class

Earlier, I sent a group email to the enrolled students that encouraged them to look me up and learn a bit more about me. As a matter of full disclosure, I wanted the students to know about my background. After all, they were making a significant investment in their education and they had a right to know that although I stood in front of the class lecturing, I had been released from the prison system only 17 days previously, on August 12, 2013. I attach a copy of the email I sent out below:

Hello Students,

My name is Michael Santos and I’m the instructor for Criminal Justice 0451, The Architecture of Imprisonment. I look forward to meeting each of you and to sharing all that I’ve learned about America’s prison system.

As I wrote in the class syllabus, I will teach this course from a perspective that may surprise some of you. The books I’ve assigned will describe my journey and provide reasons why I feel so passionate about helping more people understand America’s prison system. Those who want more immediate information may Google my name or visit a website that I’m developing at michaelsantos.com. I intend to publish articles on that website that we can use as resources for the class.

I look forward to spirited discussions and to helping each student understand more about America’s prison system.

Sincerely,

Michael G. Santos

 

Since I also wanted to know about the background of my students, I asked each student to share some information. Starting from the front of the class and working my way through the back of the class, I asked each students, one-by-one, for an introduction. I wanted to learn each student’s name, year of study, major of study, and career aspirations.

All but one of my students (who was a junior) were seniors, on the verge of graduating from the criminal justice program. Many aspired to pursue careers in law enforcement, with ideas of working for various police departments, for juvenile justice, for probation, and some for adult corrections. Some students wanted to advance to law school. Many students had not yet decided what type of careers they would choose.

Some had taken courses that described the jail system, but I did not get a sense that the students had spent much time discussing prisons. Since they were seniors in criminal justice, I suspected that the students knew more about our nation’s prison system than they were willing to reveal. After all, we were in the first day of class and I had not yet earned their trust. They may have been feeling me out as a lecturer.

 

My Background

Since the students had not yet read any material for the course, I reserved that first hour as a kind of get-to-know each other period. After the students responded to my question about their background, I told them about mine. Since reading material for the course included my books Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-year Prison Term and Inside: Life Behind Bars in America, the students would learn quite a bit about my journey through county jails and federal prisons of every security level. Wanting to give them a thumbnail version of events, I explained the bad decisions I made as a young man that led to my arrest on August 11, 1987. I told them about my journey through jail, my exposure to the work of Socrates, and the commitment that I made to work toward reconciling with society.

The three-part plan that would guide me required that I devote every day of my sentence to work toward:

  • Educating myself
  • Contributing to society, and
  • Building a support network that would have a vested interest in my success upon release.

I explained to the class that I believed such a principled, values-based approach would help to guide me from the darkness of imprisonment to the light of liberty. The deliberate adjustment strategy led to my earning an undergraduate degree from Mercer University in 1992 and a graduate degree from Hofstra University in 1995. Those credentials later led to my building a career in publishing. I wrote to help more citizens understand prisons, the people they hold, and strategies for growing through prison. As a consequence of those publications, numerous other opportunities opened to bring meaning and a sense of relevance to my life. Although I served decades in prison, I worked each day to live as one with society and to earn liberty.

My hopes had been that I would’ve received more interaction from the students. I assured them that they could ask me anything. I wanted them to know that I was an open book and eager to help them understand the prison system from an insider’s perspective. From the respectful attention they paid me, I sensed that they were listening, but I really wanted to engage with them. I concluded that first hour of the lecture with a commitment to work toward finding ways that would bring them in to the discussions.

At 4:55 we stopped for a five-minute break.

Overview of Punishment

During the second hour of our initial class, I lectured on the evolution of punishment in Western civilization. It being the first day of class, and knowing that I had not yet assigned any reading to the students, I did not intend to overwhelm them with the names of scholars who’ve studied and written about punishment from philosophical and social perspectives. But I did want students to know that we as a society did not always respond to those who broke society’s laws with incarceration. In the past, many Western societies responded to lawbreakers with corporal punishment.

I asked whether anyone in the class was familiar with the French social philosopher Michel Foucault. One of the well-read students shared her recollection of Foucault’s work in his famous book Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. In his 1975 book, Foucault provided readers with a graphic glimpse of how governments once responded to criminal offenses with public displays of torture. The first pages of that book portrayed a crowd gathering around to watch as authorities drilled holes into a man’s body, then filled those holes with molten steel. In the end, the authorities tied the man’s limbs to four separate horses, and then literally ripped the offender apart as the horses raced off in different directions.

Those types of violent corporal punishments characterized medieval societies, but in the 1700s, Western civilization moved into a period known as The Enlightenment era. During that time, artists, philosophers, and scientists contemplated steps we as a society could take to advance humanity. Some even argued that we could respond to criminal behavior in more civilized ways than inflicting pain or death on the body of lawbreakers.

An Italian philosopher, Cesare Beccaria, who lived in the mid 1700s, authored On Crimes and Punishment, a book that brought a different perspective to the ways that civilized society should respond to offenders Many scholars refer to him as being the father of the “classical school” of criminal justice theory. He opposed torture and the death penalty, arguing that criminal justice should confirm to rational principles rather than appease a lust for vengeance. With regard to the death penalty, Beccaria argued that the state did not have any more right to take lives than anyone else. He also maintained that killing people did not further the interests of civilization because it didn’t lower crime rates. Rather than seeking vengeance, a principled criminal justice system should strive to accomplish specific principles, including:

  • Deterrence, meaning that punishment should deter others from committing crimes.
  • Proportionate, meaning that the punishment should be a sufficient response to crime, but not become a spectacle.
  • Certainty, meaning that offenders should know that punishment will follow criminal behavior.
  • Public, meaning that all citizens should be aware of the punishment.
  • Swift, meaning that the punishment should be carried out quickly after the offense was committed.

Following our brief discussion of Foucault and Beccaria, I spoke about Jeremy Bentham, a British social philosopher who was born around the time that Beccaria advanced his theories on reasons why we should reform our criminal justice system. Scholars frequently refer to Jeremy Bentham as being of the “neoclassical school” of criminal justice. Bentham is most famous for his philosophy known as Utilitarianism.

Both the classical and neoclassical school focused on crimes as being offenses against the law rather than offense against nature. The punishment of offenders should be swift, certain, and no more brutal than necessary to serve the greater good of society. Bentham advanced the classical thoughts of Beccaria by arguing that an enlightened society should not only punish behavior effectively to serve the greatest good for the greatest number, but society should also address crimes before they occurred through public investment in education and promotion of a benevolent society.

Bentham also advocated for the abolition of the death penalty, holding that corporal punishments failed to advance society in ways that would serve the interests of the majority of citizens. Instead, he argued for prisons that would afford opportunities for the state to reform offenders. Those who read about Bentham will see that he is well known for designing The Panopticon. The Panopticon prison was designed in such a way that guards could stand in a central tower right in the middle of a round prison. The prison cells would be distributed on tiers that surrounded the tower, providing a vantage point through which guards would always be able to observe what the offenders were doing. Many governments later made use of the Panopticon design. (See a publication by Kim Swanson, graduate student from Florida State University for more detail.)

When I asked the students in my class whether they were familiar with a country that established a penal colony, many of the young men and women were familiar with the policies of England during the 1800s. They transported offenders to Australia. I told them what I knew about Alexander Maconochie, a Scottish man who was credited for reforming the Australian penal colony known as Norfolk Island.

Professor Norval Morris, from the University of Chicago, mentored me while I was in graduate school at Hofstra and he introduced me to the work of Alexander Maconochie. In a book that Professor Morris wrote about Maconochie, I learned that Maconochie wanted to make fundamental reforms to the criminal justice system. Rather than striving to deter offenses or punish offenders, he believed that the prison experience should function with an objective of making offenders more fit to live in society as law-abiding citizens. With that goal in mind, Maconochie introduced the token economy, through which offenders on Norfolk Island could work to earn gradually increasing levels of liberty. Prisoners could earn higher levels of freedom through their efforts to atone for their criminal behavior, or to make things right with society.

I told the group how reading the work of Professor Norval Morris and the prison reforms that Alexander Maconochie introduced on Norfolk Island influenced my journey through prison. I always believed that if I worked hard, somehow I could find a way to function and add value in society. That pursuit of liberty did not result in my leaving prison one day sooner, but it instilled me with a high level of energy and discipline through each of the 9,500 days that I served. That work inspired me to continue studying about the prison system and the people it held. (For those who would like to read more about Alexander Maconochie, I suggest the following article: http://www.academia.edu/1073580/Alexander_Maconochies_Mark_System)

 

Evolution of Prisons in America

The concept of the prison began to grow in America during the late 1700s, with the first American penitentiary being constructed in Philadelphia. It was known as the Walnut Street Jail. It featured individual cells designed to provide offenders with a place to do penance for their punishment. The Quakers came up with this plan in Philadelphia, believing that confining a person would open opportunities for him to heal, or atone for his bad deeds.

Later, as our country’s population level grew, President Andrew Jackson presided over an era (1820s to 1830s) that led to the expansion of the penitentiary system on a massive scale. The first huge penitentiary, known as The Eastern State Penitentiary, was characterized by absolute solitude. Before guards admitted a prisoner into Eastern, they placed a gunnysack over his head. Then the guards led a prisoner to a solitary cell and locked him inside. Until the end of his sentence, a prisoner would not have any contact with the outside world. He would be left alone in the cell without anything but his thoughts and his Bible. The Pennsylvania system was known as the separatist system of confinement.

A competing penitentiary system, known as The New York system, operated at the Auburn Penitentiary. Both the New York system and the Pennsylvania system were characterized by locking men in cells, but in the New York system, known as the “congregate system,” prisoners were able to leave their cells to labor together and sometimes to eat together. Either way, time in prison was theoretically supposed to be more humane than corporal punishments.  The hope was that as prisoners spent time alone, they would study the Bible and prepare to lead law-abiding lives after release. What those theories did not take into account was that confining men in cages gave an enormous power to those who confined; prisons were rampant with brutality.

As we advanced into the late 1800s, we entered an era known as The Reformatory Era. It began with the famous Elmira Reformatory in 1870. The reformatory movement would begin to usher in policies that led to more than simply withering away years in a cell. Authorities introduced reforms devoted to instill more discipline and rehabilitation of prisoners. At first the reformatories were used for younger men, but by the 1900s, those concepts would give way to the industrial prisons, also known as “The Big House.” They were like walled cities with factories inside that were supposed to defray the costs of operating the prisons. Those who’ve seen The Shawshank Redemption, have a good idea of life inside of those types of institutions.

Gresham Sykes, a celebrated penologist, wrote about the Big House in his book The Society of Captives. That classic text in penology illustrated “the pains of imprisonment” for men inside the Trenton State Prison in New Jersey, a typical Big House prison. The prisoners had considerable liberty to roam inside the walls of the prison, but the institutions deprived prisoners of goods and services that people in the broader society took for granted. As a response to those deprivations, Darwinian subcultures began to evolve, with the stronger prisoners beginning to dominate the weaker prisoners.

Big House prisons gradually gave way to so-called “correctional institutions” in the 1940s and 1950s. Daily regimentations became more relaxed, with increasing opportunities for educational programs and vocational development. They became softer human warehouses than existed in the past, less oppressive.

On January 7, 2010, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article about John Irwin. Some of the people in my class had heard about John Irwin, who was a product of those more humane prison warehouses. John robbed a gas station as a young man and served five years at Soledad state prison. While inside prison he began to study and he earned some college credits. After he was paroled, in 1957, he continued his studies at UCLA and he earned an undergraduate degree. He then began teaching at San Francisco State University. In 1967, John founded Project Rebound, a university program that would help those coming out of prison go to college. I was impressed by many of the students who raised their hands when I asked whether they knew about Project Rebound and the rich legacy that Professor Irwin left on the university. He was another inspiration for me while I served my sentence.

But soon after Professor Irwin launched his career at SFSU, I explained to the students, other academics were making headway toward launching our nation’s movement toward a new era of mass incarceration. Rather than instilling more programs that would inspire more offenders to work toward educating themselves, a movement began toward mass incarceration. Robert Martinson, a sociologist, published an article called “Nothing Works” in the spring of 1974 that had an enormous influence on the growth of the prison industrial complex. Basically, the general takeaway from his article was that regardless of what resources governments poured into reforming prisoners, nothing was going to turn them into law-abiding citizens. (For more information on Martinson, see http://www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/rehab.html)

Professor James Q. Wilson also contributed to society’s prison evolution in America. In his influential book Thinking About Crime, published in 1975, Professor Wilson argued that we didn’t know enough about how to reform offenders. He also rejected the liberal, or “positivist view” that external forces such as poverty or lack of education were responsible for criminal behavior. To reduce crime, Professor Wilson believed that we needed to increase the costs for offenders. One way of increasing those costs for offenders would be to pass legislation that would keep offenders locked in prisons for longer periods of time. Such penalties, supposedly, would deter others from breaking the law.

prison-population chart

That policy of deterrence would lead to other consequences, too. It would usher in the movement toward mass incarceration. The chart I attach to this article shows how jail and prison population levels have risen since the start of our more punitive society that began in the 1970s. The War on Drugs, of course, really turbo charged the movement toward mass incarceration. I began serving my sentence, I told the class, right as prison population levels were beginning their hyperbolic rise. And on the day that I concluded 26 years in federal prison, on August 12, 2013, Eric Holder, our Attorney General, announced that we incarcerated far too many nonviolent drug offenders in America and that they served sentences that were far too long. He pledged that the Department of Justice was going to introduce policies to change the way our government prosecuted nonviolent drug offenders.

 

Summary

During this first session of our class at San Francisco State University called The Architecture of Incarceration, I wanted to provide the students with an overview. I told them about the history of punishment, briefly described some of the philosophers who advanced criminal justice theories, and I lectured on how the system evolved. With that basic understanding, I tasked the students with reading chapters one through four of my book Inside: Life Behind Bars in America before our class next week. Again, I invited the students to ask me anything about my journey, as I aspired to teach them from personal experience of living as a prisoner, and from all I learned by interviewing others who served time with me.

I thank Eddie Griffin, a man who recently was released from San Quentin State Prison, for joining me in class to share bits about his experiences in prison; and I thank Tulio Cardozo for bringing his camera to memorialize my first experience of lecturing at a university. I told the students that I invited other guest speakers to join us and to share their stories about the prison experience from different perspectives. Some defense attorneys, public defenders, and a chief probation officer have offered to share their experiences with the class in weeks to come.

Michael-Santos-with-Eddie-Griffin

Next week, for our second class, I look forward to discussing student reactions to the following:

  • This recap of our first class
  • A more informed discussion different criminal justice theories
  • Chapters one through four of Inside: Life Behind Bars in America
71 comments
HashChahal
HashChahal

It was pretty cool having you as a teacher and learning through your experiences. I could not think of a better person to teach this course than you. The guest speakers were all very interesting and open and they all painted a picture in our minds of what prison life is really like.

Michael parra
Michael parra

I'm so relieved to have an instructor that really understands the inside and out of the topic they are teaching.  Such a treat to have Michael Santos and his incarceration background as my instructor. I was really surprised when he first told the class that he did in fact serve 20 years in prison, then i was kinda worried about a former inmate teaching but after 2nd class you could barly even tell he was an inmate by his professionalism and his kind nature , such a nice guy. I told my dad who is a retiredt hat my instructor served time and he was mad haha if only he knew how great of an instructor Santos is.

Tracy Garcia
Tracy Garcia

I had no idea what the class was going to be about when I first walked in because I had not checked my email prior to the class. I was absolutely  amazed at what it turned out to be. To here your story, what you experienced and who you became was truly inspiring and I was elated that I was enrolled in the course. It was a shock to me that I was in a class were the professor had just gotten out of prison after being there for 26 years. I just didn't think it was possible. I knew right away that this class was going to be like no other because we spend so much time talking about prisons and people in them with this major but never had we had a professor who has lived through it and gotten out very well educated. It got me excited to hear more and looking forward to the future classes where we get to here from different people working or have experienced the system. 

MikeRLyon
MikeRLyon

I was not enrolled in this class but Im sure glad I attended and added. Going in with no background on the class and listening to Santos' story, I was AMAZED! I googled him for the next day or so, and told all my classmates they should definitely look into this class. Its been my favorite class so far due to the fact that all he is teaching is from pure experience. he lived it, and I am just glad I have the opportunity to learn from first hand knowledge.

Kit Chang
Kit Chang

When I first heard about Mr Santos, it was not in his lecture, but from Professor Sniper CJ 680. First, I thought it was a joke about my professor for this class was a person served 27 years in prison. However, for the first class of CJ 451, a new professor with first personal experience from prison have excited me and interested me, but not about this class, but is Mr Santos experience and life. 

Lorena Cortez
Lorena Cortez

When the semester first began, I remember feeling very inspired by your story. It was pretty shocking finding out that you had recently been released after serving 26 years in prison, but the fact that you had some how managed to leave prison successfully and even gotten a job at a SFSU was amazing. You were obviously very passionate about the topic, and your excitement to teach the class made the first lecture very enjoyable. I left the class feeling very excited, and I made sure to add the class. Now that the semester is almost over, I am extremely happy I decided to add this class because I learned a lot and gained a whole new perspective on the criminal justice system that no other classes have opened my eyes to. I really enjoyed this class, and I will be recommending it to others.

Stina LindWinters
Stina LindWinters

During this first class I was inspired listening to you teach about prisons in America, and to see how passionate you were about talking about your experiences inside. I enjoyed hearing about early prison development, I am a CJ major and have taken many Criminal Justice classes in my 5 years of college so it was refreshing to get a quick recap of early development that has transformed and shaped how American prisons are regulated today. I found it interesting to hear about Professor Irwin and Project Rebound, I think it is a great idea and I feel a little frustrated because after that mass incarceration soared when more time and money should have been spent on rehabilitation and reformation programs for inmates and people recently freed. The chart that was attached just proves how crazy incarceration has soared and I feel it is a lazy attempt to keep Americans safe from crime, I very much hope the Attorney General makes great strides to change sentencing procedures especially for drug crimes that are non violent. Having completed "Inside" I have a greater aspect of the going ons behind those penitentiary walls. 

Ashley Y.
Ashley Y.

Entering into this class I feel I come with a fairly extensive understanding of the prison system.Besides having an AS in Criminal Justice, I also earned a Specialist Certificate in Corrections.More so then that, the out of class room experience I have gained over the years gave me more insight; growing up in Vacaville we were very conscientious of the prison and several of my parents friends worked for the facility.I myself have gone through the hiring process for California Department of Corrections and was able to tour the facility.I have also known people over the years that were on the opposing side in the juvenile system.The opportunity to hear the point of view Mr. Santos can provide will be like anything else.I believe the best teaching derives from real life experience so I do have high expectations for all the knowledge I will surely gain from this course. I appreciate the fact that the present and impact we can have on the future is more relevant then memorizing the historical facts.The brief background is suitable enough as I do agree, by this point in time one should expect us students to have a decent understanding of how we got to where we are as far as the criminal justice system is concerned.

George N
George N

Two influences that led to our current era of mass incarceration are: getting "tough on crime" mindset, and the increase in private prisons which profit from a growing prison population. The movement toward mass incarceration was heavily driven by works from "intellectuals" such as Robert Martinson, whose article "Nothing Works" gained a great deal of publicity. In it Martinson argued that regardless of the amount of resources government pours into reforming prisoners, nothing would work and transform them into law abiding citizens. In his book Thinking About Crime , James Wilson rejected the view that social conditions such as lack of opportunity and lack of affordable health care contribute to growing crime rates. Instead he argued for longer, harsher penalties in order to increase the cost of crime for the offender. Such penalties were meant to deter people from committing acts of crime but have instead led to an overcrowded and more violent system. The number of private prisons has grown tremendously over the last couple decades, and these prisons profit from a growing population of incarcerated people. The corporations that run these prisons have a vested interest in watching the number of prisons grow. Prisoners are essentially low wage labor slaves, and the products they produce are in turn sold for a greater profit than can be yielded by labor on the outside, and in this way serves to perpetuate the cycle. 

Jesus Ochoa
Jesus Ochoa

As class started, I was shocked to find out that one of my new teachers had just been released from prison. Im sure everyone in class was just as surprise as myself to find out that our teacher just finish serving a 26year prison term. I found Professor Santos to be really happy and excited which surprised me since 26years is a very long time. Professor Santos explain to the class that he had just got out of prison a fe days ago, and that this was the first time he wa teaching a class. Overall, I can tell the class was really excited to start the semester and to hear and learn about our prison systems in the United States.

Nick Horn
Nick Horn

It was a shock to learn about your past on this day and find out you were living proof of conquering the prison system. I am excited to learn more about your story and how you were able to survive prison as a peaceful individual rather than a shot-caller who would engage in violent acts whenever necessary. It has been an amazing experience being able to hear your side of the story and take my time to evaluate the current conditions of a failing Criminal Justice system that I one day hope to join and improve.

Yolanda B
Yolanda B

Class was great today and I look forward to learning more about the inside walls

Bryan
Bryan

I've already mentioned this, but it's nice having you as a professor for San Francisco State. I remember the first day of class when you mentioned that you just got out of prison two week prior joining the teaching staff. By the end of class I noticed your down to earth personality when you said, "How did I do class? I just got out of prison two weeks ago!" I think that the whole class saw something different in you, and that you were trying to make the class feel comfortable. Six weeks later throughout the semester, and the whole class is still intrigued by all your lectures in class. Thanks again for sharing you life with the class.

davemasf
davemasf

David Ma

At first I was afraid this class was going to be a boring typical class about theories and myths that some professors try to force students to believe when they do not have any real experience in the subject matter. I've had professor whom live typical American dream, yet claim they have first hand expert information on criminalty. I was completely blown away when meeting Professor Santos and hearing his detail background experience in the prison system. Professor Santos admitted his weakness/strength and spoke to us with respect and open minded. After the first class session I knew I was not going to drop the class and that I was really going enjoy this class. His first hand experiences really gave life and accredited to the topic. He knew how to get the class involved and interactive, which is not easy. The prison system is far from perfect and just by the first lecture Professor Santos demonstrated some key flaws of the prison system. The guest he brought in was awesome to because he was willing to answer questions about his experience in prison. The criminal Justice system at all levels is suppose to be fair, but the prison system is clearly not because of the lack of opportunities offered to change for the better. Listening to Professor Santos background and his challenges was inspiring and heart breaking because I had no idea how unfair the prison system was.

Richard Magpantay
Richard Magpantay

I am thankful I could take this class. When I first signed up for "The Architecture of Imprisonment" i thought to myself, "this class would be boring because I took a couple of jails and prison classes and what else can I learn about it?"  I was wrong. This class is giving me a new perspective in the prison system. Other teachers just teaches the history of jails and prison and how it became what it is today. Professor Santos gaves first hand experiance in the prison system. The lifestsyle, how does it run, what goes on in prison, etc.. Reading books can only gave you a broad picture of how the prison system should run. In Professor Santos book, "Inside", gives you the true story and tell what really does down inside. Thanks Professor Santos. I am looking forward to the rest of the semester.

Jenny Yen
Jenny Yen

I wasnt quite sure when I first signed up for this class. I thought, "oh, it's just jail is jail. Prison is prison. What else would you need to know?" After I attended the first day of class, I started to understand how the prison system works.  Honestly, I was surprised our professor actually comes out from the prison system, and I think by taking your class I would learn more from you than reading the textbook everyday. I am looking forward to learn more and excited to hear story from your guests :)

Lyneeka B
Lyneeka B

I'm one of the many seniors you have in your class. When asked what we knew of America's prison system? I thought I would be able to come up with this in-depth answer, but could only think of the bare minimum. I could only tell you the difference between a jail and a prison. I find it interesting that all the classes I have taken never took a deeper look into the prison system, which is so important to the criminal justice system itself. After the first lecture, I have taken an interest in the issues surrounding the prison system and have decided to write my Senior project on it. I look forward to the rest of the semester and I am excited to learn more.

Sonia Orellana
Sonia Orellana

your class is very interesting! I have taken a couple of criminal justice classes, but only one other class talked about how prisons started.  I think it’s interesting how prisons have been around for so long in other to punish people who have violated the law.  I don’t believe in torture and I know before they would torture prisoners.  I have never really thought about how jails came to be because they have been around for so long. It makes sense that throughout the years jails have gotten bigger because crime has gone up. I think people who are non- violent offenders should not get such long sentences. A lot of people are there for drug crimes.  I know drugs are bad and all but I just find it unfair that they get such long sentences.  You were in prison for such a long time because of a drug related crime. I don’t think you should have been in jail for so long. Many times drug dealers sell drugs because they need a way to make money to support their families.  A reason why people sell drugs is because there are not enough jobs and that’s the only thing they can turn to selling drugs.  There should be more money invested in making jobs for people instead of jai.

Ciara M
Ciara M

I purchased your textbook online a few days after I registered for the class. Luckily for me (coinciding with the class plan) I chose to read INSIDE first. To be honest, I actually felt really silly... because I did not realize that instructor/author were one in the same until a few days before the first day of class. INSIDE absolutely captivated me and I finished it weeks before class. I appreciate it, and you, SO much for the insight. I was thrilled beyond belief when I finally realized that YOU were the one also teaching the class. I just knew [instinct] that you would have a plethora of information to provide the class, and the world as a whole. I admire you for your strength and positivity (especially through such difficult times) and I both congratulate you, am proud of you, and admire you for your success. And you are doing a great job teaching. This is obviously a subject that you are very experienced in and passionate about... and that carries over into each class. I hope every student feels it (I think they do, from my observations). Thank you for your knowledge... and courage... to teach the world the TRUTH about another aspect of our failed criminal justice system.

Marisol S
Marisol S

Hi Michael, 

It was fascinating to hear how the prison system was created. I am a psychology major with A.A. degrees in Liberal Studies and Alcohol and Drug counseling. I knew about torture and corporal punishment as forms of justice in the past but I did not realize how the prison system was created. The first time I had heard of Bentham and some other important names was in the first day of your class. I was so intrigued I searched on google about Bentham and he seemed like an amazing white man especially for being born in 1748 and white he was someone who advocated for the justice system to be reformed. I was so glad to learn more about him and a few other names you mentioned in class. I also knew about Project Rebound through some friends at SFSU, but I did not realize who had founded it and what exactly goes on until other classmates shared with us the importance of the program. I also really appreciated Eddie's share and him being so open with the class about his incarceration and addiction. I find people I know who have been in prison for an extreme extended period of time or are currently in prison for drug offenses are not having any rehabilitation inside prison to help them face their addiction. I would like to see a lot of things change within our justice system. One; being prisoners with drug addictions will be given proper medical treatment which includes counseling of some sort. The second would be that all drug offenses especially those of non-violent nature will not just be looked upon as criminals who need to be put in incarceration but, whom need help.  And the only way to make smarter decisions is to be educated with knowledge so then the tools and skills can be put to use, but people have to be taught new things in order to change and do new things in their lives.

Danella Hughes
Danella Hughes

Hi Michael, 

It is a pleasure and very fascinating to be a part of the Architecture of Incarceration class this semester. Your journey is interesting to read about, and now your outlook about education, reconciling with society and now contributing to society upon release is inspiring. It is a joy to see you thrive, inspire and empower others through the lessons that you have learned. You give hope to those with loved ones who are incarcerated that success upon release is possible! Before taking this class, my other classes focused on recidivism and how most individuals who are released end up back in jail or prison very soon. Now through your words and this class, I am able to experience a different side of the criminal justice system and how some good can come out of it. Thank you, I look forward to a great semester. 

Nguyen D
Nguyen D

From your previous speech in Snipes class last semester and your youtube videos I understand that the warden of the prison that you were at in one point stopped you from getting your PhD. That is a great example of how someone with authority like the commanding officer of the institution does not believe education for an inmate will result in any benefit. Even though in your exceptional case, you have done more than proven that education is one of the few if not the only way to reconcile with society through your effort for higher education and book writing. That by itself represent how the majority of society view imprisonment and its result. A money making scheme is somewhat over the border but nobody want to accuse a system that they are actively participating in either.

LERICK
LERICK

Go Michael! People in North America and around the world welcome your voice, and send you love and encouragement this semester. --Student, Fordham University, the Bronx, New York.






Bailey f
Bailey f

Great job on your first lecture. I'm really looking forward to your class especially since you are coming from such a unique perspective! I've started reading the book " Inside" you assigned , which I have found to be such an easy read unlike my other college books! I'm a really visual person and I can picture everything you're saying. Seeing prisons and hearing about jails is one thing but having you as a teacher and reading the book really brings the true issues to life. I look forward to what's to come

Marcus Plong
Marcus Plong

Your first lecture in class was awesome.  Your lecture  has inspired me to get involved in prison issues and learn the history of it. Coming from you would be the best knowledge because you were incarcerated. One of my friend works at San Quentin and his story maybe not as good  same as yours but i'm excited to here more from you.   I work for the Superior Court of California and I only do felony cases and most of my cases most of  defendant are sent to San Quentin. Did you ever try to  appeal you case? Most of my cases 80% of them do but appeal can take more than 2 years. I'm sure you have a  person in prison who look up to you and see that you are doing better in your life, by doing what you do other defendants that are there might want get out and do something better in their lives. You are  powerful reminder to  other  people who are in prison to follow your steps. Your enthusiasm for my topic and tremendous expertise is very much appreciated. I cannot wait to hear more of your stories in class! 


Lauren McCaffrey
Lauren McCaffrey

First day of class it was obvious that this class would be an eye-openng expierence. Thank you for being so open and sharing your past with us. It takes a special kind of person to learn from their past and turn their life into a cause for inspiration. After hearing about John Irwin, I went home and did some personel research of my own and ended up signing up for Project Rebound. I admire those who seek to motivate and I hope some day to help motivate others in the way you and John Irwin have. See you in class!

Vivian Nguyen
Vivian Nguyen

Welcome to SFSU Professor!

I definitely came into this class not knowing what to expect especially since this was a new class being offered by State and I could not find you on Rate My Professor, haha. "The Architecture of Incarceration", I thought would be about the designs of prisons/jails but now, it's even better because we are able to understand what it's like from the perspective of someone who was once incarcerated. I just wanted to say for one of your first lectures, you did an amazing job. Thanks for being an open book and allowing us to be apart of your first class!

Vincent Tsui
Vincent Tsui

I am excited to hear and learn the inside scoop of our prison system. This is gonna be a total flip of what we're use to watching on tv and reading about online. You lectures are easy to follow and contain lots of information which makes it a plus. See you in class soon!

Stephanie Durr
Stephanie Durr

Thank for the first class professor Santos. I am very excited for the semester and to hear your first hand experience on the prison system in America. I believe you offer a unique and exciting view point that many criminal justice students can gain a lot from. Thank you for sharing your story with us, I can't wait to hear more.

Edgar Carbajal
Edgar Carbajal

I would like to start off by welcoming you to SFSU, Professor.  I also want to thank you for being so open about your past and from bringing a completely unexpected but crucial approach to the class.  I learned something new on the very first day of class, which nowadays is quite a rare thing to say.  Before the first lecture I used the terms 'jail' and prison interchangeably and had no idea that they were two separate things, and much less of the hardships that people who are locked up go through.  Additionally, for the most part I've been conflicted on whether convicts should receive, or deserve, a second chance.  On the one hand part of me thought that they didn't because they had made their choice and they had to live with it, but on the other I think that anyone can change and become a better person, and you have definitely added strong support for the latter.  I always love a class that makes me question what I think and I have strong feeling that this class will do just that.  Again, welcome and thank you! 

Leanne Harris
Leanne Harris

Hi Professor, and welcome to SFSU! It was great to hear you lecture last week in class, and from the responses, it seems as if everyone feels that way, as well. Your story is not only exciting and informational, but you have a viewpoint on the criminal justice system that is rarely heard from and I look forward to hearing all these ideas and concepts from you this semester!

Judy Alfane
Judy Alfane

First of all, I would like to thank you for the opportunity you have given us by being such an open book about your life and your time . Not many students can say that their professor came out of the prison system only to teach about it and give criminal justice students like us an in depth look into what really happens behind bars. I truly look forward to learning more about you and your story and also any struggles you encountered in trying to finish your sentence. The first class was very informative of America's prison system and helped educate me on the issue of prison reform. Now I am more aware of what needs to change and do feel that the prisoners need more than just a cell and three square meals. 

Molly Diedrich
Molly Diedrich

Thank you so much for your first lecture! I know already that this class is going to be eye-opening and extraordinarily interesting.  Knowing little about the prison system, I was intrigued by the title of this class, but after the first lecture I now know that I am going to learn more than I could have imagined, and from the best point of view.  Within the first lecture, I learned more about the prison system than I expected.  It was fascinating to learn about the history, as well as the goals of the prison system.  What you are doing is truly amazing; you are doing exactly as you wanted by contributing to society.  Education is one of the most powerful tools a person can have and sadly it is not as widely available as it should be.  The fact that you made it your mission to educate yourself and use that knowledge to spread the word about a world that is foreign to many is great.  I am really looking forward to reading the texts, listening to your lectures and participating in some exciting discussions! 

Omar A
Omar A

The class was well detailed and you gave us a good introduction of the Architecture of our Prison system. I look forward to your second class, and learning and recapping the first class! Also going over the book in depth...

Mariah Cruz
Mariah Cruz

Thank you Professor Santos for your first lecture at SFSU, you really did an amazing job. Last semester I did a internship with Project Rebound an organization that was started by John Irwin whom you mentioned in the first class. I had read his book "Warehouse Prisons" which went into some good detail about the prison industrial complex.  Project Rebound gave me a great deal of insight on what I want to do with my future and that is to help those who are currently incarcerated and those at risk and teach them that it is never too late to get an education. The men that work for Project Rebound right now are living proof that an education after imprisonment is 100% a possible. I am very interested to learn how rehabilitation programs within prisons play a role and how they can be productive or not. Had you not figured out on your own to turn your life around and get an education do you think there was anyone within the system who could have inspired you or is that an aspect that is all together missing from the prison system?

Susan G
Susan G

Mr. Santos, once again I will like to welcome you to SF State. I'm very excited about this class and having you as our instructor. Although I had high expectations for this class coming in, I have to admit that I was not sure what to expect. But, after our first class, I knew that I was going to enjoy coming to class each week. It's amazing what having determination and self discipline can accomplish. I commend you for all your hard work. I'm looking forward to absorbing your knowledge and first hand experiences. Your first lecture was amazing, I could tell that you are very knowledgable and passionate about your charge to teach us. I began reading "Inside" right after class, I was anxious to begin reading it and learning more about prison life. So far, the book has kept me interested and turning the page. I can't wait for our next class lecture.

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@Marisol S Thank you so much, Marisol, for your contributions. I'm glad to read that our class discussion inspired you to read more about some of the leaders who influenced the advancement and evolution of our criminal justice system. Your curiosity will serve you well as you build your professional credentials and the criminal justice system will be fortunate to have your contributions, just as those of us in CJ 451 are fortunate to have your contributions. Thank you.

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@Danella Hughes Your interest in the class inspires me, Danella. I have a duty to help others understand the complexities of America's prison system. More importantly, I have a duty to work toward reforms that will lead more offenders to conclude their sentences as law-abiding, contributing citizens. To reach that goal, I must inspire bright students like you to take interest. I'm glad that you're looking at our nation's prison system from a new perspective and I look forward to your continuing participation in the class. Thank you.

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@Nguyen D The warden is the chief executive officer of the prison. He or she sets the tone for the institution and the staff culture. The culture of staff then influences the subculture of the prisoners. While I arrived at the federal prison in McKean, Pennsylvania, the warden who presided over the institution led the institution in ways that encouraged growth. He wanted the prisoners inside to pursue adjustment patterns that would prepare them to overcome the challenges they would face upon release. As such, he initiated programs that incentivized success. After his retirement, a new warden restored the more repressive policies that characterize subcultures of failure. Prevailing political attitudes did not support the concept of higher education for people in prison, and my Ph.D. program became a casualty of changes the new warden introduced. Let's talk more about this in class. Thank you very much for your observation and comment.

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@LERICK Hello Lerick. I'm doing my best, trying to live up to the expectations of the 65 students who are eager to graduate next term with degrees in criminal justice. It's a wonderful learning experience for me, and I'm grateful.

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@Bailey f Thank you so much Bailey. I'll try to make the book come alive by reenacting some of the scenes during my lectures in class. I'm glad that you're participating and I appreciate your contributions in class. I look forward to seeing you next Thursday.

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@Marcus Plong  Hello Marcus. I'm glad that you're participating in our class and I look forward to sharing more with you. I will share everything I learned about the prison system with you and your fellow students. Please let us know more about what you're learning through your valuable work in the Superior Court.

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@Vincent Tsui Hello Vincent. Thanks for the encouragement. I'm in the office now and looking forward to setting up in another 40 minutes. See you soon.

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@Stephanie Durr This evening we will discuss the first four chapters of Inside: Life Behind Bars in America. I look forward to sharing all that I've learned during the decades that I served, and all that I learned from interviewing hundreds of other prisoners. Thank you for your support.

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@Edgar Carbajal Thank you, Edgar. Your expressions of support really encourage me. Please, let's discuss these perceptions of jail and prison during the class this evening. The reading material for this week included information about both jails and prisons, and I will do my best to bring some context to those readings. I look forward to the discussion and to your continuing contributions.

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@Leanne Harris I look forward to sharing and helping everyone in the class understand more about America's prison system. I'll see you in a couple of hours.

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@Judy Alfane Your comments inspire me to share more. Please feel free to ask me anything during the class. This evening we will recap some of the criminal justice theories that evolved from medieval times to this era of mass incarceration. I will look forward to your participation in the class and to your growing interest in America's prison system. Thank you.

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@Molly Diedrich Hello Molly. I'm grateful that you found some value in the first lecture. The books will provide you with much more detail than I can cover in class. I'm hoping that they provoke questions from you and your fellow students. Consider me a resource, someone who can offer perspective on the ways our nation's prison system influences the lives of those who serve time inside. I look forward to seeing you again this afternoon,

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@Omar Arias Hello Omar. I'm glad that you're in the class and I look forward to helping you understand more about America's prison system. Let's work together to bring more awareness on why we need reforms that will lead more prisoners to emerge as law-abiding, productive citizens. I'll see you this evening. Sincerely, Michael

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@Mariah Cruz You inspire me to devote a career toward improving our nation's prison system. I aspire to create programs that will encourage more prisoners and at-risk youth to work toward preparing for a law-abiding, contributing life upon release. These improvements will begin inside classrooms where we meet each Thursday evening at San Francisco State University. I look forward to learning more about your contributions at Project Rebound and discussing steps we can take together to launch new programs that will encourage prisoners, at-risk youth, and people who've emerged from prison to develops values, skills, and resources that allow them to live as law-abidng, contributing citizens. In such a way we can reverse one of the greatest social injustices of our time and contributing to the building of safer communities. It can be our contribution to a new Enlightenment era.

MichaelGSantos
MichaelGSantos moderator

@Susan G We need to bring more awareness to our nation's prison system and one way that we can begin is by discussing it. I'm glad that you're beginning the class with an open mind, eager to hear and learn from all that I experienced and observed during the 26 years that I lived as a prisoner. Bringing reforms to America's prison system requires a determination and passion from one person, then ten people, then hundreds of people, then thousands of people, then millions of people, then tens of millions of people. History shows that many social movements began in university classrooms, and I am hopeful that you and your fellow students at San Francisco State University will join me this effort to bring change and improvements to America's prison system.