Success After Prison, Episode 1

  • (I’ll write a series of episodes to show how my adjustment through 26 years of imprisonment contributed to my returning to society successfully. You may receive free ebook by visiting Success After Prison)

My name is Michael Santos and I’m writing this series in a conversational style, wanting to share the story of my return to society after 26 years as a prisoner. This series isn’t about prison. It’s about overcoming struggle, or more precisely, about strategies I used to overcome challenges associated with long-term confinement. I’m convinced that we all face struggles or challenges at some point. Anyone can use the same strategies that empowered me to conquer struggle in their life. I’m sure of it.

Before I get into the strategies, let me explain why I’m writing this book so soon after finishing my prison sentence.

Judge Charles Pyle, a federal judge from Arizona reached out to me in early 2015. I didn’t know Judge Pyle, but he had heard about my journey and my work to improve outcomes for people who’ve been to prison. The judge and his team were coordinating the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, a major event that would take place later in the year in Sacramento. He expected several hundred leaders from the judicial system, the prison system, and other stakeholders who had devoted their careers to criminal justice. Judge Pyle asked if I would attend the conference as a speaker.

Since concluding my obligation to the Bureau of Prisons, in August of 2013, I’ve spoken for audiences across the United States, many dozens of times. Sometimes those events paid me well, other times I spoke without compensation because I believed in the cause. On one previous occasion, while I was still in the halfway house, I received an invitation to speak to judges in the Southern District of California. They wanted me to speak about what happens after judges sentence an individual to the custody of the attorney general. I received permission from the BOP and flew down to provide my thoughts.

So the invitation from Judge Pyle brought my second opportunity to influence judges since my release from prison. I looked forward to the three-day even in the fall of 2015. I heard that Paul Write, another formerly incarcerated individual, would also present as a speaker. I’ve known of Paul’s work for decades. Since I admired his commitment and discipline, I looked to meeting him.

Paul Wright started the award-winning newspaper, Prison Legal News, while he served a lengthy sentence in Washington State’s prison system. Although I’d never met Paul previously, his work inspired me for many years. When I began my term as a federal prisoner, Paul was beginning a term inside Washington State’s prison system. Prison Legal News educated others about case law pertaining to prisoners, and the newspaper published commentaries, essays, and perceptions about what was going in jails and prisons across the world.

Over the years, Paul grew the distribution of his influential magazine. Prisoners from across the country subscribed. Paul put a team together in the community. They took pains to make sure the magazine was printed and mailed to each subscriber. Many administrators resisted Prison Legal News, and I know that he paid a heavy price for his commitment to publishing. In addition to the newspaper, Paul authored several books. Since his work inspired me over the decades that I served, I was glad that we’d finally have an opportunity to meet at the Sacramento conference.

Paul and I walked to a restaurant after the first day of the conference so that we could talk over dinner. While eating seafood, I learned more about Paul’s commitment to helping people in prison. Prison Legal News, he said, reached more than 200,000 people each month. He suggested that I purchase advertising space to reach more people who might have an interest in or benefit from books I wrote.

Prior to that conversation, I never considered purchasing advertising for books. I wrote several books during the 26 years that I served in prison. Initially, I worked with publishers that had their own marketing departments. They controlled the distribution of the books through their end-user sales force or through their distributors. Publishers coordinated reviews that made book buyers aware of the various titles that I wrote.

Later, with the advancement of the Internet, publishing my own books became more efficient. Distribution came through various channels, which I’ll describe in the chapters that follow. Advertising to a mass audience hadn’t been one of my strategies. So when Paul suggested that I purchase an ad, I asked him more about the process and the readership.

Prison Legal News reaches prisoners in every state, he explained. In addition to the newspaper that went into prisons, reached a wide audience of lawyers and others who were interested in prisons. Since I wanted to support his team’s effort with Prison Legal News, and he convinced me that I could reach more readers, I decided to advertise with him.

As Paul and I discussed the different books that I’ve already written, I realized that I should write a book that people in prison could act upon. When Paul and I met, I’d been in society for 26 months. During that time, I’d built an asset portfolio worth more than $1,000,000. I thought people in prison would find some value in learning how decisions I made during my imprisonment contributed to opportunities I opened. Those opportunities resulted in my returning to society differently from the way that anyone would expect for a man who served multiple decades.

I’d like more people to come out of prison strong, with their dignity intact. With that end in mind, I decided to write the book you’re now reading.

Besides writing books under my own name, I wrote several books for other people while I served my sentence. That work was an important part of my release-preparation strategy, as you’ll read in the chapter that follows. Since I didn’t have access to technology, I wrote each manuscript in longhand. Then I’d send the manuscripts home. My wife would convert my handwritten pages into a digital format, then return the pages for me to edit. I spent many hours writing and rewriting. Now that I’m in society, I don’t have the time to invest in that rewriting.

Since I have many obligations and responsibilities competing for my attention, I’m not going to spend countless hours editing this manuscript. So if you’re the type of reader who cringes at typos, word choice, redundancy, or style, this book may not be the one for you. My goal isn’t to win any writing awards or to earn distinction for eloquence. I’m simply trying to deliver a message and actionable strategies for readers who want to learn how to use their time in ways that will position them for success through prison and beyond.

I hope you find value in the message, and I wish you success in your journey.

Michael G. Santos