Thursday, March 19, 2009
Sixty-One Days Until My Release From Taft Prison Camp
I’ve read a lot of books since I began my sentence, on April 28, 2008. Now I have a note-taking strategy that will help me codify and retain all that I’m learning. I should have considered this approach from the beginning as if I had, I’d be walking out from prison with a lot more value.
Mostly, I’m reading books on ethics, philosophy, and personal development. The reason that I’m taking notes is that I intend to launch a new career as a speaker, consultant and teacher upon my release. These notes that I take will prove valuable as I work to create lesson plans, seminars, or other resources that will help those in my audience grow.
During my first months of confinement, I wrote tidbits from books I read, though a system was missing. The consequence of that haphazard approach was that I was left with a stack of pages that lacked a sorting or find mechanism. Now, when I begin to read a book that I deem essential to the future I’m building, I open my notes with the book’s title, author and publisher. As I come across passages that I find of value, I am saving those notes, as once I am home, I’ll enter them into my spreadsheet. That way I’ll have an early searchable data base that includes the information I need to advance my career.
The reason I share this information is that I know some readers of my blog anticipate that they may soon begin a journey through the criminal justice system. If they do, I think it is important that they begin with thoughts about what steps they can take to emerge stronger. During my confinement, I’ve learned a great deal. The real key is a deliberate adjustment pattern. The successful prisoner does not dwell on the aspects of confinement that he cannot control. Instead, he looks for opportunities to create value. My note-taking strategy is but one method I use to ensure the time I serve is not wasted.
All of the books I read relate to the life I am committed to leading upon release. As I was walking around the track yesterday with a new inmate, he was asking me about adjustment patterns and steps he could take to live a life of meaning while he served his sentence. The best advice I could provide was to ensure that the prisoner set his own structure. He should contemplate the steps he could take to advance him toward the goals he set for himself upon release. Such an approach spawned a deliberate adjustment strategy, and that would make all the difference.
When I talk about my own adjustment with the men, they sometimes say that my introspection comes across as if I’m hard on myself. Perhaps that is so. Prison has made me severe in judging my own behaviors, but tolerate in understanding the choices that others make. The one certainty is my commitment to grow and to redeem myself . This adjustment I have embraced through confinement has helped strengthen me, and I hope that others find some value in it as well.