Sunday, June 19, 2011
I’ve been writing about the Straight-A Guide, a comprehensive learning module prisoners may use to prepare for law-abiding lives. I’m pleased to have a collaborative role with Michael Santos in designing the module. I used it to grow during the time we spent together at the Taft Federal Prison Camp, and I personally witnessed how hundreds of other prisoners did the same. I’m still using the Straight-A Guide today.
In my earlier blogs I wrote about the first three attributes of the Straight-A Guide. They include Attitude, Aspiration, and Action. The fourth attribute is Accountability, and that’s essential.
While we were together at Taft, I had to hold myself strictly accountable. I was serving about one year for a violation of securities laws. Had I not joined with Michael in embracing the Straight-A Guide, I easily could have wasted that year inside. Instead, I assessed the changed circumstances of my life. My felony conviction would preclude me from earning a living as a stockbroker. I had to prepare in measurable ways to succeed upon release, and to do that, I had to hold myself accountable.
To that end, I created accountability logs. I knew exactly how much progress I needed to make during the time I served in Taft. To launch my career as a speaker, I had to write a book about my experiences. That aspiration became the catalyst that led to my book Lessons From Prison. By forcing myself to write every day, I emerged with my aspiration a reality. It helped me launch a new career during the worst economic conditions of my lifetime.
But I was an educated man before I surrendered to prison. What really impressed me was how I saw other prisoners embracing the concepts that Michael taught with the Straight-A Guide. They came from disadvantaged backgrounds. Yet they used the guide to change their lives. Other prisoners were willing to learn from Michael, as I was, because of the achievements he had made while enduring 25 years in prison. His own commitment inspired others, and the Straight-A Guide provided the template anyone could follow to do the same.
My young friend Charlie Day is a great example. He didn’t have much guidance and it wasn’t long before he was sucked into actions that led to prison. Now he is on the Straight-A Guide, taking clearly defined action steps and holding himself accountable with the same kind of accountability logs that I used. His commitment to the Straight-A Guide is preparing Charlie to emerge successfully rather than return to the streets.
I was released from Taft Federal Prison more than two years ago. During that time I’ve travelled the country speaking about what I’ve learned from prison and promoting the books I wrote. Mostly, I’m proud to have launched the Michael G. Santos Foundation. It exists solely to combat the huge problem of recidivism in our nation. Because I personally benefited from the Straight-A Guide approach to preparing for a return to society with values, skills, and resources to succeed, and because I witnessed how others did the same, I’m now making a 100 percent commitment to building a world-class foundation so that we can spread the Straight-A Guide message.
How will I hold myself accountable? That’s what I’m working on now. I’m designing a principled plan that will lead to my raising $500,000 in sponsorship over the next 12 months. It will enable the foundation I lead to help more prisoners prepare for their return to society as law-abiding citizens. I succeeded by using the Straight-A Guide, and I personally witnessed others doing the same. It’s the reason behind my new commitment, and the reason I ask that you join my efforts to build a safer society by reducing recidivism in measurable ways. Soon I will publish a detailed organizational plan that shows how I will hold myself accountable, pursuing goals in a principled way.