Book Title: Earning Freedom, Conquering a 45 year Prison Term
Author’s Name: Michael G. Santos
Genre: Self Help
Why I read this book:
The reason that I read this book is the obvious. I will be serving a sentence of 27 months in a Federal penitentiary for participating in the January 6th protest of the stolen election of 2020. I signed up with Prison Professionals paying a fee of $2500 to partake in a program that will assist me in navigating through the uncertainty that awaits me on November 7th 2023. This is the date in which I will be scheduled to self-surrender to Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Jessup Facility Satellite Low (FSL) prison in Jessup Georga. I received this book for free after committing to the program. I was not expecting it, however the book was extremely well written and informative from a person who experienced first-hand what it’s like to be justice-impacted which I too will experience. I wanted to understand what to expect as soon-to-be Federal prisoner and confirm or deny my suspicions and imaginations of what prison is like from someone who personified the experience. I’ve never been in jail for any period of time and the anticipation, fear, and uncertainty was weighing heavily on my subconscious. It was truly a blessing to read this book and examine the clandestine society of Justice-Impacted human beings and the struggles of seclusion from society “norms” (if there is such a thing).
What I learned from reading this book:
One of the first things that I learned from the book was that my dreams and aspirations in life were not congruent with Michael’s elaborate lifestyle. For years, particularly in my early 20’s and 30’s, I’d always was chasing the money dream. My dream was to be successful, however; successful is in the eye of the beholder apparently. I never dreamed of becoming a millionaire. My dream was to make other people rich for some reason. I would always be remembered for changing companies for the better through my work and dedication to using my imagination and talent for the betterment of every company I worked for.
My father was an electrical engineer for IBM. He worked in the printer division and had 11 patents for inventions that he developed or assisted in the development of equipment that changed the course of human history as we know it. He was a humble man, had a very bad temper at times, was competitive and didn’t like to lose, all of which rubbed off on me and my three sisters. He never talked about work with family or friends that would visit our home. I only found out about the 11 patents after his death in December of 2012.
Throughout my twenty some carriers, I continued to work my way through college by taking night school classes. I completed my Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of Phoenix in 2002 and a MBA in 2012. It was a very difficult endeavor, but in the end, a remarkable achievement of which I am proud.
I remember being arrested on May 12th 2021. It was a Friday morning. I had woken up early that day because I had a lot planned and due to COVID, was working from my home office. That day I was going to take off ½ day to play golf. My wife and I were in the process of moving across the country and all of our items were neatly packed in boxes and properly labeled. I scheduled an RV appointment to have a mechanic go through the RV and ready it for the cross-country trip. My golfing buddy was to meet me at the dealership and pick me up for an afternoon of golfing at Riverview Golf Course in Santa Anna CA. I’d just sat down in front of my computer and was settling in to read some emails. My dog (Jack Russel puppy) had his own doggie door where he could go outside into the yard and do his business. All of a sudden, I heard him scream like he was being attacked. Seconds later I heard two blasts that rocked the house as I was running to the side entrance door where my dog was screaming. Loud bangs could be heard at the front door as the FBI agents were attempting to break down the front door that had a steel security door. As I opened the side door, I saw an agent pointing his gun at me and another agent with a aluminum pole in his hand ready to break my side window. The FBI agent told me to show my hands and told me that I’m under arrest. They handcuffed me and paraded me around to the front of the house so all the neighbors could witness the arrest, including the local news media. They then took me to the back yard where I had a gazabo and kept me there until the entire house was searched. They wanted access to my phone and computer(s) and after reading my rights, told me to change into jeans and other appropriate clothing as it was a bit cold that morning. My wife was terrified and was crying as the 20 or so agents stormed our Westminster CA home after pointing guns at here when she opened the front door in somewhat of a dream state. I tried to reassure her that this act of aggression and intrusion was against the law and I would be OK.
The agent in charge then put me into a sheriff’s squad car and drove me to the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and United States Courthouse. I was placed into a cell and held there for hours. I moved to the booking area and was shackled with leg irons and chained like a terrorist. They took photos and fingerprints and then sent me back to the cell. I was then brought to an area where I met my court appointed lawyer. My lawyer told me that he could get me out of serving the weekend in jail and reassured me that because I had no prior convictions, that I would be OK.
Sometime around 2:00 PM, I was again shackled in chains and moved into an elevator with rather particular looking individuals whom looked as though this was not their first time in this situation. A couple of them actually knew the guards in the elevator and they were having some sort of discussion I don’t recall. The elevator started to move and all of a sudden, the elevator came to a screeching halt. Here I am in a elevator that was full of at least 5 other prisoners and three guards that was stuck between the courtroom and the jail house for probably 45 minutes.
I found out that day that there were 8 grand jury indictments against me, all of which were felony charges. The DA from Washington DC was on teleconference video, which kept freezing up and accusing me of attempting to over throw our government. Somehow through all the legal talk, my court appointed lawyer was able to get me home that day. I was released in the late afternoon and my wife was able to pick me up on the street beside the courthouse.
The reason that I went into the aforementioned story is because I can somewhat relate to what Michael went through during his arrest. The big difference was that he was detained, whereas I was released with an ankle monitor. I plan on expanding on this further as I will attempt to do what Michael had done in jail, which is write a book about my experience and get into additional details about my treatment with the federal government.
One of the biggest things that I learned from this book was that Michael had an incredible attitude that is rare in humans, which reminds me of the book “Unbroken” which is a story about Louis Zamperini who survived a plane crash in the pacific theater and spent 47 days drifting on a raft with his two survivors. Then he survived more than 2 ½ years of torture in a Japanese POW camp getting beaten every day by the warden. I believe that Michael had the same attitude that Zamperini had which was never give up on your release and God will protect you for his glory.
The other things that I learned from Michael’s book was that the BOP dehumanizes prisoners and can upend their lives in a matter of minutes. Michael was also able to humanize prisoners by his ability to make acquaintances and tell their stories. He also made alliances with people that would help him achieve his dual purpose goal of getting out of prison and becoming a millionaire. His resilience, perseverance, and unwavering commitment to his goals are incomprehensible. How he endured through his trials and tribulations in some of the worst conditions is unfathomable, yet his positive attitude enabled him to overcome any adversity that the system could throw at him. The admiration I have for this individual is inexplicable, and I would love to meet him some day and personally thank him for shepherding me through this upcoming confinement.
Why I will be successful after reading this book:
I now know what to expect and/or anticipate after my surrender to the Jessup Georga facility. Although my conditions will be completely different from Michaels experience, I still need to maintain an attitude and determination on proceeding forward and not blaming or misdirecting my actions for things that I can’t or couldn’t control in 2020. My hope is that I will have a release plan that will accelerate my early release from prison, and continue to follow the path that Michael took to get a lesser sentence based on trust and compliance with BOP rules and regulations.
My biggest concern is that I am supposed to be retired from years of work and earning a healthy portfolio, although now severely depleted, retirement income. I expect now that I’ve paid years’ worth of retirement income to lawyer’s fees and fines that I will be working for several more years after release from prison. I need to develop a new path for my life that will be replete with incredible challenges and adversity.