Robert Jesenik-Earning Freedom

Author of Book: Michael G Santos
Date Read: February 28, 2024

Book Report

Mr. Santos sent me this book twice. Once in October 2023, while I was still prepping to surrender and get everything organized with his firms Prison Professor/White collar Advice/ Arc Light assistance. The next time was my second month in prison. To be honest, I skimmed the book the first time as I was scrambling to just get prepared for prison. I picked up the second version week 8 of my prison term, and like a few books I have read and done reports about, the timing couldn’t have been better! I’ll explain below.

I chose to read this book now as I knew it was an autobiography, and had to deal with his journey through 26 years of prison, and I hoped to learn from his experiences plus maybe get enlightened about what I might do in prison and thereafter. Having now received Mr. Santos’s daily emails in prison already, I know his approach is centered around education, building community, planning for release and helping others. While the book definitely covered all that in a very enlightening and practical way, it’s the experiential stories he shares that I found very helpful as well.

Mr.. Santos is clearly a driven and ambitious and focused individual as the book highlights. Facing 25-30 years as a young twenty something first time offender is a pretty tall order for anyone. Regardless,that didn’t stop him from going through several prison stops while earning a college degree, master’s degree, plus getting married and enduring his first 10+ years of marriage in prison until they could live together( Great love story and Carol is clearly a saint in my book!), and launching a very impressive and successful writing career.

He does a great job illustrating with lots of examples how to develop a community, reach out to many prison focused scholars, befriend them, and have them become mentors, advisors and dear friends. Also shows the importance to successfully navigating the BOP system often with the help of these mentors and friends who happen to be very well connected with the BOP leadership.

One of the best parts of the book for me was the experiences/struggles he had within the prison system with the bureaucracy, management of various prisons, guards, etc. He cites examples of one prison giving him awards for his writing endeavors, even allowing one of his mentors to tour his Princeton law class thru prison with Mr.. Santos as the tour guide! While another prison is forbidding him to write, throwing him in the SHU when caught, etc. I could cite many examples, but my main takeaway is the BOP is far from consistent, and there’s not much a prisoner can do about it if even the BOP management could at all. But as discouraging as some of the stories are, several are very uplifting and I needed to hear those at this point of my journey.

My main takeaway from this book, besides how impressive Mr. Santo’s journey and success truly is, is to start thinking about life after release/prison, not just thinking of just the prison journey itself. Given how much waiting to do anything in prison there is, one better start sooner than later laying the pipe to be successful after release. While this includes financially, it really includes family, partner relationship,close friends, network and the many things to think through. He lays out a nice set of tactics to follow to develop such a plan:

        * Defining success
        * Setting clear goals
        * moving forward with a 100% commitment to success
        * visualizing the outcome
        * Taking incremental steps
        * creating accountability metrics to track and measure
        * Being aware of opportunities
        * Living authentically and honestly
        * Celebrating incremental Achievements
        * Showing appreciation for the blessings of life

In summary, I would argue BOP should make this book a required class where chapters are broken down and discussed. It would benefit the prisoners in so any ways, much like it did myself! BJ