Journal Entry: Justin Norcutt-05/19/2024

Journal Entry

Building a Better Life: A Journey of Skill Development and Personal Growth 


In this journal entry, I share my enthusiastic interest in essential skills for building a better life and recount my personal journey of transformation. Since my release from incarceration, I have achieved numerous certifications and completed extensive training, all initiated upon my arrival at Dismas House in Tucson, Arizona. 

My Journey of Transformation 

Upon my release, I did not possess a Class A CDL, nor any NCCER Level 1 or Level 2 certifications, or certifications through Caterpillar. Like many, I started with nothing but a desire to never return to incarceration and to provide for myself and my family. Determined to change my life, I sought grants and assistance to cover my educational costs. 

I worked closely with Michael Santos at Prison Professors, a non-profit organization that was instrumental in my journey. Michael, now a friend and mentor, provided invaluable guidance and support. By following his program and advice, I am now on a path to a life I once thought impossible. 

Obtaining Grants and Support 

I obtained grants and support from Michael Santos and his non-profit Prison Professors, Ramon Serrato, Arizona One Stop, and Workforce Arizona. These resources were crucial to my educational success. Anyone reading this can seek out similar resources and embark on their own path to a fulfilling life. 

Skill Development and Professional Growth 

Since my release in December 2023, I have consistently prioritized the development of essential skills that drive both personal and professional success. My background in commercial driving and heavy equipment operation was entirely acquired post-incarceration, driven by a passion for empowering individuals through skill development. 

Certifications and Training

Class A CDL with endorsements in Doubles, Triples, Tanker, Passenger, and Hazmat (eligible three years post-release due to stringent laws regarding drug felonies). 

Heavy Equipment Operation certified with NCCER Level 1 and 2, and Level 1 through Caterpillar. 

Further Training: Graduated from Empire CAT in Eloy, AZ, and scheduled to return for Level 2 certifications through Caterpillar on several pieces of heavy equipment. Obtaining certifications through Caterpillar is a significant honor, as they are elite in the industry globally and enhance employment opportunities. 

Empowering Others Through Skill Development 

My experience has shown that with determination and the right support, anyone can rebuild their life and achieve their goals. I am eager to contribute to initiatives that promote personal and professional development, sharing the skills and knowledge pivotal in my own journey. 


Thank you for considering my story and the experiences I bring. I look forward to discussing how my background and vision align with the mission of fostering essential skills for a better life. You can follow my journey on Prison Professors Talent, where I post weekly journal entries, and on LinkedIn, where I have completed 70 courses to date. 

Education is crucial. As a hands-on learner with a lot of energy, I find it challenging to always sit and concentrate, but if I can do it, you can too. There are no excuses; we are all in control of our direction and path. 

I am still under the control of the halfway house, released under the CARES Act. I have worked closely with Dismas House employees such as Matt Farrell, Daniel Cardenas, and Robert Vonada, who have been instrumental in my success by helping me obtain passes for interviews, job placements, family time, and travel to and from school. 

Having spent 22 years in the Federal Prison system, I understand the perception that those in charge are the enemy wanting to keep us down. However, I have found that when one door closes, another opens. The staff at Dismas House have gone above and beyond to help me make the best out of my situation. If a person is trying and doing what they are supposed to, they will be given a fair chance and all the help needed to reintegrate into society.

Communication with the staff is key. Don’t be afraid to reach out and open up. Stay away from negative influences and concentrate on yourself. You have value, never forget this!