Journal Entry: Monday, January 15, 2024

Journal Entry

Maintaining Dignity in Confinement: Upholding Self-Respect Behind Bars

Serving time in federal prison can hurt a person’s mental health. To get through it with our dignity and self-respect, a person needs a plan.

While serving my sentence, I learned about the importance of planning. My judge sentenced me to serve a 45-year sentence. I was 23 years old when I began serving time, and nearly 50 when I finished my obligation to the Bureau of Prisons. Through every day of my confinement, I thought about the life I wanted to leave when I got out. Like everyone else, I wanted to lead a successful life. To succeed, however, I needed a plan.

Today, I try to help people in federal prisons understand the value of creating a plan. If we know what we want, we can figure out ways to make the best use of our time. We can put priorities in place. By working toward little goals today, we position ourselves for bigger opportunities in the months, years, and decades ahead.

As wise people advise, for a person to make incremental progress, a person must have an accountability metric. Even in prison, we should create tools that will allow us to memorialize the progress that we’re making. It’s the reason we launched Prison Professors Talent. That resource can help a person build self-confidence, and with self-confidence, comes dignity.

Regardless of a person’s current situation, we can always work to build self-respect and dignity. I learned those strategies from leaders. They helped me realize that by reading books, I could build knowledge. By building knowledge, I could create or seize opportunities. With more opportunities, I could advance prospects for success upon release.

Even while incarcerated, I used to visualize the life I would lead when I got out. I envisioned a day when I could wear nice clothes, walk into any room, and feel as if I could intermingle with anyone–and no one would see me as a person who served multiple decades in prison. To advance prospects for success, I learned how to think differently, to talk differently, and to interact with other people differently.

With dignity, we can view the world through a difference lens.

Upholding dignity also means respecting the dignity of others, including fellow incarcerated individuals and staff. This mutual respect can create a more positive environment and reduce conflicts. Staying true to our values and principles, even when faced with challenges or temptations, helps us build integrity. Integrity is a cornerstone of dignity and is essential for personal growth and development. Further, engaging in educational activities and personal development exercises reminds us of our capabilities and potential.

Strategies to Build Dignity

  1. Practice mindfulness and self-reflection to stay grounded and focused on your values and goals.
  2. Set healthy boundaries with others, which is crucial for maintaining self-respect and respect from others.
  3. Engage in activities that keep you physically and mentally active. Whether exercising, reading, or learning a new skill, staying productive can boost your self-esteem and sense of purpose.
  4. Build a strong support system. If you stay focused, you can invite people into your life. Those relationships can motivate you, giving reason to work harder. 
  5. Keep a journal or write letters to document your thoughts, experiences, and growth. This can be a powerful tool for reflection and maintaining a sense of self.

We invite you to join our course and community at Prison Professors Talent. Share your experiences and efforts in maintaining dignity in confinement with us at Remember, including “Request a Book” in the subject line of your email will prompt us to donate a book from our resources to aid in your journey, provided our nonprofit has the resources available.

Books to Support Your Journey of Dignity:

  1. Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Sentence
  2. Success after Prison
  3. Prison! My 8,344th Day
  4. Release Plan 2024
  5. Preparing for Success after Prison

In conclusion, maintaining dignity in prison is a vital part of your journey. It’s about seeing beyond your current circumstances and recognizing your inherent worth. At Prison Professors Talent, we support people who strive to help themselves and strive for success upon release.


Michael Santos

Founder, Prison Professors Talent