Journal Entry: Saturday, May 4, 2024

Journal Entry

Success & Prison

How to Use a Federal Prison Sentence to Prepare for Success

When non-criminogenic people go to prison, they must adjust. The concept of time away from family, friends, and community obliterates hope. It’s a crisis, one that can have many collateral consequences. To overcome the crisis, a person must learn to see things differently. 

My name is Michael Santos. I made bad decisions as a young man. A jury in federal court convicted me and a federal judge sentenced me to serve a 45-year sentence. By adhering to a deliberate plan, I learned how to succeed and thrive in prisons of every security level.

Anyone can do the same.

Start by Understanding the Federal Prison Environment

First, develop a clear understanding of what it means to live in federal prison. Do not go into prison expecting that others will want to make your life easier. Anticipate resistance and obstacles. To avoid exacerbating the problem, master the rules, the daily routines, and the social dynamics within the prison walls. 

To the extent possible, I encourage people to become familiar with Title 18, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 500. The CFR highlights the rules that prison officials must follow. By understanding those rules, a person will know his rights and responsibilities.

Build a plan that allows you to achieve meaningful goals while going through a difficult environment. 

Strategies for Success in Federal Prison

Develop a Strong Mindset: Cultivate mental toughness and a positive outlook. See your time in prison not just as a sentence to be served, but as an opportunity for personal development and growth.

Set Clear Goals: Identify what you want to achieve during your time in prison, whether it’s furthering your education, learning a new skill, or writing a book. Having clear goals will give you direction and a sense of purpose.

Complete Educational and Vocational Programs: Take advantage of the educational and vocational training opportunities available in prison. These can help you develop new skills, increase your knowledge, and prepare for a successful reentry into society.

Maintain Physical Health: Regular exercise and a healthy diet are crucial in maintaining physical health and managing stress. Staying physically active can also be a productive way to structure your day.

Build Constructive Relationships: While it’s important to navigate social interactions carefully, building a network of positive relationships can provide support and opportunities for learning and growth.

Document Your Journey: Keep a journal or write letters documenting your experiences, thoughts, and progress. This can serve as a reflection tool and a way to maintain connections with the outside world.

Avoid Trouble: Stay clear of the prison’s internal politics and conflicts. You may not be able to avoid volatility, but you can minimize your exposure by aligning with the right group. I found that avoiding groups altogether could be crucial for safety and well-being.

Preparing for Reentry

Develop a Release Plan: Start planning for your life after prison from day one. This includes thinking about your career path, housing, and rebuilding relationships.

Stay Connected with Loved Ones: Maintain regular contact with family and friends. This can provide emotional support and help you stay grounded.

Be strategic: Succeeding in prison requires you to live deliberately, as if you’re the CEO of your life. Take the following steps:

  1. Define success,
  2. Create a plan,
  3. Put priorities in place,
  4. Build your tools, tactics, and resources,
  5. Measure daily progress,
  6. Adjust as necessary,
  7. Execute your plan daily.


Success in federal prison is about more than just enduring your sentence. Each person should think about the collateral consequences that will follow. A deliberate and disciplined approach will make a huge difference toward moving you to the highest level of liberty at the soonest possible time. Experience taught me that with the right mindset and strategies, it’s possible to navigate the challenges of federal prison and emerge stronger and better prepared for the next chapter of your life.