Saturday, November 1, 2014
This morning I had to respond to a number of questions I received from a journalist. Since responding to those questions took so much of my time, I’m going to publish the responses below:
Do you remember the feeling when you woke on the first day of your release? How was it?
I remember waking on August 12, 2013. On that day, the Federal Bureau of Prisons would release its hold on me. I wouldn’t be entirely free. In the United States, when an individual concludes a prison sentence, a different sanction begins—called Supervised Release. Conditions of Supervised Release would require that I abide by rules and regulations that a Federal Probation Officer would impose. Still, when contrasted with the chains of imprisonment, I felt a greater degree of liberty than I’d known in longer than a quarter century.
After I signed the final papers that prison officials required, my wife and I went to breakfast. We didn’t have to report to anyone. We were together, for the first time during our ten years of marriage, without the intense scrutiny of the Bureau of Prisons interfering with our peace. I ordered waffles.
We spent the rest of the day together, and for the first time, we slept in a hotel room—a sort of honeymoon for us; we married 10 years previously in a prison visiting room. I felt gratitude beyond my ability to describe in words, sentences, and paragraphs. The warmth of her beauty gave me a feeling of stability, as if for the first time, I was standing on solid ground, without threats of a continuous fall through the abyss of imprisonment.
What were your hopes and fears for your new life?
As a consequence of the preparations that I’d made through my 26 years in prison, I didn’t have any fears about building my life. When someone navigates his way through longer than a quarter century in confinement, that struggle empowers an individual. It gives him a sense that he can overcome anything. Certainly, I felt able to seize new opportunities that I would create in society. Work that I had done gave me the strength. I had financial resources in the bank, I had strong support network, and I had job opportunities that awaited me. Although I’d never stepped food on a university campus prior to my incarceration, within three weeks of concluding my journey through prison, I began a position as an adjunct professor at San Francisco State University, where I taught criminal justice students on the greatest social injustice of our time—our nation’s commitment to mass incarceration.
How did getting back into daily life work practically for you?
Although the Federal Bureau of Prisons confined me for 26 years, I worked every day. That means every day. Seven days each week I adhered to a disciplined plan. I wrote about that discipline in many books. Each morning I woke very early, always before 4:00 am. I exercised because a commitment to fitness was integral to my plan. Then I worked, reading and writing. Connecting with people beyond prison fences. The plan conditioned me for the work I would complete upon release. Long work hours, focus, and a commitment to preparing for a better world is all I have known since prison gates slammed shut to lock me inside. Each day of work in society is a blessing.
Were there any strategies that helped you cope?
Establishing a clearly defined plan from the start helped me cope. That plan came to me while I was still locked in jail, before a judge slammed me with a 45-year sentence, before I transferred to prison. While in that jail cell, I had the vision of what citizens would expect of me if I wanted to become accepted again in society. Citizens would want me to adhere to a three-part plan. They would want me to educate myself; they would want me to build a record that would show I wanted to contribute in meaningful ways to society; and they would want me to build a support network. Since I had the vision of wanting citizens to accept me, and I had the plan of what I would have to achieve in order for them to accept, I simply had to execute the plan. If I followed the plan, I reasoned, I could return to society strong, with opportunities awaiting me. That strategy helped me cope.
If there’s any advice you could give to people in your situation, what would that be?
I provide clear advice for people who encounter a lengthy prison term. In fact, I’m launching a business to provide products and services that others can use as a guide to prepare for imprisonment. My business is called Prison Professor. I offer lessons that individuals may download to prepare for the challenges of confinement, and I offer consulting services. Essentially, individuals must identify the values by which they profess to live. They must set clearly defined goals within each value category. They must set plans of how they want to emerge. Then they must execute the plans flawlessly. That strategy will restore a sense of dignity and confidence. Further, the strategy will allow them to build resources they can use to launch a new life upon release.
What does the life that you’re leading now look like?
I am extraordinarily blessed and happy. Every day feels like a blessing. I work in communications for a global property development company, but I also continue my work of helping others achieve a higher potential. Prison may be the context through which I teach, but in reality, the story is one of a human being achieving peace, meaningful, and balance, regardless of external circumstances. That is a message that resonates with every human being. And I’m working hard to spread that message of hope and self-empowerment to others.
How has your time in prison affected and changed you?
The 26 years I served as a prisoner gave me strength. It empowered me to believe that any individual can achieve a higher level of meaning and performance if that individual makes a commitment. The individual must visualize success, set plans, and execute those plans. I didn’t have that level of commitment to self-improvement when I began my journey through prison.
And lastly, if you don’t mind giving me these details: Age, reason for conviction, time spent in jail, jail’s name and location.
I served 26 years in prison. I began serving that time when I was 23 years old, in 1987. I served time because I made the bad decision as a young man of orchestrating a scheme to sell cocaine. I served time in more than 19 federal prisons over the course of those 26 years. I spent the majority of my time in federal prisons located in Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Colorado, and California. I concluded my obligation to the Federal Bureau of Prisons on August 12, 2013.
Days since my release from prison: 446
Miles that I ran today: 0
Miles that I ran so far this week: 34.53
Miles that I’ve run during the month of October: 186.12
Miles that I ran so far in 2014: 2,050.14
Miles that I need to run in order to reach my annual goal of 2,400 miles: 349.86
Miles I’m ahead of schedule to reach my 2,400-mile goal by the end of 2014: 39.72
My weight for today: 168