Section 1 of Straight-A Guide Handbook for Formerly Incarcerated–Introduction

Introduction

My name is Michael Santos. Our team is happy that you’ve volunteered to participate in our Straight-A Guide job-readiness program. I’d like to tell you a few things about our organization and about myself. We want you to know why we’re so passionate about working to build bridges that will help the formerly incarcerated transition into the job market.

Our group, The Michael G. Santos Foundation, exists to teach other people strategies that lead to success. People who work with us share a vision. Among other things, we all aspire to improve outcomes of our nation’s criminal justice system. By building bridges that help the formerly incarcerated transition into the job market, we believe that we can follow in the steps of leaders who strive to become the change they want to see in the world. I’ve been working toward this goal for decades.

My story of transformation began while I was in jail. DEA agents arrested me in 1987 and I was a federal prisoner until 2013. I went to prison because I sold cocaine. My judge sentenced me to serve 45 years under the old-law that existed prior to November of 1987. I concluded my sentence on August 12, 2013, after longer than 26 consecutive years of confinement. I’m scheduled to remain on supervised release until 2032, so prisons and the people who’ve lived through them will always be a huge part of my life.

Experience convinces me that through hard work, an individual can become more than bad decisions of the past or current circumstances. Our nation incarcerates more than 2.3 million people and more than 750,000 people return to society from confinement each year. Recidivism rates suggest that the longer we expose an individual to “corrections,” the less likely that individual becomes to function in society.

Through our 10-class Straight-A Guide workshop, we strive to teach the soft skills that employers tell us they want to see in the people they hire for entry-level positions. By teaching these skills to the formerly incarcerated, we advance their prospects to secure jobs. Sometimes, an entry-level job can make all the difference in the world for an individual who has served time in jail or prison. Unfortunately, even entry-level jobs can be difficult for some people to find after they’ve been incarcerated.

We put our Straight-A Guide program together because we wanted to help. The thought process behind our program follows:

  1. We recognized that many employers were resistant to hiring people who’ve served time in prison.
  2. We wanted to connect with employers and persuade them that we could recommend candidates for employment.
  3. We created a curriculum that continues to evolve and we share our curriculum with prospective employers.
  4. We explain that individuals who voluntarily worked through our program have demonstrated their 100 percent commitment to living as law-abiding citizens and proven that they wanted to add value to an employer’s enterprise.
  5. We urge employers to hire our candidates for full time positions.
  6. When we encounter employers who are reluctant to hire the formerly incarcerated directly, we offer them the prospect of hiring our graduates through our staffing subsidiary. Prospective employers could then evaluate and assess how hard the people we recommended would work to contribute.
  7. We provide employers with a written recommendation based on the work that each candidate completes.

The facilitators who teach these courses volunteer their time. We’re all in this together. These collaborative efforts will contribute to the building of safer communities by reducing recidivism. They represent an innovative approach to reducing the intergenerational cycles of failure that has become an unfortunate outgrowth of our massive prison system

Facilitators who lead these courses will distribute information packets that we’d like you to complete. Please fill out the information you’re comfortable completing. That way you can build a living resume. No one has to see that information unless you choose to share your thoughts. The packets of information will provide suggestions you can take as you consider building your personal brand, one that will help us argue that you’re a great candidate for a job.

Although we recognize that some people may be resistant to the suggestion, we encourage you to publish your information on our website. That way you can build a living record of how hard you’re working to improve your skills set and add value to society. I’ve employed this strategy for decades and found it useful in opening new opportunities.