I’ve received many testimonials, like the one published above. Below are some that people I’ve worked with have written, or others that people from prison who learn from my books have sent:
The link below offers PDF images of numerous handwritten letters that I received from prisoners across the United States: Handwritten Testimonials from Inmates
Tom was a client who retained me to assist him prior to sentencing. After our work together, he wrote the following message:
Just wanted to send a note to say how relieved I feel and how grateful I am after finalizing the PSR and the Narrative yesterday. No matter what the sentence that I face, the insights that you were able to impart in all areas will be of enormous benefit.
I pleaded guilty five years ago and this is the first time that I have felt like I was something more than a spectator. Our work will have a definite effect on my future. Now I’m not waiting for others to determine what will happen next–whether it be the Court, the prosecutors, Defense attorney, or others. Now I feel a part of the process and my helplessness has been replaced by confidence and empowerment to represent myself to the Court, as well as to the other interested parties with respect to how I want to proceed and what I want to include in a submission to the Probation Department and the Judge.
Thanks again. I look forward to talking with you. You, your expertise, and your story have been enormously helpful and an inspiration and should be to anyone facing the judicial system.
Below is a testimonial I received from Diane Bass, a Southern California Defense Attorney. I work on behalf of her clients, assisting their preparation for sentencing and prison. Diane submitted the following article to a trade magazine for defense attorneys:
What I Learned From a Man who Spent 26 years in Federal Prison
We, as defense attorneys, like to believe that we know something about resilience. We like to think that we see the goodness in people. We pride ourselves in believing in redemption. We tell our clients that everything happens for a reason and we tell them that something good will come of their ordeal. We ask them to make plans for their return to society and to use their time in prison well. I thought I understood these things until I met Michael Santos.
A federal judge in the Western District of Washington sentenced Michael to 45 years in federal prison when he was 23 years old, back in 1987. A jury convicted him of drug trafficking in the pre-guidelines era. In 2013, Michael concluded his obligation to the BOP, after 26 consecutive years. Michael not only used his time well, he planned methodically so that he could return to society successfully. While confined, Michael earned a Bachelor’s degree from Mercer University and he earned a Master’s degree from Hofstra University. He published seven books about the prison experience, and those books led to his earning more than $1,000,000 in taxable income while incarcerated. When he left prison, he had sufficient resources to launch his career.
Within 17 days of being released from prison, San Francisco State University hired him as an adjunct professor. He served as a keynote speaker for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Corrections Summit, where Governor Jerry Brown also spoke about the mass incarceration epidemic. He sells his program, Earning Freedom, to the Bureau of Prisons and other institutions across the United States, from Maine to Saipan. Federal judges, US Attorneys, and federal public defenders have brought Michael in to speak at their conferences on our nation’s prison and sentencing systems. His wife, whom he married while incarcerated, said that while Michael was in prison “he was like a jet plane without wheels.” When authorities placed him on lockdown, Michael ran marathon distances in his cell. Now he is uses every ounce of energy that he stored up over all of those years to live the life he prepared for.\
Beyond writing and publishing books, speaking and working to reform prison and sentencing systems in our country, he works with individuals—our clients—who are preparing for sentencing and beyond that, for their time in prison. Michael has the unique ability to share his experience, having served time in every security level of the BOP.
I have always been pleased with the work I do at sentencing and I am happy to report that I have obtained some extraordinary results for my clients. I have developed good relationships with prosecutors and judges and have been able to negotiate fair plea agreements, very good recommendations from probation and excellent sentences from many judges in my 20 years in federal court. Sentencing is what I am best at. I thought I had it down. I prepare thorough mitigation packages that include personal histories for each of my clients. We gather letters and certificates. I had a client with an extremely autistic, deaf and mute son. I had him prepare a day in the life video of himself and his son. It moved everyone in the courtroom to tears. I understand the importance of remorse and restitution. I help my clients prepare letters and statements for allocution.
When we first met, Michael told me his story and offered to help my clients prepare for sentencing. I told him that I was very proud of the work I do at sentencing and didn’t think I needed his help. A few months later I had a client who was charged with possession of child pornography. He had a very long and compelling story that led up to his offense conduct. He was not the most articulate client so I referred him to Michael. Michael interviewed him at length, and together, they wrote the best, most thorough and compelling first-person sentencing narrative letter I have ever seen. I have since sent many of my clients to Michael to work on their letters and to help prepare them for what lies ahead.
What has been the response? I have submitted the letters to probation prior to the probation interview. The probation interviews have lasted on average a half hour rather than one and a half to two hours. The probation officers have thanked us profusely for the letters and have been so impressed with our level of preparation. The probation officers can cut and paste directly from my clients’ letters. They use the clients’ version of the offense conduct rather than the government’s version, and they can use my clients’ (polished) words to describe their past. This process arms probation officers with everything they need to recommend downward departures and variances before we even walk in to the interview.
I have a client who the government wanted detained after his change of plea. I presented Judge Carter with my client’s letter (and his psych evaluation) and Judge Carter allowed my client to remain on bond AND set the sentencing hearing out several months so that my client would have time with his family before being sentenced.* (There is actually a quite funny and sad story that follows. Ask me some time if we ever meet at a conference.)
From Michael I’ve also learned the true importance of the “PSR”. We all know that it is used by the court for the purpose of determining an appropriate sentence. We all know that it follows our clients to the BOP. Yet I didn’t know how the “PSR” influences designations and security classifications, with major implications for clients throughout their journey in the BOP. Michael has shown me how the PSR can lead to placement within specific programs in the Bureau of Prisons. For example, specific prisons or programs are better situated for defendants who cooperate, or were convicted of sex crimes. Michael’s experience helps me understand how to prepare my clients for the best possible prison experience.
I attended NACDL’s white-collar criminal defense conference in San Diego in 2015. Judge Gonzalo Curiel said that he frequently heard clients speak about being remorseful. He said that he wanted defendants to show him they were remorseful. They can “show” remorse by documenting what they’ve done since the commission of the offense. He wants to see how they differentiate themselves from every other defendant who says, “I would like to apologize to the court and to my family.” THAT is where Michael Santos has made the most profound difference in my awareness and the success I am able to achieve at sentencing for my clients.
But it isn’t only Judge Curiel who talks about the importance of defendants preparing for sentencing. The Honorable Judge Mark W. Bennett, from the Northern District of Iowa, and Professor Ira Robbins of American University published findings from their survey of all federal judges in the Alabama Law Review. Overwhelmingly, their research of federal judges shows that defendants who want to position themselves for the lowest possible sentence should take action. Defendants who help the judge understand as much as possible about what drove their offense conduct may advance possibilities for a lower sentence. Defendants who want to express remorse should articulate what they learned from the process, how they identify with the pain endured by victims, what steps they’re taking to reconcile with society, and most importantly, why they will never appear as criminal defendants again.
Michael not only inspires defendants who are facing the most terrifying thing they have ever faced—prison time. He also inspires me to do more and to do better. I am not exaggerating when I say that Michael Santos is the most inspiring person I have ever met. He has more energy than anyone I have ever met. He is smarter than many of the people I work with every day and he is more gracious than almost anyone I know. He has become a tremendous resource for my clients and me. I am proud to call him my friend.
We all like to think that we are the best at what we do, or at least, certainly good enough and we sure as h@#$ don’t need any help. I can only say that I am so happy that I have found this amazing wealth of knowledge and this extraordinary resource in Michael. I hope you will reach out to him and take advantage of the free ebooks he offers on his website www.prisonprofessor.com to give to your clients to help them prepare for their journey. If nothing else, reach out to him and say hello and congratulate him and thank him for being a shining example for every person who has the dreaded task of having to time in prison.
Last Words: A Survey and Analysis of Federal Judges’ Views on Allocution in Sentencing http://www.law.ua.edu/pubs/lrarticles/Volume%2065/Issue%203/4%20Bennett%20%26%20Robbins%20735-813.pdf
I received the following letter from an inmate who felt inspired after reading through my books:
Dear Mr. Santos,
The steps you put in your Straight-A- Guide have given many the tools they need to change their life. THANK YOU! However, I continue with my struggle, the struggle of trying to restore the possibility of hope amongst those who seem to have lost it somewhere along the way. I am genuinely interested in restoring the possibility of hope not only for personal gratification, but also as an occupation.
My story is typical of a young black male growing up in Compton California. Drugs, gangs, crime, and poverty were rampant. I was once a member of the Crips. I had internalized a cultural value system that consisted of violence. I was raised in a dysfunctional family where my role models were engaged in similar activities. Eventually I began to develop an excitement for crime.
During my adolescent years I engaged in numerous criminal behaviors such robbery and assault. These behavior patterns lead to me being incarcerated several times in juvenile institutions throughout California. Even though my mother was on drugs and my father was nowhere around I still experienced verbal, mental, and physical abuse. The life that I was living was a direct result of the choices I made. I did not believe I was receiving the love and attention I needed from home. So I turned to the streets were I was abused. I was manipulated into believing that being in a gang was what everybody my age was supposed to do. Like many kids, I fell to peer-pressure. This kind of thinking carried over into adulthood.
Today I am serving a 26 years sentence for attempted murder. I am just giving you a little insight about my past. I would now like to share with you how your Straight-A- Guide program has helped me make decisions concerning my future.
I believe education is supposed to be the proper cultivation of the gifts and talents of the individual through the acquisition of knowledge. Knowledge satisfies our natural thirst for gaining that which will make us whole. True education cultivates a persons mind, body and soul. It brings us closer to fulfilling our purpose for being.
This is an example of the education that the Straight-A Guide provides to individuals.
In school, lessons are taught in order to prepare us for tests that will be given. In life, we are given tests in order to teach us lessons. Having a value based goal oriented strategy gives us the tools we will need when facing any test that may come our way.
The Straight-A-Guide program is not going to somehow, magically transform sinners into saints; however, what I can say is that it does find a way to save lost souls like myself who have taken the steps to change. This program does not care what you have done in your past. Whether you have robbed, stolen, raped, or even killed as long as you are willing to change.
My overall objective is to try to reach those prisoners who are on the cusp. Not the select few at the other end of the spectrum who have already started to change and have embraced transformation already on the right path. My concern is for the many ,_, the many who reside on the proverbial fence. The vast majority of prisoners caught in the matrix. Those that are stuck in between those who refuse to change and who have already embraced change. I ask you honestly, how it can ever be truly possible for me to help the other prisoners who really need help the most?
How can I help others help themselves? How can I help them learn more, understand more, rely on reason more and ultimately believe in the very real possibility of change? All while the system we’re stuck in continues to strip them of everything they own? Including the notion that they are indeed human and the very idea of change is ,in fact, possible.
I believe in your Straight-A-Guide program 100%. I study it, I work it, I live it. Today, I ask, how can I further my education with the Straight-A-Guide program?
“Life is not about finding yourself.
Life is about creating yourself’
The link below offers PDF images of numerous handwritten letters that I received from prisoners across the United States: