Michael G. Santos

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Michael G. Santos

Michael Gerard Santos (born January 15, 1964) is an American consultant who guides people through struggle and helps them reach their highest potential regardless of external forces. He bases his teachings on lessons he learned while progressing through decades in federal prison. Michael has also worked as a life coach. United States District Court Judge Jack Tanner sentenced Michael to federal prison after a jury convicted him of drug trafficking offenses in 1987. During the decades he served, Michael worked to prepare himself for a law abiding life. He became a prison reform activist, writer and blogger before concluding his obligation to the Bureau of Prisons in 2013. He served more than 26 years of a 45-year, pre-guidelines sentence. When Michael emerged from prison, he taught "The Architecture of Incarceration," a course for criminal justice students at San Francisco State University. Simultaneously, he focused on a three-part plan to improve outcomes of America's criminal justice system. Along with Justin Paperny of The Michael G. Santos Foundation, Michael developed programs to help people emerge from the prison experience successfully; he worked to help the formerly incarcerated transition into the labor market; and he worked to bring more awareness to social breakdowns spawned by America's commitment to mass incarceration.


Of Cuban descent, Santos wrote that he began working to transform his life after a jury convicted him in Judge Jack Tanner's courtroom, but before Judge Tanner sentenced him. He wrote that a story he read about Socrates inspired him to work toward reconciling with society in a principled, deliberate way. Michael said that his plan included three prongs including working to educate himself, to contribute to society, and to build a strong support network. Nevertheless, Judge Tanner sentenced Michael to serve a 45-year sentence for "operating a continuing criminal enterprise".[1][2]

Michael served his sentence in many different prisons of every security level, from high-security United States Penitentiaries to minimum-security federal prison camps across the United States.[2] The Bureau of Prisons released Michael Santos to community confinement in August 2012, when he was 48. At that time he had served more than 25 years in federal prison, a (total of 9,135 days in federal custody).[2][3] Michael remained in federal custody for another year within the confines of the halfway house. He concluded his obligation to the Bureau of Prisons after more than 26 years on August 12, 2013. The San Francisco Chronicle published an article describing Michael Santos' lengthy odyssey. Michael claimed that he could maintain a high level of discipline and energy because he kept his focus on reconciling with society and emerging with his dignity intact. The Chronicle quoted Distinguished Stanford Professor Joan Petersilia as saying that Michael was a "Messiah" to other prisoners.

While in prison, Michael Santos married Carole. He[2] earned an undergraduate degree from Mercer University in 1992, a master's degree from Hofstra University in 1995, and he began studying toward a doctorate at the University of Connecticut. He wrote that a Bureau of Prisons' warden blocked him from completing his doctorate. Michael shifted his focus and began developing programs and resources to help other inmates and their families.[1] During his incarceration, he has written and published seven books and a number of articles, including for The Huffington Post and elsewhere, including Forbes.[1][2][4] Since prisons did not offer access to computers when Michael was incarcerated, he wrote all of his articles and books in longhand. His wife, Carole, then digitized the manuscript and served as a liaison with publishers.

With help from his wife and family, Michael began building a presence on the Internet from within prison. His website personal website at MichaelSantos.com chronicled his journey and he has since launched a commercial site to empower defendants who are going through the system. While incarcerated, Michael received a lot of attention from his writing. Media publications cite him as saying that writing for publication represented his way of contributing to society. His wife maintained his contributions to a blog. Those writings resulted in his receiving significant recognition[1][5] and universities use his work in courses that teach criminal justice.[1] Since concluding his obligation to the Bureau of Prisons, Michael continued to work toward ending mass incarceration and toward helping others who were being prosecuted by the criminal justice system. He is also a public speaker on overcoming adversity, using the context of his journey as evidence that anyone can become more than external circumstances. Michael has also lectured at numerous universities, including Stanford Law School, the University of San Francisco, and UC Berkeley.[2]


  • Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-year Prison Term (2011)
  • Triumph!: Straight-A Guide to Preparing Offenders for Reentry (2011)
  • Prison! My 8,344th Day (2010)
  • Step Up and Don't Look Back (2007)
  • Gangsters and Thugs: Consequences That Hustlers Pay (2007)
  • Inside: Life Behind Bars in America (2007)
  • What If I Go to Prison? (2004)








External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Michael Santos – Rare Success in Prison Rehabilitation on". Ethicsdaily.com. 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Sam Whiting (2012-11-24). "Inmate shares prison survival strategies". SFGate. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  3. ^ a b "While in prison, Michael Santos reconciles with society | California Forward". Cafwd.org. 2012-10-05. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  4. ^ a b "Power In Prison". Forbes.com. 2008-09-24. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  5. ^ a b Xeni Jardin at 2:15 pm Wed, Jan 9. "What is it like to be exposed to new technology after 20+ years in prison?". Boing Boing. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  6. ^ Sam Whiting (2014-04-02). "Former-inmate-speaks-out-against-U.S.-'commitment'-to-mass-incarceration". Retrieved 2013-01-20.