Federal Inmate #16377-004, Michael G. Santos

Today I am pleased to present a piece from Peace Tree contributing author, Lori Hahn.

You can read all of her work at her home blog, Hahn at Home.

Thanks Lori, for your continued support of The Peace Tree and your willingness to share your work with us.

Federal Inmate #16377-004, Michael G. Santos
By Lori Hahn

I have the pleasurable acquaintance of some kids who are adopted. Okay, they call me “Mom.” Fortunately, with the advent of open adoption, all of the kids have contact with one of their birthparents. It’s a convoluted story, as most such tales are, but this has all worked out well, in its quirky little way.

The unfortunate part of this story is that the birthfather of part of this brood is spending time in a Federal Correctional Institute, where he’s been for the last four years and will remain for the next seven, for drug crimes. Admittedly, I don’t understand one damned thing about life behind bars or the criminal judicial system outside of what I saw on Perry Mason or Matlock. Somehow, I sensed at a young age that criminal defense attorneys were not so fortunate to always have both an innocent client and to be wily enough to get them off despite the frames, double-dealing by the prosecution, and borderline nefarious nature of the detectives.

So, a couple of years ago, I started reading and searching the Internet to try to understand so I could help explain this to the brood. In my reading, I ran across Federal Inmate #16377-004, Michael G. Santos. Michael has been in Federal custody since about 1987, when he was 23. His downfall was those heady cocaine Wild West days in Florida in the 80s—very Miami Vice, only on the flip side. His story is interesting, however. What struck me is that he takes full responsibility and has made definitive steps toward rehabilitation. In the Federal system, there is no early parole, so he does his minimum time, which will put him out about the same time as birthfather. This guy has managed the rare feat of moving from maximum security to a minimum security working camp. He’s published numerous books about life in prison, one of which is a “how to” for people facing prison for the first time. He makes no money from these publishing enterprises as all the money goes toward paying his astronomical fine. His most recent book, “Inside,” met with critical praise.

While I think that his website operates for the right reasons, there’s always been a bit of skepticism lodged deep in the recesses of my mind. He’s got a pretty good PR marketing tool in the website (maintained by his second wife and childhood friend, Carol). I want to believe everything he says because he states his case compellingly and articulately. I do believe that drug crimes often carry a stiffer penalty than is necessary, and so many violently dangerous people who molest or murder have done far less time. Was it as clear-cut as he states? If so, then, I think the term he is serving is too lengthy and if his record is as clean as he states, he should be considered for clemency. I mean, is our goal to rehabilitate or is strictly to punish? If the answer is rehabilitation, then I think the clemency board would have to take a more than casual look here.

One of his most recent book reviewers used the word, “dispassionate” and another “stilted” in describing his prose—perhaps that’s what’s been bothering me—he is articulate, but seems to lack the passion in his written word (which is all we, on the outside, see) to come across as completely and totally credible, which in turn, may appear to the folks that hold his fate in their hands as disingenuous or that he’s just another con artist trying to work the system to his advantage.

As a greater and greater percentage of our population spend time in prison for longer and longer periods, the state of our collective (read: government) “corrections” philosophy and the execution of its policies becomes more and more pressing a concern. What do you think? I’d like to hear your opinions.

Visit Lori at Hahn at Home!


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