Michael Santos and the Power of the Internet

Michael Santos spent 25 years in jail. When he got out in 2012, he experienced the wonder of the Internet. Writing in Salon:

As a prisoner, I could not access the Web directly. Staff members oversaw policies that placed enormous barriers between the people inside boundaries and society. In the prisons where I served my sentence, prisoners were even prohibited from accessing electronic typewriters. They had their reasons, I suppose, but blocking people inside from using technology did not go far in preparing them for success upon release.  By the late 1990s, I became so hungry to experience this new tool for myself, I created indirect ways to access the Internet. Connecting with society and making efforts to prepare for a law-abiding life upon release was a priority for me, and I had to figure out ways that I could overcome the obstacles imposed by prison rules that blocked prisoners from computers.

After reading numerous magazine articles about how people were launching websites, I wrote out a web design. It wasn’t much. I simply wanted a place to publish essays, articles, and profiles I wrote about other prisoners. I was still a citizen of our democracy, and as such, I felt that I had a duty to share my observations with taxpayers. I sent my web design to people from my support network and they coordinated the development of my first website. It was simple, but it served the purpose of allowing me to use it as a tool to document my journey through prison and to write about the experiences of others. Throughout the final decade of my imprisonment, I published thousands of articles on my website to help others understand prisons, the people they hold, and strategies for growing through confinement.

Perhaps the most remarkable part of his story is that he was publishing important, material work while in prison (linked above) and once he got out of jail, the Internet propagated his discovery.

The San Francisco Chronicle profile of Santos, published last year, is excellent.

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