06/09/2015 02:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Prison Reform in Maine State Prison

Political leaders like President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Rand Paul have been speaking in a unified voice on the need for prison reform. But prison and sentencing reform will require more than talk. Meaningful prison reform requires leadership and action. We can find that leadership in every sector, and every American can contribute. I recognized such leadership when I received an unsolicited email from Michael Tausek, the Deputy Warden at Maine's State Prison.


Deputy Warden Tausek reached out because he wanted to do more than talk about the need to improve outcomes of our nation's prison system. He took action. By reaching out to me -- a man who served longer than 26 years as a federal prisoner -- Mr. Tausek acted courageously. Many corrections professionals would frown upon working with a formerly incarcerated individual.

Mr. Tausek made his views clear. "To improve the outcomes of our nation's prison system, we need innovative change."

Besides serving as a senior prison administrator, Deputy Warden Tausek also led programs inside the prison. Interactions he had with men serving time gave him a unique perspective. He understood that many of those men grew up in environments that didn't offer much in the way of hope. He wanted them to use their time inside in ways that would help them prepare for a better outcome, as law-abiding citizens. Although the men were living in challenging conditions today, they could begin taking action steps that would lead to more fulfillment tomorrow.

Deputy Warden Tausek reached out through my website to inquire about programs that I developed to inspire prisoners. Based on our initial conversation, I told Mr. Tausek that I would develop a program he could use to inspire the men inside. I promised to create the Earning Freedom podcast and MasterMind course.

Through a series of lesson plans, participants in the Earning Freedom course would learn from the inspiring figures that guided my adjustment through a 45-year prison term. Leaders like Socrates, Mandela, Gandhi, and Frankl could teach a great deal about empowering oneself through struggle. Those masterminds inspired me. I felt confident their message would lead to more intrinsic motivation for all participants, especially since a man who served decades in prison shared how it led to success for his life.

The Earning Freedom podcasts supplement this mastermind course with 30-minute episodes that follow one of three formats: 1) they describe the actionable strategies that empowered me through the decades I served in prison, 2) they feature interviews with formerly incarcerated individuals who emerged successfully, or 3) they offer interviews with CEOs, employers, and community leaders. They suggest steps people with criminal backgrounds can take to prepare for successful returns to society.

The Maine State Prison is setting an example of leadership. By introducing programs to motivate people in prison to prepare for success, the institution takes a meaningful step toward improving the outcomes of the criminal justice