You are what you think

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You Are What You Think by David Stoop, PhD, is the book that has made the biggest impact on me [while in prison]. This book helped me to identify my own thoughts (something most of us need to do). It also showed me how my thoughts affected by feelings and, as a result, my actions. It helped me turn some of the depression I was battling (well before my crime) around, as well as many of my self-esteem issues. I have (for the most part) taken back control of my mind instead of just letting it run wild. I force myself to see what my subconscious is telling my conscious; thus, I'm able to make more positive choices.

Thank you [for sending You Are What You Think]; because you cared enough to give, my life was changed!


-Submitted by Richard C. Allen Sr.
Lake Correctional Institution, Florida

From You Are What You Think:
Attitude is everything. Attitude is what makes the difference between those who succeed and those who fail. And it's easy to see-in other people. But it's not always easy to recognize when our own attitude needs adjustment, or to know how to change it. In You Are What You Think, David Stoop shows you how to use self-talk to make positive changes in your attitudes and beliefs. Self-talk can be private speech, thoughts, or external speech, all of which shapes emotions and behavior for good or bad. This popular, revolutionary book will help you: * choose healthy, positive thoughts * respond rather than react to circumstances * overcome guilt, anger, anxiety, and stress * release the power of faith * and more. You can use self-talk to gain control of the way you feel and act. You can turn out-of-control into self-control and make your emotions work for you rather than against you. You Are What You Think tells you how.

The importance of education in the prison system

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To define the word "education" would be for one to be enlightened and obtain knowledge through learning. Since I can relate to this topic on a personal level, I found that education in the prison system comes in various forms, such as academic, vocational, drug & alcohol treatment, self-help/support groups, mental/sexual/physical health classes, college courses, and employment training. To take advantage of these fundamental opportunities now, would be an incentive to anyone who is open-minded, willing to change their life, and trying to never repeat this unfortunate experience [of being in prison].

The Department of Corrections (DOC) did a study from 1992-2002 that confirms an average of 50% of all inmates who enter the prison system do not have a high school diploma or G.E.D. and about 75% have no vocational or collegiate education. Another vital statistic is that the recidivism rate of inmates who don't get their G.E.D. and/or participate in educational programs while in prison, are at an alarmingly high rate of 65-75%. These statistics are not claiming that if someone is uneducated or under-skilled they're prone to go to or return to prison, but [the statistics] do imply that one who obtains an education or special training will have a better chance of self-betterment and success upon their release and thereafter if they implement the skills he/she learned in prison.

Having said that, let me briefly describe the most common types of educational programs the DOC has to offer. First and foremost is the G.E.D. classes that help improve individuals' basic academic skills. This gives the individual a chance to earn a diploma and allow them to further their education at a vocational and/or collegiate level. Then there's the drug & alcohol treatment, which educates and gives inmates a better understanding of their addition, [and lets them] learn coping and life skills, as well as techniques to live a sober and productive lifestyle. The DOC also offers a wide range of vocational training programs, such as barber school, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and carpentry training, accounting, and computers and printing. [These] are just a fraction of the certified vocational programs available to inmates. Last but not least, the DOC provides a multitude of life skills classes and support groups that educate and help inmates learn more about themselves and how to prevent them from coming back to prison. These programs are known as Violence Prevention, Pre-Vocational [training], Goal Setting, Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, Loss and Grief [group], Money Management, and other related groups.

How are these educational programs beneficial to inmates? From my personal experience, when I've implemented these programs and education in my life, it has helped inspire me to pursue and achieve attainable goals, which in turn gives rise to my self-esteem, confidence, self-worth, character, respect for others and myself, gratitude, and a sense of purpose in life. In addition, it has also taught me how to utilize my coping skills and react appropriately to life's adversities, [while also instilling] positive morals and values, responsibility, and accountability for my actions. Finally, these classes and programs showed me how to be a positive role-model to my children, family, loved ones, friends, and community!

In closing, I have discovered through research, personal experience, and observation that education in the prison system... is the foundation to a new beginning and a better chance to succeed during incarceration and especially after being released. My personal opinion is to take full advantage of the multiple educational programs that the DOC offers. It will not only be beneficial, prosperous, and advantageous to anyone incarcerated, but also to their loved ones, friends, their community, and society.

-Submitted by Greg Segars
Huntingdon SCI, Pennsylvania


Many prisoners take advantage of educational programs when they are offered and better their lives. In a tough economy, however, educational programs for inmates are often among the first to be cut. That's where organizations like the Prison Book Program step in; in addition to novels, PBP sends test-prep books, dictionaries, and educational materials to prisoners who request them.

Using the dictionary for help in college correspondence classes

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I never knew that there was a Prison Book Program until another inmate overheard my conversation of not being able to find a certain book in our prison library. He gave me an address and explained that [the books from the Prison Book Program] are donated books at no cost to the inmate and there was a possibility I could find the book(s) I was looking for.

An inmate can either do positive or negative time during incarceration. If the inmate chooses negative time, he/she will complete incarceration and leave the same way they cam in, not making any changes. If the inmate chooses positive time, he/she will take advantage of education, cognitive skills, self-help, and spiritual or religious programs to make changes and improve their life. Unfortunately, there isn't always books available to help the inmate gain the knowledge needed to make these positive changes.

Dictionaries [are important] because you cannot checkout a dictionary out of the prison library. A lot of reading, writing, and studying is done during lock-down time and in the inmates' living area. There is several reasons why prisoners need a dictionary. There are inmates who are enrolled in Mandatory Literacy education program, trying to learn eighth grade-level education, and a dictionary can build his/her vocabulary. This is also the first time for many inmates to have to write to family and friends, and they use the dictionary during writing for correct spelling, to be understood, and to avoid embarrassment. I personally, as well as others, use a dictionary for definition of words when working on college correspondence classes.

I am grateful that there is a Prison Book Program available when needed. It is also nice to know that there are individuals who care enough to donate or contribute to this program. Who knows? This book program could be that one place for an inmate to find information to encourage [his/her] change so they can be successful when re-entering into society.

-Submitted by Ruben C. Carrico
ASP-Kingman, Arizona