The following is a close approximation of the letter I sent a younger friend who is getting out of prison, having served more than 10 years for a nonviolent crime.
Hey xxxxxx. How are you?
It’s amazing that you’re so close to freedom. I can’t wait to hang out with you in person.
It may not be my place, but I care about you and want to say a few things that might be helpful:
The first four months after you’re out will dictate the next forty years. It’s a lot of pressure to do everything right, but it will definitely pay off in the long run.
STAY AWAY FROM ANYONE WHO ISN’T A GREAT INFLUENCE
I’ve read that each of us is the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
If you ignore all the people you hung out with who drink, use drugs, or steal, or otherwise behave negatively, that’s a good start.
But I suggest you go even farther and work to find very positive people and build friendships with them. Surround yourself with honest people who work hard, constantly improve themselves, take care of their friends and family, and give back to the community.
A great place to look for these people is by volunteering in some way.
All the good things about these people will influence you and support your good decisions.
CONSIDER HAVING NO ALCOHOL (OR ANYTHING ELSE)
I’m not opposed to alcohol in general (and I think marijuana should be legalized), but it compromises your willpower and judgement, which you cannot afford.
This is a small sacrifice for a great life!
WHATEVER JOB YOU GET, DO YOUR VERY BEST
Be five minutes early every day, be cheerful, be considerate, be respectful, and do the very best work you can. Work really hard and be the best employee they’ve ever had. You’ll feel proud, even if mopping floors, and it will lead to good things.
BE THANKFUL EVERY DAY
Think of one thing, large or small, and completely focus on appreciating it for five seconds — it sets the right tone for whatever else happens.
EXPECT IT WILL BE VERY HARD, AT TIMES
If it was easy, prisons would be empty.
KNOW THAT YOU HAVE SUPPORT
We are rooting for you to succeed and build a terrific life!
Your friend, -Mark