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Why do people go to prison?


Presenter: Our final TED speaker is Michael Santos.

He spent 26 years incarcerated in the federal prison system for cocaine trafficking.

He spent 26 years in jail.
He was in prison for 26 years.

While he was in prison, he earned an undergraduate degree then he earned a graduate degree.

He earned a degree.
He got a degree.
He got a university degree.
He did a degree in prison.

He became a published author, including books, numerous journal articles.

He wrote a book and he got it published.

Since leaving prison last year, he became an outspoken activist for penal reform and new approaches to the American scandal known as recidivism. Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Santos.

a recidivist is a repeat offendor
a recidivist is a person who offends again
a recidivist is a person who breaks the law again
a recidivist is a person whop breaks the law multiple times.
a recidivist is person who breaks the law more than once.


The Main Speaker

Michael Santos: Thank you very much, Russ. (I) appreciate it.Thank you.

Do I have the slides? Thank you guys so much for giving me this opportunity to share my story.

thank you for the chance to share
thank you for the opportunity to share

It may be a little bit unusual to be in an extraordinary audience like this of business leaders, community innovators, people who make society grow, to listen to a man who just got out of prison.

A Scale

a little bit unusual
quite unusual
very unusual
extremely unusual
downright weird

But today is an extraordinary day for me because it is actually six months to the day that I finished 26 years in federal prison.

an extraordinary day
a very special day
a very unusual day

And that is the reason that I have this huge commitment to working to end our nation’s commitment to mass incarceration.

Imprisonment – Being in Prison

mass incarceration
mass imprisonment
incarceration on a large scale
imprisonment on a large scale

The earlier speakers today gave some very profound insight into why we as a nation need to understand how those who live on the fringes, those who live on the margins, think.


the fringes of society
the edges of society
the margins of society
outside the mainstream

That is the reason that I care so much about mass incarceration.

I care so much about it.
I am so concerned about it.

I want to take you back to the beginning and let you know what led me into that system.

back to the start
back to the beginning

A Popular Movie

Back in the mid-nineteen eighties
, a popular movie came out. That movie influenced me much as popular culture influences people who do not respond well to traditional educational systems.

It influenced me
It had a big influence on me

For me in my life it was Tony Montana who influenced me and as a consequence of being influenced by those bad decisions, I made every bad decision a young man can make.

Tony Montana influenced me.
I was influenced by Tony Montana.

Bad Decisions

And as a consequence of those bad decisions, for trafficking in cocaine, I was arrested, I was indicted. I was sentenced to serve forty-five years in federal prison.

I was arrested.
I was taken in.

I was charged.
I was indicted.

I was sentenced to prison.
I was sent to prison.

Bad Influences

So bad influences started my life and my journey but it was later good influences that helped to change my life. Because while I was sitting inside of a jail cell during that awkward phase between the time that I was arrested and the time that I was convicted and the time that I was sentenced, I happened to recognise what a horrific decision I had made as a young man.

Link to Meanings of “Cell”

a terrible decision
a horrible decision
a horrific decision

Passive Voice and Active Voice

So I am sitting in jail feeling the walls closing in on me, the life being sucked out of me.

the life is being sucked out of me
prison is sucking the life out of me

I start turning anywhere for guidance and for prayer I am led to the work of Socrates.

The Work of Socrates – The Writings of Socrates

The work of Socrates inspires me because Socrates at that time is also facing the rest of his life in a prison cell before he is about to be executed.

It inspires me
I am inspired by it

And he is given this opportunity to leave that prison cell and to live in civilisation in exile.

He chooses instead to have his sentence carried out.

For the first time I am reading about philosophy. For the first time I am reading about Socrates.

And when he chooses to stay in a jail cell, he gives a reason.

The Law and Our Rights

He says that in a democracy we have the right to work towards changing laws but we do not have the right to break laws.

the right to break laws
the right to break the law

I remember putting that book on my chest and I started thinking: what can I do?

Is there anything I can do while I move through this sentence, that could keep me in prison for the rest of my life?

the rest of my life
the remainder of my life

Is there anything I can do to reconcile with society?
And so I start thinking. I start thinking about many of you. The leaders in this room. I said: What would you expect?

Is there anything that a man can do to transform his life?

Is there anything that I can do that would help you the members of this audience to see me as something more than a coke dealer.

a coke dealer
a drug dealer
an amphetamine dealer
a heroin dealer

And I decided, yes, there probably is, but what is it? Because I don’t get that message inside the criminal justice system.

We may call it a system of correction but in reality it is a system that warehouses humanity.

An Analogy to Smoking Cigarettes and Cigarette Companies

And to believe that the system has an effort in preparing people inside to return to society as a law-abiding contributing citizen is equivalent to believing that Phillip Morris really wants people to stop smoking.

This is a system that measures justice by the turning of calendar pages.

It is a fundamentally flawed system. It is a fundamentally flawed system because it is fundamentally different from what makes Silicon Valley great.

a flawed system
a faulty system
an imperfect system
a system that does not work

A community of innovators. Disruptive thinkers. You look at failure and you figure out a better way of doing it.

a better way of doing it
a worse way of doing it
a faster way of doing it
a quicker way of doing it
a cheaper way of doing it
an easier way of doing it

That is what I learned from reading better influences in my life.

And so when I thought about each of you twenty-six years ago. I thought:

Great Expectations – Big Dreams

What would you expect me to do?
You would expect me to work to educate myself.

You would expect me to work for contributing to society in a meaningful, measurable way.
You would expect me to build a support network.

That was all. That’s what guided me through the journey.

I strove to become the change that I wanted to see in the world.

Link to The Big Dream


I was inspired by people like Ghandi and by people like Mandala.

By people who faced struggle whether it was prisoners of World War Two or prisoners of today.

Anybody who could overcome it. That became my inspiration. Because I had a vision. And that vision. I would like to say. Was my idea.

But like Steve Jobs says: “A good leader copies ideas. A great leader steals ideas.” And all i did was steal ideas from every individual who is sitting in this room tonight. You achieve high levels of success because you pursue excellence. And you reward others when they pursue excellence.

How do we measure justice?

But in America’s prison we measure justice in a fundamentally different way. We measure justice by enough calendar pages turned. And we have seen the result of that approach.

We need to change that approach.

Visualize! Plan! Execute!

We need that will people inside to pursue that same path

That is what makes Silicon Valley great but it doesn’t exist for 2.3 million people who are serving time.

I had a vision.

How did I want to be able to return to society? … to be able to put on a suit and tie and have nobody know that I have served a day in prison unless I told them?

What can we do for people who are living on the margin?

When you don’t feel you have a path, you are in trouble.

We all have a role in ending mass incarceration.

Mass incarceration is new.

It started in the sixites.

Link to videos about the sixties.

We lead the world not only in innovative technology and medicine but also in prison population.

Link to conversation about medicine and medical research


Can you get the rest of the text? practise listening. Can you get it? It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand a hundred per cent.

A Clip from the Movie that he Mentioned


Look at these questions:

What do you think about prison?
Is prison a place of punishment or a place of rehabilitation?
Is it a place to rehabilitate or a place to punish?
Can it be both?
Is it true that most people are in prison for drug offenses?
Is drug abuse a medical problem or a medical problem?
Is drug abuse a law enforcement problem?
Is prison failing?
Do you believe in punishment or forgiveness?

The Role of Christianity

Jesus taught forgiveness. Do you believe in forgiveness or punishment?


The Old Testament is about punishment
The New Testament is about forgiveness

People say they are christian but if you believe in punishment then you are old testament right?

These are complex and difficult questions. Do you have any suggestions? Do you have any ideas? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Link to a conversation from a prison cell.

Power Words: Cell

Share your thoughts...

Which Way Should we Go?

Practice listening.

Mark the phrase you hear:


We will go away.
We will stay here.

With Someone else

We will leave some day.
We will stay here forever.

With friends

Your hand in my hand.
Holding hands


We are going to make a plan.
We will make our plan.

In the company of others

We will fly so high.
We will feel so good.

In a group

Say ‘goodbye’ to our friends
Tell our friends ‘goodbye’.

As a group

We will start life new.
We will begin a new life


This is what we are going to do.
This is what we will do.

Go east
Go west

Life is easy there.
Life is hard there.

Go east
Go west

Lots of open air.
Not much open air

Go west
Go south

To begin life again
To begin life new.

Go North
Go west

I think we should do this
This is what we will do.

Go home
Go west

Standing up with our friends
Standing with the times.

Go west
Go to work

We will be OK
We will do just fine.

Go west
Go home

Where the skies are blue.
Where the skies are grey

Go north
Go west

Shall we do this?
This is what we will do.

As a team

We will enjoy the ocean
We will love the beach.

With others

We will study and grow.
We will learn and teach.

By ourselves

Find a slower pace of life
Change our pace of life.

With no help

We will work and play
We will work and die.

I love everybody
I love you

I know you love everybody
I know you love me.

You want me
I want you

In the end be free
At the end be free.

So that’s the reason why
So that’s why I have no regrets (?)

When he says he wants to go west
when you say, you want to go west.

Go east
Go west

The people are peaceful
Life is peaceful there.

Go away
Go west

Lots of fresh air
Lots of open air.

Go west
Go away

To begin life new.
To start again

Go west
Go traveling

This is what we should do
This is what we will do.

Go west
Go to sea

Is it high tide?
Turning with the tide.

Go west
Go westwards

We will do just fine.
The weather will be fine

Go away
Go west

Where are the skies blue?
Where the skies are blue.

Go west

This is what we will do.
We will definitely do this

I know that
I am sure that

You there is a way
There are many ways

To survive there
To live there

In all kinds of weather
In the sun or shade

As a couple

We will find a house
We will find a place

To settle
to settle down

in and live with grace
Down and live with space

Without the
With no

hectic pace of life
Busy pace that feeds

The hustling
The hassles and problems

moving of the feet
Rustling of the feet

I am sure I am
I know I’m

ready to go soon
ready to leave too

So that’s it
So that is really

where we are going to go
What we are going to do

Go west

Life is more peaceful there
Life is peaceful there

Go west
Go out

Lots of open air
Breathe the fresh air

Go west
Travel west

To begin life new
to start again

Go west
Move west

We should do this
This is what we will do

Head west
Go west

Like a ship sailing on the tide
Standing with the tide

Go off
Go west

We will go very far
We will go this far

Go west
Move on

To a place with more opportunity
Where the skies are blue

Move house
Go west

This is necessary
This is what we will do

As a team

We shall go on our way
We will go on our way

Always together

We will depart immediately
We will leave here today

Here is another version of the same song.

Which version do you prefer?

Language Notes

Future Tenses

We will go away.
we are going to go away.

We are going to leave some day.
We will leave some day.

Body Part idioms

Holding hands
Your hand in my hand.

Do people hold hands in your culture?

Do men hand hold hands with men?
Do women hold hands with women?
Do women hold hands with men?

The Future

We are going to make a plan.
We will make our plan.

What are you going to do in the future?

Write your answer in the comments section.

Saying Goodbye

How do you say goodbye in your language?


Is Life easy where you live?

Fresh Air

Is there a lot of fresh air where you live?

The Beach

Is there a beach near where you live?

Learning and Teaching

Are you a student?


Are you in love?

Do you love your family?

Link to the story of two lovers in Japan.

Settling Down

Do you want to travel around the world and then settle down in the best country?

What is the best country to live in?

The Pace of Life

Is the pace of modern life too fast for you?

Are you worried about money?

The Sky

What colour is the sky?

The West – Discussion

What does the west represent to you?

Is the Ukraine in the west?

Should Ukraine join Russia or join the west?

Americans from the east coast went to the west to start a new life. The west was developed as a part of the USA after the east.

Share your thoughts...

Basic Anatomy

Do you study anatomy?
Are you a medical professional?
Some people need English for study or work in the medical field.
Here is a video on basic anatomy:


Hello. Welcome to the video.
This is just a real basic video on anatomy.

We will be looking at bone names, muscle names, type of joint, joint movement, egimous and anteginous, the role of the ligaments and the role of the tendons.

joint – joints
bone – bones
tendon – tendons
ligament – ligaments

The Skeleton

Alright. So here is a snapshot of the human skeleton.

What I would like you to do is, I would like you to pause the video where we are at now.
Study the names.
Take down any notes if you need to.
Once you have finished, carry on.

Once you have finished, carry on.
When you have finished, continue.


Same as before.
What I would like you to do, is I would like you to pause the video.
Study the muscle names as much as you can.
Take down any notes.

muscle – muscles

Once you are happy, carry on.

Once you are happy, carry on.
When you are satisfied with your notes, continue the video.


All Right. Looking at types of joints.

Today we are going to be focusing on two. Two types of joints.

we are going to focus
we are going to be focussing

The first one. We are looking at the elbow and the knee joint. Over here.

Over here, what you can see is a door hinge.

hinge- hinges
joint – joints
elbow – elbows
knee – knees

The reason why I have put this on here is really important because the elbow and the knee are both hinge joints.

Think about the elbow and the knee. They can only create two movements. You can only lift your arm up towards your shoulder and then lift it back down again. Same as a door. It can only open and close.

Your elbow and your knee are hinge joints, similar to the hinge on the door.

like the hinge on the door
similar to the hinge on the door

Ball and Socket Joints

Here we have the shoulder and the hip joint. We call these two joints ball and socket joints.

shoulder – shoulders
hip – hips

If we look here at your hip. Here we have the top of your femur.

This part here on the femur is the ball and if we look at the pelvis. This part here.

That is the socket, that the ball fits into. So it is a nice fairly moveable joint.

There is more than just the two movements.

I can rotate it. I can lift it.

So that joint is called a ball and socket joint.

Can you get the rest of the video?

The lecturer has a New Zealand accent. Have you been to New Zealand? Here is an interview with a New Zealander:

An interview with a New Zealander

Medical Professionals

Are you a doctor or a nurse?

Tell us about where you work in the comments section below.

Are you a medical researcher?

Tell us about your research in the comments section.

Are you interested in medical research?

Here is a conversation about medical research:

An Interview with a Medical Researcher

Share your thoughts...

It is not your fault!

It is not your fault that the world is the way it is
It would be if it stayed that way.

Look at these lyrics from a German punk band called “the Doctors
(Die Aertzte)

It is not your fault that the world is the way it is
It would be if it stayed that way.

Many of us feel that corporations control governments and we are not really free. We cannot control our own government and we cannot control huge corporations like Monsanto and we cannot control the world we live in, even though we are the people. Do you agree with that?

If you agree, can we change it and how can we change it?

Let’s have an English conversation about this in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

It is not your fault that the world is the way it is
It would be if it stayed that way.

This sentence uses a grammatical form called conditional.

Grammar – Conditionals

A conditional statement is a statement which has a condition on it. It consists of two clauses. If the first one is true, the second one will be true.

Conditionals occur in different situations:

Real conditional: It will be your fault if it stays that way.
Hypothetical: It would be your fault if it stayed that way.
Past: It would have been your fault if it had stayed that way.

Here are more examples:

Real conditional: Your English will improve if you study.
Hypothetical: Your English would improve if you studied.
Past: Your English would have improved if you had studied.

Link to more notes on conditionals: Conditionals


It is not my fault.


I am not the one who made the mistake.


I am not the one who caused the problem.


Did you like the music?

Here are some conversations about music: Talking about music

Grammar is Music

Link to bilingual English German phrasebook

Share your thoughts...

Can you dance?

Hi Emma.
I’m Leoni.

I’m going to show you some Irish dancing.

The first dance is called “the easy reel”.

I am going to show you the first steps of “the easy reel”.

And it is called “the lead around”.

There is a checklist in Irish Dancing.

First you need to like always look forward.

Next is always keep your elbows … I mean your shoulders down. You need to relax them.

And also you need to have your hands like this. Hold them up then you curl them like this. And put them down like that.

You always have them by your sides for all your dances. And try not to move them.

And ..and also your legs are always straight.

Sometimes when we do hops, then you can balance but you usually need to keep them straight.

So first you need to put your feet together like this then you open them out as wide as you can then you do a crossover so you only see one knee.

And then .. you point it .. and your leg has to be straight. Whenever you are pointed.

Notice that your back foot is always turned out as much as you can. OK?

The front foot goes one then your back foot goes in front of it. Then your back foot goes closer to it. Then you do eight of those. So to show you what it looks like … when you get it. When you can do it to Irish music and when you are finished…
With that dance, then this is what it looks like.

So that’s how it looks like.

Oh and one thing. You need to always be on your tippie toes. As high as you can.
So you need to do eight of the themes that I just showed you. They are called “one two threes”. You need to do eight of them and one turn around.

one two and one behind
One two behind
One two behind
One two behind

You always switch feet.

Then always the one in front goes next.

One two. Behind.

So that is “the lead around”.

Check your listening

What did you hear?

Always look forward.
Never look back.

Always keep your shoulders down.
Never keep your shoulders down.

Always relax them.
Never relax them.

Always have them by your sides.
Always keep them in the air.

Try not to move them.
Try to move them.

Keep your legs straight at all times.
Keep your legs bent at all times.

Open them out as wide as you can
Close them as tight as you can.

A Reel

A reel is a type of Irish song or dance.

Have you been to Ireland?

Listen to a conversation with an Irish guy

Hitching around Australia

Here is another one:

A Cup of Tea

Giving Instructions

Note the different styles:

1. Keep them by your sides

2. You should keep them by your sides

The first one is imperative. The second one is advice.

1. Always look forward

2. You should always look forward

Do you like dancing?
Do you know any traditional dances?

Write about dance in the comments section below.

Share your thoughts...

Bullying is Bad


What did you hear?

early in 2013
late in 2013

the latest data
the most recent data

our own strategy

focus group

Bullyinf is nasty
nasty and cruel
it affects everybody
and it is not real cool

no talking behind other people’s backs


no picking on…

the size of their nose

yes to wearing hats in the sun

listening to what others say

we are committed to ensuring that …

Share your thoughts...

The Age of Miracles – An Original Love Song

Use song lyrics to learn English:

the age of miracles
the age of enlightenment

you can roam
you can wander

a unicorn – a mythical animal

a cottage – a building

gingerbread – a sweet pastry

my soul – my body

you were not born for …
you were not destined for …

a penniless troubadour
a wandering musician with no money

Comparing and Describing

eyes like crystals
hair like a waterfall
a body like a statue
a smile like music
laughter like a melody

Passive and Active

They say
It is said

Share your thoughts...

I want to Break Free

I want to break out.
I want to break free.
I want to get away.

Which one did you hear?

I want to break free from your lies.
I want to break free from these flies.

I really must move on.
I must be free.
I have got to break free.
I have to get out of here.

Are you free?

God knows.
God knows that I want to get out of here.
God knows that I want to break free.

Does God know everything?

Is freedom important to you?

What is freedom?


World English Course

There are lots of things you can learn in the World English Course. There is a place where you can talk about work and there is also a place where you can find a job and a place where you can find staff. There is a place where you can have fun and there is a place where you can talk about food or family. There is also a place where you can talk about money or love or philosophy. You can study anything you want anytime you want. You can do it once a week or every day or any time you like. Have fun! Work hard! Tell your friends and family members! Enjoy!

Share your thoughts...

Freedom to Fascism – Aaron Russo

a revolutionary act
an action which changes everything

Have you seen the revolution page?

Truth and Lies

a time of deceit
a time of lies

Is it important to tell the truth?

Future Tense

I will bring it to your attention.
I will give you some information about it.

Noun Phrases

the year 1913
their long term goal
the American government
the sixteenth ammendment
the American people
a tax on their labour
a recent court case


to perpetrate fraud
to carry out fraud

whoever issues the money, controls the government
whoever issued the money, controlled the government

Noun Phrases

a graduated income tax
the federal reserve act

Woodrow Wilson – US President

Present Perfect Tense

I have unwittingly ruined my country.

Passive Voice

We are no longer governed by the majority.

Link to conversation about tax.


I made a decision to go to Washington.
I decided to go to Washington.

Curiosity about the Reason

Which one did you hear?

I was very curious why.
I was very curious as to why.
I really wanted to know why.

Note that “always” is not used in present perfect continuous tense.

I (have) been paying my taxes.
I have been paying my taxes.
I have always paid my taxes.

Share your thoughts...