Here’s the situation… After spending two years as a top-15 fugitive on the US Marshal’s most wanted list, you are captured and sentenced to 304 months in federal prison. Instead of letting your lengthy sentence get the best of you, you hit the books and earn several degrees. You also transform from drug dealer to prolific writer, penning numerous hard-hitting true crime and prison related stories.
The Situation Room with Michelle Cuttino caught up with Seth Ferranti to discuss his background, and how he transformed from drug kingpin to best-selling author.
Michelle: Sorry to start off with the negative, but people need to know where you’ve been to understand the impact of where you are now. With that being said, Seth, you have a very checkered past and even served close to twenty-five years in prison. Please tell us a little about your background.
Seth: I sold drugs at fifteen East Coast colleges in five states and got busted and sentenced to 304 months in 1993. I just got out in February 2015 and I am enjoying life to the fullest. I was just a middle class suburban kid who got into the criminal lifestyle at a young age. I used to follow the Grateful Dead and was into the whole counter culture/outlaw thing. I was not a vicious thug or anything like that—I was more like a weed and LSD dealer. I never thought I would get caught, but the feds don’t play and they don’t discriminate. I was making decent money for a teenager, but I wasn’t a big drug dealer. However, to the feds every new case is public enemy number one. I don’t regret my past. It made me into who I am today. I can see the error of my ways though and in retrospect being in the drug scene was bad news. It took me getting a twenty-five year sentence to turn my life around and get my head on straight. As a youth I was on some real reckless type of stuff and I didn’t really care about anyone including myself.
Michelle: What factors made you turn your life around and pursue your dreams as an author and journalist?
Seth: I was sitting in prison doing the same thing I was doing on the street—smuggling drugs and using them. Around 2002, nine years into my bid, I finally got a clue and started doing something productive for my future. I enrolled in college courses and discovered writing. I had always dabbled and knew I was a kind of literary guy and was good with words, but going to college and taking all the classes really taught me how to write. Once I discovered I had a passion and talent for writing I decided to try and embark on a career as a writer from prison. It was hard and not a lot of things went my way for many years, but I kept fighting and kept striving and I made a career for myself from inside.
Michelle: Not many can overcome the stigma of a criminal record, but you have. What advice do you offer to individuals who are following in your footsteps?
Seth: You just have to find something you like to do and pursue it. Take baby steps and don’t expect overnight success. I am still not where I want to be. I am working hard and striving and for real I need about three of me to do all the things that I am trying to do. But I don’t make excuses I just put in the work. Sometimes things don’t go as fast as I want them to; but if I keep working a little at a time, I keep chipping away at the bigger picture. That is what it is about for me. Relentlessness, creativity and pursuing my goals and objectives.
Michelle: Your release, Gorilla Convict: The Prison Writings of Seth Ferranti, was semi-autobiographical. Care to tell us more about the content?
Seth: I read all the classic prison books when I first got locked up like Soledad Brother by George Jackson, Hot House by Pete Early and Inside the Belly of the Beast by Jack Henry Abbott. I wanted to write a book like those. I wanted to emulate what those authors did concerning their time in prison or what they wrote about. But I wanted to write about the time that I was doing in the feds in the mid 90s. My book is a vivid look into prison. It shows you what is what and who is who. It goes in depth and shows you what doing time is like. It’s raw, real and brutal. It is a vivid picture of that time period and what prison was like from my point of view.
Michelle: What made you start blogging about your time behind bars?
Seth: I was trying to be recognized. I thought my sentence and the sentence of others were very unfair. Myself and a lot of others were forced to do disproportionate sentences due to our nation’s misguided war on drugs. I was trying to reach out to the world and say look this is what it’s like in here. These are the people that are in here. This is the time that we are doing. This is what we are forced to endure.
Seth: I was locked up with a lot of these dudes, their co-defendants or their homeboys. I made the connection and I kept it real and dudes respected that. I didn’t offer them money or say they could get a movie deal or anything like that. I just said hey I want to tell your story. I want to give all sides. I want to let people know who you are and show the human element. A lot of these gangsters are f*#cked up that they got life, but they don’t glamorize the life and all that. They wanted their story told the right way and I was the man to do it.
Michelle: Of all the interviews and books written, who has been your favorite interviewee/subject and why?
Seth: Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff is one of the classiest and most real cats I have ever met. You might think he has a big head due to his notoriety but he is as humble as they come. Quiet and soft-spoken but when he talks people listen. Very good dude and a gentleman gangster for real.
Michelle: The majority of the books and articles you’ve penned have been from behind bars. How difficult was it for you to gain access to these individuals while locked up as well?
Seth: I would just write them through their baby mama, homeboy or codefendant or whoever. But a lot of dudes I was locked up with. It wasn’t difficult but a lot of dudes I wanted to write about didn’t want their story told, or they were still fighting their case and didn’t want any publicity so I respected that also.
Michelle: Did you face opposition from the prison administration when it came to releasing your stories, and the narratives of others?
Seth: The BOP [Bureau of Prisons] locked me up numerous times due to my writing. They don’t tell you you’re doing anything wrong because of the First Amendment and all that. They lock you up under investigation and make stuff up, but you are really in the hole because of your writing. I never gave in through. They tried to make me quit, but when they locked me up that just made me go harder.
Michelle: How did you become a contributor for the myriad publications you write for?
Seth: I just networked and sent out emails and letters. Dudes used to see me going to the mail box with like a hundred letters at a time and they would be like what they f*#k? They didn’t understand but I was networking. I was sending out pitches. I used to get all the magazines and find the editors names on the masthead and just write them and send them pitches. I was relentless and over the years I developed a big network of contacts that I am utilizing now and that I utilized while I was in too.
Michelle: You’ve also earned several degrees while incarcerated. What are the degrees, and why was it important for you to continue your education after your arrest?
Seth: I earned an AA degree from Penn State, a BA degree from the University of Iowa and a Masters degree from California State University, all through correspondence. I wrote my thesis on Outlaw Heroes and America’s obsession with them. I wanted something to do. I felt the need to prove that I didn’t belong in prison. So I went hard and earned the degrees while in the school of hard knocks.
Michelle: You were married to your longtime girlfriend, Diane, while incarcerated, and even penned a story about it for the New York Daily News. Why did you decide to publicize your nuptials?
Seth: I wanted to give my wife some publicity and show what a trooper she is. All the rap songs talk about a ride or die chick, but I got one for real. She deserves her accolades. She is my best friend and soulmate and helped me to do everything I did. Without her I have no writing career. She facilitated it all and worked just as hard as I did.
Michelle: What other projects can we expect from you in the future?
Seth: I am currently working on a comic book adaption of my Supreme Team book, it’s going to be like that. I am bringing hip-hop and true crime to comics and I expect it to be a big success. I am also working on a web series on my books. All the dudes I have written about will have segments in what will be called “Seth Ferranti’s Street Legends.” It will start airing in September 2015. I have been shooting the segments and going right on location. These will be short documentaries but I will be hosting them. That is my concept and style. I am now branding myself as a TV personality.
Michelle: When it’s all said and done, what do you want Seth Ferranti to be remembered for?
Seth: I want to be remembered as a great filmmaker. My heroes are Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Guy Ritchie, Wes Anderson, Stanley Kubrick. All writers and directors. I am a writer first and foremost but film is the biggest medium and that is where I am headed taking my stories to the big screen.
Michelle: How can our readers contact and/or follow you?
Seth: You can friend me on Facebook or like my fan page both at Seth Ferranti. You can follow me on twitter or Instagram at SethFerranti too. Also check out my new Alpo book and visit gorillaconvict.com
About The Author:
Seth Ferranti is a multi-media writer and journalist who pens amazing true crime and prison related stories for vice.com and thefix.com among others. He started his career in journalism while incarcerated and is now continuing it in the real world. In 1993, after spending two years as a top-15 fugitive on the US Marshal’s most wanted list, he was captured and sentenced to 304 months under the federal sentencing guidelines for an LSD Kingpin conviction and committed to the custody of the Attorney General.
A first-time, non-violent offender, Ferranti served 21 years of his 25-year mandatory minimum sentence. His case was widely covered by The Washington Post and Washington Times, and his story was profiled in the pages of Rolling Stone and Don Diva magazine. He is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri. During his incarceration Ferranti worked to better himself by making preparations for his eventual release back into society. Ferranti earned an AA degree from Penn State, a BA degree from the University of Iowa and an MA from California State University, Dominguez Hills through correspondence courses.
He is now ready for all that life offers. It appears there is no stopping him. Seth also writes for thedailybeast.com , substance.com, hoop365.com, Don Diva and F.E.D.S. magazines and The New York Daily News. You can order his books on urban gangsters and prison life on Amazon.com or at gorillaconvict.com.
He also has a blog on that site that has tons of content on life inside the belly of the beast, prison and street gangs, hip-hop and hustling, the mafia and crack era gangsters.
Check out Seth Ferranti’s Latest Interview:
On Monday, July 13, 2015, President Obama announced that 46 nonviolent federal prisoners would be released as part of a measure to counteract policy that handed out harsh sentences for drug offenders. But what about the thousands of other prisoners still waiting?