As detailed in my book, Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp, prison is very difficult for the individual who’s going to prison. Yet, what’s not often talked about is how an inmate’s loved ones suffer because of it. Prison is meant to punish those that break the law, but it actually ends up punishing those connected to the inmate.
In my experience, my family wished there was something they could have done to prevent my incarceration. I told them that I don’t know why it happened to me, but there was nothing they could’ve done to prevent it, it’s just the system. My mom felt as if she had to do something to make my prison camp stay easier and my return a successful one. I was trying to avoid getting her in my mess until I learned that by helping me, it was also helping and healing her. Other family members also wished they could do more to make my return from prison easier.
In 2009, during the housing crisis, I purchased five homes with faulty subprime loans and was indicted for bank fraud. I was eventually released on my own recognizance (O.R). In 2011, I was sentenced to seventeen months in Herlong’s Federal Prison Camp. Federal prison camps are the second lowest prison security level in which inmates can serve their sentences. These prisons, sometimes called Camp Fed, are usually non-violent institutions full of non-violent inmates such as white collar criminals, who have transferred from higher institutions. I attended a satellite prison camp which is adjacent to the main facility. It also assists the main facility in operating efficiently. In my case, Herlong Prison Camp helped and served the Federal Correctional Institution, Herlong, which was a medium security prison.
While on O.R., I was awaiting my trial and sentencing and was extremely stressed and full of anxiety. I worried about exaggerated possibilities of financial ruin and despair. My family told me about how they knew people who got great jobs working as truck drivers and laborers after prison and that their transitions seemed pretty seamless. They stayed with family or girlfriends, got the best job they could find, and supported the girlfriend or moved into their own place. I heard stories that their transition took less than a few months. Of course, they had the necessary licenses and certificates they needed. If they didn’t have them, they simply went to school while in prison or when they returned home. I didn’t want those types of jobs because I worked in the restaurant industry too long and felt it was already emotionally and physically draining. I also felt that it was no way to support a future family, should I have one. I think my family was concerned I was being stubborn. Maybe I was, but I saw prison as a way to reset my life, so I didn’t want to be stuck at a job I was going to hate.
During the two years that I was on pretrial release, my parents helped me save money for my prison and post-prison life. I needed a way to support myself. They also gave me emotional support and encouragement. Daily my parents reminded me to hang in there and to focus on what I wanted to do in my life. However, when I was younger, I often remember they would tell me things like, “You’ve been through worse,” meaning I have previously dealt with more difficult challenges and if I can remember how I overcame those challenges, then I can overcome this one too. I also remembered my parents telling me when I was younger to avoid getting angry or depressed because the anger would blind me and prevent me from focusing on improving my situation. These things really helped me minimize my depression and helped me stay focused. They also assured me that I would have a place to come home to once I returned from prison and they kept my car while I was away. That help and this assurance not only helped me relax, but it was helped my parents because it was a clear and concrete solution to a problem.
Once I was in prison camp, my parents became active partners in my post-prison strategy. Now, they were not an emotional quarterback sitting on the sidelines, they were in the game and controlling the outcome. They sent me books to help me learn a trade so that I could find a better job. They also sent me magazines and newspapers so that I could stay current on events at home. Not only did that help me stay up to date with everything going on in my city of Sacramento, but it gave me business ideas that I was able to work on while in prison. When I told my family how I was putting ideas together because of those magazines and journals, their minds were at ease.
My mother helped me type my novel that I had handwritten in prison camp. The pages she typed helped reduce the amount of time I spent typing the final draft. In fact, when I got home, I worked on the novel until my hard drive crashed. I lost the entire novel except for what she had saved on her computer. I am so thankful to her, not only for this but for all her support along the way. She even helped me with my driver’s license. She mailed me a form that wiped out my entire financial penalty because I was in prison. I didn’t know that was possible. However, she was the one who did the research online to find it. Also, she was online researching several ideas for me and downloading articles that supported or were in conflict with my ideas.
One of my ideas was to create a blog about random topics and articles I wrote while in prison. That idea is now my blog at www.pyersedandridge.com where I talk about my past and my post prison journey. Another idea I was working on were fundraisers to help an organization, which I cannot name, that I have been a part of for several years. I also worked out an idea to sell books online, which I’m doing now. When my mom visited me, I explained in detail how she was helping me and how she was giving me so much optimism. I didn’t like discussing my prison life while she was visiting, but I could see that once she saw me in good health and saw my positive spirit, she was more comfortable. She would have visited more, but she felt she didn’t need to keep seeing me because she hated the drive to Herlong.
Visits are so good to have, but they are very draining and take the better part of the day (usually like 8:00 am – 2:30 pm). Then after about three hours, we would run out of things to discuss. The two times my mom visited me, she saw how busy I was and that made her and the family more comfortable. The visiting room was a large room connected to a security window and sealed a metal door. The room was painted white and had vending machines, civilian and inmate restrooms, a play area for the children, and chairs for the visitors. At the camp level, inmates can get one hug and one kiss from each visitor. I’ve seen inmates have newborns and toddlers sitting on their laps.
If I had to give anyone advice, I would suggest being an active part of your loved one’s post-prison strategy. That is what helped me the most. I also noticed it helped minimize my parent’s stress while increasing assurance that I would return home safe and have a productive post prison life. Because of all they have done, I’ve dedicated my book, Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp to them. The help that they continue to give me aids in my surety that I will never spend time in prison again.
This was re-posted on www.prisonthehiddensentence.com