Hello, I’m Noah Bergland. Morgan tells me we have some new faces on the blog so wanted to introduce myself. I am Morgan’s little brother, Noah. I have been in prison now six years and six years ago the day after Morgan and Jamie here got married, I self surrendered to a federal prison in Milan, Michigan for running a drug conspiracy and got sentenced to 120 month (10 years) in prison.
Preparing for prison is obviously not an easy task, because for most it seems like your world is ending.
Whether that means you’re are in the free world during pre-trial or sitting in county jail awaiting sentencing, the uncertainty can become unbearable at times.
Accept Where your Life is Headed
If you are sitting in county, you most likely will start eating away your feelings, and/or spending hours calling your loved ones on the phone. This is going to accomplish two things: you are going to get fat, and you are going to bring your loved ones into your world of stress and agony.
If you are on the street you might turn to drugs and alcohol if these have already been a reoccurring theme in your life up to this point. I know, because I did. And it seemed like the closer I got to that date the more I would drink and the more frequent I would slip off to use.
There was one time close to my date when my mom confronted me on a Sunday afternoon. I was watching football and had been drinking plenty, and when she asked me a question I didn’t want to respond because I knew I would slur.
Well, it got to a point where I had to respond and she asked if I had been drinking and I just came unglued. I started crying and telling her I was a sex addict and all sorts of crazy shit.
All these emotions just rushed to the surface because I hadn’t been managing or dealing with them in a healthy way. I had just been covering them up or masking them with my use.
What I would tell someone going through the same thing, preparing for prison, is that you have to first accept that you are where you are. And it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. But good news is, you are alive and your life isn’t over.
I want to repeat that… YOU ARE ALIVE AND YOUR LIFE ISN’T OVER.
The path ahead can be the worst trip of your life or you can make the best of it and maybe get something valuable out of it. It’s up to you, how you want to spend these next maybe six months or like me, over six years.
In my six years in here thus far, I have seen hundreds if not thousands of people take both paths.
Save your Money, Every Penny
Next, I would suggest you start to save money now. If you are out and working start putting some aside. If you are in county start to minimize your spending and save what you have because you are going to need it. Trust me. Being in prison isn’t free, like you think it might be.
In the Federal prison you’re spending limit is $360 dollars per month, plus phones calls and emails, so realistically you can only spend up to $500 a month. But if you budget your spending you can live pretty comfortable off $100 a month, plus whatever you make at your prison job can usually cover phone and email. So plan to save anywhere from $1,200 – $6,000/year depending on how much time you get.
Talk to those Incarcerated
Another thing you can do is talk to people who have gone through the experience of being incarcerated. Because in this day and age there are people from all different walks of life that have went to prison or know someone who has.
While preparing, my brother reached out to me and apparently a friend of a friend had reached out and said if I wanted to talk or had any questions I could reach out. Well, I didn’t. Because I thought I was fine.
But man, I wish I would have.
Because then maybe I wouldn’t have wasted my early prison years.
You can research two things, your crime and the guideline system, and different facilities that you may possibly go to.
A book I recommend is “Busted by the Feds” this will teach you the point system where you are suppose to be and how much time you will receive for your charges.
Custody points are built by your age, your past record, and the severity of your current crimes, the more violent the higher the points. If you cooperated your charge will not correlate with your time, so understand that ahead of time and adjust your story appropriately.
For example if you are on a conspiracy, know they carry mandatory minimums of five and ten years so if you received less then that and you are telling people, they will know.
Another thing I’d recommend is, don’t lie about how much time you got and when you are leaving because eventually that time will come and you will leave ahead of schedule and it will be embarrassing. I have seen this many times as well.
If you are on pre-trial and cooperating try and stay out to finish, because once you are in and someone goes to court, the marshals will come get you and this will also be very embarrassing for the remainder of your time at the institution.
As for facilities you can research, there are five different facilities: detention centers, penitentiaries, mediums, lows, and camps.
Five Different Types of Prison Facilities
Detention Centers are where people are held while they are fighting their cases and if you are here you won’t have access to information research these other facilities unless someone sends you the information.
The Penitentiary is a maximum security prison where they send high level inmates with high custody points. Typically, the inmates here are dangerous or have been dangerous at some point in their lives, straight killers and lifers usually. A lifer is someone who is never going to get out of prison. The only way you are going to start here is if you are 20-25 years old and have a lengthy record already and commit an armed robbery or something comparable.
The next is the Medium. The medium is comparable to the penitentiary, but it is a little more easy going. This is because the crime committed to get sent here are usually less severe or the guys here have worked their ways down from the pen through good behavior, so in return they will be a little more well behaved.
However, there will still be plenty of action here and at times the same situations will occur, violent acts. Both these higher levels will generally check paper work when an inmate shows up, and this will happen when they find out where you are from and what race you are, and then those people will approach you and tell you what you need to do to stay on the compound, typically they will give you two to three weeks.
The Low is the typical starting point for most people going to prison and this is where I started. It’s not as dangerous as the first two, but I still saw plenty of fights and acts of discipline for not paying your bills. Some lows check paperwork but most don’t, and the ones that do it’s generally just if you want to run with certain groups or gangs. Chances are you can just tell them you are good and they will leave you alone.
Nothing is going to happen to you at a low regardless of what your paperwork says because there are sex offenders walking the yard, so they aren’t going to check in someone that told on their case. Your behavior such as I just stated is the only thing that will get you in trouble at a low.
The low still has double fences with raiser wire, guard towers, and parameter vehicles, as Milan (where I was first at) did.
Finally, the Camp, if you start here you will be easy sailing all the way home. The camps house the best behaved and nobody is trying to get sent to a higher facility. This is as close to the streets as you are getting, if you can stay away from contraband and don’t get into a fight you will stay here until your release.
So as you are preparing it’s important to get your affairs in order, you may have mortgages, bills, businesses, relationships, and these are all things that are very hard if not impossible to manages from prison.
It’s best if you can have one person who is responsible that can handle your affairs while you are gone because particularly with businesses it’s prohibited in most cases to run them from inside. You can check up on them and that is about it.
As far as romantic relationships I wouldn’t recommend starting any new ones prior to coming into prison because it’s going to take everything you got to manage or hang onto the loved ones you already have. As prison puts a lot of stress on everyone that loves you.
What I recommend you focus on in prison is yourself.
Because you will be stuck in here by yourself for seconds that feel like hours and days that feel like years.
You will have ample time to soul search and decide what YOU are going to do with YOUR life upon release.
Figure out what your goals are going to be and write them down and make a plan for how you are going to reach them. If it’s just a year in prison it might just be a fat camp for yourself, but the more time you got you might want to set the bar a little higher.
Most prisons have access to college classes like we do here at Yankton and through mail correspondence class, Yankton offers an associates, and then you can build on that by ordering classes through Adams State and achieve your bachelors or masters.
One thing I did was get my personal trainer certification through the ISSA. There are many other programs available through the various prison around the country ranging from religious practices, to CDL’s, Sports and Nutrition, and the list goes on an on.
Think about Nelson Mandela…
Do you think he just waited in prison and let his life waste away while he was incarcerated?
The answer is no. He prepared for the future, and I understand that most of us aren’t getting out to run a country, but that doesn’t mean we have to waste our time spent in prison.
And hey, maybe you just might.
Thanks for listening,