Hey guys! It’s Noah (Morgan’s brother) here. We’ve been writing for a while now about our letter correspondences, and one of the most frequent private messages we get has been how to prepare for prison. Whether it’s them going in or knowing of someone and not sure how to support them. This isn’t a simple thing to answer, so this is going to be a long letter.
Today I am going to write about how someone can prepare for prison, which is mentally and financially. And then maybe how someone can prepare and support their loved one too.
I will also discuss once you are actually in prison what your options are, or what you can expect in your day-to-day- life.
This will give those who know someone currently incarcerated an inside perspective and maybe explain different levels of support they can offer as well.
Accept your actions
First, as far as preparing for prison mentally, this is easier to do if you are guilty.
I knew I was guilty because I had been transporting drugs from Minneapolis to North Dakota for the two to three years before my indictment. Was I pissed and thought it was a bunch of crap that I was looking at twenty years on my first offense when I didn’t even get caught with drugs or setup on a controlled buy? Absolutely. But, I wasn’t about to go to court, have thirty people get on the stand and say it was me, and then get thirty years. End of the day, I was guilty.
I knew I was going to jail or prison by March of 2012, even though my indictment didn’t happen until September of 2013. So in that period, I had fully accepted it and was fighting only to get the ten years I eventually got.
For those that are innocent or think they’re on the innocent path…tread lightly, because the Feds don’t lose often.
What I’m trying to say is if you had anything to do with the charges against you, then own it. All I can recommend is to get the best deal you can and get your time over with and remember five years isn’t a long time.
I have a friend that didn’t think he could do five years, the next deal was fourteen, and he had to take it. That was over eight years ago and had he pled guilty, he would have been home after doing three.
If you are lucky enough to get pre-trial time, use it wisely, get your affairs in order and enjoy it while you can.
When I was on my pre-trial time, I got into a workout regimen and started reading a lot of books because I knew I would spend a lot of time over the next ten years doing these things.
I also worked quite a bit and stayed on top of my bills, but I didn’t know how much prison would cost either and I didn’t save any money.
Save your money
This brings me to my next point, save your money.
For an inmate to be comfortable, financially, one might expect to have $500-$1000 for the first two months and then $50-$100 per month after. The first two months with that savings will cover your essentials, clothing, and living accessories. After that, the month to month is hygiene, food, phone, and emails.
Now, everything in prison is technically provided for you (like if you went to a dollar store), a bed, a locker, three meals a day, a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, khaki uniform, boxers, socks, boots, white t-shirts.
If someone comes in broke, with no family or friend support from the outside, they will not starve. But, they will be hungry at times, and slightly uncomfortable. So what you can give to make your friend/family more comfortable would be a pair of sweats, shorts, tennis shoes, a watch, baseball or stalking cap, radio, Mp3 player, headphones, box-briefs (Pro 5), and under armor socks.
Socks and boxers are the things I appreciate the most because the institution boxers are 25% polyester and just fall down your legs after one wash.
All these things I listed cost anywhere from $10-$100 and can be purchased at the commissary. You can not mail them to inmates.
Other things to make an inmates life more comfortable are higher quality soaps, shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent (washing machines are free most places), a nice toothbrush, toothpaste, hair products, and various medicines.
Other things that many don’t realize that costs money are phone calls which are $0.06 local, $0.21 long distance and email (through a government monitored email system) is $0.05 per minute. Music is also $0.75-$1.55 per song. Medical and dental is $2.00 co-pay. There is also food and snacks available on commissary when a meal at the chow hall doesn’t do it.
You might be thinking where does an inmate get this money?
The two ways an inmate receives money are through payroll from their institution job, which I will discuss in a little bit, or from someone putting money on your books.
The easiest way for family or friends to send money is through Western Union, which is a monitored program that you can do online or by phone. An inmate can also only spend $360 per month at the commissary and 300 phone minutes.
Prepare for the food
Yankton FPC is known nationally for their chow hall, but not all institutions take as much pride in their cuisine (where I work btw, haha!).
My first spot was Milan, MI and it was terrible!
I’ll never forget when an inmate took me in the back and showed me the cooler. The beef packaging was stamped, “not fit for human consumption.”
It was really, and I mean really, recalled beef. I guess it’s pretty common practice for these companies to resell their tainted meats to the FBOP (Federal Bureau of Prisons), so sometimes cooking some fried rice in the unit from the commissary is the safer option.
Begin your routine early
Another way to prepare for prison is to think about how you are going to do your time. The best way to do county time is probably sleeping it away due to the lack of options. Some try to continue this in prisons, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
The other day I came to my room, and my bunky was laying in bed, eyes wide open, staring at the bottom of my bunk. And I asked him, “are you just laying there waiting to get out?”
He has four years left.
Other options of doing time are working out, reading, self-study, different programs the institution offers (Yankton offers three associates degrees).
There are intramural sports courts year round: handball, pickleball, and boche ball available to inmates at most institutions.
Another way of spending your time is corresponding with the outside world, as I am doing now. So know as you read this, you are assisting me, as an inmate, in doing my time, and I sincerely thank you.
Other people that inmates choose to correspond with are friends, family, love interests, or groups such as you guys. An inmate can sign up for various websites, such as www.writeaninmate.com, and they will get mail from people all over the world. I guess falling in love with an inmate is a thing now, as shown on the CW show, “Love After Lockup.” I will say some inmates choose to take advantage of these situations, which to be honest I contemplated at one point in time, but am glad I chose not to because I just feel terrible when I see people doing what they’re doing now.
This isn’t just about you
As far as relationships go, I’m not going to sugar coat it, a very large percentage don’t make it. I have seven friends in here lose girlfriends in a matter of a day, wives leave in a matter of months, and immediate family fall off after a year.
But I have also seen the other side, like girlfriends that last 5-10 years and wives that last 20+. Before you judge the ones that don’t make it, you must ask yourself what you would do if you were in their shoes?
Prison is a very lonely place when you see and feel like nobody cares that you are gone.
I have been very fortunate in this department; I have a lot of family and friends that still answer the phone, visit me regularly, send me letters and pictures to keep me feeling the love.
Support is what it’s all about
One of my buddy’s mom, Diane, writes to me every couple months. When I first got to Milan my cousin Kim, who was basically a stranger, came to visit every month for the 18 months I was there. And then my aunt, Susan, who writes me regularly and gives me deep content to think about. Words cannot describe the impact these few have made on the rest of my life.
I also have had the same eight friends come multiple times to visit me over the years. And also aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, siblings, and my mom and Melrose.
I’ll dive in later on these stories within other posts and why these have made an impact. But support is big once you get in.
Different levels of support
One thing inmates have to realize is there are different levels of support that people are willing to provide and you must appreciate them all and not be offended when people come and go.
You have the people that chose to do the time with the inmate; this is generally a spouse, sibling, parent, or really a good friend. For me, that’s been my mom and my siblings, but my mom has been there every inch of the way. She has always answered the phone, responded to every email, sends me $25 every month, visits 3-5 times a year, raises my daughter, sends pictures, and is my life-line when reaching out to my people.
My perception is this choice my mom has made has put a lot of emotional strain on her like she is physically doing the time with me.
You have to be strong
For this reason, I have had to be stronger.
I have tried to never complain to my mom or anyone for that matter. I had to convince her I was good, safe, and happy over the first few years. After a couple of years, I told her we need to be stronger for Melrose, and I suggested that we try not to cry when leaving visitation. I also had to ask my sister to do the same as she was always a wreck leaving a visit.
As inmates, we must understand our choices, and our situation affects a lot more people emotionally than we ever realize. Our kids sense it too, and we need to make sure we do everything in our power not to make them not worry.
- Tell them how much you love them.
- Missing someone can be painful and can lead to questions you don’t want, like when do you come home?
- I’ve heard you don’t want to give small children timelines, as a couple of years can seem like forever to them.
- Don’t lie.
My mom and I have chosen not to lie to Melrose about where I am, what I did, or when I am coming home. We encourage questions, but keep answers short and age appropriate.
After talking to many inmates on this subject, I have found that some kids that were lied to about where their parent was became resentful once the truth was realized.
The last thing I will discuss is your job options. While in prison, I have worked in the past in food service twice, paint shop, unit orderly, recreation, and compound.
There are different perks to just about every job on the compound and you can align these perks with your goals. If money isn’t a problem and you don’t want to work, you can get an orderly job and pay someone else to do it. If your goal is to get big and strong or you just like to eat, then get a job in the kitchen. If you enjoy reading, peace and quiet, or you want time for school or self-study, then the library is for you. If you want to workout and play sports, then go to recreation. If you have a skill or a trade, then go to facilities.
However, none of these jobs pay a lot. Most of them start at $15.00-$20.00 per month, and over the course of months or years you can work up to $35.00 per month, then $60.00, and finally $90.00 as a grade 1. I have been working in food service for four years, and the most I have made is $69.00, and I currently make $44.00 and have for the last year since the budget issues began. The highest paying jobs on the compound are commissary and UNICOR.
So if you have an FRP (financial responsibility payment), which is fines or past due child support, then this is where you want to go. Commissary pays between $100-200, and UNICOR starts around the same but then you have months where they work a ton of overtime and earn up to $600-800 per month. This might not seem like a lot, but to an inmate that only makes $500- $600 per year, it is.
Well, that’s all for now, I hope everyone learned or took something from this.
I truly want to thank everyone who has supported me over the past five years plus. From family to friends to now you guys as readers.
From the inside,