Last week our team took a road trip to Yankton, SD Federal Prison, to visit my little brother Noah, who is incarcerated for 120 months. And it was so, so, SO good.
Noah called my mom after we left and told her that it was better than he could have ever imagined. Followed by an email to me saying that he is even more motivated and optimistic about the future and is counting down the days until his release.
We brought our team to visit Noah for the first time since he’s already part of our team. He asked us to do an in person “team meeting” a few months back. He wanted to learn more about our work, processes, spend some quality time getting to know Jordan and Topher. He wanted to know how they think he’ll play a bigger part within construction2style upon release, asked each of us about our own ends goals, as well as him sharing his own long term goals and what he wants to bring to the company.
What really blew me away is what he had to share about his own goals and where he wants to go. He shared new initiatives I hadn’t ever heard him talk about, and I was a little bummed I hadn’t thought of them myself, to be honest. I knew he was going to make a difference especially with his writing, but where he wants to take his life and what changes he wants to make within this world literally blew me away! And we can’t wait to share them with you all too…soon. We’re already getting to work here behind the scenes, making sure we can jump right in once he’s out, which will be here before we know it!
If you’re new to the blog, Noah writes on the blog three days a week, but has content loaded up for months so he basically is a full time writer for c2s. He sends me letters through the mail, and I then type them up for the blog and publish them every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s been incredibly powerful to see the ways he’s been working in even complete strangers lives and helping to either awaken or transform them. And if you’ve read Noah’s posts, you know that he’s an open book and hides nothing.
Before our visitation, I did a Q & A on Instagram, asking our readers if they had any questions. Whether that was about dealing with loved ones going into prison, addiction, someone getting out and not sure what to do, or maybe have no affiliation with prison, drugs, addiction, etc. but were just simply curious about this life or Noah’s life.
Visiting the FPC Yankton might not be the same as visiting another prison, which we’ve experienced as Noah was first sentenced to Milan, MI, which was a whole different experience! After a couple years there he got a transfer a bit closer to home, here in Yankton. Noah said they call Yankton Prison “Hotel California.” Once people are here, no one ever leaves. So I have a feeling this is one of the nicer prisons throughout the U.S, but still isn’t a good place that you want to be.
So here are some of the questions you all asked and that we got answers to during our visit last week. As we can’t take a pen and paper into the prison, I had to remember most of these and what I couldn’t had to email him later. So some I am answering, and some Noah is answering.
Q. How do you feel as a family going into prison?
A: What’s funny is the first few visits I took to see Noah in prison, I was shaking and crying, and left depressed. I was sick to my stomach weeks before going in and was in a funk days after leaving. But what’s so cool to think about now is that years later, I’m leaving feeling energized, inspired, and so hopeful for the future! This is also because he’s changed as a person, but I guess so have I. In Milan, MI the guards were not pleasant and also not helpful. Here in Yankton, while they’re not cracking smiles, they’re at least not making you also feel like another fellow inmate and are more kind and helpful.
Q: What’s Noah’s schedule, routine, day to day life?
A: I get up at 6:00 a.m. to make coffee and then go and check my federal monitored email (also which he pays for by the minute and no, they don’t have internet access to anything else). Then, I write until it’s time for breakfast and to start my workday, which is around 7:00 a.m. For breakfast, I always eat an omelette and then get to work in the kitchen. Around 1 p.m., I’m off work and either go to work out or take a nap. At night, I either (depending on the season) take classes, read, or head to the TV room and watch sports. I am always in bed by 10:00pm, which is right after count. (Count means every prisoner has to stand up and they count you off to make sure no-one is missing. This happens multiple times throughout the day.)
Q: What drugs was he selling/how long was he using?
A: To be honest, I wasn’t even fully sure myself until this past week when I got asked this question from Morgan.
I sold weed, ecstasy, cocaine, adderall, different pain killers, heroin, acid, mushrooms, and synthetic powders (2CI/2CE/2CB). I started selling after I graduated from college at the age of 25, however, I started using long before then. Now to think that my daughter is nearing this first age…terrifies and disgusts me. Thought back and here are the years I started using and what.
Age 10 – I first used tobacco
Age 12 – I first had a taste of alcohol
Age 13 – I first tried weed
Age 19 – I first tried acid, mushrooms, cocaine, ecstasy, synthetic powders
Age 23 – I first tried crack, adderall, and DMT
Age 24 – I first tried pain killers for
Age 25 – I first tried meth, heroin, fetynall
Q: When does Noah get out?
A: It’s publicly listed as May 2020, but he gets released from the prison camp in Yankton to a halfway house six months before that. That means he’ll be getting out of the prison camp in September 2020 and moving to a halfway house here in Minneapolis, close to his family.
Q: What is the difference between Jail and Prison?
A: Jail is the term that is generally associated with county jail, which is where you go for state issues and where a lot of federal inmates start before the federal government picks up their case. At that time they would be transported to a federal holding center, known as a Federal Detention Center (FDC) or MCC…which I don’t know what it stands for but these are located in locations such as Chicago and Leavenworth, KS, and are also holding facilities for the federal government.
Jail generally consists of cells with 2-16 occupants and sometimes a day room, with chairs, tables, and TVs. The recreational area in jail is usually a 30×30 foot cage with a few recreational options, likes basketball or handball, some places may have a larger recreation yard, but not likely.
The main differences between prison and jail, are the size of the institutions, the freedoms they have, the classes and education they offer, the size of the commissary, and commodities all together. All of which are lacking more in jail than in prison. Anyone who has done an extended period of time in jail can put up with a much larger sentence in prison.
Q: What types of education programs can you receive and have you done?
A: Different facilities offer different educational programs, but Yankton has one of the top education departments in the system. They offer three different associate degrees through Mount Marty College, a Catholic school here in town. They also offer correspondence classes through Adams State and many other colleges around the country if you would like to obtain your Bachelor or Masters. They also mandate any inmate without a GED to obtain it, and they offer tutors to work with these inmates and they are also bilingual if the inmate is Spanish speaking. And here in Yankton, they also offer a whole list of other classes, that have to do with addiction, money management, blue print reading, estimating, art classes that teach inmates to draw and paint, leather working, beading, and crocheting, the list goes on and on…
And yes, I have taken advantage of many of these listed above over the years. Many of them are not only a great way to spend your time but also ways to give back to those who may have assisted you over the years.
Q: How does money work in prison?
A: All money must be put on an inmates account through western union, money gram, or the lockbox in Des Moines, Iowa. The money is then distributed in the inmates account and they can then purchase stuff at the commissary using their finger print, or they can use the money for phone time, or trulincs to email and purchase music. This money also has to be put onto an inmates account from someone not in prison. We do not have access to real money here in prison. I work full time in the kitchen and make about $50 a month, which is also put directly onto my account.
Q: Do you have to work in prison?
A: Yes, it’s mandatory. But there are inmates who pay other inmates to work their jobs for them. Most inmates who work full time while in prison make anywhere from $10-80 a month depending on their role. So if they can take over another inmates job, they can make more.
Q: Where will be Noah’s first stop for food once he gets out?
Q: Favorite thing to do in prison?
A: Noah looooves the fall, because he loves football. So once fall hits, he says days fly by, for as much as it can. The TV room is also a very interesting topic, I asked Noah to write more about this…soon to come!
Q: Has Noah ever been scared in prison?
A: Yes, a few times. One of which was in the TV room. He was new to prison, went into the room, asked someone if he could sit in a chair, they said yes. And then someone else didn’t like that much. Tapped him on the shoulder, asked him to step outside and made it clear he can never sit in anyone’s chair again. Noah said he was shaking in his boots and had never been more scared.
Sadly, prison is very segregated and that is how the TV room clearly runs. He’ll be sharing more on this topic soon.
Q: How do you stay motivated in prison?
A: Routine is a key! Noah has his set routine everyday and doesn’t alter far from it. He also doesn’t count days, months, or years. (He’s also going to write about that topic soon, pros and cons to counting time). He also tries to take as many classes as he can so between working in the kitchen during the day and then going to classes at night, it keeps him optimistic and motivated. He told stories of how some people sleep all day, stay up all night, watch TV nonstop, but he can’t live that way if he wants to survive each day while staying motivated.
Q: What things do you miss the most from life outside?
A: Experiences is what Noah went into the most when asked this question. His daughter, family, golf, snowboarding and hearing live music were his top five things he can’t wait to experience again once he’s out.