While I have been incarcerated I have had a couple of furloughs, which means I have had a leave of absence from prison. I left the facility where I was incarcerated and had an opportunity to have a little taste of the free world, but only to go back to my habitat and continue my sentence.
The first time was after I served 17 months at Milan, Michigan, and was classified as an out-custody inmate and was designated and transferred to a camp in Yankton, South Dakota, where I am now.
The way I got from Milan to my new residence of Yankton Federal Prison Camp in South Dakota may blow some of your minds, as it did mine, it was an unescorted trip by Greyhound bus.
I was simply released from Milan, wearing a sweatsuit and a blue jacket from the prison. They drove me to the Greyhound bus station in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I was dropped off and told I have 36 hours to complete your trip and arrive at Vermillion, South Dakota, where I’ll get picked up by a town driver from Yankton.
I couldn’t believe it when I was standing at the bus station in Ann Arbor. Here I was, only 17 months into a 120-month prison sentence, which meant with good time and halfway house, I still had around 6 years left to serve before I would be released to go home. A prisoner, someone that is supposedly a really bad person that has to be locked away from the world for 10 years and they were trusting that I wouldn’t just run once I was given the chance?!
Of course, running was never on my mind other than just thinking about how many people in my same shoes had made that exact choice instead of willingly going to the next prison to serve more time.
I had a couple of layovers before I ended up at the bus station in Chicago. I had a two-hour layover there and then I would continue through Iowa, up through Minnesota, and finally over to South Dakota, but when it came time to load up on the next bus, I missed it somehow, and was forced to call the prison and explain my situation.
They had very little concern and simply told me to purchase another ticket for the next bus headed out of town, and so I did, but the bus didn’t leave till 10 pm and it was only noon, so I had 10 hours to burn before my bus left.
This is where I could have had the opportunity to have someone come pick up, go eat the most amazing steak dinner and get a bunch of food for the trip, get a massage, get some extra spending money, and maybe even a phone to play with on the bus; however that would be a violation of my furlough rules, so I didn’t do that, but I have heard plenty of stories of people who did.
I have heard a lot of crazy furlough stories, getting on planes to give you some extra time wherever you are going, having someone come pick you up instead of taking the bus, having your girl come to meet you at the bus station so you can have sex. I have heard and even seen the horror stories, where the inmate starts drinking and gets caught, or the bus doesn’t show up and they have to call the prison back and they had already started drinking so they have to go back to the prison, where they get a breathalyzer and thrown into the SHU. I have even heard of inmates who caught another charge by committing a whole new crime. Obviously there is plenty of room for bad judgment if one decides to risk more of their freedom, and most of us didn’t get here by using good judgment so the sky is the limit.
After I left Chicago on my new bus at 10 pm, a snowstorm started to brew, and when I looked at my ticket, I saw a bunch of really quick layovers, and I knew I was probably in trouble, and I was right. I didn’t even make it to my first layover on time because of bad road conditions and the next bus was gone before I even got there. So, I was forced to get another ticket that would re-route me through Omaha, Nebraska, and I had to call the prison again to inform them of another change.
I finally got to Omaha and had a five-hour layover there. By this time, I was ready to go back to prison, and that is exactly what I was thinking as I was laying on the floor at the bus station, with my head on my gym bag using it as a makeshift pillow, wishing I was laying in my prison bunk.
The trip wasn’t over yet, there was one last issue, the bus wouldn’t stop in Vermillion, I had to go all the way to Sioux Falls, which was an hour past Vermillion, and then they would stop at Vermillion on the way back. I was on the phone at the bus station in Omaha talking to the prison and sounding like a broken record, so I just said here you can talk to the bus station attendant so you know I am not lying to you, and she was happy to let them know the issue at hand.
Finally, the bus driver said he would make a special stop and meet the town driver and I was thankful. They dropped me off at McDonald’s, I grabbed one last free world meal in order to burn through the last of my money, grabbing a couple of McChickens and a McFlurry, and headed back to prison.
That trip was back in February of 2015, the last time I was out of prison, until just the other day when I went to get my South Dakota driver’s license, a service the prison provides to inmates that are close to release.
First, I had to make sure I was eligible…meaning that my license was just expired and I didn’t have any outstanding child support or fines and tickets, then I had to send a BP-199 for the $28 fee I would be charged at the DMV, and finally once everything checked out I signed my paperwork to be taken to the DMV on an escorted trip by an employee here.
I am not going to lie I was nervous, not only of possibly failing the test, but of being out and about and seeing what I have been missing for the past six years, and knowing I still won’t be released to for another 10 months.
It was another surreal feeling driving out. Almost like I was free, as I imagined I was being taken home instead of only to the DMV. I was really happy for a minute until I was forced to come back to reality.
I am a patient person now and I didn’t let it bother me, but I enjoyed my 90 minutes of temporary freedom, got to see a little bit of the town I have been living in for the past five years and have no idea what it looks like, and was surprised it didn’t feel weird at all being in a vehicle after so many years without.
I feel like I could have gotten behind the wheel and drove like I had just done it the other day. I can’t tell you how excited I am to get out and how happy I am to have my license back (even if I can’t drive yet), but it’s one less thing I don’t need to stress about between now and my release.
There are other times of furloughs that the prison offers but none at this time, as they all depend on the current administration. I requested one when my Grandfather died, but unfortunately got denied.
The first two wardens when I arrived at Yankton allowed social furloughs, and I had seen inmates leave for any time between 12 hours and 36 hours. During these furlough the inmates just went to hotels in the area, went to eat, went swimming, shopping, golfing, whatever you want to do for the time you are allotted. However, you must stay within a certain amount of miles from the facility.
I have also seen inmates get furloughs for a death in their immediate families, so only if it’s a parent, sibling, child, or a primary caregiver for a significant time in your life, like grandparents or an aunt and uncle.
Furloughs are a great way for inmates to reintegrate back into society and it also gives them something to work towards and it’s also a reason for inmates to stay out of trouble, because once they receive an incident report, many of these privileges are taken away.
Thanks for listening!