Prison is very difficult for the individual who’s going to prison. Yet, what’s not often talked about is how the loved-ones feels about it. 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 and I don’t know why it happened to me. 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 her; it was healing her. Other family members also wished they could do more to make my return from prison easier.
In 2009, I was indicted for bank fraud because of five homes I purchased with faulty subprime loans during the housing crisis and was eventually released on my own recognizance (O.R). In 2011, I was sentenced to seventeen months in Federal Prison Camp, Herlong. Federal prison camps are the second-lowest prison security level inmates can serve their sentence. These prisons, sometimes called Camp Fed, are usually non-violent institutions full of non-violent inmates who have transferred from higher intuitions or low risk white collared criminals. The type of prison camp I went to was called a satellite camp, a camp that’s adjacent the main facility that helps it operate. In my case, Herlong Prison Camp helped and served the Federal Corrections Institution, Herlong, which was a medium security prison.
While on O.R., I was very stressed-out because of the anxiety of waiting for my trial and sentencing. I was also stressing over the 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. 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 when to school while in prison or when they returned. I didn’t want those jobs because I worked in the restaurant industry too long and felt it was 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 hated.
During the two years, I was on pre-trial release awaiting trial, my parents helped me save money for my post-prison life and to support me through my sentence. 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, I often remembered saying they would tell me when I was younger like, “You’ve been through worse,” as to say that I deal with a more difficult challenge and if I can remember how I overcame that challenge, I can overcome this one. I also remembered my parents telling me when I was younger to avoid getting angry and depressed because the anger would blind me and not allow me to focus on improving my situation. These sayings really helped me minimalize my depression and stay focus. They also assured me that I would have a place to come home to once I returned from prison and 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 I could find a better job. They also sent me magazines and newspapers so 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 hand-written in prison camp, which is still unpublished. However, the pages she typed helped reduce the amount of time I spend typing it. In fact, when I got home, I worked on the novel until my hard drive crashed. I lost the whole 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 about that. 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 conflicted with my ideas. One of my ideas was to create a blog about random ideas and articles I wrote about in prison. That idea is now my blog at www.pyersedandridge.com where I talk about my post-prison journey and my past. Another idea was working on fundraiser ideas 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 details how she was helping me and how she was giving me so much optimism. I didn’t like discussing my prison life to her while visiting with her, 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 didn’t need to keep seeing me and she hated the drive to Herlong.
Visits are so good to have, but they are very draining because they 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 with 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 on their laps.
If I had to give anyone advice, I would suggest that you be an active part of your love one’s post-prison strategy. It is what helped me the most. From what I saw with my parents, it will minimize the stress while increasing the reassurance that the inmate will return home safe and have a productive post-prison life. Because of all they had done, I dedicated my book, Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp to them. Because of the help they continue to give me, I’m sure that was the last time I will spend in prison.