My First Day in Prison Was Like…
While in prison, I was not able to keep a journal or a diary. I did however write letters to my girlfriend every day. Even though she came to visit me every weekend I was incarcerated; 325 miles each way from her home in Minneapolis — to Yankton, South Dakota. The middle of my book includes some of the letters I wrote to her. This helps tell the story of the Diary of a White Collar Criminal. Below is an excerpt from my book and the first letter I wrote to her.
Dear Sweetheart – Chapter 10
November 5, 1999
I’m really here. I’m actually writing to you from the federal prison in Yankton, South Dakota. It’s only been about 18 hours since I last saw you. I miss you so much. It’s so hard to believe that I’m really here. In prison. Prison!
It’s quite a bit different than waking up next to you. I’m guessing you didn’t sleep too well, in our bed, without me either. I just can’t believe it! Me. I’m actually in prison. By the time you get this letter, I’ll have made it through about four nights. Hopefully, I’ll have slept by then. You too.
As I lay in my bed on the plastic mattress and the plastic pillow, I can’t help thinking about the events that led me here. I never would’ve thought that five years ago, when I met Milt, or should I say Brian Paar, I would wind up getting convicted of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and receive a 21-month prison sentence. I keep thinking about everything: getting arrested, spending 25 grand in attorney’s fees, losing my company, house, cars, business associates, friends, and finally spending my first night in prison.
Another prisoner here was nice enough to lend me this paper, his pencil, this envelope and a stamp so I could write you this letter.
After you and my mom dropped me off, the guards took me to a small concrete building called R & D, which stands for Receiving and Discharge. They did the same things the FBI and the U.S. marshals did when I was arrested 11 months ago. They took my finger-prints, and they also took my picture for my prison ID. They took my clothes and my bi-polar medication I had in my pocket. This letter is probably going to reach you before you get the box with my clothes and shoes they are sending. Anyhow, they are sending you everything that walked through the gate with me yesterday — except me — so don’t be alarmed.
They gave me a pair of underwear and a set of socks. I don’t know what they were made out of, but I wouldn’t know where to buy something that crappy. They also gave me a tan jumpsuit and faded blue, floppy cloth slippers to wear until I went to the laundry department. I think the slippers and the jump suit were hand-me-downs.
They have all my personal info from my pre-sentence investigation, so they knew I was on Depakote, Wellbutrin and Paxil. Thank God they know I need that stuff. When they caught me with the pills in my pocket, I was afraid they were going to think I was trying to smuggle drugs into prison. I guess I was. Anyhow, I had to wait an hour and a half in a cold little room until the prison psychiatrist came to see me.
He finally arrived. He had my pills and said I could go to the medical department once a day and they would give me my dose. He also said that we would meet in a couple days and decide if I still needed them. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’ve been on that medication for quite a while. I don’t think now is the time to go off medicine that keeps me from feeling anxious and depressed. He wasn’t surprised when he saw me shake and when I told him I was scared. I really tried to hold it together when I was with him because I don’t know what they do with you if you freak out. He said I would adjust to this place. I can’t wait until I adjust.
After meeting with the psychiatrist, they handed me a document, opened the door and pointed me to the laundry department which was about 200 yards away. It was surreal. There I was, a former finance professional, father of two, walking across the compound, in prison, all by myself. There were dozens of other prisoners walking and standing around. I was waiting for them to shout or point and laugh or take bets on how long I would last in this place. A couple of them glanced over at me as I walked by but no one really seemed to care. By the way, no one here wears the orange jump suits. What a relief. They all wear either white T-shirts or button-up khaki shirts and khaki pants and dark or black boots. I didn’t see anyone wearing a gray jumpsuit with floppy slippers except me.
Somehow, about halfway to the laundry department I got turned around and lost focus of the nondescript door on the nondescript building to which I was pointed. The document they handed me in R & D was not a map. I assume they frown on maps around here. I mean, it’s not like they pointed me to a door labeled “Laundry.” There was no “Laundry” sign. Trust me, I checked.
I tried to act like I knew where I was going. I tried to match the walking speed of the other criminals because I’m sure they all knew where they were going. I walked up to several doors and stood there just looking around. It is impossible to look like you know what you’re doing when you walk up to four different doors without entering. I was afraid to open them. God only knows what was going on behind those doors. Finally, I saw a guy walk out of a door carrying a pair of pants. I don’t know why he was carrying a pair of pants. I mean, he was wearing pants. Anyhow, there it was. I struck laundry!
Read the rest of this letter as well as the rest of the book