Welcome to The Letter Sessions With Federal Prison Consultant, Dan Wise, and Success Coach, Jenny Good.
During Dan’s time in federal prison, he wrote a letter every day. He often wrote to his significant other, Shelly, but he committed to documenting his journey in writing, even if he wrote to himself. The Letter Sessions are weekly installments during which we share one of Dan’s prison letters and an interview where Jenny asks Dan questions to gain deeper insights about his thoughts and feelings during confinement. The Letter Sessions are raw, vulnerable glimpses into what one man’s federal prison journey was like, and how life continues to unfold after his release. If you’re curious about what happens inside the mind of a federal inmate, this is for you. Grab your drink, pull up a comfortable chair and join us on Fridays for The Letter Sessions.
That was then…
Hi, so Jenn-nay came today. All the guys want to know why I have a baby doll. Lol. I felt the urge to improve Jenn-nay’s look with an Oli tongue 🙂 I hope your time is going well. I can’t wait for you to be out. It’s crazy that this will be over soon. I lay in my super painful top bunk made from cold ugly steel each night thinking about how nice our life will be in NC.
I hope you still want to move there with me. I think about you night and day. Having you in my life is as important as breathing. Being with you and the animals is what I want. I can’t wait to hear your stories from what it was like for you.
I am really trying to better myself. Even now I’m not sure what law was broken. I do know that I was helping put drugs on the street. It hurts to know that I added to the problem of kids having the ability to OD on drugs. I am so sorry for getting you and Kosta involved.
I am really looking forward to RDAP. It’s not just about drugs, it’s about making good decisions. I can’t wait to start. It is a 10 month program, which means they will see right through my sneaky ways. So I am going to give it my best shot to learn from it. For now I stay busy with classes. Mon-Wed-Fri I take a spin class at 7:45 am. Tues-Thurs-Sat I do 2 hours of yoga at 7:30 am. Also on Tues-Thurs-Sat I take a circuit class from 1:00-2:00 pm. I also run a lot, about 15 miles a week now and growing. I workout with Sean at night and 3 other guys. We do a crazy ab workout. I have lost 25 lbs. I am at 192 now.
I took my GED last week. I know I passed all but maybe math. I should know next week. If I failed math then I only have to retake that. I will take two weeks of class first. I do not have a job yet. In RDAP you have to work 🙁 I eat really well which is hard with all the junk there is.
Well Jenn-nay, I miss you and love you like crazy. This nightmare will be over soon. You will always be my girl.
Daniel AKA BOB! 🙂
This is now…
Jenny: I think a lot of people facing federal prison time have questions about things like how the beds are and what it’s like to sleep in prison. You mentioned your bed not being so comfortable. What was the general sleeping situation like?
Dan: There are two kinds beds. They look the same but one is like steel tray and very flat. They supply you with a tiny foam mattress, about 2-3 inches thick. That bed was really uncomfortable. The other bed looks same but it had a fence-like linking beneath it that functioned like springs. That bed offers a little more comfort. I slept in bunk beds. Most of the units were set up for 3 men, with bunk bed and a single bed. Each person had a locker, too. I took the top bunk when I was new. I moved to the lower bunk later. Expect to start in the top bunk unless you have a prohibitive medical condition. If you suffer from a medical condition that prevents you from taking the top bunk, you’ll need medical proof; that’s called a bottom bunk pass.
Jenny: Do you have to go to sleep at a specific time?
Dan: Lights out happened at 10:00 p.m. The lights went off right after the guards took count. During count, inmates stood in silence. The guards walked around and performed the count. After that, you can stay awake but you’re expected to be quiet. You’re permitted to use a small personal light to read. When I occupied the bottom bunk, I tucked sheets into the upper bunk and created a privacy curtain for myself. I laid in there and read at night and my light didn’t disturb other people.
Jenny: Is it quiet at night when it’s time to sleep?
Dan: It can be noisy at night even though you’re supposed to be quiet. In RDAP, it was very quiet at night. The nighttime noise was hard to adjust to at first and then I bought ear plugs. The ear plugs helped a lot.
Jenny: You talked to your girlfriend about your hopes of a future together. A lot of people may doubt their relationship will last through them serving as prison sentence, yet Shelly and you are going strong. Can you offer advice on keeping relationships intact for those who may have that fear?
Dan: Shelly and I unique because we both went to prison. She got out a few months before I got out, so she didn’t spend years waiting on my release. I advise couples to keep their communication positive. With Shelly, I didn’t vent or take anything out on her. Keep focusing on your future life.
Jenny: Your crime was one in which someone could argue that you did not break the law, specifically. I think some of our clients struggle with accepting responsibility if there is a grey area around their charge. Can you talk about the importance of owning that responsibility and tell us how you reconciled yourself to do that?
Dan: If you’re crime falls in that grey area, you need to get closure and move on. Once you decide to take the plea, it’s time to let go of the bitter feeling of it not being fair. Get past the feeling that you don’t deserve a prison sentence for it. That thinking keeps you in a cloud of fear and anger. Once I stopped all that and accepted it for what it was, I let go of the anger and moved forward. I started focusing on the red flags I previously ignored that got me into trouble. I used those feelings to make sure I didn’t ignore that signal the next time.
Jenny: You mentioned staying busy with classes. Do all federal prisons have classes to keep inmates busy?
Dan: Yes, they do. It’s a matter of taking advantage of the opportunities where ever you are serving your time. Some prisons have more classes than others. Find the positive things you can fill your time with every day. Take the classes they have available, and you can also participate in self-created groups for personal development. I did that kind of group when I was serving my time.
Jenny: Can you tell readers more about selecting and tracking classes while incarcerated, and why that matters?
Dan: There are so many different classes. You want to take classes that benefit you beyond the simple pleasure of taking the class. The classes you take should help with your mindset and / or your skills. Demonstrate re-entry stability through the classes you take. Participate in employable-skills classes, parenting classes, anger management and classes that change your thinking. Be part of a valuable learning process instead of playing cards or sleeping all day.
Jenny: You were determined to make the most of RDAP and you mentioned that it was about more than drugs. What did RDAP do for you that went beyond drugs or alcohol related stuff?
Dan: I think RDAP allowed me to be the real me, meaning letting my flaws show and facing my shortcomings. It helped me identify the sources of the issues that led me to a bad place. It wasn’t entirely easy. The pressure was as if it squeezed the poison out of me. I could not talk my way into or out of things like I did before. They saw right through me, and once I let the mask go and talked about things I did, how selfish I had been, I felt good. It opened the door to change.
Jenny: And you may know this question would be asked… Where did you get the nickname Bob? What’s the story behind that?
Dan: Oh, man. Before I went to prison, we adopted a German Shepard and named him Bob. We liked to joke around and imagine what Bob would say if he could talk. Somehow I took on the Bob persona.