January 31, 2014
Press Photo While in Office
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Long Journey Home
The Other Side
Yantis Green's Story after Prison
Christian Reporter News EXCLUSIVE
by Kat Rowoldt
We hardly said hello and the conversation was flowing. I was so caught off guard as Yantis came around the corner and greeted me thirty pounds lighter and with a head of long curly gray hair. What a difference a year makes. It was just two weeks shy of being one year since we last spoke as I did his story before he started his sentence.
Yantis had promised me the story after he returned from prison. I knew he would share the experience from his heart, one that most of us could never imagine living through. So as we walked over to a private room to visit, he explained both the weight loss and the lack of a haircut. When we were finally seated, I stopped him and said, 'let's back up and start where we left off last year.'
One note before we begin. Yantis is in the process of writing three books about his experience. There were times through our visit when I felt like I needed to not go any further in a few areas because I was sure that a few things would be key parts of his books. Out of respect for a fellow writer, I did not press him in those areas.
Our first interview ended just two weeks prior to the date he was to turn himself over to the authorities to begin his one year sentence. He was still pretty much his usual self; open, friendly, with a healthy dose of embarrassment about what he had done and trying to grasp the reality of what was still ahead for him.
You'll recall from our last article that Yantis had fully paid back every cent that he had stolen on the credit card. He had received his modest inheritance early and used it to pay off the credit card. He had lost his marriage and kids. He saw to it that the home they were in the midst of building was completed for his wife. He sat before me that day a man who had lost everything by simply swiping a credit card. Amazing how a simple action everyone of us does virtually every day, had cost him everything, because that wasn't his card to use personally.
Today sat before me the same man, but yet not the same man. This man was thin, no longer perfectly groomed, and his demeanor seemed to be on guard. I didn't feel like he was uncomfortable with me, but yet this last year had taught him to be watchful at all times. There was an uneasiness about him. I didn't fully realize that until I left.
I began by asking him how he felt during those last two weeks before going in. He gave me a one word reply. Anxious!
Yantis had been sentenced to do his time in the Big Spring Federal Correction Institute. He was to be assigned to an encampment for high profile, public figures, with a low risk of danger. There would not even be fences to keep him in, or anyone else. The day he left to turn himself in, he had yet to ever be handcuffed, be behind bars, or do a perk walk - but he knew this wasn't going to be a picnic either.
He had a dear friend drive him to Big Spring where he surrendered himself to the authorities. He commented that the loss of freedom is a profound feeling. This was March 1, 2013.
He was not allowed to bring anything with him. Even the very clothing he wore to the prison was removed from him upon arrival and handed over to his friend to take with him. He was stripped of everything, including his name and handed a number. 'They take your identity, you're searched, you're put in a holding area, and the endless waiting begins. They do medical screenings and psychological screenings on you and you wait some more,' reported Yantis.
He recounted how that wait seemed endless. Sitting in a room with other people going through the same process, he could tell he was in a very mixed crowd. These weren't fellow 'nice guys.' It was scary. It was scary not knowing what was going to happen, when you would be moved, where you were headed, and not having any control of anything.
Finally, a large black C O (correctional officer) yelled out, "Green!" He responded and this man yelled at him letting him know that he was in the wrong place. He was not supposed to be at Big Spring. Fear rose up big time in Yantis! What was he to do? Where was he supposed to be? What would happen now that he was in the wrong place? Apparently the letter informing him of the change of location did not arrive before his report in date.
Yantis tried to explain to the CO that the judge had sentenced him to that facility. Basically all he heard back from him was that he was in the wrong place. The CO gave him the option of going to one of two places while they figure out what to do. In the heat of the moment and not understanding prison terms, Yantis chose the SHU (special housing unit).
Yantis found himself being handcuffed for the very first time and put behind bars. He found himself being escorted to the SHU. The SHU was maximum security where he was placed in solitary confinement. He was put in this concrete block room with a mattress pad and pillow. No window! A light that never turned off! A slit in the door where they would slide his food to him three times a day!
He didn't know where he was going to be moved. He didn't know how long he would have to wait. When was the move? The worst part was not being able to communicate with his family and let them know what was happening.
No watch. No clock. Just time in an empty room! They gave him one book - just tossed to him whatever was next on the cart. That was quickly read. It was three days before he was let out of that cell. He got to go have a shower. Solitary gets one shower a week. After that he got one hour a day outside, twenty-three hours a day in the concrete cell. It was boring. It was scary. No information.
The only contact he had with another human was when the guard would come by and "bark." In one syllable commands, they would bark: show'r, chow, or rec. You had to respond immediately what you wanted - yes or no. It was a cold, depressing, unfriendly and scary cell/place.
After a week in solitary confinement, a CO came by and yelled, "It's 5:30 a.m. Thursday. Be ready at 6am." That's all he was told. He didn't know what was about to happen. Where was he going?
At 6am he was escorted to R&D (receiving and discharge). He was then shackled, feet and arms to waist. You can only shuffle to walk. He finally heard he was headed to LaTuna. (LaTuna is near El Paso and the name means cactus bloom.)
Yantis was about to ride the bus, known as "ride the chain" to his assigned prison. He didn't know anything about LaTuna, but he was about to find out. He was boarded on the bus with 23 illegals and one other American. They were chained down and guards with serious rifles were along for the ride. They stopped at every county jail between Big Spring and El Paso. It seemed like a day that would never end. Even remembering that day is still scary for him. He said that experience "was the scariest day of his life, bar none."
I can't imagine what this experience would have been like. He just endured one week in solitary confinement which is usually reserved for trouble makers and hard core criminals, only to find him chained and secured down on a bus headed to a place he's never heard of. His attorney and judge had worked out a modest confinement place for him and he would be safe. Now he is in a terrifying situation with no control and potential harm to him could happen at any moment.
They finally arrived at LaTuna and Yantis was the only prisoner getting off at that stop. He was taken into R&D (receiving and discharge) where his shackles were finally removed. He was still on high alert and fearful, not knowing what was going to be next. So far everything he had experienced had not been on his prepared agenda, and neither was LaTuna.
He had learned to not talk, just follow orders. It was good to get those shackles off. One of the guards asked him if he'd like a Bible that had been left there. He gladly said yes and was handed a brand new Bible still in its plastic covering. That was the first act of kindness by anyone since he had turned himself in.
He was informed that he was going to be moved to the work camp and someone would be there shortly to pick him up. An inmate drove up and picked him up to take him to the work camp area. He was assigned a bed number.
There were no fences there. Everyone was on the honor system. This is one of the places that you would eventually end up as you were working yourself toward parole. The men here were everything from long time inmates who had finally arrived here as part of their exit from the system plan to white collar workers who had messed up like Yantis had. It was too big of a deal having arrived at this point that even the really bad guys didn't want to mess up and have to start over again. Needless to say, that did happen at times and Yantis was warned about dos and don'ts.
They were four men in a room in these buildings. They also had a cafeteria building and a medical building. Everyone had a job. They had to work eight hours a day, forty hours a week. Yantis started off doing sanitation in the kitchen, but eventually ended up cooking.
As the inmate drove him over to his new residence, he assured him he was safe here. This was a place where folks just wanted to do their time and go home. You still had to be "smart" and watch out for yourself. If things went bad here, you got sent back to prison. One of the other things he received as he came into the work camp was a gift from a Christian group. They had a package filled with hygiene items for the inmates.
His life was very structured. He worked his forty hours a week, prayed two hours a day, exercised two hours a day (especially loved running - hence the thirty pound weight loss), and spent two hours a day writing. He read lots of books out of the library they had there also. The long hair was the result of taking the advice of other inmates and not having his hair cut. It could be dangerous being on the receiving end of an inmate cutting your hair. Once he left LaTuna, he did cut a few inches off of the length.
His wife sent him the Catholic publication, "The Missal," every day. He had that, along with his Bible, and a weekly Catholic Service when a volunteer could be escorted out to the camp area, along with nightly Bible studies to strengthen and build his faith. He shared his surprise when he discovered his beloved Bible was a Mormon Bible. He thought it was rather amusing since he had been working on Mitt Romney's campaign for President for the last two years that he ended up with a Mormon Bible. His roommate was a Muslim from Ethiopia who had worked for the US government. They talked a lot of politics.
I asked him what that place was like. Having arrived in March, he said it was dead and ugly, sand everywhere. He said one of the work details was landscaping. He couldn't understand why they had them raking and caring for the sand, even watering it. In due time, he realized the fruit of their work. Things did green up.
He talked about time. That time can be a horrible thing. It's slow, yet at the same time there is a sense of the loss of time. He mentioned that 'when you become nothing, you realize you have that 'nothing' in common with everyone.' He said it was a place of lost souls. There is a prevalence of mental illness in prison. They are not being treated for their illness there and some are totally insane.
Yantis was very frank about why he was there. It was his fault. He broke the law. Out of his experience he is in the process of writing three books. The three books are titled: Astray - from Presidential Politics to Prison, Astray - Men in Captivity, and Astray - Coming Home.
The final leg of his process was being released to a halfway house in Midland, Texas. On December 2nd, his wife picked him up in Anthony, TX at the LaTuna Prison and drove him to the halfway house in Midland. Since Yantis already had a job, a residence to go to (his Mother's home), he did not need the usual thirty day transition time to find a job and place to live. Instead, it took thirty days for him to receive a special permit to commute daily to San Angelo to go to work. It was so hard sitting at that house in Midland for thirty days waiting on that permit.
Effective the first of January, Yantis was able to commute to San Angelo to work. He would leave Midland at 5am and had to reach work in San Angelo and call from the business phone to report that he had arrived at work by 7am. Then he had to call by 7pm that he was headed back to Midland. He had to report in by 9pm. This was the structure Monday - Friday throughout the month of January.
February 1st he was released to his Mother's home for the duration of his sentence which ends February 27, 2014. He has a 9pm curfew until that time. March 1st begins his two years of probation. He will have to check in, but no longer restricted.
So where is Yantis' life today?
He and his wife are divorced - just friends now.
His kids are not a part of his life now.
Their home is for sale.
This has been a big price for making bad decisions.
He lives with his Mother.
He's working at the family business.
His passion is writing and there will be books soon.
Closing thoughts from Yantis:
He's looking forward to resuming his Tuesday fellowship time with his friend, Jesse Martinez.
Hard Words: Prison - Divorce - Captivity
"Greed, envy, opportunity. Politics is a power game and I was addicted to power."
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