Jessica’s journey: A conversation from prison

Investigates

Right after Christmas KELOLAND Investigates first got word from Jessica Pfau, who is serving time in the South Dakota Women’s Prison on a parole violation.

We received her assessment for treatment for substance use disorder.

Pfau is an opioid addict whose violation was her sixth DUI, after she overdosed on fentanyl in a parking lot, behind the wheel of a car. KELOLAND Investigates has been looking into what kind of treatment addicts are getting in the women’s prison, where a reported 80% of the inmates are dealing with addiction and 60% are in for drug crimes.

We’ve followed “Jessica’s Journey” through weight loss surgery to alcohol and opioid addiction to becoming a mother and serving her first stint in prison. Now we’ve spoken to Jessica for the first time since she was locked up again in November.

Jessica Pfau, who overdosed and was saved by Narcan, is now serving time in prison

Like all new inmates at the Women’s Prison, Jessica Pfau was initially held in maximum security, or what’s known as the “fish tank.” Recently she was transferred to a minimum security unit within the women’s prison and called us.

“We’re so full up here, there’s no place to put anybody. Over Christmas they had people in a storage closet, in between two of the blocks because we’re over capacity, all the time, Jessica Pfau said on the phone.

South Dakota saw a 35% increase in the number of female inmates over a five-year period. the DOC says there are currently 501 women in prison in Pierre. The Department of Corrections tells KELOLAND Investigates that a decade ago it began using all available space for beds, including converting storage areas and an office into sleeping rooms.

Earlier this month the DOC put eight inmates in the Parents and Children Together (PACT) House, which is supposed to be used as a place for women to stay with their children when they come to visit.

“I feel like maybe I’m a voice for people who don’t have one and I wish something would change. I don’t know what the right answer is because we are packed in here like sardines doing nothing,” Pfau said.

Pfau provided us with her assessment for treatment by the Department of Social Services. The box for “Substance Use Aftercare Treatment,” was checked. But Pfau says that won’t happen while she is in Pierre.

“They do an eight week program in the prison; but she wasn’t going to recommend me for that because the hardest transition is going back to the community. So I won’t start that until I leave here.”

Now that she’s in minimum security, Pfau can attend Narcotics or Alcoholic Anonymous meetings if she chooses.

Pfau says being separated from her toddler son has been tough.

“The holidays were awful. I’m going to cry. It was really hard. You come back here and you get bitter. I miss my family. My son went through a period where he didn’t want to talk to me cause he’s mad,” Pfau said.

Jessica is planning to have her son come visit later this month. She’s hoping she will be approved for work-release in Sioux Falls in the coming months.

Meanwhile, she says 18 women from her church are writing to her and that is helping her pass the time.

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