People getting out of prison face unique challenges and at no time is that more true than during this pandemic.

Last December we first brought you “Jessica’s journey,” about a Sioux Falls mother who struggled with addiction issues since undergoing gastric bypass surgery.

Addiction transfer means that gastric bypass patients are up to three times more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs.

In Jessica’s case she became addicted alcohol and opioids and eventually turned to heroin.

Jessica was sentenced to prison for a second time after overdosing on heroin laced with fentanyl.
It was her sixth DUI because she was in a parking lot behind the wheel when she was saved by Narcan.

The last time we saw Jessica Pfau was when she turned herself in to serve her latest prison sentence.
Today she is a free woman, but not free from the demons which have plagued her for years–the cravings of addiction.

“There was a few days early on–I don’t want to feel this. I don’t want to deal with this,” Jessica Pfau said.

Despite her known addiction issues, when Jessica was in the Women’s Prison in Pierre, she was not a candidate for treatment. She was, however, able to attend recovery meetings.

When she was let out on work release and sent to the St. Francis House in Sioux Falls on March 19th, everything was shut down due the COVID-19 pandemic, so she couldn’t get a job.

“When I talked to Greg on the phone I could hear that he was changing and that he was miserable and more depressed. When I talked to Sam I’d be lucky if he’d want to talk to me because I wasn’t there,” Jessica Pfau said.

Jessica convinced her husband Greg to get her chewing tobacco because she needed some kind of fix. That offense sent her back to Pierre.

Then at the end of July, Jessica was released from prison and reunited with her family. Because of the restrictions on visitors due to the pandemic, she hadn’t seen her three-year-old since February.

Jessica Pfau reunited with her three-year-old son, Sam

“This is the longest I’ve been gone–the most I missed and watching what they went though and how everything changed is more of an incentive to me every day, because I never want to do anything like that to them again,” Jessica Pfau said.

Jessica is back to work at her old job at a hotel and getting Substance Use Aftercare Treatment via Zoom. Both Greg and Jessica say the pandemic has limited the church support they’d come to lean on. The ordeal has been extremely hard on their marriage, but Greg is hopeful this time will be different.

“I want to believe in her. I have faith that she’s got it this time. I hope so. I pray for it,” Greg Pfau said.

Jessica has no regrets on sharing her journey through addiction and to prison so publicly.

“But I am stronger today because of it. If one person made a different decision because of me, then I’ve done what I set out to do.”

Ultimately, Jessica would like to see change in the prison system with more and better treatment for substance use disorder.

She was released wearing a SCRAM ankle bracelet, which detects alcohol in your system. But Jessica’s DUIs were for drugs.

She does undergo random drug testing and says her parole officer has been a big help with her transition to life outside of prison walls.