Archive for Thursday, April 20, 2006

Career Day features prisoners

Inmates hope description of prison keeps students out

April 20, 2006


"Methamphetamine dealer" was one of the jobs students had the chance to explore Wednesday at a career fair at Eudora High School.

If you pick that career path - as Ryan Favinger and Chris Northup have - you can expect to earn about $29.40 per month laboring in prison. You can expect to eat lots of turkey, which Northup told students is served daily. You or your family members might have to pay another inmate for protection.

You'll meet female impersonators who use Kool-Aid for makeup. You'll meet crooked guards who smuggle drugs. Your living quarters will be so small that you may have to turn sideways to walk between the furniture.

"Don't let your pillow fall off your bed because it's probably going to fall in your toilet," Northup said.

Sound appealing?

Northup and Favinger hope not. Both men are Lansing Correctional Facility inmates who visited the career fair with the goal of convincing students from three local high schools not to be like them.

"You don't want to end up here, do you?" Favinger asked.

Career criminals

Wednesday's career fair included students from Eudora, Baldwin and Wellsville high schools. After a morning filled with presentations about traditional careers - cosmetology, meat processing, auto mechanics, law - students sat down to listen to Favinger and Northup talk about their careers as criminals.

High school students gather around Lansing Correctional Facility inmate Chris Northup on Wednesday after he and another inmate shared their stories at a career day at Eudora High School. Senior Josh Love shook hands with Northup, who is in prison for dealing methamphetamine, after the discussion.

High school students gather around Lansing Correctional Facility inmate Chris Northup on Wednesday after he and another inmate shared their stories at a career day at Eudora High School. Senior Josh Love shook hands with Northup, who is in prison for dealing methamphetamine, after the discussion.

They were accompanied by Kelly Flynn, an activities specialist at Lansing who travels to area high schools two or three times per month for similar programs.

Northup, 28, who's from Coffeyville, told students he started selling drugs at age 13. At age 16, he already had been convicted as an adult and was doing his first stint in prison.

"I've produced drugs that destroy lives," Northup said. "I didn't sell to kids, but that don't make it right."

He asked the room full of students if they thought it was hard to wait for the bell to ring in between classes.

"Try waiting on that bell for three or four years," he said.

Favinger, 27, Olathe, has convictions for burglary, theft and manufacturing methamphetamine. He has five years left on an eight-year sentence.

He has family on the outside including a 9-year-old son and two young daughters, and he said he struggles with what to tell them about his own life.

"I wouldn't want to live next to me on the street," Favinger said. "I was just running amok ... I belong here."

Lurid details

Both men told students that experimenting with marijuana was how they got started in a life of crime. But Favinger told students it's not drugs that cause people to end up in prison - it's choices.

Students occasionally burst into nervous giggles as they heard the two men talk about the details of prison life. They described the harassment toward "cho mos" - child molesters - and the sexual activity between inmates. They talked about making "gumbo" by pouring hot water into a plastic bag along with Ramen noodles and sausage from the commissary.

They said prison life is lonely. Friends from the outside turn their backs. Family members feel burdened by having to come visit every weekend. Girlfriends move on.

"Out of sight, out of mind," Northup said.

Northup said it had been three and a half years - the length of his most recent prison stay - since he's had a decent piece of pork. He said the only meat served in Lansing, besides turkey, is hamburgers made with soy.

"That's what we get," one student in the crowd said.

Students react

Several students asked Northup about his repeat offenses, which started in 1994 with a forgery conviction. One student asked why he didn't learn his lesson the first time.

After Northup said he was going to get out of prison in two weeks, Eudora senior Jen Brown asked him whether he would go back to his old ways. He said he wouldn't.

"It's a very truthful question and very blunt," Northup said. "I got a job waiting on me. I got a different outlook on life than I had before."

The speech brought junior Sarah Welsh, 17, to tears . She said she's worried about one of her friends who was caught with marijuana recently and got out of trouble by "snitching" on someone.

"She was lucky that time, but I'm afraid of what's going to happen if she keeps doing it," said Welsh, one of many students who approached the inmates after the speech to thank them. "I told them about my friend. I told them she will be coming in, and I hope she listens to them."

Favinger said he hoped that none of the students who heard him speak Wednesday would end up in prison.

"If I can change just one of them, it'll be good," he said.


KSChick1 12 years, 2 months ago

I think this was a wonderful idea. Let the kids SEE and HEAR how making bad choices and decisions can affect them for the rest of their lives. Even after you are released from prison, you carry that stigma for the rest of your life. Wasn't Boog the Honk for Hemp guy?

Jayhawk226 12 years, 2 months ago

Maybe they can feature prostitution as a career as well. Just as unfortunate of a "career path" some have stumbled upon.

mom_of_three 12 years, 2 months ago

I wish the junior high students could hear some of these statements, since one of the inmates started selling at 13. But some of the information given, such as men wearing makeup, might be too much for some students to understand.

xenophonschild 12 years, 2 months ago

I wanna throw up. Is this what Lansing has come to? Freddie Fauntleroy, and Maude Milcqtoast? What happend to the old stomp-down cowboy convicts? We used to run that old stone monster.

If this is progress, they can keep it.

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