Spotlight on the Founders of PPR- Testimonials

            Jon Rogness Testimony

My name is Jon Rogness. Right now on paper it would be easier to find me under my South Dakota Doc number 12323.
This is my Story.
I was born in Sioux Falls SD.  And when I was 3 days old, I was adopted to my parents Phil and Colleen Rogness. I was raised on our farm North of a town that most people have never heard of, Astoria, SD, population 109.

I was a hyperactive kid, more then most kids. Had some behavioral problems early on in my life. By 1st grade I was on medication for ADHD. From the very beginning of meds I hated it. I thought I didn’t need it, didn’t want to be “different”.  I now know that to the people on the outside looking in at my family, and me many didn’t understand. But there were these amazing people (ma and pa) who are very respected and looked up to in the community, and their son is having problems.  Now especially if you knew my family you would wonder also. My mom is the closest thing to a saint is what I like to say, and my dad is a very well grounded, hardworking, driven farmer. That loves his family very much. Yet having these problems.

All of my early years through school, I had to be the defiant class clown. That’s how I felt I needed to be to fit into the class.  I got into some legal trouble as a teenager, stole and had trouble with alcohol. I can remember when I started smoking cigarettes and thinking is was cool/defiant. I had the idea it made me tough or something.  Alcohol would turn out to be my kryptonite, one I loved. So I got into more trouble, went to two different treatment centers as a juvenile.  The first one was McCrossans Boys Ranch in Sioux Falls. I saw this as punishment, not prevention. I didn’t care I just wanted to leave. This ended after a short time, without allot of  positive progress.  I returned back to my home by Astoria, but in a few months got into actual legal trouble. I don’t even remember what happened that night (alcohol was involved). I was charged with felony vandalism. Then I got into even more trouble before that was done. So I spent 4 months in juvy in Watertown, SD.  At this time no family involvement except through a window for visits.

 From there I spent 9 months in another treatment center, Woodfield. I learned so many things from that place, because I chose to learn something from this place. When I was there I was looked up to by many of the other kids there. It felt so awesome to be recognized in a good way. I left the place thinking, “there I’m good, they helped me fix my problems”. I went back home to my farm where I belonged.. It was my senior year of high school, almost 18 years old. I had a fresh start. That was Feb. 3rd, 2006. I was still some behind with school work, so I decided to attend Select( a individual education for students who are behind.. Most kids go there to catch up. That was my intention, but  that is not what happened. Now I’m making absolutely no excuses. I take full responsibility for my decisions. You know how they say “you are the company you keep.” Absolutely without a doubt, true. I chose to hang out with the same type of people I did when I  got into trouble before. Not smart, It wasn’t long before I started slipping back into the same routine.  It started with decided to smoke again. Then once in awhile ignore rules of probation and stay out, to late, and  skip school. It wasn’t long after that I started to drink again, just a little at first, but it never stays there. Within a few months my girlfriend was pregnant. I was scared now. What was I suppose to do now? How was I suppose to tell my family?  I went down hill from there and spiraled out of control.. Drinking  allot more, rules and laws didn’t matter. I ended up dropping out of school totally.

At this point I decided to move to Brookings,  got a job, and I  rented an apartment. This didn’t even last 4 months. I have always lived on a farm with allot of more freedom to move, and when I was in town I felt like I was being choked.  So I purposely got myself evicted from my apartment. There was even a time in that 4 months that I spent 72 hours in the Yankton HSC for suicide watch. Now, that was an honest misunderstanding on my friends side. But the fact that my friend even had the thought that I would try to kill myself, or worry that I would do that means there must have been other things he saw that made him worry. That was very embarrassing for me. Because whether it was true or not, I have always been against that. It’s never that bad in my opinion to take your own life. This caused me to lose my job at Daktronics.

After all of this I got hired at Falcon Plastics in Brookings. You already know I lived my whole life on a farm, so working in those factories just wasn’t my thing. It drives me crazy. So one night on my break at 2 am I just left my job.  I decided that night to go to my friends dorm room and get drunk instead. Another bad choice..

By this time, my girlfriend (Cassie) was about 5 months pregnant. This was when I started cheating on her. To this day I still don’t know what I was thinking. Why would I do this to her and to our relationship? Just like any relationship, it wasn’t all perfect and fairy tail all the time. But I loved this girl, this beautiful girl who was carrying my son. Now I was unfaithful to her for a short while before she found out. It still kills me when I picture her sitting there, with tears in her eyes asking me,” Why would you do that?” That will always stick in my mind. And of course, rather than deal with the problem I chose to go off and get drunk. That way I could ignore it at least for the night. That was how chose to fix things. Like I said, to this day it kills me to think about the way I hurt her. I still wish I could go back in time and not make the choices that brought Cassie the pain. Definitely one of those live and learn times.

We stayed together but things were never the same. A few more months went by and she was about 8 months along when she went into early labor. We spent a month in Sioux Falls. The doctor absolutely wouldn’t let us leave until they knew she would be far enough along in her pregnancy to give birth.  We were discharged from Sioux Falls and drove back home on Feb. 14 ( my birthday). Then just 2 days later, Feb. 16th, 2007 my son Preston Jon Rogness was born. It was a bad storm that night.  But that Chevy 4x4 got me there in time to watch my son come into this world.

I could try to explain to you that feeling, but I can’t. It’s hard to explain how you feel when you see your son be born, until you experience it for yourself. It’s a overwhelming feeling. You know how when they show that on some movie and you can see this proud, excited dad and you think how his feeling  are, take that times 10. I have never been more proud. My advice is never missing this experience for yourself.

A few weeks after our son was born, my girlfriend Cassie and I broke up. There was so much tension and stress with this relationship. It was a tough first night. We stayed close for a while after that, and I continued going to see my son. But in time I even let things come in the way of that. Alcohol, partying, sex.. I basically fell of f the map again.  I drank more than I did anything else. It made me feel good. I got in some more trouble on a felony charge, burglary, stealing, alcohol. I thought that summer partying was all that mattered. I set so many things that were more important aside. My job, my son, other family members, obligations (truck payments). I set things aside that I would never have let go before. If you are at all familiar with taking care of cattle, you know that you can not just skip feeling them. Now, it was  always my responsibility to feed cattle. That was just some thing that was long ago established. That’s the way it was, and I always did it. So, I wouldn’t feed, they would get out to get food and someone else would have to deal with that  cause I was of somewhere else, ignoring responsibilities. Now that is just one example.

I had a party at an abandoned farmyard, which was busted. It was just one thing after another. I lost touch with my family members. I also had many of my friends that really worried about me. I can remember many occasions when my friends would do anything they could to get my keys from me, just to keep me from driving drunk. I had one that would even go as far as asking me to give her a ride out to my farm for the parties. Then by early morning she would get me to let her take my pickup truck back to Brookings so she could get to work in the morning. She got
With this one more thn once. She knew I loved to get drunk and then go out tearing around on all the back gravel road, go find some mud hold. This always worried many people, but she would do everything she could to stop me. And if she couldn’t stop me, she was going with me and there was no question about that. I especially remember being mad when I’d wake up and ask people where my pickup was. They would tell me” don’t you remember letting Emily take it back to Brookings last night. I would get mad, but now I think back on it and it makes me smile. She was looking out for me. Thanks Em.
Many of the things I look back on now, hurt me to think about. I can remember there were times when I would come up into the yard in my pickup and it was 3 am and I couldn’t walk a straight line.  I can remember pulling up in the yard and seeing the light on and my mom looking out the window and she’d  watch me to make sure I made it inside. I can remember thinking to myself” why does she do that, she acts like I am a little kid, but I’m 19 years old. I don’t need my mom worrying about me.”  This was such a selfish thought. I look back on it now and I appreciate those things. She cared and loved me even through my defiance. I have thanked her for all this kind of love since.  Even after all the crap I put my family through.  They still loved me.  I pray that my son will never put his mom through this.

ON August 10th, 2007 the walls came crashing down. I was arrested and charged along with my best friend for First Degree Murder. I don’t remember the first few days in jail. But I tried to keep a tough guy face on for a few weeks. Then one Sunday morning I can remember sitting in the church service and Pastor Kevin was talking about his life story and how it’s never to late or to bad to be forgiven. God will forgive the worst sins.. I broke down right there. I cried like I never cried before. The tough guys was gone.  

There was another time in county jail, when I felt like someone was telling me “it’s  time to change” The first time I watched my son walk. The first steps he took on his own were across the small visit room. I watched as he walked to papa, my dad. I was on the other side of the glass. It would be worth it to change for my son.  My family has still been committed to  bring my son to see me every week.  Just to keep my relationship going with my son.

Preston will be 5 years in Feb. And these tough questions from him come up..Why are you here? Can you come home with me? Can you come watch me at this?  These questions are hitting me hard, right in the heart.  It’s hard to answer his questions, when I have so many questions of my own.

Today when I look at the big picture. Being locked up at this time of my life  that I was, I believe that is the reason I am still alive today.  I have no idea how many people told me things about my drinking. Getting my keys from me was near impossible. I can specifically remember one of my close long time friends one night told me I shouldn’t drive. I remember thinking in my mind “this dude does this allot, so if he is telling me not to do so, that means something. So I didn’t that night. But I did others…

I want to end my story with my experiences and few things I now know.

I can’t stress enough to you that you may think it is your choices and your life, and why should anyone else worry, everybody around you just needs to mind their own business. Let me tell you right now. I said those exact same things to myself and to family and friends, many times. Every time  I would ask them those questions or tell them to mind their own business. The answer was always the same. “Because ask you those questions  I/we care about you.”

I can tell you right now how that affects my family. I see it every single weekend when they bring my son to visit me downstairs in the visit room of the prison.. Our activities are watched on a camera and can be listened too. Now, I want you to  think about how that feels to you. Now think about how your family would feel if they had to leave everything  behind in a locker; coats, purses, cell phones, wallets, hats, medicine, everything that you wouldn’t even think about. It makes them feel as it they are the  criminals. They aren’t the criminals they just love us.  Know one wants their family to have to go through this, just to visit their son.

There are so many things you don’t see or understand until you are in this situation.  At your home you can choose to get up , go outside and maybe sit on the porch with your dog. Or maybe go get in your vehicle and go for a drive, wherever  you want to go.  Or just go walk down the road. You have freedom to do what you choose. When you are locked up everyone else tells you what to do, when you have to go to your cell, when you can go outside, when you eat, when you shower. Somebody else  tells you how your day plays out, each and everyday. And when someone else that you may not even know decides to screw something up for themselves, this will effect your day also. You can be on the phone with your family and someone in a totally different part of the prison can do something and you will be told that you need to hang up and go to your cell. Not because of what you did, but because someone else screwed up.

Now to tell you, you don’t get into this place or this situation like me with just one bad decision. Remember when I said in my story that I left that Woodfield thinking I was fixed. The reason things fell apart so fast was that I didn’t have a plan. I just left thinking the fight was done. I was so very wrong. These things happen due to a series of bad decisions. It can start very small. Sometimes it happens slowly, and then starts spiraling out of control. This can happen so quickly you don’t know what is happening around you.  You cannot fix any problems until you take full responsibility for what you have done. People catch bad breaks. We have all been there. But you can decide for yourself when to change. You can’t expect anyone else to do it for you. You will need some help from others at times.  Don’t be afraid to ask. One of my biggest downfalls was thinking I didn’t need anyone else.

So here is some things you can do for yourself.
Make a plan..
Stick to the plan.
 Fix the problems one at a time.
 And don’t break the cycle.
 As soon as you feel you are again slipping back into poor choices.. STOP and EVALUTE. Start over again and rebuild. And remember this will all take time, and a desire to want to change.

Believe me I know how bad that is to have to keep starting over and rebuilding. But it  isn’t’ as bad as being locked up in prison away from your loved ones.

I pray that somehow, something in my story helped somebody who is struggling in whatever walk of life you are in now.  I pray that we can reach others through our PPR. Remember you are not along..

Jer. 29:11 " For I know the plans I have for you.. Plans to give you hope and a future."

Testimony- Jimbo

James “Jimbo” Andrews
1st Degree Robbery- 40 years

As a child my family was strong on my mom and dad’s side. Both my grandfathers were successful businessmen. My grandfather, Clet was a cattle buyer at the Sioux Falls stockyard and my grandfather John started his own drywall toll business, Andrews Company.  To say I mace out of poverty and committed crimes out of necessity would be an untruth. I had every opportunity and loving parents who stand by me to this day even after I drug them through hell. Many of us in prison have loving families, plenty of money, and a couple opportunities.

As an adolescent I stole out of cars and eventually got caught. I was sentenced to probation with restitution. I worked all summer to pay off my restitution and was quickly released from probation thereafter.  Other then that one large warning sign, I was a wonderful child.  Didn’t drink, smoke, use drugs, or even cause trouble. I went to church twice a week; my girlfriend was from the same church. I went on a mission trip to Costa Rica. I achieved three varsity letters in school, And I took advanced classes in high school. I was an overachiever.

At age 18 I jointed the Army. I was a good soldier. I passed all the physical training requirements with ease. Any test I took I aced it. I fit in well with the soldiers. I was independent for the first time in my life. Everything was fun and exciting. Us soldiers work hard and play hard.  Found out that I could not handle playing that hard.

There was some drinking every night in the Army barracks I’m a soldier, old enough to die for my country. A few beers now and then shouldn’t hurt.  But they did end up hurting me. I began drinking every night. I started a cigarette habit also. I used to run track and cross country in high school and now I smoke! I would look down on such behavior a year earlier. Now I was caught in the habit. It was downhill from this point.

I had many incidents of misconduct after my drinking and smoking became daily routines. I would stay up late partying. Every morning was difficult because I didn’t get enough sleep and I was abusing my body. My attitude because a problem also. I even got arrested a couple of times. Little did I know, my superiors were building a case against me. Soon thereafter I was kicked out.

Now the army is gone, but my new habits seemed to get stronger. The crowds of friends I associated with were all alcoholics’ with heavy drinking. Drugs seem to follow close behind. Now I had another habit as if drinking wasn’t enough. I because a person I wouldn’t have associated with years earlier. I didn’t know how to pull out of the lifestyle. The unhealthy behavior fed on itself causing a downward spiral that felt impossible to correct. The lifestyle drained my body through lack of sleep and to many chemicals. In turn my attitude was bad which made it hard to keep a job, a girlfriend, or even friends. Everything  that was going on in my life was supposed to be different.

Looking back on it now, I didn’t want to change because I was afraid. I didn’t have any coping skills. It was easier to blame others, to take the easy way out, and use people. Anything I needed to keep using drugs and alcohol. At this point my habits were so bad and I was in such a physical disaster that crime felt like the only alternative. Crime after crime and hanging out with others who were similar to me took its toll. I was a wreck.

 Then it finally happened. Forty years for robbery. I had never been to prison, but now I had to do a forty-year sentence. It devastated my family and me. For the first couple years my mom was a wreck and I was no better. I hope that no man has to ever sit down with his mother and look her in the eyes and see how her heart has broken like I had to. But I know it will happen again to someone else. And there wasn’t anything I could do or say to fix it. I still had bad coping skills. There was no alcohol or drugs anymore but the years of recklessness left me a broken person. I would act out, throw tantrums if I didn’t get my way, and get into fistfights regularly. I was still a burden on my family. I was still a problem. My family gave me support. I don’t know why to this day.   All the bad actions made me nervous wreck and paranoid that people were trying to get me. I started having heavy anxiety attacks. Something had to change.  But I had no idea where to start.

My saving grace was my mother. She never gave up on me ad planted seeds of good in my heart. Eventually these seeds sprang up. I was tired of being a loser. Change was small at first. I started by trying to keep a job. I had to wake up early to keep a job. I also had to stay out of the hold. Staying out of the hold meant new friends and a new attitude. Slowly a chain reaction was taking lace. The effects are still happening to this day. Nine years later, I’m finally developing coping skills instead of using drugs or alcohol to forget about to forget about problems. Small problems from years ago grew into large issues that have taken me years to correct. So much damage leaves me with a lot of work and many support groups to deal with it.

Today I need AA, continuing care drug and alcohol counseling, two church communities, alternatives to violence classes, college classes, and a handful of mentors to just function with all my problems. Ten years of criminal lifestyle may take me the rest of my life to correct. Better late then never.

James ”Jimbo” Andrews

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