Success Story: Peter Hoistad

Updated: Jan 26

On August 22, 2012, Peter Hoistad was arrested and indicted in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on charges of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute synthetic drugs and drug analogues resulting in serious bodily injury and death. He was less than a year away from graduating from college. He served his time in a facility in Forest City, Arkansas, for 20 months, was transferred to Duluth, Minnesota, at the end of 2014, and was released in October of 2016.

Here’s his story, in his own words.

Tell us a little about the most difficult time in your life.

I would say that the most difficult time in my life was getting federally indicted. When I was arraigned with my co-defendants, we were all looking at charges for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute synthetic drugs and drug analogues resulting in serious bodily injury and death while facing 30 years to life. At that point, I thought my life was over, especially since I had been in trouble before. I had gotten here by giving in to my own addiction to drugs and money and not paying attention to the red danger lights flashing. We thought we were smarter than the ones looking for us and weren’t breaking the law because the drug analogues we were selling weren’t technically illegal yet.

What was the turning point when you realized you needed to make a change?

Well, the turning point was when I was sitting in a holding cell and realized that I didn’t want to do this anymore. That was just the start of my journey. I ended up taking a plea for an 8-year sentence. I was extremely bitter and angry at “the system” for trumping up the charges and making me seem like a terrible person. I was about to graduate college and it felt like all of the good things I had been doing didn’t matter at all.

What were some of the challenges you faced as you tried to build a new life, and how did you overcome them?

I have always had a need for adrenaline, adventure and “getting away” with things. This didn’t leave my personality when I got locked up. A person needs to fend for themself in prison, and my first spot in Arkansas taught me how to do this. The food we were fed was garbage and I would hardly eat the meals. I had to come up with ways to make some extra money to buy food from either the commissary or from kitchen workers so I could keep my calorie intake up and eat better. I learned to hand sew pillows for people, sold bread and milk, typed for people who struggled, and had some other small side hustles.

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