Showing posts from January, 2019

Watching TV in a Federal prison camp

Watching TV is one of the inmates’ most dominate pastime. I have seen inmates sit in front of the TV for 5 hours straight, from the time they get off their work detail to the time they go to bed. TV viewing is a little different in a prison camp than the way it’s done at home, the difference is that you need a radio. All TV programs are shown with no sound. Inmates have to get a radio in order to hear the TV shows and each TV location in the prison has a different frequency for the various shows. Pretty good idea, each inmate can listen to his radio as loud as he wants.

Inmates get a Registration Number in the Federal Prison Camp

Upon immediate self-surrender to a federal prison camp, the new inmate is given a registration number from the BOP (bureau of prisons). This registration number consist of 8 digits (xxxxx-xxx), the first 5 are the next set of numbers available but the last 3 are regional identification which indicate the city and state you are from. This new number begins the administrative file, medical and dental records, and commissary funds account. It also becomes the inmate’s property ID number because the staff stamps it on your clothes and etched on personal items like padlocks and radios.

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Fun in the Federal Prison Camp

You might be saying at this point. “Yea, right, fun in a prison camp, I don’t think so.” Well I am here to tell you that inmates are very resourceful and they do find ways and make time for fun. A going away party is one of the most frequently celebrated events of fun. Each time an inmate is scheduled to leave the camp and go home his friends and buddies planned a party. This plan starts by everyone pitching in to buy certain items from the commissary such as drinks and chips. Now on some occasions where all the inmates are honoring an individual that everybody likes, the food service inmates would get involved and with the use of the kitchen cook chili and even fried chicken. While everybody was eating some inmates would take turns and share something about the inmate leaving. I’ll have to admit that I’ve heard some very heart warming stories.

Hurricane Worries in the Federal prison camp

In the recent aftermath of Hurricane Gustav and now Hurricane Ike hitting the Texas coast I felt the need to post this article about the hurricane worries that inmates deal with in prison. I was still an inmate in Pollock federal prison camp when Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita hit the coast line in 2005. Therefore having an accurate account of what each inmate saw, heard and talked about each day. Pollock being close to Alexandria, LA meant a lot of inmates from the surrounding coastline and a number of them from New Orleans.

Cop-Out Form in the Federal Prison Camp

Every inmate has certain rights and they exercise those rights by an orderly format set-up by the Bureau of Prison. This format is a written request form submitted to the prison staff which is commonly known as a cop-out. For example, if an inmates needs to see a doctor for headaches, he must fill out a cop-out form asking for medical services. The cop-out is then submitted by dropping it off at a designated location (like a mail slot). All cop-outs are then sorted, prioritized and directed to the correct prison staff or department (medical services in the example) and then you just wait for a reply. Replies to your request are then routed through the internal prison mail system and distributed during mail call.

Movie Night in the Federal Prison Camp

One of the highlights and special treat to all inmates in the federal prison camp is movie night. Every Friday night at 7:00 pm practically all the inmates are huddled around a TV to watch the latest movie just released on DVD. It’s one of the quieter times in the camp and the rooms are filled with the smell of fresh popped popcorn and everyone has their favorite snack and drink just like the movie theater. With no commercials to interrupt it becomes one of the most peaceful times for everyone.

Tithing in the Federal Prison Camp

Being able to tithe is very important to some inmates who come from a church background. In continuing with the biblical principles of tithing, inmates have come up with a couple of great ideas with the little compensation they do receive from serving on a work detail. One form of tithing is to purchase something in the commissary that the inmates home church may need on a regular basis. The most common is stamps because they can easily be mailed to the church and provide a great service to the church’s mailing needs.

Telephone Calls in the Federal Prison Camp

Telephone calls are one way, which means that only inmates can call out of the federal prison camp to family members and others. The numbers and persons an inmate calls all have to be approved by the BOP and there is a limited number that can be on the list. Phone calls are also considered a privilege and there are times when those privileges are taken away as a form of disciplinary actions toward one inmate or the entire prison camp population.

Relaxation in the Federal Prison Camp

Do you ever wonder what inmates do to relax? Well there comes a time in the late afternoon of each day when inmates do relax. It usually takes place after the work details, 4 o’clock count time, dinner and when the sun is setting for the evening. Some may consider it a boring time but most inmates do apply themselves to something, whether it’s a hobby or just a daily routine of watching TV. A majority of inmates would go outside to exercise and play casual sports while others take time with their hobbies of drawing and leather craft. The musician would play guitar and provide music for the others. Then the rest would just take time to write to loved ones and read the daily newspaper in the library. Inmates also relax and pass time by playing card games and dominos in the evening.

Cafeteria Etiquette in the Federal Prison Camp

An inmate’s attitude in the cafeteria really comes down to exercising good manners and a little common sense like in the days in grade school. There are a lot of behaviors in the cafeteria that is not tolerated and some that you have to watch very carefully. Cutting in line was not looked at very well in school and it’s definitely not allowed in prison. The only time inmates are allowed to go before others is if they are escorted by a prison official for work detail reasons are something similar. Even holding a place in line is prohibited.

Family Man in the Federal Prison Camp

There is one inmate that stands out the most in the prison camp and that’s the family man. So what makes him stand out among the other inmates? To simply put it in one word, it’s his wisdom. His wisdom shows by the calmness in the way he conducts himself. He accepts the responsibility of his actions and calmly moves on because he knows the consequences are temporary and brighter days are ahead. He humbles himself and shows great patients before others without complaining. If he chooses to complain it’s done in the proper order of BOP paperwork and diplomatic talks with the administration.

Holidays in the Federal Prison Camp

The holiday season is one of the roughest and most difficult times for inmates because they are away from their families. This is the time of year where inmates truly feel their confinement and long for the days of release. Some inmates do get the rare opportunity and blessing of going home for the holidays, it’s a time that all inmates enjoy seeing because it brings hope to all. Holidays are a time when the visitation room is full and to some inmates it’s a beautiful gift to see loved ones over the holidays. I say a gift because it may be the only visit they get from loved ones because of the long distance of traveling, so they plan their visits on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Seeing a family united for a few hours is a wonderful site and again it brings a ray of hope to all inmates.

Legal Work and Appeals in the Federal Prison Camp

I was impressed with a number of inmates who did not let the bonds of prison stop them from pursuing their innocents and wrongful injustice with appeals and other legal work. It was actually encouraging to me for my own case, especially to here of some inmates going home earlier with sentence reduction and others having their restitutions reduced. The law library was satisfactory equipped for research and studying of law cases. It also provided the basic needs to make copies, typing letters and mailing documents, sort of like a temporary field office that would get the job done.

Dominos and Spades in the Federal Prison Camp

Besides watching TV, playing dominos and a card game known as spades is the next favorite among the inmates to pass the time away. These 2 games are played every night and finding partners and other inmates to play is no problem. When it comes to which game is most favored and popular by the inmates, well there is no debate and dominos is always the winner. I have seen people play dominos from the time they wake up between breakfast and work details, playing during their lunch break and every other opportunity that comes available. Yes, it’s that addicting.

Cell Mates in a Federal Prison Camp

Whatever federal prison camp you or a loved may enter in, one thing is certain, they will have a cell mate. A cell mate is someone who shares the same area or cell with you, like a room mate sharing the same apartment. The term “celly” is the nickname all inmates use to identify their cell mates. The unique thing about becoming a cell mate I quickly noticed is the understanding that these are your adopted brothers, you watch out for each other. There is a respect and trust that is expected from your celly regarding your personal space and thing. It’s also looking out for the benefits and the interest of each other, like keeping the area clean, sharing items of need and watching their back of rumors or potential trouble.

Disciplinary Actions in the Federal Prison Camp

So what happens when an inmate breaks one of the rules in the prison camp? There are a number of actions taken. They get a “shot”, put in “the hole” or in the case of serious violations an inmate looses his camp status and placed in a low or medium security prison. The minor offense is a “shot”, it’s a term used in the prison system by the BOP personal and inmates. Basically it’s a written reprimand placed in the inmate’s file stating the rule that was broken and stays on the inmate’s file through out his time in prison. If too many shot’s are accumulated, the inmate looses his camp status. Disciplinary following the shot may be a loss in work detail, lower bunk privileges, visitation rights, commissary days and/or phone use. Example would be taking food from the kitchen or simply disobeying an order from the camp administrator or correctional officer.

Relationships in a Federal Prison Camp

Serving time in a federal prison camp will become a test for any lasting relationship, it will either bring break-ups and divorce or it will build a stronger marriage and lasting friendships. It all comes down to one thing that makes the difference, a foundation of love before going in. I have personally witness inmates in depression and fits of anger over the news of pending divorce, believe me it’s not a pretty site. On the other hand, I have also seen the love that bonded families closer with a new appreciation for what is truly important in their life.

Self Surrender to a Federal Prison Camp, Part 1

I have received many questions regarding self surrender to a federal prison camp and how it is on the first day. So I figured it would be a good idea to give you my personal account of what I experienced in a 3 part series. At 2:00 pm on a Tuesday afternoon I remember the cold words said to my wife from the case manager who checked me in, “You can go now”, occurring just a few minute after we arrived at the federal prison camp. I removed my watch, my wedding ring and handed them to my wife. I hugged and kissed her good bye and told her that I would call her as soon as I had the chance.

Self Surrender to a Federal Prison Camp, Part 2

Ok, the officer just left and there I was alone with a mesh bag full of toiletries, bedding and clothing. I remember everybody looking and staring at me because I was the new inmate in the dorm. A very uncomfortable feeling to say the least but with God’s peace upon me I soon dismissed it and started putting my things away in the locker assigned to me.

Self Surrender to a Federal Prison Camp, Part 3

While I was still getting acquainted with the other inmates around my area, I heard this loud shout, “count time”. What’s that I though, then I saw everyone moving and someone told me that I was to go stand in line by my bunk number. At 4 o’clock everyday all the inmates were counted. We stood by this three inch yellow line with the number of each persons bunk painted on the floor. Everyone was to be quiet as two officers would come along and count each inmate. One officer had a booklet with everyone’s picture. When the count was clear everyone raced out the door. I quickly realized that it was also dinner time after count.

Writing in the Federal prison camp

One of the things that really past the time was to take pen and paper in hand and start writing. Writing letters is very important for a number of reasons and here are a few. First of all, it gives the inmate or writer a mental escape by imagining their conversation with the other person. For example, I remember one night when I wrote 40 pages to my wife. I was so caught up in an imaginative state that I really thought she was next to me listening. The wonderful thing about this time was how great I felt the next day. My thoughts were not about the place I was in but on my wife and the conversation I had with her in my writings.

Furlough in the Federal Prison Camp

Furloughs! Being able to leave the prison camp for a short period of time is a rare privilege. Although slowly fading away, this privilege to the inmate is still available but it depends on the warden overseeing the federal prison camp and the BOP camp administration. Furloughs have to be requested by the inmate during their team meeting which occur about every 3 months or so, the BOP will not suggest it or plainly give it to you. Each inmate must apply for it with paperwork and the approval process begins.

The killer had sent chilling messages to others over the years

The young American couple set out on a trip in 1987, speeding toward Seattle, Washington, in a gold van, when they crossed paths with a killer. The man raped Tanya Van Cuylenborg and shot her in the head. Jay Cook was beaten and strangled. The killer left a pair of plastic gloves inside their vehicle, a gesture one detective interpreted as a taunt: You'll never catch me.  That was true for more than three decades.

Exercising in the Federal Prison Camp

Exercising and staying fit was the choice of each inmate. The prison camp recreational department did provide some equipment for exercise but not all camps had the same. The camp I was in had a stair climber, type of thread mill and stationary bike but that was it because it was a small camp. There was also a walking track behind the camp which all inmates took advantage of by walking daily at some point. Some used the track for routine jogging and others would walk around doing exercises like push-ups and sit-ups of various types along certain location around the track.

Suspicion in the Federal Prison Camp

Inmates in the federal prison camps are surrounded by many emotions and the majority of them are of a negative nature. One of those uncomfortable feelings that I quickly notice was suspicion. Being new in the camp I knew the other inmates would be curious but after a week or so I realized that their curiosity was actually being suspicious of who I was. Inmates want to know if you are a man of your word, someone they can trust and will you follow the prison motto of “see nothing and hear nothing”. Be cautious of the time spent in the company of a correctional officer, innocent as it may be, there is still a group of inmates closely watching you.

Call Out Sheet in the Federal Prison Camp

What is a call out sheet? A call out sheet is simply a print out by the BOP to alert inmates where they need to be the next day. The call out sheet is posted by the correctional officer’s office or a local bulletin board for all inmates to see, usually in the late afternoon. A typical example of a call out sheet would be for a medical appointment, visit with the case manager or counselor, change in a work detail, etc. Call outs can also be in response to a cop out that was submitted for an appointment.

Spectators in a Federal Prison Camp

By definition a spectator is a person or in this case an inmate who looks on or watches but I want to expand on that definition by telling you about three different spectators in a federal prison camp. First is the sport’s spectator, this inmate enjoys watching a game on TV or in real life like the tournament games played by the inmates. Weather it’s a fun game of basketball, teams playing baseball or just the skilled game of dominos, this spectator just watches for the enjoyment. Like any spectators, he yells and roots for the team he wants to win and congratulates those who make good plays.

Rules and Regulations in the Federal Prison Camp

Every federal prison camp in the nation follows a written set of guidelines from the Bureau of prison (BOP). These general rules and regulations are written in detail and are posted in each prison camp library for every inmate to see. The material is organized with code numbers, titles, sections and sub-section. It takes a while to get familiarized with the information but worth the time to look through. It will let you know about a lot of information that you may not be aware of so look through it and make notes.

Friends in a Federal prison camp

Finding a friend in the prison camp is no difference than any other place because the foundation is still built on the same principle, getting to know someone. Friendships are usually based on personality and common interest like family, profession and sports. I have come to believe that a friendship made in a prison environment to be a strong one because of the tremendous faith and trust which takes place between two individuals. Friendship is highly valued among men and respected for the strength of his word, sealed by his honesty.