Work in the Federal Prison Camp

Did you know that inmates worked and got paid to be in a federal prison camp?

It’s true, an inmates puts in an average of 7 hours a day, 35 hours a week and gets paid an hourly wage. Each month they would receive a financial deposit in their personal commissary account for their compensation of work.

Work is mandatory and inmates are quickly assigned a job within the first few weeks of incarceration. The type of work an inmate does is determined by his educational background, technical skills or work experience. For example, I had a computer background in the engineering field with management experience therefore I worked as a garage clerk keeping records and other duties for maintaining a fleet of government vehicles.

Other work details fall in the category of food service, education department, janitorial, warehouse, commissary, landscaping, maintenance, garage, welding shop and truck driving. These work assignments were also controlled by the supervision of a correctional officer in charge. Inmates were also able to choose and change jobs for better ones as they came available.

Now for the big question, how much does an inmate get paid?

It depends on the grade of pay and your level of education. The lowest grade of pay is reserved for those with no high school education while the higher grades went to those with an education and experience. An inmate on the lowest grade of pay earned on the average of about $20.00 a month while those on a higher grade of pay would reach well over a $100.00 per month. There were also pay increases and bonuses given for those doing a great job and good work performance.

Ok, it’s not much but it did pay for some weekly commissary items and minutes on the phone which lifted the burden off my family. I was actually surprised to even get paid at all. Personally I welcomed the work because it made the time go by faster and I was able to keep up with some of my computer and organizational skills.

The work detail helped me because I associated the time as though I was contracted for a 2 year project working for the federal government in another country. Eventually the contract would be over and I would return home. Work in the prison camp could be a punishment or a good way to past time. It’s what you make of it.

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Posted in Work | 22 Comments
22 Comments to “Work in the Federal Prison Camp”
on 14 Jan at 2:15 am1Todd

At the medium security state prison of Wisconsin where I work, the scales are roughly the same.

I would add that the inmates who attend school are also paid for that! The idea is to encourage the education.
on 15 Jan at 12:46 am2diana

In federal prison I understand you are charged for a varierty of things. What is a typical expense for sending and receiving e-mails, making phone calls, etc.? Thanks!
on 15 Jan at 2:47 am3Rickey

Sending and receiving emails was not allowed. Inmates who did work on a computer had major restriction and no internet connection.

Phone calls were an expense of about .23 cents a minute but it has probably gone up since the beginning of 2006 when I got out.
Federal prison camp inmates have a maximum of 300 minutes to used each month which came to about $69.00. The calls were also limited to 15 minutes then you had to wait an hour before making the next call.
During the holidays, 400 minutes were given Nov. and Dec.
on 30 Oct at 5:36 am4Gina

My brother self surrendered 3 weeks ago to an FCI. We wired money to his account to help buy his phone card and some personal items. He’s already out of money and says he needs more for ‘winter things’. Are there any absolute essentials that inmates MUST buy that is not already provided? I’m not talking about candy bars or sodas. I already know about phone time, postage, envelopes and paper. He’s not saying specifically what or how much. And I can tell you that from everything I’ve been able to find and read, the amount we sent should have been enough for at least a a few months.
on 30 Oct at 5:26 pm5Rickey

Hi Gina, You are correct in everything you mention and your thinking is on target. I went in with $200 and was able to purchase everything I needed. The only thing that I purchased for winter was a pair of sweats (pants and long shirt) to sleep in and to where on cold days. You can also purchase knit caps. I’m thinking about $50 for 2 pairs of sweats and a knit cap. The biggest drain on finances is the phone calls. Work details should supply him with enough funds for snacks and daily grooming needs.
Here is a concern, there are a lot of scams going on in prisons, like food plans, laundry services and gambling. These will drain an inmates funds real quick. Debts are usually paid by purchasing commissary goods.
on 13 Mar at 7:11 am6Sandeana

What if an inmate is sick, or has a bd back, & simply cannot work, or perform a job? The inmate did not ask to be sent to jail-it’s bad enough they are imprisoned, why should they have to work? Anf what if they cannot work? All they should have to worry about is their laundry, & keeping their living quaters neat & clean.
on 14 Mar at 12:16 am7Rickey

Sandeana, you bring out some very good points. inmates with a medical condition are given a job which they can do, like clerical work or tend to the library in the educational department or some light duty in the kitchen. When an inmate is sick, they are to inform the officer on duty and then checked by a medical personnel.
Now regarding work, after the first 2 to 3 weeks of being in camp with orientation and waiting for a job assignment most inmates do want a job to keep from being bored. Some Jobs are actually a skilled trade to learn like welding and other jobs are just benefits which help the time go by quickly. Please remember also that I am speaking about a prison camp. Any inmate refusing to work is considered disobeying orders and the consequences can ultimately remove them from the camp status and be placed in a cell (the hole) for a time.
Yes, I do agree it’s not fair but again it’s prison camp and the best thing an inmate can do is cooperate because it’s now the lifestyle for the number of months and years ahead. Refusing to cooperate eventually creates bad blood between you, the officers and yes the other inmates because sometimes the privileges taken away affects the other inmates and that is the last thing you want to do.
It’s all about respecting the authority and other inmates. I for one witness men taken out of the camp because they had bad attitudes and refused to work. I have also seen the added benefits and more relaxed privileges due to everyone cooperating. In other words, prison camp is what you make of it!
on 03 Apr at 4:12 am8Junior

Hey Rickey,
First of all, I want to thank you so much for making this website. I’m soon to be going to prison so a certain amount of time. I been so stress out thinking about how am I going to survive in there but thanks to you. You have answer all my questions, that I was wondering about.

Thank you
on 03 Apr at 9:42 pm9Jadine

Dear Rickey,

I’m doing a paper for my political science and we’re required to have 12 resources. I’ve already read 6 different books, searched every website available, and conducted interviews with former inmates. So far, you’ve been the msot helpful on prison work camps. Thank you. But I wanted to ask you a question. Is there little work in federal prisons’ work camps? If so, why do you think that is. I’d appreciate it if you bet beck to me when ever you get the chance.


on 03 Apr at 11:00 pm10Rickey

Junior, Thank you for those motivating words, knowing that I helped someone is the primary goal of this website and your welcome.
on 03 Apr at 11:21 pm11Rickey

Jadine, thank you and I’m trilled to be a resource of you paper. Now regarding work in a prison camp, I can only speak the facts of one fereral prison camp. The camp administration makes sure you have a job even if they have to create one or split it with another inmates. Sometimes the inmates only job is to wash a few cars a week, teach one GED class a day, keep the library in order or clean the kitchen once a day in the cafeteria. Most inmates tend to get bored with there jobs because sometimes they can do it in 15 minutes and the rest of the day sitting around their job location. Now there are also jobs that only certain inmates can do, the ones that have a skill like a mechanic for example, they are always busy working.
on 04 Apr at 6:48 am12Junior

I have a few more questions? When you first arrive, what do they do to you?
Do they put you in the cell where you will be spending your sentence? Do you spent a lot time in your cell?
on 04 Apr at 3:53 pm13Rickey

First day in a federal prison camp is a day of processing which took about an hour, taking my picture, finger prints, mailing my street clothes home, issue of prison uniform along with bedding and basic toiletries. Then I was escorted to a bunk and locker in a large dormitory. Praise God there was no cells in the camp I was in. I was able to walk freely about the camp grounds.
on 05 Apr at 5:53 am14Jadine

Thank Rickey!

You were a lot of help! Wish me luck on my paper!!
on 05 Apr at 8:21 pm15Rickey

Thanks and good luck!
on 07 Apr at 4:20 am16John

How do you live life inside a camp
on 07 Apr at 4:21 am17John

What do inmates do on a daily basic and from what time do they get freedom
on 08 Apr at 1:37 am18Rickey

Living life in a prison camp is no difference that life itself, just follow the rules and there will be no problems. It will be what you make of it, it’s no difference than starting a new job, there are rules to follow and new people to meet.
An inmates daily routine is wake up at 6:00 in the morning, breakfast, go to there work detail at 7:00, come back at 11:00 for an hour lunch, 12:00 back to work, 3:00 leave work and back to the dormitory, 4:00 count time then dinner and the rest of the afternoon and evening is time of relaxation with recreation, watching TV, playing dominos and card games (spades). 10:30 is lights out and time for bed. Weekends are the same with no work detail except those working in the kitchen. Weekend is also a time of visitation available from 8:00am to 3:00pm and a lot of sports recreation time.
on 09 Apr at 1:48 am19Junior

Doesn’t sound so bad. And is it true that they keep you in the “hole” for several days until you get a doctor check.
Thanks again
on 09 Apr at 4:20 pm20Rickey

Junior, The only drawback about a prison camp is being away from family and friends. Now in regards to the “hole”, it has nothing to do with medical, it’s a disciplinary action taken by the BOP for misconduct and breaking the rules. The time frame of a week or so is to reflect on your actions (cooling down period) and a time of investigation. In the 2 years I was incarcerated I can only remember of 10 or so inmates that were actually put in the hole and they were for serious offenses like fighting, stealing, sexual misconduct, and arguing with an officer.
The key to surviving prison camp is follow the rules, be a man of you words (speak the truth), do what the officers tell you, be respectful and mindful of other inmates and everything will be fine. Believe me it’s worst thinking about it than it actually is so focus on what you can do to better yourself as a person because it’s your decision and trust in God.
on 12 Apr at 2:09 am21Junior

Awesome and thank you sooooo much…
on 12 Apr at 5:13 pm22Rickey

Your welcome and God bless.


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