Chapter 2

Calming Fears About Prison

Calming fears of the unknown must be addressed so you can move forward.  The “deer in the headlights” syndrome can be relieved a little by some knowledge of potential dangers and dispelling some myths.

Later parts of this manual cover prison life in more detail.  This chapter gives a brief glimpse into the most commonly reported fears and concerns.  Please keep in mind the true intent of this chapter is to put you in the mind set of completing the rest of this manual and motivating you to take care of your family.

The thought of going to prison is far worse than being in prison.  Once you get into a routine life gets much better.  Providing your family is properly cared for, you will probably find prison is not all that bad.  Certainly time away from loved ones and the loss of freedom is inconvenient, however prison life is tolerable.

Sexual Assault and Violence

The most common fear is sexual assault and violence.  Sexual assault in minimum and low security facilities is virtually non-existent.  Even at medium security facilities it is becoming less common. Sexual assault is primarily used as punishment for disrespect.  Stay away from black-market items, gangs, drugs and gambling and you’ll be just fine.

There are very few if any weapons such as shanks in low (camps) and low security facilities. Certainly they are not carried around. A few people who have moved from medium security facilities may keep one around like a security blanket.  Being found with a weapon at a camp or low is taken very seriously by the staff. No one wants to get kicked up to a medium.

Altercations at camps and lows are generally more talk than action.  Fights are short, school yard type fisticuffs. Enemies today can be friends tomorrow and vice-versa.  Don’t let little things escalate and people will respect you more.


The food at most Federal Correctional Facilities is usually good. It may not be gourmet but most meals are quite delicious.  Some new arrivals report they quit dining out in order to get used to dull, bland food.  Others have said they put on as much weight as possible for fear of county lock-up (very small) portions.  There is no reason to take such measures.  Enjoy your freedom as long as you can.

The BOP has implemented a National Menu System to standardize menus..  As the BOP incorporates this into each food budget the food quality should improve even more. Providing you are not a super-finicky eater you should not have anything to worry about.

The commissary usually sells rice, prepackaged meats, Ramean Noodles, sodas, candies, chips, and other assorted food items.  These provide a break from eating in the dinning hall as well as snacks during the day.

Some inmates just refuse to eat in the dining hall. They spend a small fortune eating out of their lockers.  The commissary food is expensive and usually full of sodium and fat. The dining hall is much more nutritious but some people don’t like standing in line.



There aren’t any organized gangs in camps.  The staff is on constant vigilance for even gang related tattoos.  Even the slightest sign of gang related activity is quickly shut down.

In low security facilities gang activity is limited to black-market activities, not for protection or territorial rights, even then they are more groups than gangs.

Certainly doing business with these entities is unwise.  It is best to stay away from gangs until you fully understand the system. For the most part if you leave them along they won’t bother you.


Federal prison is not full of radical Muslims and Christian zealots. In fact there is a high tolerance for all religions among the staff and inmates. The BOP goes to great lengths to accommodate all religions. You needn’t be concerned about being forced into a philosophy, or religious cult. There are many atheists in prison.


Family and friends are encouraged to visit.  You even get credit on your custody level points for frequent visits.  Visitation rules will be covered in a later chapter.

 Visitation at camps, low, and mediums are contact visits meaning you can get hugs and kisses.  You can hold babies on your lap and share food from the vending machines.

Some facilities have outdoor areas for kids to play, while others are inside a large room.  There are games and cards that can be checked out.

Corporal Punishment (Beatings or Physical Torture) is strictly prohibited.  The guards and staff are required to treat all inmates with as much respect as the situation allows.

To be sure prison is inconvenient. It is designed to be. Your commitment to the remainder of this manual (among other things) will determine the inconvenience to you family.


Chapter 1

Chapter 3

Table of Contents

Glossary Terms