Chapter 8

Before Sentencing/Self-Surrender Checklists

Be prepared to be taken into custody at sentencing no matter what your attorney tells you. The judge can have you taken into custody immediately.  The judge need not justify the reason.  If you are taken into custody immediately you are not going to be allowed to take anything with you more than glasses, a wedding ring, and prescription medications.

It is absolutely crucial that you take care of the Before Sentencing Checklist well before your sentencing date.  Be prepared for the worst.

Most of the Before Sentencing Checklist is so important they have their own chapters or more details in other parts of the manual.  Some things such as doctor appointments cannot be done quickly. A lot of items are going to take some thought and planning.  Put as much of this checklist into action as quickly as possible but be sure to complete the entire checklist in its entirety.

Included in this chapter is a Self-Surrender Checklist.  Being allowed to turn yourself in not only gives you more time to put your personal affairs in order, it allows you to bring a few extra items.


Before sentencing checklist

1.      Ensure immediate family financial and living arrangements are in order.

2.      Make a short-term family budget.

3.      Make a long-term family budget and care arrangements.

4.      Turn over business affairs.

5.      Legal matters- Power of Attorney, Will, Divorce/Marriage/ Legal Separation, Etc.

6.      Bring  glasses (2 Pair)

7.      See the dentist, get all dental work done.

8.      Get a complete and full physical. Take 60 days of medications with you as well as detailed medical records.

9.      Take money with you.

10.  Memorize phone numbers and addresses.

11.  Bring a cheap wedding ring and digital watch. 

Ensure Immediate Family Living Arrangements are in Order

Make living arrangements for your family well before sentencing.

Does your family have access to the cash they need? Do your kids have a safe place to stay?

What about your car and other assets?

No detail is too small.  Peace of mind comes from thoughtful planning.

Make a Short Term Family Budget

The first 6 months of incarceration will be the most difficult for you and your family.  Loved ones on the outside are trying to adjust to life without you being there all the time.

Many inmates reported being the primary decision maker as well as the breadwinner.  Now what are they to do?

Chapter (6) details how to set up a short term family budget.  This short term budget should account for the first 6 months you are away.   How well your family can stay within this budget while avoiding unexpected expenses determines how you can tweak your long term financial plans.

Make a Long-Term Family Budget and Living Arrangements

Money and long term care for you and your family has to be flexible, but still a well thought out plan can minimize unpleasant surprises.

A planned budget should include some cash for you Chapter9 as well as books and magazine/ newspaper subscriptions.

A long term budget should take over from the 6 month mark to about 2 years.  Household budgets get very difficult to forecast after that but you should have some idea after the first year.

Some assets make take a long time to sell.  What should happen to that money? A written budget can prevent those precious dollars from being spent unwisely.

Turn Over Business

The BOP has strict rules against running a business from prison.  There can be some very harsh ramifications trying to handle money or personnel decisions over the phone or email. Get as much out of the way as possible.

Many inmates say they left $1,000’s and even 10,000’s of thousands of dollars in outstanding receivables (uncollected debts). Be aggressive in your collections!

At camps and low security facilities you can seal your out-going mail because they are not monitored.  However all in-coming mail (except legal documents i.e. your attorney) are opened and read.  Letters containing business dealings may not get to you.

Legal Matters

Trying to get things done from prison is a slow, aggravating, and complex affair.  You have limited contact with your family and attorney.  You can’t go to the Yellow Pages or talk directly with most professionals that you don’t have an established relationship with.

A 15 minute office visit on the street becomes a long drawn out process in prison. For example any legal document that requires a notary public:

·             First you have to notify your counselor you have a document that needs to be notarized.

·            Money to pay the notary must be in your account.

·            You must fill out a form requesting the money from your account to pay the notary.

·            The BOP then must schedule an appointment for the notary to come so you can sign the documents in their presence.

·            You then mail the documents to the proper office/ person.

Each step can take a day or several weeks.

See Chapter 15 for more details.

Bring Two Pair of Glasses

Just getting into see an eye doctor (Ophthalmologist) can take years at some facilities. Most institutions contract this out on an irregular basis. When they do have eye exams you can expect long lines and a production mentality of slow-in-quick-out.

Once you have seen the Ophthalmologist, getting a set of prescription glasses from the BOP can take 2-5 months or longer.  These glasses are very heavy and are far from chic.  They look a lot like World War I aviator goggles.

You can opt to have your family fill the prescription at their own expense.  There is some paperwork and other bureaucratic red tape, but it is probably well worth the time and trouble. Plan for your new glasses to take 6-8 weeks to get to you.

Make sure your glasses case comes with a Velcro flap to prevent your glasses from accidentally slipping out of the case.  Many a pair has been damaged by picking up the case upside down or by bending over too far.

Take two pair of glasses with you to sentencing and self-surrender. If one pair gets damaged (very common) or lost, you have a back up set.

This is another valuable tip that can save you a lot of trouble and stress.  The BOP is not real excited about helping you because you can’t read or see the T.V., both of which are major ways to pass time.

See the Dentist

Expect long delays to get a dental appointment even for emergencies.  Getting a cleaning appointment annually (instead of six months) usually takes aggressive actions. 

Expect the dental assistant to be inexperienced and with less than the highest concern for pain or bedside manner.  Expect the dentist to be “overworked” (by the BOP’s Standards) and more interested on what is easiest for themselves rather than your best interest.

BOP dentists prefer to pull teeth rather than save them.  It is a lot cheaper and guarantees that tooth will not cause them a problem again.

Some will do basic fillings if it is not too bad. It is pot luck and good fortune if you find a facility that will do anything more than the most basic dental care.

If you have an abscess or other painful problem-well, you have a problem.  You’ll likely get some antibiotics and told to get some aspirins from the commissary for the pain.  It may be several weeks before the dentist gets to you.

Getting dentures can take years after your teeth have been pulled, if at all.  Some facilities are better than others.  They seem to be on a budget for how many get dentures each year.  With “meth-mouth” so prevalent, expect to do a lot of gumming instead of chewing.

Of course most dentures need some adjusting when you first get them.  Once again, expect a long painful delay.  Still an ill fitting set of dentures is better than none at all.

If you have oral problems expect some difficult meals.  The BOP does not have a special diet for the chewing impaired. Ribs, rice, salads, etc. are foods all of us with teeth (original or store bought) take for granted.  It’ll take a hefty diet adjustment if you end up toothless.

Therefore, see the dentist BEFORE you are to be sentenced, if you are going to need dentures get it done now.

In addition to a thorough cleaning have all fillings and caps double checked to ensure they are not loose or needing to be replaced any time soon.

Even the most remote possibility for oral care needs to be taken care of before hand.  Failing to do so could be a most painful mistake.

 Get a Full and Complete Physical

Even if you have medical and prescription insurance the BOP will not allow you access to special drugs or medical care except in rare circumstances.  The BOP will only provide basic medical care. They will use generic drugs that may not be what your physician had prescribed.

Most inmates will see a P.A. (Physician’s Assistant) rather than a doctor.  Many ailments and complaints will be ignored.  It takes a good deal of perseverance for most ailments.

Keep in mind, the BOP doctors and P.A. will make a fraction of what competent medical care givers could make on the free economy.  Expect most of them to speak English as second language. It is not to say all of them are incompetent but they do not get paid for their bedside manner.  They will be under budgeting pressure with little regard beyond keeping you alive.

Inmates report things have gotten progressively worse over the past few years.  Antacids are no longer given out except under some circumstances.  Now inmates have to purchase them at the commissary.  Most antacids cost more than a months pay.

Have a thorough and complete physical before sentencing.  Ensure reasons why you are taking certain medications are well documented.  Take a 60 day supply of medications with you to sentencing.

Here’s another important tip: Do not disclose in the medical questionnaire injuries or illnesses that are not actively treated right now.  If the BOP “discovers” or the condition is “new” while you are incarcerated they are much more likely to provide better care for that condition.

If the P.A or doctor asks if you knew about it before, deny, deny, deny.      

Bring Money

Bring at least $500 with you.  More if you can afford it.  The use of money and how family can put it on your account is discussed in chapter 9.

If you are taken into custody immediately you’ll want money for comfort foods and to make phone calls.  Do not spend money lavishly as you may be prone to frequent and unexpected relocations until you get to your final destination.  This is covered in chapter13.

Memorize Phone Numbers and Addresses

This is a speed dial society. Speak a name in the latest cell phone and it dials the number or you. A sizeable number of people have difficulty recalling their home phone number or address including zip code without some trouble.. Imagine this task while under the immense pressures, prison.

If you are taken into custody you will not be able to take anything with you except a wedding ring and eye glasses. No bile, nor papers, nothing! It is very important to memorize important phone number and may be a couple of addresses.

1.      Important phone numbers to memorize? 


If you are fortunate enough to be allowed to self-surrender, congratulations.  The judge has given you this time to put your personal affairs in order.  You still have a lot of work to do.

Any chapters of this manual you have skipped, do them now.  If there are blanks on any forms, complete them now.  If there are things you just can’t make yourself do, regret it in prison or DO IT NOW!

Look to family and friends for help completing any tasks. You can get more accomplished in one day than in a whole month in prison.

It is vital that you continue to scrutinize every expense.  Take this extra time to sell everything and collect as many debts as possible.  At the same time you must allow familythe maximum amount of autonomy.   Very soon they will have to do it without you anyway.

Get into the Habit of Checking Your Status on BOP.Gov Daily.

About a week after you have been sentenced Bop.Gov should have your name with a registration number.  This number is like your social security number. You’ll have if for life.  You’ll also use it for every thing from sending and receiving mail to putting money on your commissary account. More on this in Chapter9.

About a week before you are to report you’ll get a letter telling you where to go and when to be there.

Your anxiety level is going to be high.  You must push through it as every moment from that point is precious.

Turning Yourself In

You’re not going to be allowed to bring much when you check-in.  A wedding ring, glasses, and some medical devices are allowed.  You’ll more than likely be able to keep a white T-shirt, white shorts, and white socks. Chances get slimmer for a bible or address book, necklace (with religious symbol) and digital watch.  Highly unlikely but try to sneak by with white tennis shoes.

Bring all your prescription medications and medical records.  Chances are extremely slim they will let you keep any medicines but the medical records will expedite the BOP dispensing the proper medications more quickly.

It really depends on the facility and the CO (Correctional Officer) that checks you in on what you can keep.  The proper attitude of being highly cooperative yet quiet with a smile can go a long way.

Things that will definitely not make it through are street clothes, wedding rings with stones, wallets/purses, or mementos from home.  These will be mailed back home or given to a charity.

Hint: They will probably have you remove your watch before changing into a prison uniform.  As soon as you’ve changed casually put your watch back on.  This has reportedly worked a couple of times.

Preparation Time Frame

Some things on the Self-Surrender Checklist need to be done as soon as you have your registration number, especially putting money on your account.  But most of the items on the checklist need to be started about a week before you report.  They can all be done very quickly.  Nevertheless, you should check it frequently along with any items on the Sentencing Preparation Checklist.

Self-Surrender Preparation Checklist

·     Send money to your account

·     Send a letter to your new address with names, emails, telephone numbers, photos, etc.

·     Mail a bible and other books to your new location

·        Make sure family and friends know where you are going and how to send mail and money.

·        Complete and mail visitor forms

·        Make and handout a list of books and subscription you’d like to have

·        What to Bring:

·     2 Pair of glasses

·     Medical records and medications

·     Cheap wedding ring

·     Cheap digital watch

·     White T-shirt, shorts, and socks

·     White tennis shoes,

·     Necklace with religious symbol.

Send Money to Your Account

The use of money in prison is discussed in chapter 9.  It is best to have $250 to $500 dollars put on your account before you get there.  Chances are slim that the staff will take money at self-surrender. They plainly state they won’t, but sometimes they do.  If you put money on your account before hand it is a non-issue.

Chapter9  discusses how to put money on your account. You can also go to BOP.Gov for the latest information.

Send a Letter to Yourself

It is unlikely the BOP is going to allow you to bring in an address book.  It is worth a try but don’t be disappointed if they mail it back home.

There is a good possibility they will let you transcribe some phone numbers and addresses.  On a sheet of paper during in processing. Be sure you include attorney and other legal information.

A good idea is to mail a letter to yourself at your new location 3 separate times, a week before you are to report, 3 days later and the day before.  The BOP is supposed to hold your incoming mail until you arrive.  Receiving mail is some facilities is rather spotty so you have 3 times the chance of actually getting this critical information.

Include names, phone numbers, email and addresses of anyone you may even remotely wish to contact. Include your attorney.

Also mail pictures of loved ones and good times.  No nudity or anything too provocative, as those will not get to you.

Remember every letter sent in is opened and screened before it gets to you.

You’ll be surprised how good it feels to get mail even if it is from yourself.

Send in a Bible and Other Books

Like an address books, it is a crapshoot as to whether you’ll be able to bring in a bible or other religious material.  In fact you can kill two birds with one stone by writing or sticking important names and addresses inside the bible; instead of trying to bring in a separate address book.

The bible must be soft covered.  If it is hardback book your chances of getting it through fall close to zero.  If it is aged like and old family bible chances of getting it in are a little better – The BOP staff are people too, they do have some compassion.

You should not try to bring in any other reading material.  The BOP staff will quickly reject anything else and will lessen your chances of surrendering with anything at all.

Since bringing in a bible is iffy at best, mail in a bible and other books.  There is a 5 book limit per mailing.  It is probably best to mail in each book individually so one rejected book does not affect the other.

Books from home must be paper back or soft covered. Those from distributors or booksellers can be hardback.

Hardback books from home may contain nefarious contraband hidden in the cover, so the BOP rejects them rather than take chances.

It is best to send them 2 -4 days before you are to report. BOP. Gov has details for mailing books.

Notify Friends and Family

The sooner you let family and friends know your new address the better. You can go online to BOP.Gov regularly to see where you have been assigned.

Sample notification

On (Month) (Day), I will be reporting to (location).  I hope you will write to me often.  You can write me:

(Name) (Registration Number)



(City, State, Zip code)

It is important you include my registration number (XXXXX-XXX) on all correspondence.

Please be careful what you write as the Bureau of Prisons is likely to open and read my mail.

In case of emergency contact:

(Family Information)

Should you need to notify me directly please contact the facility staff directly at (XXX) XXX-XXXX. They will relay the information to me.

I cannot receive gifts however if you would like to send money you may do so by Western Union.

Weston Union phone number and how to send money:  

Western Union’s toll free number is 1-800-325-6000.

Online you can send money through Western Union at their website,

 This sample notification can be sent by mail, email, or text.  Included in this example is the easiest and fastest way to send money to your account through Western Union.  You may feel uncomfortable including that information as a form of begging for money. Nevertheless you should keep it as an option for Christmas and emergencies.  Some people may want to help and this will be very beneficial to you and your family.

Notifying friends and family with an emergency notification plan is not a trivial detail! People are going to worry about you, including them in your circle of friends will let them know you are important to them and will bring them a degree of comfort.

Complete and Mail Visitation Request Forms

The visitation request form can be found on line at BOP.Gov.  Ensure everyone who may want to visit you (See Chapter__ on Visitation) fills out this form completely and mails it in to the proper address.

You may want to have them fill it out in front of you so you can mail it personally 1-2 days before you are to report.  That way you can start getting visitors the first or second weekend you are there.

The visitor request form goes to your counselor for approval. Your counselor will do a basic criminal background check to verify they are not on probation or otherwise prohibited from being on federal grounds.  There really isn’t much to it.

Immediate family such as parents, children, siblings, etc. can come to visit for the first 60 days without having completed the visitation request form. It is best to have them fill it out and send it in anyway.

Make a List of Books and Subscription

While in prison you will not have access to the internet.  It is difficult for family and friends to know what to get you for Christmas or birthdays.

If you have a list of books and magazine/newspaper subscriptions to choose from you are more likely to get something and something you’ll want.

You’ll have a lot of idle time.  Getting a daily paper not only helps you keep up with what is going on back home, it is something to earnestly look forward to.  Every monthly or weekly magazine that comes in is a month or week closer to home.  Each hour enjoying reading about relevant events takes you away from the boredom of prison.

Let people know the type of books or authors you like.  It wouldn’t hurt to give them a specific website on how to buy certain book series as they come out.


This is pretty much the same as what to bring to sentencing.  It is included here to remind you that bringing anything more is an exercise in futility.

            Self-Surrender Checklist

·        2 pairs of glasses with glass case with Velcro flap.

·        Medications and medical records.

·        Cheap wedding ring

·        Cheap digital watch

·        White underwear (T-shirt, shorts and socks)

·        White tennis shoes

·        Bible or address book

·        Necklace with religious symbol.


Chapter 7

Chapter 9

Table of Contents

Glossary Terms