First 48 Hours
It will take anywhere from six to twelve months to adjust to prison life. However the first two days to two weeks will set your reputation and how staff and fellow inmates perceive you.
Whether you arrive at your designated facility by self-surrender or through the prison transportation system, you will be watched very closely. Who you are seen talking to will be analyzed as much as what you say.
What you do will be noticed and how much time you spend at a particular spot will be a topic of many clandestine discussions does the new guy spend a lot of time in the chapel praying and reading the bible or reading the newspaper? What does he read at the library? How long does it take him to read a book? What does he get at the commissary?
Inmates watch each other closely, new arrivals are scrutinized even more. In the beginning it is best to say as little as possible. Stay close to your dorm/cell block. As time passes you’ll blend in and the bulk of attention will turn to the next new arrivals.
There was an inmate from Missouri who was sent to a facility in the south. The south is covered with fire ants.
After a good rain the fire ant beds can be two feet high. At the slightest disturbance tens of thousands of fire ants scurry out of the nest in aggressive defense.
Fire ants get their names because of their burning sting that will leave an itchy festering welt for several days.
This new inmate poked a stick in one such fire ant bed then watched in amusement for several minutes. The inmate picked up the stick to observe these little creatures more closely.
An hour later he was called into the office and asked if he was really eating ants.
Of course he wasn’t, but it is typical of how someone can be perceived or misrepresented by other inmates (or staff). Be mindful you are being evaluated.
Mind Your Own Business
There is a lot of inmates shenanigans going on in prison. Some of it is minor like sneaking an apple from the dining hall. Some of it is major like possession of a cell phone.
While all eyes will be on you, it is better that you see nothing, hear nothing, and most importantly, say nothing. Keep your eyes, ears and mouth closed. Activities that don’t affect you should not concern you.
The staff knows what goes on and they have a pretty good idea of who is doing what. They tolerate a certain amount of it. The cost and effort to stop it would be far greater than the benefit.
Story after story is told of snitches who were thrown “blanket parties”. That is one party you do not want to be the guest of honor.
An inmate was sentenced to six months at a comp for probation violation. He was originally sentenced to three years probation for a FEMA Fruad.
Before he made his bed he starting ranting about civil right violations and lawsuits. By that evening he had written a letter to the President. After that he wrote tow cop-outs to the warden requesting a meeting.
The next morning he took several more cop-outs directly to the unit manager. One explaining there needs to be more guards because there wasn’t enough security!
A few days later he said the unit manager said she “was seeing waayyy too much of you!” When asked how many times had he been by the replied, “Three times…today.”
The vast majority of inmates at this camp never see the inside of the unit manager’s office. This was not a good way to start with the staff or inmates.
The next day at A&O he persisted in asking question after irrelevant question prolonging an already boring session. To top it all off when the discussion of contraband such as cell phones came up he asked how he could help! Needless to say he won no friends at A&O.
That weekend he went to his case manager with a handful of cop-outs reporting which cubes in his dorm had cell phones and which had tobacco. The entire conversation being over heard by inmates in the hall.
Word spread rapidly, he was ostracized and made the butt of jokes through the entire camp. When he sat at a table during meals inmates would not-so-non chalantly move. At every opportunity his locker would be raided.
The ignore and harass treatment continued to the point of feces on his pillow and thrown in his locker. Not just the work of one, but of many.
At this point the unit manager made a broadcast statement, “HE IS NOT A SNITCH, JUST STUPID.”
Usually when something like this happens the victim is put into “protective Custody,” in other works put in the hole. He talked them out of putting him in protective custody.
That evening he shouted through the dorm, “PRAISE THE LORD. I’D LIKE TO THANK THE COWARDS WHO DID THIS. NOW I HAVE A LARGE LAWSUIT FOR RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AND RELIGIOUS PROSECUTION.” He could barely be heard over the boos and jeers.
His self-inflicted misery is a textbook case of what not to do in prison. It is way it is important to stay quiet and learn your surroundings before venturing out or offering information.
Do Not Discuss Your Financial Situation
Absolutely nothing positive can happen discussing your family finances. If you have access to a little or a lot, it is nobody’s business in prison.
Extortion at medium security facilities is more than a myth, it is common practice. Most inmates at medium security facilities are serving long sentences with nothing to lose.
Some extortionists are direct. Pay up or else. Most are not so bold. They will be very nice to you at first even though you may not have anything in common. They will ask question about your family that in the outside world are harmless.
They are trying to ascertain how much they can get from you.
Soon they will ask to borrow things of little value or maybe get something from the commissary. Gradually they’ll ask with more expectation than politeness.
How far you let it go and what happens when you try to stop it is unique every time. Some are serious and some is false bravado.
The BOP staff is unlikely to take serious action against either type of extortionist until something happens to you. They will probably talk to them, that creates a new set of problems.
Once you have fallen into their trap you are on your own to get out.
The best thing to do is hide your wealth.
Any display of wealth can invite Robin Hoods as these characters steal from the rich to help their poor-selves. They feel entirely justified; after all you can afford it.
As far as inmates are concerned, tell a story a life of poverty. Limit the amount in your locker and lend as little as possible.
A large portion of new inmates reported losing a substantial amount of weight in the first six months. The stress of prison life rather than the availability of decent meals was the largest stated factor.
Most who lost weight felt much better after they started eating again. The Club Fed diet is a proven method of weight loss. However prison is a terrible, terrible place to get sick.
Starving is proven to dramatically lower the immune system at a time when you are being introduced to unfamiliar germs and viruses and a high degree of stress.
Don’t Borrow Anything….
You will probably be greeted on your first day by an inmate welcoming committee. Most will offer to loan you basic items until you can get them for yourself.
Before you accept anything find out what the return conditions are. Do not accept anything under the “we’ll work it out later” deal. That usually means you’ll pay dearly!
You may receive a church welcome packet that has shower shoes and other basics not provide by the BOP. It is considered rude not to accept it even if you are not of the faith.
Some inmates have acquired extra clothing or dishware from departing inmates. They kindly loan these items until new arrivals can get them. Usually they just want the items returned in a reasonable time.
Some inmates run little stores. They charge premium for sodas or sweets. Make sure you understand the terms and can pay them back as promised
48 Hour Checklist
· Write home
· Make sure money is in your account
· Eye and Dental appointments
The first couple of days can be overwhelming with all that is going on you mustn’t forget about contacting family. It may take some time to get e-mail and telephone clearance nevertheless write a quick note to family letting them know you’re okay.
Even if you can call or e-mail, write home anyway. It is therapeutic and there is just something special about getting a letter.
Make Sure Money is in Your Account
Your commissary account balance is accessible through the e-mail computer. When you are in the system you can add money to your telephone account and start using e-mail. Of course you will also need money to buy things at the commissary.
Eye and Dental Appointment
It is difficult to get into these services. Therefore put in for an appointment in the first couple of days.
It still may be several months before you get into actually see them.
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