Monthly Archives: March 2017

Mar 31

First FMC Visit

Prison Life

Saturday, October 1st, 2011 |

On Thursday night, I noted that I had a call-out to go to the medical center (FMC) yesterday for an ultrasound for my first FMC visit.  I quickly found out that I had to be at the bus at 8 am, even though my appointment was at 9:30 am.  I missed the bus since I had to pick up my uniforms at 7:30. The camper who coordinates the transfers to the medical center found me.  The bus had already left.  To my delightful surprise, they have campers who are drivers for the Camp.  I had one of these drivers take me to FMC.

Campers as Drivers

A side note – They have “complex” drivers and “town” drivers at the Camp.  Few of the campers have a valid driver’s license, so they sometimes have difficulty finding drivers.  These guys are very busy.  One driver told me that he is driving about 200 miles a day.  These trips include running errands (e.g.; Home Depot) and driving guys to the airport and bus depot.  One of the guys told me that he took someone as far away as Charlotte.  I put in for a driver’s job yesterday but they won’t consider me until I get four months under my belt here.  I just would like to get out and see the real world.

Federal Medical Center (FMC)

BOP stock photo of the Butner FMC

The FMC building has the look and feel of any other hospital, but with tighter security.  This is the only hospital for the nearly 5,000 men at Butner so it is very active every day.  There are wings for cancer care, regular hospital ward beds, mental health ward, and a residential dorm like the other prison facilities.  I can’t tell you exactly the layout for these because I didn’t see them.

BOP sends inmates to outside hospitals (including Duke) for operations and treatment that FMC can’t handle.  The doctors and staff seemed to be a combination of permanent employees and contract workers.  Everyone seemed professional.  The equipment I observed all seemed state of the art.

Going to the FMC

The complex driver took me to the Medium since it is the inmate control center for the Camp.  I walked in to the Medium’s front door to check-in with the guards there. This just comprised me showing the control guard my ID so he can record that I am no longer on the Camp compound.  It was no big deal.

At the FMC

Inmates wait in the FMC reception area for a CO to escort them to the FMC’s R&D.  In R&D, all inmates are given temporary clothing and a full strip search.  A CO then escorts the inmates to their appointment waiting room and then back to the R&D area at the end of the visit.  I was not placed in cuffs at this facility.

Inmates from the higher security facilities are segregated from the Campers and go through much higher security procedures.  They get different color temporary clothing from the campers.  But, the biggest hassle is that they are required to be transported from their facilities in cuffs and shackles.

The appointment waiting room is locked by the guard so movement is controlled.  We were given our lunch in the waiting room.  This is an all-day affair with a lot of waiting – at R&D, in the waiting room waiting to be called for the appointment, and more waiting for the return to R&D.

Return to the Camp

I caught a van from the FMC to the Camp with the one stop at Medium to be checked back into the compound.  I probably got back to the camp around 2 pm.  We must check-in with medical upon our return.  I told them that the ultrasound tech said that I would be notified if the test showed any problems for follow-up.


Mar 29

Camp Facilities

Prison Life

Friday, September 30th, 2011 |

The camp facilities are very different from Low in so many ways, and you recognize the differences as soon as you drive into the complex.  As I stated yesterday, the parking lot is immediately in front of the main building entrance.  The lobby of this entrance serves as the visitation center.  The back door of this main building opens to the campus, which is tight compared to Low.  All the services at the Camp are very conveniently located.  I had a chance to explore the Camp last night, and these are my initial observations:

Camp Facilities

The main building consists of a cafeteria, health services, commissary, some administrative offices, laundry services and barber shop.  There are no fences here so the feel of the Camp is more of a campus than what you would expect from a prison.  You can obviously tell that there is more freedom of movement and trust in the campers.

Behind the dorm buildings are another set of buildings comprising the chapel, library/education and inside recreation room.  The rec yard has about four handball courts (which are rarely used), weight training area with free weights (which are always being used), basketball court, horseshoes, bocce ball, volleyball and a gravel walking track.  There are several picnic tables and park benches.  A softball diamond/athletic field is located within the middle area of the track.  A small stream forms the border of the rec yard, and the other side is bounded by the Medium property that has the double fencing, razor wire, etc.

Housing Units

The dorms consist of two 1-story buildings of two wings each with about 42 bunks in each wing.  The units are named Catawba East and West and Hatteras East and West.  The cell setup is like the Low, but the cells are slightly smaller in size.  There is a just one 2-man bunk bed, one chair, and two lockers mounted to the wall in each cell.

Unfortunately, all new guys must go to the “beach” upon arrival.  The beach is at the far backend of the unit right at the entrance to the bathroom/laundry room.  The beach has two rows of three bunk beds.

I am in the lower bunk closest to the bathroom.  It is very noisy with guys going into and out of the bathroom and doing their laundry, which seems like 24 hrs./day.  The bathroom area is less than half the size of the Low bathroom areas.  It has two urinals, three full toilet stalls and about six shower stalls.

The microwaves are in the front of the unit in a utility room that includes an ice machine.  The ceiling of the dorm is very high.  There is ample lighting when the lights are on.  Our wing is nearly completely full with just one vacant bunk bed.

A TV room is located at the entrance to the building with four flat screen TV’s, a big improvement to the tube TV’s at Low.  Two computers are in the TV room at desks underneath the mounted TV sets.  There are only two phones in the unit.  One phone is just mounted on the wall and it can get very noisy, and the other is in an old-fashioned telephone booth.  I try to get the booth as much as possible because it is so much more private.  Even though there are only two phones and two computers, I really don’t have a problem getting on either except right after the evening count.


It was funny that last night and this morning, the guys from Catawba were scoping out the newly arrived campers – and not in a weird way.  The laundry is immediately across from the two entrances to the Catawba units.  A lot of guys hang out at the benches in front of the unit and in the courtyard.  The Camp is relatively small at 340 inmates so people get to know each other quickly.  You can’t help but notice new guys, and the laundry is typically the first place you notice them since all must get clothing upon arrival.

So far, the guys I’ve met have been very helpful and friendly.  There seems to be an eagerness to help newbies. I witnessed much the same at the Low on my arrival.  All inmates have been newbies at some point, so there is an understanding that new guys need to get a lay of the land, so to speak.

I’ll write much more as time goes on about my fellow campers so I won’t get into more detail now.



Mar 29

Out of the SHU!

Prison Life

Thursday, September 29th, 2011 |

I am out of the SHU and at the Camp exactly four weeks after going into solitary confinement!  The CO’s warned me late last night that I would have an early morning wake-up for my transfer to the Camp.  The property CO had taken all my property and left me with one magazine yesterday.  But, pardon me for thinking that they were lying to me again.

Processed Out of the SHU

I woke up early in anticipation of my transfer.  At about 8:30 am, a CO took me in cuffs and shackles to a holding cell in the R&D area of the Low.  This is adjacent to the SHU.  The CO’s got another dozen inmates out of their cells for transfer processing.  They removed our cuffs and shackles once in the holding cell.  We waited for nearly two hours while the CO’s finished all their paperwork and gathered everyone’s property duffel bags.  There was a lot of chatter between some of the inmates, so they obviously knew each other or were trying to catch up on gossip.

Some of the inmates were going to facilities other than Butner, but a few of us were going to other facilities within Butner.  I knew I was going to the FCI I – Medium for processing before going to the Camp.  The Camp is a satellite facility to the Medium, so the Camp does not have its own R&D.  Therefore, all campers are processed through the Medium’s R&D.

Transfer to the Medium

The CO’s called out the six guys going to the Medium, and then put the shackles and cuffs back on again.  This time the cuffs were locked to a chain around our waists.  I hate walking with the shackles because I can only take baby steps, and those shackles hurt the ankles.  We were walked about 200 yards to the front building to board a prison van.  Three CO’s escorted us and another followed behind us with a shotgun.  All the guys were happy to get out of the holding cells, but, at this point, we were not allowed to talk.  We were driven in a prison van the couple hundreds of yards to the Medium from the Low.

Driving up to the Medium is very intimidating.  It is a one-story building, all gray and with very strong perimeter fencing, like the Low, that is overwhelming.  The transport CO’s got us all out of the van and marched us into the R&D at the Medium.

Processed at the Medium

We were, once again, placed in holding cells after the cuffs and shackles were removed.  They eventually brought in two other guys from the Federal Medical Center (FMC) that were also going to the Camp.

The CO’s gave us a lunch bag with a baloney sandwich and an apple.  In addition, we took off the temporary clothing from the Low and were given different temporary clothing.  While the CO’s did whatever they had to do to process us, the eight of us talked in the cell.  There were six guys going to the Camp, and the other two inmates were staying at the Medium.  These two guys had long sentences for drug trafficking.

This is how I looked after 4 weeks in the SHU. I call this my “Ax Murderer” picture.

We were interviewed by a nurse and asked numerous questions by the CO’s.  They took our fingerprints and new mug shots for our new prison ID.  This was the first time I got a chance to see how long my beard and hair had gotten.  I’ve started cutting my hair extremely close years ago, once I gave up the possibility that I would ever be able to grow a full head of hair again.  Bald suits me and I am ok with it.  My wife would never tolerate me with a beard so I never tried.

A CO informed the campers that a counselor from the Camp would be coming to get us.  The Camp is immediately next to the Medium.  Again, we would have to wait to be moved.  The steel benches in these holding cells were getting to me.

Finally, to the Camp

There was talk that they needed to get us to the Camp by the 4 pm. count.  A male counselor ultimately came to R&D to escort us to the Camp.  They handcuffed and shackled us again for the move to the Camp, marched us to another van and drove us to the Camp at about 2:30 pm.     We still had our temporary clothing that was issued when we arrived at the Medium.  The counselor warned us that we should not succumb to the temptation to get a cellphone and to stay away from cigarettes.  I thought these were weird warnings at the time, but soon learned that both cellphones and cigarettes were prevalent at the Camp.

After being processed at both the Medium and the Low, the transfer to the Camp was a whole different experience.  The cuffs and shackles were removed in the parking lot at the Camp.  We walked straight in the front door from the parking lot – no fences, no secured doors – wow!

Getting Settled at the Camp

The counselor escorted us to the offices where I waited for my counselor to see me.  Our introduction was very brief and I was told that she would be calling me later after count.  In the meantime, I was given a bunk assignment at the “beach” (there’s a beach in prison? cool!) in the Hatteras East unit, told to go there and wait.  Another camper volunteered to take me there.

After count and during dinner, the newly-arrived campers were called to the laundry.  We were given an unhemmed uniform and measured for our clothes.  The laundry CO and inmates gave us bedlinens, towels, underwear, a wool hat and cotton gloves.  We were told to come back to laundry at 7:30 the next morning for our permanent uniforms, which included 4 pairs of pants and shirts, and a coat.

I quickly got settled into my bunk and then explored the camp’s grounds, which I will talk about later.  Most importantly, I went to the barber for a haircut and shave.  I feel human again!

Mar 27

4 weeks in Solitary … when will the transfer come?

Prison Life

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 |

They ran out of pens in the SHU so I haven’t written lately! Obviously, no CO is in a hurry to find some. I’m still spending all my time reading and there has been nothing to report anyway. I am numb, but I have been in better spirits since I decided to treat this experience as a silent retreat.  Meditation is also helping.

Prison guards have come by saying that I will be going to the camp soon. The property CO told me to pack all my things to leave! I assumed that he meant today, but as always, I was wrong. He just needed a day to inventory all my property. I think I will be moved tomorrow.

I can’t stand the look of my beard.  It is too long for me to shave.  I finally got a razor and trimmed my neck.  Spent all day reading the Economist magazine since I gave up all my books to the property CO.

This has been going on for four weeks – hard to believe! I think they just submitted my paperwork for the camp last week.

Mar 27

Weird Guy – Part II

Guest Posts

One of my friends from the Camp saw my Weird Guy post.  He recognized the inmate and knows the story of his camp escape.   My friend filled in some interesting details.  This is my friend’s email to me:

“Bond was in my unit at the camp. His name was “Lemuel”, I think. He went by the nickname of “Buck”.  Bond was a good chess player, maybe the best on the ‘pound. He always bragged about how good he was.

We had an early run in when he started to take my clothes out of the washing machine.  He said “you don’t want to fuck with me because I’ve been down a minute”.  I told him I didn’t give a fuck if he was born behind the goddamned wire.  If he ever touched my clothes again, I was going to beat the fuck out of him. He just smiled and could not have been nicer to me after that.

The medical staff told him he only had a year to live and would die before his release date.  He had severe respiratory problems. Every morning as soon as the doors would pop, he would take his rolling walker to the track. Thinking he was out of view, he would exercise and walk the track. I saw him doing this every day for a month.

Bond was a first-class piece of shit. But, he did get me commissary with no markup/cut so I did business with him several times.

Bond Walks

Bond told his cellie, a loud mouth crooked ex-cop named Mike McD (who built his release funds by filing downward departure motions for nearly every black inmate at the camp…$20 per), he was planning to walk (escape).  McD told this to several other inmates but, surprisingly, no one talked.

The day Bond walked, the CO’s didn’t detect his disappearance until the 9 pm standup count.  The guards counted at least ten times. Each time the tension rose as more officers entered the unit, and ultimately a lieutenant called in an assistant warden. They called the marshal service in and they interviewed everyone.

He was going to get me things on commissary as he had done before.  So, I had my wife wire $50 to his son. I was really pissed off because he walked from the Camp two days after he told me to wire the funds.  I told the marshals, if he ever made it back to the camp, I was going to be sure to get my fifty dollars’ worth in “Get some”.

Bond went to Mexico and was supposedly caught trying to get back into the U.S. by the Border Patrol.  He never made it back to the camp, of course, and did the rest of his time at the FMC. I heard he died there.  But, I never cared enough about him to have that checked by my people. I just hoped I would see him one day at the FMC so I could “get some” of my fifty back.

Just shows how you will put your gut feelings about someone aside if you can use them to fulfill your needs.  I never used people like that before. Shows you what being down does to you.”

Mar 24

SHU Routine

Prison Life

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 |

The good news is that my case manager approved a second call to Christine.  SHU inmates are only allowed one 15-minute call every thirty days.  As I’ve said before, I have been treated as if I’m here for disciplinary reasons, and not protective custody.   So, I was very happy to speak with Christine last night.  We covered a lot of territory in the short time.  It was so good to hear her voice.  She knows that I am doing ok.  I’ve fallen into a SHU routine (more on that in a minute) that I am hoping will make this time pass soon enough (I pray).

I was moved to a cell at the other end of the hall and I am still by myself.  It doesn’t matter because I can’t tell one cell from another, or one hall from another.  Walking down the hall confirmed to me that nearly all the other cells are occupied by two inmates. I’m still isolated me from the other inmates, and the fact that I am always at the end of the hallway means that other SHU inmates are not walking by me.

My routine is always the same here:

5:30 – 6 am:  Wake up and lights on (light switches are controlled by the CO’s)
6:30 – 7 am:  Breakfast in cell (best meal of the day and I always request an extra milk, but I don’t always get it)
7-11 am: Read and listen to some talk radio (yes, I could get my little radio out of my property bag.  This is a treat)
11-11:30 am: Lunch in cell
11:30-5 pm: Read and listen to some talk radio (I haven’t found many music stations worth listening to)
5-5:30 pm: Dinner in cell
5:30 pm: Mail delivered to cell
5:30-9:30 pm: Read (as you can see, I am reading a lot!)
9:30 pm: Lights out (I can request that my lights be turned on or off earlier)

Mar 23

Transferred: NOT!

Prison Life

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 |

I wrote to Christine yesterday that I was being transferred to the camp. Well, I misunderstood the CO who told me that. I am only to be transferred to a different cell.  Apparently, the SHU inmates transfer to different cells every 21 days.  I was so excited that I was going to be out of here. Tomorrow marks my 21st day here. I was so deflated when I was told this news today.

The prison psychologist was doing rounds here this afternoon. We talked briefly. I told him my story and my frustration. Not wanting to broadcast our conversation, he wrote me a note that my case manager was working hard to get the transfer done. Seems hard to believe, but this doctor is a good guy.  I hope he is right about my case manager.  Hopefully, my case manager is trying to get rid of me after my blow-up at him last week.

Mar 23

Weird Guy

Prison Life

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 |

I previously wrote about the weird guy in the opposite cell from mine.  We can see each other across the hall, not that I am looking to see what he is doing.  But, every time I stand up, or go to the cell door, he jumps up and goes to his window.  It has been totally freaking me out.  He has no neck, is very overweight, and wears very thick black prison-issue eyeglasses.  I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I said something to him in a friendly way.

He told me that they are holding him in the SHU pending escape charges.  This also explains why he is the only other SHU inmate that I have not seen with a cellie.  The guy said that he has been “down” for seventeen years and had another three years to go.  When he told me that, I asked why he escaped.   A guy who has done seventeen years can easily do another three years standing on his head.  I told him that I didn’t get that bonehead move.  He just shrugged his shoulders at me.  Escape carries at least another five years added onto whatever he had remaining.

There is always a nurse going to his cell.  So, I assume he has some medical issues which explains why he is at Butner.

I later found out that he walked away from the camp.  They called him Bond (no kidding), but nobody could tell me whether that was his real name or a street name.  Apparently, he met his wife at some rendezvous point and they drove to Mexico together.  They went into a bar and got drunk.  Bond told somebody that he escaped from a federal prison.  The bar patron alerted the authorities and he was arrested.  He must have been extradited back to the U.S.  Bond is awaiting trial for the escape and will never see another camp again.  The dude is crazy.

I’m glad I got the introduction out of the way.  I noticed that he is not jumping up every time I go to the cell door now.  I’m sure he is as lonely, perhaps more so, than I.

Mar 23


My Spiritual Journey , Prison Life

Monday, September 19th, 2011 |

I’ve been writing about how depressed and lonely I have been.  That is only part of it – my mind has been racing with thoughts about how unjustly I have been treated.  The blow-up at the case manager last week was really the last straw.  I can’t believe how many negative thoughts I have been having.  It is not just the last two weeks, but this has been going on since my case broke more than three years ago, that alone is a depressing thought!

I had an epiphany today.  Here I am in solitary confinement with no one to talk to except the occasional guard to ask for an extra milk at meal time.  This is like a silent retreat.  After all, I am in a bare cell alone reading a lot of spiritual and religious things, and I have been silent (though the guys from DC are still constantly making an ungodly amount of noise).  I would be paying a fortune on the outside to have the privilege of a silent retreat.

The point is that I need to re-frame this experience.  Savor the opportunity to be lost in good thoughts.  I have been practicing transcendental meditation since 1974 but I haven’t been meditating since I came to prison.  That changes today!  I will use my TM to re-frame my thoughts and re-center myself.  I can do it.  I’ve done it in the past and I can do it in here.

Mar 21

Showering and Shaving in the SHU

Prison Life

Sunday, September 18th, 2011 |

It is almost impossible to shower and shave in the SHU so I don’t even try.  But, I can smell myself now so I know it is getting bad.  Today is the day that I must try again.  The problem is that there is no hot water.

Showering in the SHU

The shower is a stainless-steel, all-in-one unit with a push button that turns the water on for about 15 seconds at a time.  The water comes out very cold for the first 10 or 15 times I push the button.  I must stand outside the shower with one foot in to reach the button and keep on pushing until I get lukewarm water.  Lukewarm water is all I can hope for so that is when I will jump in.  The 15-seconds of water-on time takes some mastering to be able to suds and wash yourself quickly.  It seems like all I do is push the button, soap a little, repeat and repeat and repeat.  Besides the water being cold, the air temperature in the SHU is out and out cold.  Cold water and cold air don’t mix very well.  I’ll deal with it today but not every day.

Shaving in the SHU

The SHU also has an all-in-one toilet and sink combination unit.  The sink is directly above commode where you would normally have the lid to the water tank.  The sink also has a push button control for the water.  There is a stainless-steel “mirror” above the sink with a bunch of dents in it.  Previous inmates probably smashed their fists into it.  You can barely see your reflection so it is not very useful.

The CO’s give us little nubs of a safety razor for shaving.  I can barely hold it and it is very dull.  I cut my face the first time I tried to use it so I have not tried again.  I’ll shower today but the shaving must wait.  My beard is getting longer but I do not care.  I am so glad that Christine can’t come to visit so she doesn’t have to see me in this condition.

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