Monthly Archives: April 2017

Apr 28

Team Meetings

Prison Life

Thursday, November 10th, 2011 |

I had my team meeting last night. We have a counselor for everyday issues and a case manager for our overall incarceration issues. The inmates have team meetings with the case manager and counselor every 6 or 12 months depending how long you have left.

These meetings could be much more worthwhile than they are. The BOP uses a form that sets goals and documents certain aspects of your incarceration. The meetings last five minutes or less. This gives you an indication about how lightly these meetings are taken.

The case manager started telling me about vocational training including boiler training. I laughed. The last thing anybody needs is a wrench in my hands. I explained that I have agreed to teach several classes.  I am not a candidate for vocational training. She caught on quick and asked if I could teach “job skills training”. I’m not exactly sure what that means but I agreed to do it. I’ll get with the education coordinator next week.

The BOP has certain classes which they “require” you to take.  Money Smart and Job Skills are two of them.  They will also require the GED program if an inmate does not have a high school education or a GED already.  Butner puts a lot of pressure on inmates to take these classes.  It is common for the case manager or counselor to sanction a camper by putting them on the beach or not giving the camper halfway house time.

As a camper gets closer to going home, the case manager will start discussing the home confinement and halfway house time with the inmate.  The key thing that the campers are looking for is their “date” – being the date they leave the camp, whether it be to home confinement or halfway house.

Apr 27

Incarceration Stress

Prison Life

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 |

Incarceration stress is a real issue.  Some guys can’t handle the stress of incarceration.  One of the guys, who I know well, just had a bad panic attack.  He’s got diabetes so I thought that was his problem.  No, he just flipped out over personal issues and was belligerent.  The COs cleared out our unit and sent us to the back of the compound.  They put him on a stretcher and shackled him.  I assume they will take him to the FMC.  We all have personal issues.  Some can handle it, and others can’t.

You see signs of stress everywhere.  Guys generally don’t talk about their issues, but many have serious issues at home.  The worry about their family, health and little things.  Much of the stress builds up inside and then it pops.  I have not seen much physical altercations yet, but I have seen a lot of arguing between inmates.

Recreation in prison is a necessity.  Most able-bodied guys engage in some sort of physical activity.  The most common being walking or running the track and lifting weights.  These are excellent stress busters.  Other guys read, paint or knit.  Everyone does their time in their own way.  “You do your time your way, and I will do my time my way” is a common saying.

I have found that it is best not to increase another campers stress.  In other words, mind your own business.  Most verbal and physical altercations occur when an inmate butts into another man’s business.  It is best to keep your mouth shut, and mind your own business.

I feel the stress too worrying about Christine.  Meditation, walking and lifting weights work best to relieve stress.

Apr 26

Butner FCI I

Prison Life

Monday, November 7th, 2011 |

I’m safely settled into my new cell which has a window facing Butner FCI 1, a medium security prison.  Butner FCI I have inmates serving longer sentences (such as Madoff and the spy Pollack), the residential drug rehab program and the child molester program.   The picture below is a fair representation of my view from my cell window.

This view of of the FCI Medium I which is adjacent to the Camp.

Inmates attending the one-year drug program must have previous drug dependency problems. They get up to a year off their sentences for completing the program. The downside of the program is that the Medium has higher security than either the Low or the Camp. The non-violent graduates will likely get transferred to a lower security facility. Inmates from all around the country attend this program here.

The child molester (“cho-mo”) program is not really a treatment program, as it is a determination whether these inmates will be released at all. The participants have completed their sentence, but that does not mean that they are fit to be released into society. Again, Butner is used nationally for this program. I mentioned before that cho-mo’s make up to about 40% or so of the Low’s inmate population. I don’t have any idea how many cho-mos are at the Medium.  The FCI 1 cho-mo’s are segregated from the other inmates for their own protection.

The Camp is a “satellite camp” meaning that the FCI 1 has administrative authority over the Camp. The Camp is managed by a camp administrator who reports to the FCI 1 warden.  Our “release and discharge” (R&D) is also through the FCI 1. Anytime we move on or off the camp, we must get cleared by stopping at the FCI 1 to check in or out.

Inmate Population

We have roughly 320 guys at the Camp, about 700 inmates at the Medium, 1400 at FCI 2 (the “Deuce”, High/Medium facility), 1300 inmates at the Low, and 900 at the FMC. All for a total of 4,600 inmates at Butner.

Apr 25

Law Library

Prison Life

Saturday, November 5th, 2011 |

The law library is incorporated in the main library, and is not is a separate room like the Low. But, there are ample computers and all of them are never in use. A camper can spend all day and all evening in the library with no break, except for meals and counts.

They use the NexisLexis system.  I find it very cumbersome to use and it is not very intuitive.  The guys that are on the system all the time are very helpful with the program.  In every blue moon, a camper will have a class on how to use the system.  The education director refuses to help any inmates on using the reference resources.  It is better to ask other campers for help.

There are attorneys here that could be helpful to an inmate but the sheer number is going to be fewer than the Low. After all, there are 300 guys here versus 1400 at the Low.  Besides real attorneys, there are campers who fit the mold of jailhouse lawyer.  They have spent so much time working on their appeals that other campers come to them for help.  Some of these guys are good and know their way around the research.  However, they are not as effective in writing motions.  Both the real attorneys and the jailhouse lawyers stay very busy.  Most of these guys earn their way by charging for their services.

Campers are constantly coming and going from the camp library since the education rooms are directly tied to the library. I can’t get any regular studying or reading there except when I am at the law computers. The simple reason being is that the computers face the wall so your back is to all the activity. The deficiency of the library is more than made up by the other attributes of the camp which I have described before.

Apr 24

Creative Writing Teaching Job

Prison Life

Friday, November 4th, 2011 |

The person responsible for education summoned me to her office to ask why I hadn’t submitted a course syllabus for the Real Estate Investment course.  I stated, in reply, that she told me earlier in the week that I may not be able to teach it because my conviction was associated with real estate. She then asked if I could teach a creative writing course. I stated that I was not sure that I was qualified. She responded that she wasn’t looking to teach inmates to write books or stories, but to write simple correspondence such as letter to the editor with emphasis on grammar, spelling and sentence structure. I stated that I could teach that class.  I’ll start teaching creative writing next quarter.

BOP certainly spends very little time, if any, to adequately prepare inmates for productive jobs on the outside. By productive, I mean training for jobs that ex-felons can get hired for.  I don’t think too many of these guys will use creative writing when they are back on the streets.

I took the opportunity to engage her in a discussion regarding eBooks and electronic book readers. She had no clue what I was talking about, so I explained. This is the person responsible for the library and educating of inmates for their release.  She has no clue of the fastest growing trend in books and publishing!

This is typical of the BOP incompetence that I have witnessed so far.  The management of this facility (and I am told that Butner is not unusual) is extremely poor. I have numerous reasons for saying this including the absolutely waste of staff time, not utilizing their resources properly, inefficient procedures, ineffective management of the campers, and the condescending attitude to the inmates.

Apr 21

Early Releases Opened a Cell for ME!!!

Prison Life

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 |

As expected, the early releases opened a cell for me today.  I was notified of my move off the beach to a cube late this afternoon.  Then, I spent most of the remainder of the evening moving.  There wasn’t much to move.  I was set up by the time I went to bed.

It is significantly quieter and darker than the beach. The cubes have one bunk bed, one chair, one built-in desk with seat, one stool, and two lockers that are elevated from the floor. My bunk has a shelf for my CPAP, which is convenient.  The walls are just less than six feet high with an open passageway to the common hall.  There are no doors so we don’t have cells, per se.  The unit is wide open with thirty-six cubes and six bunk beds on the beach.  The ceilings are very tall so there is nothing to contain the sound.

New Cellie

My new cellie is a younger black camper from the Detroit area.  He is a very bright guy who asked me to bunk with him.  Smith has been “down” (in prison) for a while and is “short” (meaning, he doesn’t have much time until he is released).  I asked him why he wanted me in his cell.  He said that he didn’t want a young troublemaker as a cellie.  Since he was so short, he doesn’t want the actions of a cellie to bring down any trouble on him and screw up his release.  Smart guy!

A choice of cellie is very important.  At the Low, I’ve seen guys ask potential cellies to see their charges on the court documents.  The reason being is that guys lie about their charges, especially if the charges involve child molestation.  An inmate doesn’t want to inadvertently have a cho-mo as a cellie because other inmates will draw the inference that the other guy is also a cho-mo.  It is very difficult, if not impossible, to change cellies once assigned.  I rarely saw cellies change at Butner, unless there was a change in bunk assignment status, such as a lower bunk pass.

Apr 20

Early Release

Prison Life

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011 |

The Second Chance Act went into effect yesterday.  This law gives the crack dealers sentencing par with cocaine dealers and is retroactive. There will be a lot of crack dealers going back on the streets this month. We are losing a lot from here. I think it is a good thing overall. Most of these guys have served long sentences already, so, in all fairness, they are due for early release.

Moving Out

Everyone knew these law changes were coming. The crack dealers, who were eligible, could petition the court months ago. If some jurisdictions, the courts assigned a staff to evaluate their case history to determine eligibility of drug dealers sentenced in their courts.

There are guys being called by staff to pack up their stuff and move out today. Other guys are getting notice that their release date has been moved up, some substantially. The guy who was in the cell that I wanted “packed out” today. He was in the FMC after a back operation and then had a heart attack, so he never came back to the camp. He was scheduled for release in January. I am assuming he is heading home. I am expecting to get that bed. Maybe I can get some sleep!

BOP certainly spends very little time, if any, to adequately prepare inmates for productive jobs on the outside. They would be better off if they separated the violent guys from the non-violent to seek non-incarceration alternatives to the non-violent. These could include fines, home confinement and community service but they should absolutely include mandatory job training skills and drug tests.

I cleared the air with Roland today. I think everything will be ok. He is expecting to go home in three weeks as part of the early releases.  He is one guy that I can’t wait to leave!




Apr 19

Racism, Part II

Prison Life

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 |

I’ve had somewhat of an epiphany lately regarding the problem with the guys I previously described as racist, rude and loud. This problem is immediately personified with a black guy in the bunk opposite mine on the beach.  Roland despises me and he has no problem showing it.  Over the last two weeks, he has made a significant amount of anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic comments that were said to others so that I could hear.

I don’t think it does any good to argue with someone looking for a fight. Arguing won’t accomplish anything.  But, it will accelerate the tension so I have been ignoring the comments. My thought is that these guys condemn themselves by their words and actions. Other campers can see through these things, even if they laugh while these things are being said. You can’t argue with bigoted morons and expect to get anywhere.

To isolate myself from this foolishness, I have been wearing my headphones listening to classical music and keeping my mouth shut. I think that this is the more Christian thing to do.  This may not be the “prison thing to do”, but it has been working for me lately and the problem is gradually getting better.

White-Collar Resentment

As I said before, there is a significant amount of resentment by staff and other inmates of the white-collar inmates. They know that we enjoyed wealth and success beyond our “case”, something they will never experience. They also believe that our crimes are more significant than their crimes which are mostly drug cases. I think that they believe that dealing drugs isn’t that big of a deal. I would expect most of these guys will go back to dealing drugs when they are released. It is the way they know to make money and they have no job skills.

The other obstacle for white white-collar guys is the prevailing belief by bigots like Roland is that they have been abused by institutional racism. It is the white man’s fault that they are in prison, and that they never had the same opportunity as whites. The problem, of course, is that this hasn’t been true for decades. We have a black president, black cabinet members, black Supreme Court justices, and every conceivable aspect of society is fully integrated. Those people of all races who have applied themselves have achieved success in our integrated society.


It is a human tendency to blame others for their problems, and not take responsibility for one’s own actions. I wrote previously that some older blacks are more likely to rely of the institutional racism issue than the younger blacks. The younger blacks are more likely to understand that they are in their current position because they made the wrong decision.

I’m certainly not saying racism doesn’t exist. It does. But, it is much less prevalent in society, especially by those that are educated and productive. I was called a racist by Roland for no reason other than his desire to provoke an argument. You would never see this behavior in any type of educated or professional environment. It is just that some believe that all whites, or all blacks, are racist against the other. I don’t get it. This whole prison thing is a real enlightenment.


Apr 18

Beach Noise

Prison Life

Sunday, October 30th, 2011 |

The noise on the beach is bad.  In addition, the guys around me are generally inconsiderate.  I spend a lot of time reading in bed so the noise can be very distracting. I have found that I can escape the noise if I listen to the local NPR classical music station. It has very little talking and the classical music is very soothing.

Most guys stayed inside yesterday because it was so cold. Unfortunately, there is no place to read in quiet. The library is small and noisy. Sometimes I can go to the chapel to read but there seems to be a lot of guys in and out of there as well. Also, they have been playing movies in the chapel lately. There are no private reading rooms in the unit.

I would go to the TV room at the Low to read. It had a lot of natural light and most of the guys kept the radios to their heads so it was generally quiet. This is not the case here. There are never lights in the TV room at the Camp. Also, the TV is room is located at the door going outside so there is always noise.

Overall, I’m getting used to the noise but it does help to have something drown the noise out. In that regard, the classical music works. Given that I am a classical rock and roll guy, it amazes me that classical music is helping my spirits so much!

Apr 17

White-Collar Teachers

Prison Life

Friday, October 28th, 2011 |

I previously wrote that I will be teaching in the Education Department.  Today, the Education Director said I may not be able to teach the real estate course.  The reason being my conviction was about real estate. Most white-collar teachers at Butner are here because it involved something in their business. I don’t know how they will ever get courses taught if they persist in this line of thinking.

The drug dealers have, for the most part, no other work experience.  Only the white-collar guys teach. BOP has taken nearly all their financial support away from education. So, if it wasn’t for the white-collar guys, there would be very little education.

Money Smart

BOP does a terrible job of preparing guys for the outside world. I would guess that 75% of the guys here have no experience with bank accounts and basic personal financial management. In addition, most of these guys have no clue how much the world has changed since they have been incarcerated.

I will soon be teaching the “Money Smart” class because David (the guy currently teaching the course) has been designated out of Butner. The Money Smart curriculum is totally out of date and boring.  The inmates must take the course, but most of them sleep through the class.  David doesn’t follow the curriculum, but, unfortunately, he is talking over most the campers’ heads.  I will re-write the curriculum when I teach the class.

The lack of quality education program does not surprise me given a culture oriented towards warehousing inmates rather than preparing them to be productive members of society. It is no wonder that long term recidivism rate is in excess of 85%. It is very sad.

Consideration for Teaching

Teachers make very little money for teaching.  I expect to make no more than $10 a month.  In addition, the inmates who teach receive no other consideration for their time and services. As an example, the camper who teaches a boiler class, and works his ass off running the boiler room, was denied having a fourth adult visitor. All requests for more than three adult visitors must be approved in advance. They wouldn’t even approve his request!