Monthly Archives: April 2017

Apr 14

Adjusting to Camp

Prison Life

Thursday, October 27th, 2011 |

I am adjusting to the Camp and getting into a rhythm. It is very easy to meet other campers since this is not a large facility.  Guys I met only recently are going home in December.  Everyone at a camp must have less than ten years remaining on their sentence.  I’ve noticed that campers are coming and going every week.  Beds rarely stay open for more than a week or two – as soon as campers go home, they bring new ones in. Most come on “moving day” which is on Thursday.

My Camp Schedule

It is turning cold and rainy here. Winter seems to be approaching. I have been keeping myself busy by reading and walking.   We eat at 5 pm and mail call is either immediately before or after the 4 pm count. I walk for 30 – 45 minutes every night, except the two nights that I have class. When I get back from walking, I read until the 9 pm count. I go to sleep around 9:30 when count is done and things settle down a little.

My job is the easiest job in the camp rolling silverware from 6:20 am to 7 am.  I then walk for 45 minutes and shower. “Short line” refers to the food line for the food service workers which starts at 10 am. It seems early but we get the best food at that time. The afternoon is spent reading, some talking and some relaxing. It’s tough not having anything productive to do.

I’m still trying to get off the “beach”. I doubt if I have slept past 3:30 am in the month I have been here. I get up at 5:30 so I am in and out of drowsiness for two hours.

I’ve gotten very agitated with a few of the guys over their rudeness and their ignorant perception of the world. Most of their nonsense I just ignore. It’s hard to argue with idiots. It just does no good. I’m doing more to just keep to myself.

The camp is really laid back so there’s no pressure to fully utilize the guys here.  Most of these guys are doing very little to prepare themselves for the outside world.

Apr 13

Prison Prayers

My Spiritual Journey

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 |

My religious readings and prayers have increased since coming to prison. We obviously have more time on our hands than when we were dealing with everyday life. My prayer life generally involves reading the daily morning prayer from “The Magnificat” upon waking.  Later, I will read other excerpts from “The Magnificat”, including the mass and the evening prayers.   Another Catholic camper said that he would find me a rosary.  I generally go to communion services every Sunday afternoon. We had a local priest say mass this afternoon.

Ten Prayers

I previously wrote about reading the book titled “Ten Prayers That God Always Says Yes To”.  I say these ten prayers every day.  As a reminder, the ten prayers generally include: God, (1) show me that you exist, (2) make me an instrument of your love and peace; (3) outdo me in your generosity; (4) grant me peace, (5) wisdom, (6) courage and (7) forgiveness; (8) help me get through my suffering, (9) help me make sense of it, and (10) show me my purpose in life.  Powerful prayers.

Miracle Reunion

There are times when people enter your life through the grace of God to serve His purpose. When my three siblings visited a few weeks ago, we talked to the inmate photographer. Something clicked, and the discussion went much longer than I would have imagined given the crowded visitation room. This inmate cornered me later that day, and told me that he had never met so kind and caring people as he met in my siblings.

We carried on a lengthy conversation then and over the next few days. It’s a long story, but he has been “down” for 17 years with a few more to go. He has been estranged from his only daughter since his wife’s death from cancer.  The daughter was only a child when he went to prison many years ago. She is very bitter about not having her father during the illness and death of her mother. The daughter took some actions against her father, that no one should have done to their father, in retribution. She has a son that my friend has never met. My friend has forgiven his daughter and prays for her forgiveness. He asked me to pray for the two of them to be reunited. I have been praying for such a miracle, and brought it for special intention at one of our communion services.

Sometime last week, my friend told me that he talked to his daughter, the first time in years. The conversation was very fruitful and tender. She agreed to visit this past weekend. He continued to pray for the reconciliation of his relationship with his daughter. All to be forgiven and forgotten.

She did visit this weekend. Christine and I were there, and we got great pleasure in watching this reunion. We met with both and recognized this lost love being reborn. It was a beautiful sight. We had a chance to meet her and talk to both in the visitation room.

Grateful to Help

My friend told me later that night how grateful he was for our friendship and prayers. He told me that reunion could not have gone better. Don felt a new connection with his daughter, that one can receive only through the grace of God. She agreed to bring his grandson on her next visit. He particularly loved Christine and felt that Christ was working through Christine and me. He believes we were instrumental in this miracle. It brings me great pleasure to see prayers answered.

I saw God in this story. I saw that God exists; that I can make a difference in someone’s life, and I saw the type of forgiveness that only Christ can inspire. It was a good weekend.

Apr 12

Christine’s First Camp Visit!

Prison Life

Monday, October 24th, 2011 |

Kevin and Christine’s first visit

I had my first camp visit with Kevin. Truly, it was a great weekend!  The difference between the Low visitation and the Camp is incomprehensible. I can’t wait to go up again!

Kevin truly is a changed man from those horrible days in Solitary. He is back to himself, if not even better, with a great sense of peace. While he isn’t resigned to five years, he knows that this is a place where he can live and hopefully make a difference.

The guards were nice and courteous, a 180-degree difference from the last place! While the guards were present all the time, you didn’t get the feeling that they were scrutinizing every move you made. They certainly never reprimanded us, and didn’t discourage talking with other inmates and their visitors, like they did in the Low. They were friendly with a quick smile and willingness to help. Truly it is a blessing to be at the Camp!

Apr 11

Healthcare is a Disaster!

Prison Life

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011 |

I have heard horror stories about the healthcare here.  There was a guy who had a heart attack at the weight area.  The defibrillator battery was dead.  They got a second defibrillator, and its battery was dead.  The guy died.  I have talked to other guys that had their medical treatment delayed or ignored.  It is apparently a common thing. I have written about the uncaring nature, or general lack of competence, of healthcare here.

FMC

I was also told that the FMC can no longer do surgery because there is a staph virus in the air vents, and this is in a government hospital!  God help us all when the government takes over all healthcare.  Butner uses local hospitals for specialized procedures.  But, they owe Duke Medical Center $4M so Duke has stopped accepting Butner patients.  There are other local hospitals to refer inmates to, but it is unconscionable to stiff your major healthcare provider.

Please remember that Butner is a primary provider for health services for inmates in the BOP system.  My guess is that nearly half of the campers are “Care Level 3”, which indicates chronic care problems that require constant monitoring.  I would guess that the number is close to 25% of the inmates at the Low, and most inmates that are housed at the FMC.  It is hard for me to estimate the Care Level 3 inmates at the maximum and at the medium, but I would have to assume that the ratio is comparable to the Low.  The entire Butner complex has about 5,100 inmates.

My Healthcare Experience

I had some urology issues when I was in the SHU.  Medical scheduled me for an ultrasound for the day after my arrival at the camp.  About 10 days later, I met with the nurse about the results.  She said the results showed a “hydrocele”.  Since the swelling went down, it would probably heal itself.  She didn’t seem to know what a hydrocele was so she googled it and showed me pictures.

It was evident to me that she didn’t know what she was talking about so I asked to see a urologist.  She said she would schedule me for a urology appointment.  A week passed and still no appointment so I sent a cop out in again requesting the appointment.

Last week I requested a copy of all my Butner medical records.  I got the records on Thursday and reviewed them.  The ultrasound report indicated the hydrocele was probably caused by an infection.  She never mentioned the infection part.  As I was walking out the door with a cop out to speak to the camp doctor, I noticed I had a call out for a urology appointment at FMC.  A long story short, I went to FMC at 8 am and finally saw the doctor at about 1 pm or so.  He told me that the hydrocele was definitely caused by an infection and was surprised that I was not given antibiotics three weeks ago.  The doctor wrote the prescriptions and said he would see me in a couple of weeks.  This was a contract doctor and he seemed like a good guy.

My medical records also indicated some of my blood test results were out of normal range after I left the SHU.  The original blood tests, taken at the Low at intake, were all in the normal range.   I doubt the latest blood tests were reviewed, or perhaps they were ignored.  I will send the camp doctor a cop out about these blood tests.

Advice

The only advice I could give someone here is to constantly monitor your health records, keep a diary of all medical treatment, report health issues immediately, and insist on competent treatment.

Apr 10

Race Relations at Butner

Prison Life

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 |

I feel compelled to write about a sensitive subject – race relations. I would like to say there are no problems between the races, and there aren’t overt problems per se, but there are underlying tensions. Most of the hostility I have seen is from black to white by both black inmates and staff. The Butner staff and inmate population is weighed heavily to the black. I overhear a lot of conversations where black inmates denigrate, and sometimes bully, the white inmates.

Black Use of the “N” Word

I had a very interesting conversation with four of my black cellies last night regarding a wide range of race issues. Two of the guys were 40+, one was 19, and the other was 31 years old. Interestingly, the two older guys blamed institutionalized racism and lack of opportunity as the reason for their economic and legal problems. The two younger guys blamed their personal choices. The hostility towards whites is, part and parcel, of their perceived institutionalized racism.

The “N” word is used frequently here – by the blacks. I made the comment to these guys that I didn’t understand why the word is used so much by the blacks.  After all, the word is viewed as inherently racist if used by white men. I told them that I never use the word.  My parents would have whipped me if I ever did. They told me that their use of the word typically means “bro”.  But, the biggest difference is this: Their use of the word ends with an “a”, and the profane version ends with an “er”.

I told them that I have never heard the word used (in either form) among my professional black friends and acquaintances. They acknowledged that their use of the word is more of a “street” thing. They also said that if they used it in front of someone black who resented their use of the word in either form, they would respect that and would not use the word in their presence again.

Staff Racism

My observation is that the black staff treats black inmates better than the white inmates.  White white-collar campers are treated the most poorly – again, this is my observation.  There seems to be a perception that the legal system treats white-collar crimes more leniently than the drug crimes.  In my opinion, the drug sentences are too harsh, but this doesn’t translate that white-collar crimes are treated too leniently.

Perhaps, the black staff resents the white-collar guys out of jealousy, and wanting to make the rich white guys “pay”.   Maybe, it is their chance to lord over those who have done better in life. Or, it could be a planned attitude to humiliate inmates, in general. One medical contract worker told me that she was told to be bitchy to the inmates. I don’t know for sure, and the reasons can be varied depending on the person. Anyway, it is one of those irritants that one must get used to. It requires patience.

I have a black female counselor, case manager, camp administrator and assistant warden.  Most of the medical staff are black. Therefore, I am the perfect storm for the black female staff. It gets frustrating. We are all in a difficult situation.  If it could I have my way, I wish race were never a problem and all were treated with respect.

The sad thing is that I don’t know this will ever happen. It’s too bad.

Apr 07

Stranded at the “Beach”

Prison Life

Saturday, October 15th, 2011 |

It is an endless wait for the “right” cell and cellie, as I am stranded at the camp beach.  I continue to have difficult nights. Last night was a typical Friday night, 9 pm count, some talk, and then go to sleep. Problem is that others (particularly the younger guys) don’t go to bed as early as I do.  So, there is constant noise with people talking, laughing, toilets flushing and loud washing machines.  The beach is grand central station with everyone passing by my superhighway bed.  The guy in the bunk opposite me is constantly singing rap songs with his headphones on.  He can’t carry a tune and it gets obnoxious. Furthermore, the light never stops emanating from the bathroom.

Cell and Cellie Selection

I can’t wait till I get out of the beach. I have a lower bunk pass because of my ICD. There are two upper bunks that will soon be available because it’s from occupants were sent off to the hole. They have been holding one guy’s lower bunk available to him while he is in FMC.  But, no one is sure that he is coming back. Likely, I have to wait until someone leaves, and we have at six guys that I know of that are leaving between now and the end of the year.

I must be careful about getting the right cellie. The COs and counselors inspect the cells. They will write you and your cellie up if the cell doesn’t conform to their standards, regardless of whose fault the mess is. This includes perfectly made beds (military-style), swept floors, clean shelves, etc. Some guys here are slobs.  The camp administration can impose sanctions or take good time from you for simple infractions.

I am probably eligible for the next lower bunk available out of the beach. I have two possible cells that I have targeted. One will be available on December 15th, and the other on December 20th. It’s going to be tough to wait another two months to get out of the beach so I might be tempted to take what I can. I’ll keep you posted.

High Profile Camper Coming?

I got my WSJ last night and noted that the big insider-trader Raj was sentenced on Thursday to 11 years. His attorneys asked the judge to recommend Butner because he has some health issues. He will probably be given a Care Level 3 (CL3 like me). He is on the cusp of the less than 10-year sentence required to be in the camp. However, he may be able to get his good time counted towards this 10-year requirement up-front. The guy is worth $1 billion dollars so I’m sure he has persuasive attorneys and connections. His case is one of the most interesting insider trading cases that I have seen.

I spend most of my time with the other white-collar guys, who make up no more than 25% of the 300 guys here. You get to know them very quickly because of the commonality of interests, education, class, etc. I hope that Raj does make it to the camp by the time I leave. I would like to talk to him.

Apr 06

Camp Jobs

Prison Life

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 |

Just like the Low, I need to find a job if I am to avoid working in food service.  However, the food service jobs are better at the Camp than at the Low.  The Camp jobs have a greater diversity than the Low. All campers are required to have jobs unless they are truly unable to do anything for medical reasons.  There are a lot of guys who are so sick at the Camp that they can’t work.

Education Job

My first job choice is working in the Education Department.  I want to teach for the benefit of the guys, as well as to keep me busy.  This job also gives me an incredible amount of flexibility so I can use my time for my personal enrichment and exercise.  I have already agreed to teach a real estate investing course starting in January.

The BOP requires that all inmates take a course titled “Money Smarts” as a requirement for their release.  It is basic money management for guys that have probably never had a bank account.  The current instructor (a former banker serving 17 years for laundering mob money) has been designated to a different facility.  He doesn’t know when he is to be transferred, but he has recently developed a health issue.  They asked me to teach this class in his absence.  It starts tonight, so I will sit in on it and take over teaching it when he leaves.

I also talked to the education director about teaching Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU).  I asked the education director to review the curriculum online, though I’m not sure what is online to look at.    FPU might be a good advanced class to Money Smarts.

Other Jobs

The whole purpose of a satellite camp is to provide manual labor to a federal correctional complex such as Butner.  Off the camp compound, campers work in the food service and the general warehouses; as orderlies for the lobbies of the secured facilities (Low, Medium & Medium/High (Deuce)) and the mailroom; landscaping all the grounds outside of the secured areas; as plumbers, electricians, drivers and more.  In addition, UNICOR employs many campers in the complex, mostly making military uniforms.  These jobs all pay more than jobs on the compound, with a few exceptions.

Many of the jobs on the compound are simply make-work assignments with little or no supervision, such as litter pick-up.  There are orderlies for the chapel, education, visitation room, each department office and the housing units.  Campers also work in the recreation, commissary and the laundry areas.  Of course, food service employs the largest number of campers of the on-compound jobs.

Campers can request jobs by submitting cop-outs to department heads or those BOP employees responsible for the position.  The counselors make the job assignments based on need and the requests from the department heads.  Pay is at the slavery pay scale.  It is difficult to earn more than $20/month for any job, but $10/month is common.

 

Apr 05

Who are the Campers at Butner?

Prison Life

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011 |

I am making a lot of friends and acquaintances here, and most are easy to get along with. The campers tend to be a mix of non-violent drug and gun felons and white-collar guys. I’m surprised how many professionals are here, guys with real talent. We have doctors, lawyers, insurance, finance, among others. There really are not a lot of high profile guys here. I had met some at the Low and the Bernie Madoff-type guys with long sentences are at the medium.

I believe I have met most of the doctors by now, and have asked for some medical advice. I’m beginning to think that the medical talent with the campers is better than what we receive at FMC.

I really think that a good number (not all) of these guys never made a career out of crime but somehow made a mistake that turned out to be illegal. I’m sure the recidivism rate going out of the camp is very small. There is universal agreement that that most sentences are way too harsh for the crime committed.

Most of the guys have been in other institutions before coming to the camp. They realize that things are too good to screw up relative to being “behind the fence”. I was told by two guys that it was a good thing that I transferred from Low so I can appreciate the difference. There are some infractions which will get you moved out of here quick. These include missing count, drinking/drugs, fighting and other breaches of security. Smaller infractions, such as smoking, will result in loss of privileges such as commissary, telephone and email. My biggest advice to anyone unfortunate to be stuck here is that there is nothing worth screwing up camp.

We had one guy who was two months into a 20-month sentence who got put in the SHU for missing count. This is a very serious offense and we do not expect him to come back to the camp. This guy was stupid and should have known better.

Apr 04

Visitation at the Camp

Family Impact , Prison Life

Saturday, October 8th, 2011 |

I got my first visitors (my siblings) at the Camp!  Christine is still tied up with her move into a new house so she could not make it.  Visitation is huge for a family man like me.  Here are my first impressions of visitation at the Camp:

Visitation from the Visitor’s Perspective

The visitation room at the Camp is in the lobby to the facility and space is very limited.  They only allow three adult visitors (16 and over), but they do not limit the number of children.  The parking lot is right in front of the facility so visitors can essentially walk in to sign-up.

Visitation at the Camp is very different from Low and much more low key.  The Camp takes a lot less time to check-in since there are no metal detectors and bag checks.  At the Low, a group of visitors had to be escorted to and from the prison reception area to the visitation room.  This can take some time, and it was often that I would get to the visitation room before my visitors.

The visiting times at the Low was more extensive in some respects.  Visitation at the Low was every other weekend rather than every weekend at the Camp.  But, Low visitation was open to everyone on Thursday and Friday (both 2:30 to 8 pm), and every other Saturday, Sunday and Monday (8:30 to 3 pm).  This was more convenient to visitors coming a long way for more visiting time. The locals like the weekday visitation availability at the Low, which is not available at the Camp.

Like the Low, the vending company fills the vending machines once a week so the good items go very quickly.  I suggest buying everything you think you will need at the beginning of the visit.  You can only bring in quarters.  The bill exchange machines do not work.

Visitation Room Restrictions

Kevin with his siblings

Both places are restrictive on visitors’ clothing.  You essentially cannot wear anything that is strapless, show cleavage, too short shorts/skirts, and anything that is too tight.  They will turn you away, which is the real bummer.

In addition, they allow very modest touching and kissing.  Kisses and hugs are allowed at the beginning and end of each visits.  You must be very discreet in holding each other during the visit.  In both places, there is a CO that has a full view of the room so any inappropriate behavior will probably get noticed.

You cannot sit outside at the Camp, but can at the Low after the initial count and before dark.

In regards to contraband, don’t even try!  You may lose visiting privileges for a very long time, maybe even permanently.  It’s not worth anything that you can think of bringing in.  The Low has cameras and I’m told that they review the tapes.

Visitation from the Camper’s Perspective

The residential units are a lot closer to the visitation center so it takes less time for the inmates to get into the visitation room than at the Low.   The camper check-in is only a pat down at the beginning and end of the visit.  At the Low, it was a pat down at the beginning of the visit and a complete strip search at the end of the visit (i.e. all stitch of clothes had to be removed).

For the inmate, it is also a lot easier in the visitation room.  You have more freedom of movement in the room.  Inmates are still subject to the counts.  They are done in the visitation area, but out of sight from the visitors.

Inmates really enjoy the visits and are energized afterwards.  A lot of guys get no visitors, or very few, so these are real treats.  Enjoy the visits and be cool.

Apr 03

Library and Chapel

Prison Life

Monday, October 3rd, 2011 |

The library and chapel are in adjacent buildings behind the housing units.  It is amazing how convenient all the Camp services are compared to the Low, where everything was so spread out.

Library

I have been spending some time in the library, but not enough.  I typically look for books, make copies and use the manual typewriters.  The library is disappointingly small with only two reading tables.  However, there are additional working tables lining the walls with typewriters and computer monitors for legal research.

The book selection is much smaller than I expected.  In addition, the library books are not arranged by category but by author name.  This is a bummer because I usually find a category (e.g. history, non-fiction, etc.) and then look for a book.  Here it is all put together.  Occasionally, an ambitious camper gets permission to move books around and reorganize it.

The library also has newspaper rack with national and local newspapers, a postage scale and envelope printer.  All outgoing mail must have a mailing label printed from the inmate’s contact list in Trulincs.

The education rooms are also located in the library.  They are small but get a lot of use.  Nearly all the classes are taught by inmates.  For example, there is one physician who teaches anatomy, Latin, French and Spanish.  I plan to teach a class in real estate investing.

Chapel

I went to Catholic communion services at the chapel yesterday.  The chapel is a relatively simple set up with a main worship room and two smaller rooms.  One of the smaller rooms has lockers to accommodate the materials for each denomination, and the other is a religious library.  There are also two offices for each the chaplain and chaplain’s secretary.  The Camp doesn’t have a chaplain right now so that job is being done by other Butner chaplains.

The Catholic services are presided over by Eucharistic ministers from the local Butner Catholic Church.  I’m told that they have a priest that comes in once a month.  The other denominations have similar arrangements, but a Protestant chaplain presides over a non-denominational service every Sunday.  This service is very well-attended.

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