Monthly Archives: May 2017

May 31

Prison Food at FPC Butner

Prison Life

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 |

I haven’t talked about prison food lately so I thought I would give you an update. I’ve really gotten settled into what I like and dislike.  And, what I will bother to go to the cafeteria for or not. Everyone’s tastes are different. There are some guys that I have literally never seen in the chow hall. Some go no matter what they are serving. Most pick and choose which meals they will eat in the cafeteria.

Meat Dishes

Anything with tuna is nasty.  Tuna is served at Friday lunch and one dinner a week. Chicken is the most popularly served item. You can count on it for up to four or five times a week, served in some manner. They will serve chicken baked, BBQ or fried at least twice a week, mostly one for lunch and another for dinner. The other chicken dishes are made of “grizzly” chicken. These are chicken pieces with the grizzle still in the chicken. I try to avoid grizzle chicken dishes (e.g.; chicken alfredo, chicken fajitas, etc). Hamburgers are always on Wednesday at lunch. Most other meats are served in casseroles and on things such as chili dogs. Pork is served once a week or so. The pork chops are like shoe leather. Pork roasts aren’t bad.  There’s turkey sausage patties’ on the weekend that are not eatable.


I go to all the breakfasts. We typically get cereal, pancakes (Wednesday), French toasts (Friday) or grits and/or a “breakfast cake”. These range from chocolate cake, to a rolled cake with icing, to a muffin cake, or donuts (a rarity). They normally serve a “country breakfast” on Mondays that consists of biscuit, gravy and potatoes, which I never eat. I typically carry bring a bag of raisin bran to the chow hall on the mornings that I don’t want grits or the “country breakfast”.

Self-Prepared Meals

As I said, I skip a lot of meals in the cafeteria because of the poor quality. I fix my own meals on these days. My more common meals that I fix are pizza, soups and sandwiches. The pizza is a microwavable pizza crust with sauce. I buy jalapeno peppers, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese as topping. I added sausage on my last pizza. There are guys that buy flour tortillas, moisten them with water, layer them and mold the damp tortillas to make a homemade pizza crust. They will really load up on toppings.

The most popular soups are the ramen noodles. We can buy packages for $.30 in the commissary. The COs allow us to take a bread slices out of the cafe so we can make sandwiches. My favorite is peanut butter and jelly. The other guys are far more creative than me. One of the guys gave me an apple strudel.  He made it from the apples available in the cafe and cooked in the microwave. It was excellent, and very generous of him to give it to me. Some guys will make wraps and sell those for up to five stamps. I always try to get a pint of ice cream or an ice cream sandwich on commissary day. It’s one of my few treats during the week.

May 30

Lockdown Census

Prison Life

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012 |

The Camp had a “lockdown census” today.  COs are supposed to do this once a month, but rarely do. The lockdown census is announced over the camp PA system.  The inmates that are not working are supposed to immediately go back to their units and their cells.  The COs lock the unit doors a few minutes after the announcement.  Working inmates stay at their job.  A CO walks through units and the different job locations.  The CO then marks-off the inmate’s attendance.

A census is different from a count.  The census is not required and is not reported through the BOP system.  If a camper walk-off is suspected, the COs will call for a count.  I think that the census is done more to hassle the inmates than anything else.  Only a few of the COs take the census seriously.

Today’s census-taking CO asked me and other guys why we weren’t at work. The answer – our jobs were already done.

COs let us leave the workplace once there is nothing left for us to do. This is why I only work for about 30 minutes a day in foodservice. The foodservice CO at the Low made us stay in foodservice for the entire shift.  This was a total waste of time.

The Camp will do an “AM census” several times a week, but the CO just asks us for our name and bunk number. They occasionally do this in the afternoon as well.

May 30

New Inmate Laundry System

Prison Life

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 |

The biggest issue of contention for the last several months is that of the inmate laundry. The Camp COs came into the units today and took out all the washers and dryers. We now have a new inmate laundry system.  The inmates will now drop off their laundry bags at the Laundry Department and pick them up later the same day.  This change date was announced several months ago so it was expected.

Most guys preferred doing their own laundry for the simple reason that they didn’t want their clothes contaminated with the soils of others.  The Camp has always offered laundry service for personal clothes but it was rarely used. The guys, including myself, are less concerned with bed linens. These could be exchanged once a week, which I have always done.

Why Inmates Like Doing Their Own Laundry

This is a medical facility which means there are guys here with all sorts of diseases, fluids and waste adhering to their clothes. In addition, many guys were worried that the laundry would lose their personal clothes (underwear, socks, etc.) and medical garment items such as diabetic socks. These are paid for by the inmates, most of which have little funds to replace lost items. The other concern was that the laundry would fade and crumple the “greens” (uniforms). Also, guys are rightly concerned that the clothes in laundry bags will not be dried properly. These are all very valid concerns.

Justification for Pulling Washers and Dryers

The BOP’s justification has been cost reduction. The washers and dryers go 24/7 using an inordinate amount of water and electricity. While I find this concern valid, the choice of attacking the inmate’s laundry is almost laughable considering the other waste at the camp that should be addressed.

In addition, the washers and dryers were paid for by the inmate’s commissary account fund. The profits from commissary, phone and email (Trulincs) go into an account that is supposed to fund inmate activities. Everyone doubts that this money is being spent effectively on the inmates. I, frankly, have no clue that money is being spent given the total lack of inmate activity and recreational services. I can almost guarantee you that there is no oversight and audit of these funds. This account is ripe for fraud and abuse, though I have no evidence of any wrongdoing.

The pulling of washers and dryers has been tried at other Butner facilities, and each time the washers and dryers went back in. I expect the Laundry Department will be written up often for the issues I mentioned above.

May 26

Bunk Assignments

Prison Life

Monday, January 9th, 2012 |

The camp is preparing for an influx of new campers. As I have previously written, there have been a lot of guys who have left as a result of the new crack law change or it was simply their time to go. They try to put all new campers on the beach which means that they have to move existing beach residents into a cube. As you may recall, the beach is more like the pits! It is constant noise and activity 24/7. I was there for a month before I got transferred.

Cellies Can Get You in Trouble

I’ve written recently that it is important to get the right cellie.  This is so important that it bears repeating.  Any new guy should be looking for an empty bunk in a cell with a guy that he is compatible with.  Also, if you are already in the cell, but your cellie has left, then you need to be searching out a compatible guy from the beach – easier said than done.

The wrong cellie can get you in a lot of trouble. The biggest areas of contention are: reverse sleeping schedules, slob vs. a neat freak, a smoker or a cell phone user, personality, interests, etc. We spend so much time in the cell that the worst thing is to walk into your cell and be reminded of a miserable situation every time you look at your cellie. The other big issue is that if your cellie has contraband of any sort, both cellmates get blamed for it. Unless, the responsible cellie takes responsibility by saying “that’s mine and he didn’t have anything to do with it.”

I have seen guys whose cellie did not take responsibility for their actions so innocent guys went to the hole; or, in a worst-case scenario gets kicked behind the fence. In addition, they have not been doing inspections here lately but they can and will. Same thing – if your cellie is a slob and the cell is not cleaned to standards, then you both get dinged. Talk about taking a bad situation and making it worse!

My Cellie Selection Problems

My other cellie sought me out when I was on the beach. His former cellie got released. My cellie was a no-nonsense guy who is looking at going home in the Spring. He didn’t want to get a guy that was going to mess up his release date. I made the request to move into his cell, and it was done. He had the upper bunk, and I got the lower.

I was getting real worried. There was no one on the beach that I wanted in my cell. They were mostly young screw-ups. I talked to two guys that were in upper bunks in other cells that wanted to move in with me. One of the guys would have been one of those incompatible situations so we mutually agreed to nix the request. The other guy is with a cellie who a totally rude and messy slob. This guy is hating life! He previously asked for a cell transfer and got denied. I told him to ask again, which he did and got denied again.

Lower Bunk Pass

You must have a medical reason for sleeping in the lower bunk, and it’s not even based on age. Remember, this is a medical camp so many guys here have chronic health problems. My former cellie had a number of health issues, and even had a lower bunk pass in the past. He should have been able to keep his lower bunk pass but, for some reason, they took it away from him. He recently got his lower bunk pass and moved into another cell leaving me with no one in the upper bunk.

Counselor Makes Cell Assignments

The counselor is responsible for bunk assignments. Some counselors will allow cell transfers if there is truly an incompatible situation. For some reason, my counselor will not. Once you are in a cell, you are there permanently. It may be that she is too lazy and/or she just doesn’t care. Anyway, she won’t move people even though it only takes a minute to make the change in the computer. Ridiculous!

My New Cellie

We had a guy self-report the past week, and he was assigned to the beach. The “self-report” guys are an immediate clue that he is probably either white-collar, or he has a short sentence. This guy fit the latter case. I met him on his first day and told him that he should get off the beach asap. I also told him that my cell was open, and I was looking for a cellie.  He should come see me if he had an interest.

It seemed obvious to me that he would be my best chance of getting a compatible cellie. Yesterday, the counselor started calling all the beach guys to her office to discuss cell assignments. There are a few guys that don’t want to move off the beach. I talked to the new guy about telling the counselor he wanted to move in with me before it was too late. The other guys told him that I was absolutely the best choice of a cellie for him. Even though he had talked to the counselor about the transfer, I told him that he needed to submit a written cop out request for the transfer. He did so. The counselor made all the cell assignments, and I rallied by getting a guy that I could live with.

Brandon moved in yesterday, and we covered all the ground rules regarding cleanliness, sleeping, settling all his stuff, etc. We spent a lot of time talking and finding out about each other. This situation is going to work out good.

May 25

Friend with Thyroid Cancer

Prison Life

Friday, January 6th, 2012 |

I previously wrote about my friend David who had been teaching Money Smart.  He had his care level reduced to a two so he would be transferring to a camp closer to home.  I was to take over his class when he left. The BOP will transfer inmates out of medical facilities once their medical care no longer requires chronic attention.

In the meantime, David was diagnosed with the thyroid cancer.  He is lucky that he is at Butner rather than another prison.  Butner specializes in cancer treatment.  If an inmate has cancer, he wants to be at Butner.  It is amazing how many inmates at Butner have cancer.  Cancer must be the number one disease for inmates at Butner.

David had a lump on his throat for a few weeks before they could get him into surgery. He immediately went back to a Care Level 3 pending the results of the operation. The operation showed the thyroid cancer, and they put him up to a Care Level 4. This is also dangerous because a Care Level 4 designation may get the inmate transferred to the FMC.  The camp is so much better than the FMC.  However, there is no chance that he will get transferred closer to home now.  He is rightly disappointed because he has never been a convenient drive from his family.

The good news is that they are expediting his cancer treatment. This very unusual but I am very happy for him.  The operation appears to be a success and they are telling him that his survival expectations are in the high 90 percentiles.  Overall, this is a success story for BOP medicine compared to others I have seen.


May 24

Off-Site Medical Care

Prison Life

Thursday, January 5th, 2012 |

I got called to the front this afternoon and was told a CO would take me to a cardiologist’s office to have my ICD checked.  The BOP will take inmates to outside doctors and hospitals for off-site medical care if it is not feasible for the doctors to go to the FMC, or if the FMC can’t handle the medical procedure.  This is generally for specialist treatments where only a handful of inmates have a medical need.  Inmates enjoy the break from the compound, and are grateful that they are not going to the FMC for the day.

They don’t tell you in advance when you are leaving the compound as a security precaution. A few minutes after being called to the front, the CO and I drove in a government car for about 25 minutes north of Butner.  This was the first time I left the Butner compound since I arrived in August.  It was great being in the “real” world and seeing normal people and things.  I realized that I was becoming institutionalized already.  I have become accustomed to the camp routine and people.

Two other CO’s were in the doctor’s office with an inmate from the high security prison. The other inmate was handcuffed. I was never handcuffed, a privilege of being in the camp.  There were no other patients in the doctor’s office.  I didn’t ask, but the doctor probably didn’t want his patients seeing federal inmates in the office.

They checked my ICD and then we were on our way. The CO drove a scenic way back. He explained that they take different routes each way, again as a security precaution. I didn’t have any problems with the ICD so everything is looking good.


May 23

Blame Inmate

Prison Life

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012 |

This is a classic story of the BOP “blame inmate” game.  A guy here was given keys and a radio to hold by a woman CO. He immediately dropped them because inmates can’t hold these items. I don’t know what the CO was thinking. The CO wrote the guy up for not obeying her order to hold the items.

However, the whole event was videotaped, and a lieutenant happened to be watching the camera. The lieutenant saw him with the keys and radio, and had him thrown in the hole! Here he was trying to do the right thing and he gets screwed.  This is a no-win situation for the inmate.  There is very little he can do in these circumstances.

Meanwhile, he was supposed to be transferred by bus to another prison. But, the Marshall Service bus left before he could get out of the hole. He appealed to the warden (or somehow the warden got involved), and the warden got him out of the hole. He must wait for another transfer bus. Thank God, the warden solved the issue, but what a cluster f@#k!  All strange but true.

It is very common for BOP staff to blame inmates for their incompetence, or for anything that goes wrong.  This is part of the mentality of BOP personnel – the inmate is always at fault.  I have seen counselors, case managers, the camp administrator, medical staff and COs all blame campers unnecessarily.  Shifting blame to inmates is part of the BOP culture.  Inmates must be very careful not to put themselves in position where this blame could fall upon them.  The repercussions can be very serious.  Never trust any BOP staff member!

May 23

Lower Bunk Pass

Prison Life

Thursday, December 29th, 2011 |

My cellie Smith got a lower bunk pass so he is moving out of my cell. This will give me some solitude in my cell until they assign someone new.  However, I have an incentive to find my own cellie, just like Smith asked me to bunk with him.

Cellies can get you in trouble.  When the CO’s shakedown a cell, they don’t discriminate between cellies if contraband is found.  The same applies if your cell is not up to standards during an inspection.  Both men can get “shots”, disciplinary action that can include the loss of privileges.  The problem is that there is no one currently on the beach that I want for a cellie.

All newly arriving inmates are assigned to the “beach” until the cells open.  Lower bunk passes are assigned to inmates that have health issues that would cause the inmate to fall or stumble out of the top bunk. I rarely, if ever, see someone permanently assigned to a lower bunk without medical issues.

There is some leeway for inmates to request to be assigned to certain cells, but always within the same unit. The camper’s counselor makes the bunk assignments.  So, it helps to have a helpful counselor when asking for a cell assignment.  Unfortunately, none of the counselors at Butner are inclined to do more than they must, and are certainly not inclined to go out of their way for the campers.

We currently have many empty beds.  This is because there have been guys leaving before the holiday but almost no transfers in. I expect to see new people after January 1st. I’m debating taking a chance of being assigned a good cellie or asking someone who is not ideal, but will work.

May 19

Transfer Request

Prison Life

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 |

I have always believed that white-collar campers are despised and treated more poorly than the others. It may be that the BOP staff views the white-collar inmates’ previous success and education with disdain. It may be because they can exercise this power with impunity.  This is an example of a case manager sitting on a transfer request from a white-collar camper.

Donald had his care level reduced from a 3 to a 2 so there is no longer a need for him to be at a medical facility.  He is not from this area so he wanted to get closer to home.  Donald submitted a cop-out requesting a transfer to a camp closer to home.  This cop-out was never answered.

A BOP staff member has seven days to answer by BOP policy. He waited 90 days before submitting a second cop-out asking for an answer to the original cop-out. His case manager called him into her office all pissed-off that he had the gall to ask for an answer to his first cop-out. She wrote on the cop out “You should exercise some patience”.

Later, the case manager told him that they would only transfer him to a Low saying that this was the only place that had an opening in his region. His region has seventeen camps in it, so she was obviously lying.

This may be the carryover vindictiveness of the cop-out issue, and part of the disdain against white-collar inmates. He is going to try to get his care level raised to a 3 again so he can stay here in Butner to bypass going to a Low.

May 18

Booted from the Halfway House

Prison Life

Monday, December 26th, 2011 |

We had a guy that was booted from a halfway house return to the camp today.  Jeff claims that the halfway house couldn’t take care of his medical needs so they kicked him out. I don’t believe his story.  Halfway houses have very stringent rules.  Some guys are so excited about having a little freedom, they can’t handle the rules.  He probably broke the halfway house rules and they have a zero-tolerance policy on some rules.  I’ve seen a few other guys get violated while they are on supervised release or home confinement.

Most halfway houses won’t take Care Level 3 guys because of the liability.  In addition, they don’t want to be responsible for a resident’s medical care.  The guy’s medical issues would have been a known consideration of the release to the halfway house.

If medical care was the only problem, they would have sent him to home confinement, or required him to complete his time at the camp. I’m sure he did something to get booted out of the halfway house. He said he spent thirty days in county jail awaiting transfer back here. I don’t remember when he left but it wasn’t much more than thirty days ago. He will probably spend the rest of his time (4 – 5 months) here. Not good!

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