Monthly Archives: June 2017

Jun 30

Horticulture Class

Prison Life

Monday, March 19th, 2012 |

The camp posted a horticulture class for enrollment.  The description that was posted stated that the class met five days a week and was also a work detail (meaning the inmates get paid for attending). They had more than a dozen guys sign-up and start in the class.  The class involves some classroom instruction and time in the greenhouse.  They also start a garden and are responsible for tending it daily.  The greenhouse and garden are on the far side of the recreation yard.

A few weeks into the course the campers find out they are not going to get paid. Several of these guys took time off from their regular jobs to take this course. They wouldn’t do it if they knew they weren’t going to get paid. A lot of guys need their jobs because they have no other source of income.  The course description was too good to be true, and the guys were had!  I don’t know how many have quit so far.

The previous session was taught by an outside instructor. They had a pretty good size planting of some crops and plants. The instructor went on vacation for a week. She gets back to find out that some genius BOP staff had the garden field bush-hogged and plowed under. The instructor is obviously very upset, complains to the warden, and of course, nothing comes of it. She never returns to teach again.  I don’t blame her.

The screw-up on the class description and the plowing under of the garden are typical of the incompetence of the BOP staff.

Jun 29

TV Room Is Not Worth My Time

Prison Life

Sunday, March 18th, 2012 |

The TV room is a place I do not care to spend my time in. I’m not that attached to TV, and l have found it is more hassle than it’s worth. It’s not the TV’s themselves that is a problem. There are four nice flat screens with good pictures.

However, there’s a limited number of chairs, which is the biggest area of contention in the unit. Guys get very territorial with “their” chairs, and with “their” TV programs. Of course, these things are not “theirs”, but they claim ownership to always having a place to sit and watching the same TV programs. Also, the noise is generally louder than I care for. So, I try to avoid it as much as possible.

Fight Over a Chair

As an example, one of my buddies was sitting in a chair watching TV sometime right before 9 pm count. A guy tells him that the chair is his friend’s chair, that the friend is coming back, and he needs to get out. My friend moves.

After count, the guys go back into the TV room. That same contested chair is still available, and noticing that the guy who supposedly owns the chair is not there, he sits in it. The guy who told him to move comes back and says, “I thought I told you not to sit in that chair”. My buddy replies, “I’ll move when so and so come back”.

That response was not reasonable, logical and good enough for the other guy. He gets up grabs the chair and literally dumps my friend onto the floor. My friend is now pissed. As I have said before, fighting is taken very seriously here, as well as taunting. You can get tossed out of the camp for either.

My friend gets up and goes to the emergency phone which directly calls the command center at FCI. He states that he feels endangered, and he needs help. Minutes later there are a dozen CO’s rushing into the room. They don’t know what’s going on, and they, rightly, assume the worse.

Now, the CO’s who have come from all over the complex are pissed. The camp duty CO’s are really pissed. I’m sure they didn’t appreciate having to deal with this commotion. They take both guys to the hole for investigation.

It’s too early to say what is going to happen to these guys. My guess is that they let my buddy stay in the hole for a week or two.  The other guy will probably stay longer.  The logical thing would be to put one of the guys in another unit when he returns.  However, the camp is not known for doing logical things.

Jun 29

Cancer Care at Butner

Prison Life

Saturday, March 17, 2012 |

Butner is known for its cancer care for federal inmates.  The BOP sends inmates with cancer from around the country to Butner.  Chances are that if you are in the system and have cancer, you will be sent to Butner, no matter your security level.  Butner’s proximity to Duke and other world-class hospitals is a good reason why this is wise on BOP’s part.  It is amazing how many guys I meet with cancer and the various places they come from.

I was talking to one of my friends who had his knee replaced and had cancer treatment at Butner about his health care experience. Overall, he had very good experiences. His knee replacement failed through no fault of BOP, but they had Duke put in another “bionic” knee. He caught his cancer very early. They started cancer treatment quickly, and he will be ok.

My friend’s perspective is that getting the care is the biggest problem.  The BOP is notorious about delaying care.  Often, they will find reasons not to look at a complaint, especially if it involves specialized care that the BOP doctors don’t understand, or feel is too expensive.  But once under care, the BOP does all they can for the guy.

Further, my friend believes that most of the guys who die here would have died anyway on the street. Given this is the only BOP cancer treatment facility, by necessity many guys who come here will die of cancer. I can see his perspective. Most of what I have been exposed to are guys who struggle to get adequate care. My perspective is a little different, but then again, different people will have different experiences.

Jun 27

Cell Phones Found at the Camp

Prison Life

Friday, March 16th, 2012 |

The camp is very aggressive busting guys with cell phones and other electronics. The danger with a cell phone is that they can be used to make arrangements to bring contraband into the facility.  Cell phones are common at camps because it is so easy to bring one in.

Special Investigative Services (SIS) went to the garage where he worked to bust a guy for a cell phone. It happened that he had the cell phone on him. I don’t know the guy but I understand he is a big guy and very strong. Apparently, he resisted the SIS CO.  They started wrestling as the SIS CO tried to subdue the inmate. There was another inmate there who tried to grab the cell phone while the scuffle was going on. He was probably trying to get the phone so he could delete the phone numbers in the phone.

I would guess that the concern is to protect the citizens on the outside who was providing the contraband to the other inmate. SIS ended the fight and busted both guys. The guy who interfered was given three “100-shots” series disciplinary charges. These are serious. A single 100-series shot will get a guy kicked out of the camp.

They will probably charge the other inmate with assault and other charges.  He can get an additional 5-year term for this assault. He will probably spend the rest of his time in a higher security facility. All this over a stupid cell phone!!

Separately, they busted a town driver with a cell phone as well. They will transfer someone with a cell phone to another facility. Again, it is taken very serious.

Jun 27

Spring Exercise is Gearing Up!

Prison Life

Monday, March 12th, 2012 |

The weather has been great for the last few days. This is the first day of the time change. I went directly to the recreation yard to walk as soon as the doors were open for dinner. I decided to walk rather than go to dinner. The recreation yard was packed so I wasn’t the only one that had that idea.

Guys were weight lifting, practicing softball, running, walking, handball, bocce ball and just hanging out. I could lift weights for an hour in the morning so walking is on the schedule in the afternoon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. According to my walking times for the last few days, I can do a mile every 15 minutes. I try to walk three times a day on the days I am not lifting weights. My walking totaled 8 miles yesterday, 7 on Saturday and 6 on Friday. I only got 4 miles in today.  It’s nice having the time to get fit. It’s amazing what some of the guys have been able to accomplish with the free time utilized on the weight pile.

Everyone gets tired of hanging inside during the winter months.  Spring is very welcome!  The recreation yard is the natural place to go to watch sports and exercise, but guys also hang out around the units.

Jun 23

Expect Weekly Shakedowns at the Camp

Prison Life

Friday, March 9th, 2012 |

There was another shakedown in the other units today. We were locked into our unit all morning. One of the COs came through and said we can expect weekly shakedowns at the Camp. It only creates an inconvenience to me since I have nothing to worry about.

We had a big shakedown two weeks ago. For some unknown reason, they took the medicines of one of the guys in our unit during that shakedown. He STILL has not been able to get them replaced. Medical has treated him very condescendingly (surprise!), and even told him to take it up with his counselor. It’s not a counselor issue. The counselors can’t get him his medicine back. The regular COs were good enough to search for the med’s but were not able to find them. So, this guy is very frustrated.

Also, it is not unusual for the camp doctor to unilaterally eliminate, or reduce medicine doses, without consulting the specialist who prescribed them in the first place. I saw one guy get sick because of this.

How Hard to Push It?

It’s one thing to stand up to them but another to be insolent.   Health services folks do just about anything they can to make life difficult for the inmates. I believe that they have lost (or may never have had) any sense of compassion.

It is a fine line on how much to push these issues. If you push too hard then you get in an argument that you cannot win. The staff can get very vindictive. It is not unusual for them to “lose your paperwork” when it it’s time to submit the release paperwork for halfway house or home confinement.  Even worse, I’ve seen guys go to the hole, or get thrown behind the fence, when accused of insolence.

We have a guy here who was sent to the halfway house but was returned to the camp because he couldn’t give himself his insulin shot, and the halfway house people weren’t going to do it. He was supposed to be sent to home confinement in the first place. Upon his return to Butner, he was told that they would process his release to home confinement from Butner. This was seven weeks ago… and nothing. He complained to the warden, and now the case manager is all pissed off.  We can expect her to sit on that file for a while.


Jun 23

Felon Visitor Approval

Family Impact , Prison Life

Monday, March 5th, 2012 |

Every potential visitor at the Camp must fill out an application and be cleared by an inmate’s counselor before being approved for a visit.  The counselor runs a criminal background check on the visitor to verify that the person is not a felon.  The counselor notifies the inmate whether the visitor has been approved or not.  Felon visitor approval is a big issue because criminals seem to run with other criminals, and their family members may also be felons.

A guy came to me yesterday asking if he can appeal a visitation denial of a family member. Apparently, this family member had a criminal charge 30 years ago that showed up on the background check. The guy’s counselor would not approve his application on this basis.  This family member was approved as a visitor when he was at the Low.  It is up the individual institution to make these approvals. From what I have seen at the Camp, this administration routinely denies these requests.

They can deny visitation rights to ex-felons but the warden or camp administrator can approve such requests.  Denying someone with a criminal charge going back 30 years seems a little extreme.

There is another camper whose wife had caught the same charge as he did.  However, the judge did not sentence her to any prison time. She was also denied visitation at the Camp.  His wife appealed to their senator who made the call to Butner. Butner eventually approved the visitation request.

I have another friend here whose wife also caught the same charge as he did and she is incarcerated as well. He could talk to her when he was at another institution.  But, the Butner Camp will not allow them to have any telephone conversations. BOP likes to tout its family friendly policies as evidence of its concern for inmates’ families. Unfortunately, this is not true at the Butner Camp.  Go figure.

Jun 21

Public Health Officers in Prisons

Prison Life

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 |

One of my friends has some serious chronic pain issues.  He saw a Public Health pain specialist the other day.  The prison doctors have been treating him but he always felt that there were problems in his treatment plan. Public Health officers are doctors, PA’s and nurses who wear blue uniforms and have officer ranks just like the military. Apparently, they serve in prisons, VA hospitals and where their services are needed in public health emergencies.

His Public Health doctor reviewed his plan and was very critical of his former medication regime. The good news is that he changed my friend’s medications.  My friend feels much more confident that he will be helped by this specialist. He thought this guy was the most competent doctor he has seen at BOP.

In addition, I have another friend who has chronic back pain (remember this is a medical facility so there are a lot of people with chronic health issues).  He has been on a pain patch for some time. His goals are to lose a little more weight, get off the pain patch, and do some cardio. He saw a Public Health physical therapist yesterday that had a high rank. My friend was also impressed with this Public Health PT. They reviewed his situation and treatment history, and went through a treatment plan including rehab. The PT was upbeat about his prospects and about helping my friend achieve his goals.

I’ve been treated by some of these Public Health nurses without really understanding who they were and thought they were just ok. But, I’m encouraged about my friends’ experiences.

Jun 20

Another New Cellie

Prison Life

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 |

My old cellie was sent to California to testify in a trial about six weeks ago. He was expecting to return in March but I have no clue whether that is still the case. They don’t like keeping bunks open so I was assigned a new cellie yesterday afternoon.

This guy is a little older than me.  Bobby appears to be straight enough that I don’t have to worry about him having contraband in the cell. He seems like a real laid back and nice guy.  As much as I want my old cellie back, there’s nothing I can say or do about it. My new cellie was previously in our unit. He was put in the hole for 2 1/2 months for “investigation”.  Apparently, nothing came out of the investigation so they returned him to the unit, much to his delight.

His experience in the hole was much like mine but, unlike me, he had a cellie there for the entire time of his stay. Bobby lost 20 lbs. and was bored out of his mind. They didn’t give him access to his property for two months. He bought another radio from the commissary because he couldn’t get to his original radio. If my old cellie comes back, they will probably put him in a different cell.

In a lot of ways, it could be much worse. The guys that are currently on the beach would not have met my standards for a cellie. I’ve previously written to you about the importance of getting along with your cellie. Once a cellie is assigned, that’s it.

Jun 20

New Laundry System Problems

Prison Life

Monday, February 27th, 2012 |

The Laundry Department had my laundry ready on the same day. That’s the good news. The bad news is that not all the clothes were properly dried. In addition, the whites were not white enough, and the clothes were incredibly wrinkled. Overall, I appreciated the same day service but they did a terrible job on the laundry.

We are about six weeks into the new laundry system. As I previously written, they pulled all the washers and dryers from the units.  The camp is doing everyone’s laundry in the central laundry facility. It started out being a real nightmare but the system has gotten better. In the first weeks, clothes were coming back wet and there were long lines to pick up the clean laundry bags.

Typical prison laundry bag

After the first week, I decided to pay someone in laundry to do my washing and folding for $10/mo. It was originally worth it.  But, they improved their system to include dropping the clean bags in the units so I decided to do it myself.

My biggest complaints are that the whites come back off-white.  Also, the clothes are so wrinkled that there are guys ironing their undershirts. No kidding. I was paying someone four stamps to iron a set of pants and a shirt. Furthermore, I tried ironing on my own this past weekend. I did a pretty good job for never having ironed in the past.

The laundry is changing out my “whites” tomorrow morning. They change them out every six months. The “greens” get exchanged once a year. However, I have one green short sleeve shirt that is way too large, and another that is the “old-style faded green”. I’ll see if I can get two shirts that match color and size.

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