Feb 20

The Necessities: Prison Food, Clothing, Commissary & Sleep

Prison Life

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011 |


I got up very early today to get my khakis, which is the official uniform, since I only had a temporary clothing since intake.  My “cellie” lent me a sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants because the transitional uniform was very uncomfortable. The laundry department issues clothing and they gave me a coat, 4 shirts and slacks, cap, boxers and undershirts, and a very uncomfortable pair of steel-toed boots.  I have plantar fasciitis so I can’t wear the hard boots that are the normal issue.   I went to medical to request a soft shoe pass so that I can trade the leather boots for shoes that look like black tennis shoes.  Thank God I had the orthopedic inserts I brought with me!  I had a doctor’s letter stating that I needed them so these inserts are considered medical equipment.  Also, the doctor’s letter will short cut the soft shoe pass approval.  But, they took my temp shoes away so I have to wear the boots until I get soft shoes.


After lunch, I went to pick up my commissary order. It was a big order. You must buy a stereo radio and headphones to watch any TV or get music. A pair of tennis shoes are an absolute necessity to do any athletics or walk the track at all. I got a small amount of food, a watch, a razor and some other toiletries. There were other things that I cannot remember right now. I went over-board on my first order but I understand that most new inmates do.  The prison gives a new inmate very little so the commissary is the natural place to get the things to make prison life comfortable.


prison food and wanter

Sometimes all I could really stomach was bread and water. Copyright: sonsam / 123RF Stock Photo

As I mentioned in the last post, the food is not good. This is a sampling of the food they are giving us: Tuesday dinner: sub and small salad; Wednesday meals: breakfast – 2 pancakes and bad bran cereal (I ordered some raisin bran from the commissary for this reason); lunch – hamburger (dried and overcooked) and fries (not too bad); dinner – Spaghetti with meat sauce; Thursday lunch: baked chicken and mashed potatoes. I have been drinking water at each meal because the only alternative is sweet drinks.


Sleeping has been a major issue. The guy in the next cell snores all night long. Most of the inmates near me are young and like to stay up late. Most don’t care about keeping regular hours.  I try to hit the sack around 10 pm and wake up at 6 am. Inevitably, there is no time where it is completely dark or quiet. Everyone says I will get used to it. Seems hard to believe. I have a cloth to put over my eyes to block out the light.

Feb 16

First Impressions of a Federal Prison by Spouse

Family Impact , Prison Life

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011 |

Today I received a Daily Hope email by Rick Warren that was very interesting, timely and so relevant given the last few weeks preparing for Kevin to self-report to prison at Butner.  It starts:

What to do when your world falls apart?   “… look at the specific things God tells us to do when our lives fall apart. You may not need this right now in your life…I guarantee you will need them someday. Inevitably there will come a time in your life — probably multiple times — when the wheels come off, and you’ll need to know what to do when you go through those rough times.”

The email came to my phone while we were driving up to Butner at 6 am! Kevin and I both agreed that this wasn’t our darkest hour, but a dark one nonetheless.  Those darkest times were probably more around the time of his sentencing and being forced to plead ‘guilty’ due to the cost and risk of going to trial.

He has had a very positive outlook, especially today.  His BELIEF going in is that this experience will allow him to serve others and that it will ultimately be a HUGE turning point in our lives. I hope so! I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of him! Many people would have allowed themselves to be swallowed with self-pity and depression, but he is the consummate fighter.

Lots of first impressions today:

  • How stark our federal buildings are and the people that serve there. It is almost a city unto itself. There is a lot of barbed wire. It looks new and is VERY tall (15-18’).
    self-reporting to FCI Butner Low prison

    Entrance to FCI Butner Low

  • How frustrating the system is—can you believe I’m saying this when he wasn’t even in for 2 hours? They tell you not to bring in money.  So per Kevin’s request, I tried wiring through Western Union for 1.5 hours outside of the prison in the car parking lot. When the wire wouldn’t go through due to a “database error” after trying 7x, I walked back into the prison R&D to try and resolve the issue. I was rudely told that I wasn’t allowed to stay anywhere near the prison parking lot for that amount of time. Long story short, had Kevin walked in alone with the money they would have been forced to take it. Kevin had told me to wire $500 only to find out there is a limit of $300 by Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP). Cost per wire: $11.95. TIP: ask for new client discount! (that’s NOT a joke)
  • How we take our freedom for granted: They had signs to follow the sidewalk to the entrance and yet there was a cut through which we thought we would take. We were immediately reprimanded for doing so. You are constantly watched from the moment you drive in.
  • Clearly, they rule in their territory. So, when you go visit, tread lightly and politely: yes sir/ma’am, no sir/ma’am and very deferential!

They were polite taking Kevin in, but I only saw him as he was being patted down for less than 3 minutes before he was led away. I really tried not to cry so that Kevin wouldn’t get agitated, but wasn’t too successful.

Another impression: they have no heart and don’t care. Now all I can do is pray that he can get into the “Camp” after his medical evaluation.  He is currently slated to go into Low security until his evaluation is finished this week, or so we think.

Headed Home Alone

I am grateful to family and friends who made their last phone calls to us as we were driving to Butner.   Those reassurances and God gave me a lot of strength and courage today during the 7+ hour drive home. It is amazing when you are quiet what finally comes to you. There were very few tears though I thought there would be many.

I looked for a radio station playing soothing classical music and found this fabulous North Carolina station on 94.5. I first heard melodies and then listened carefully.  The wonderful words of Gospel and Christian hymns carried me to my next stop just shy of Charlotte where I had a Chick-fil-A sandwich. The same station was playing at the franchise, how amazing! I was self-absorbed when walking out, only to have a nice older gentleman break me out of my reverie when he gently complimented me on my flowered outfit. It was little thing, yet with a big smile, and thus uplifting.

Getting into the car, I heard “Amazing Grace”, which was one of Kevin’s favorite songs. I just knew he was thinking of me, and encouraging me on, as was God. I was thinking how fortunate it was that my mother had died earlier in February.  She didn’t have to witness Kevin going away to prison. My mother would have been devastated as she loved him dearly! She was so grateful for all his care during her last years. What finally brought me to tears was hearing the hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth” a few minutes later. It was my mother’s favorite hymn and one we sang at her memorial service earlier this year. Strangely, it was also energizing.  I felt she was watching and guiding me home.

I drove straight home to Atlanta to weather the storm of the dreaded first evening alone and picked up our beloved dog, Watson, from our dear friend, Ioana. Then I had a quick snack of cheese and crackers and wine with our friends, Toni and Jerry.  We shared the photos of the fabulous family send off at Flemings just 2 nights ago – it feels like weeks ago! One of their friends, Bobbie, offered for me to stay at her company’s condo in High Point, NC.  I can stay there any time for free during visiting days!  Truly an answered prayer to my visiting dilemma! Otherwise it would have been cost prohibitive for me to visit frequently. Thank you, Lord!

Looking Forward to a Visit Already

Our consultant told me that visiting times at the Low were Thursday and Friday 2:30 – 8 pm and Saturday and Sunday 8:30 – 3.  And, the Camp’s visiting times were Friday 5 – 8 pm and Saturday -Monday 8:30 – 3, in addition to federal holidays for both facilities.  I ultimately found out that, due to the large number of inmates at the Low, they rotate weekend visits. Therefore, Kevin’s schedule is every 1st and 3rd weekend for visitation.

My goodness, it is 3 am and still much to do. Just tried again to do the Western Union thing again before going to sleep so he can have money tomorrow, but no success. Like I said earlier: Government is SLOW! What a catch 22: he can’t call me because he doesn’t have any money in his account to make phone calls.  I can’t get him money until I hear from him to find out why he is not showing up in the BOP system. Will call BOP tomorrow or see if I can get his consultant to help.

Feb 15

My First Few Days of Prison Life

Prison Life

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011 |

Christine and I arrived in Butner, NC earlier than anticipated for my 11 am self-report arrival to the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Low on Tuesday, 8/16/11. There is very little to the town of Butner.  I had my last breakfast as a free man and reviewed some last things with Christine. It was a good thing we arrived early. If you self-report to a federal prison during the lunch hour, you spend a lot of time in the holding cell in the Receiving & Discharge (R&D) area.  Christine left after my intake.  These are my first impressions of prison life:


My first prison ID card

I was escorted to a holding cell and waited for different people to come and talk to me that included my new counselor, a medical person, and another staff person asking background questions. Subsequently, I was taken into another room, told to strip, examined naked and then put on temporary clothing.  It would be the next day before I was issued my permanent institutional clothes.  I had my mug shot taken and given a prison ID card.

Overview of My Unit Building and Compound

I exited the admin building into the main yard after about an hour or so. It was amazing how the CO (compound/correctional officer) essentially told me go out the admin building and go to my unit, as if I knew where it was. Fortunately, a guard noticed that I was a lost newbie and escorted me to the stairs of my dorm. I was assigned a bed by my counselor and went to my cell to get settled. There are 2 buildings, each with 2 stories with two main areas for the dorm on either side of the center of the building. There about 320 inmates on each floor. I am told there are about 1400 inmates in total at the Low.

Each cell has 3 walls with 1 bunk bed and 1 single bed (so each cell sleeps 3 inmates which is very tight). I have the lower bunk pass because of my C-pap machine.  The lower bunk is highly desirable but passes are issued for medical reasons.  Otherwise, it is very difficult to get a lower bunk pass.

The movements are controlled so that you can only leave the building and enter the yard on the half hour, every hour, and you have 10 minutes to get to your destination.  The main yard is expansive with concrete walkways leading to a long series of buildings making up a wall facing the dorms. In these offices, they have medical, library/education, vocational training, chaplain’s office, cafeteria, commissary, laundry, recreation and some admin offices. They have a very large recreation area with 2 baseball diamonds, several basketball courts, volley ball court and some outdoor weight training machines. There is an indoor rec area with some aerobic equipment. They also have yoga classes 5 days/week that I plan to attend but have not yet.


The inmates are fed in a very large cafeteria in shifts but it seems like everyone is eating at the same time. I doubt I have spent more than 15 minutes at each meal so far.  I really miss Christine’s cooking already. The food quality is very poor and not healthy. I’m staying away from most of the fats and sugars which means that I am probably consuming less than 2000 calories/day. Most of the inmates eat in the cafeteria, though some prepare meals in the dorm. Some of these guys are very creative in the foods they prepare; however, a lot of them eat junk food.

First Day Problems

By far, my biggest issue was getting in communication with Christine. Typical Gov’t c##p. Nothing works as efficiently as it should. Christine tried to deposit money in my account right away but couldn’t because it took time to get my account set-up. In the end, it took over 48 hours! The counselor should also have given me my phone codes and pin but I didn’t get them until Thursday.

Most of the time you should ask other inmates what, how, and when you should be doing something. I have found that if I am doing something that others are not doing, then it is me who is doing something wrong.  I’ve gotten good at observing the other inmates to figure out what I should be doing at a particular time.  Overall, I have found the inmates to be helpful and pleasant.  You are not allowed to bring in anything, for the most part, except for a bible and medical equipment.  Other inmates went out of their way to find me shower shoes, a toothbrush, soap and other essentials to tide me over until I could get to the commissary.

Prior to reporting, I was told that I was designated to be in the Camp.  But, for some reason I am at the Low and nobody can tell me why. I’m told that there are about 40 guys scheduled in Low to go to the Camp. I don’t know how these assignments are made. Some of the guys told me that there are just 320 campers so the Camp is significantly smaller. Best of all, the Camp has no movement restrictions. The movement restrictions are really a hassle. Even if you go for a short appointment, you will need to wait an hour before returning to your dorm. When you are used to free movement this is probably one of the hardest things to adjust to. That and dealing with restricted communications with your loved ones.

Feb 14

My last day as a FREE man

My Life Before Prison

Monday, August 15th, 2011 |

This is the day which I start my travels to self-report to FCI Butner.  It has been a hectic three weeks trying to prepare to self-report to prison and teach Christine all the financial, technological and personal business that she must now assume responsibility for. I also had to get all my medical records to bring with me. I will travel to Greenville, SC and stay the night with my brother. Christine and I will leave very early on Tuesday morning so that I can get to Butner before noon.

Kevin and Christine at Kevin's send-off party on Aug 14, 2011

Kevin and Christine at Kevin’s send-off party on Aug 14, 2011

I’m very nervous about all of this. I was told that I would be going to the camp but I called the prison this morning and they told me that I was scheduled for “Low”, which is not good. Per my consultant, “As of Thursday, you are slated for the Camp. However, all incoming inmates are given a full physical upon arrival and your physical, as well as current medical condition, could dictate closer medical observation until they are “comfortable” with your overall condition and treatment. However, for now, you will be in the Camp. You will be allowed to discuss that with the attending physician after the physical.”

I had a big send-off party last night with a lot of friends and family in attendance. We had a great time, and I will miss everyone dearly. We went to bed a midnight and I woke up at 2 am and could not fall asleep again. I’m very tired on top of being nervous. I’ll let Christine tell you more about the party.

Let me back up and share my email to my friends and family about self-reporting to Butner:

“My Dear Friends and Family:

I can’t tell you how much Christine and I have appreciated love and support. I have received word that I must report to the federal prison camp in Butner, NC on Aug 16th. This has come as a shock since I was expecting another extension on my reporting date. In addition, the government is unwilling at this point to schedule a hearing for a downward departure (Rule 35B) of my sentence. This is obviously another huge disappointment but the government is still saying that they need my cooperation and that the hearing will be requested at a later date.

Christine and I are scrambling to get my personal matters in order, prepare for my departure and get her trained in handling the family day-to-day business. As such, I am only available to take phone calls in the evenings and on the weekends.

I can only make outgoing phone calls once I report but I will have access to text-only email while I’m in Butner. Letters and cards would also be welcome. I can’t receive any packages from anyone except paperbacks and then hard covers if they are shipped directly from the publisher. Butner is about six and a half hours from Atlanta off I-85 near Durham. I would obviously appreciate visits. Family doesn’t need prior clearance but others do. Christine will share the contact information and other details when it is known.

This whole ordeal has been going on for four years now, and has wreaked havoc in our lives. There is much to tell about the circumstances surrounding my guilty plea and the allegations. I was hoping to be in a position to fully explain everything, but I can’t until my cooperation is complete. However, I plan to use email to send Christine updates.  She will use the updates to share my daily life and observations while in Butner. I found very little in the way of firsthand accounts on prison camp life on the internet and none on Butner. Others facing my fate will appreciate the information that I will share later on down the road.

To complicate things further, we are still struggling to keep the house which has an outside chance of happening. Otherwise, Christine will have to oversee the short sale/foreclosure, pack and move all our belongings to storage, and find alternative living arrangements by late October. Please let Christine know if you know of a vacant warehouse, office or retail space that can be leased very inexpensively.

I’m not worried about myself. The camp is minimal security so there are no walls and fences, and my safety will not be an issue. I’ll be ok. But, I worry greatly about Christine. She needs, and will need, all your love and support. It will be very lonely without me in the house, especially after losing her mother earlier this year. Please make an effort to stay in touch with her, and let her know you care.

I am very grateful for the reprieve I have had for the past 18 months. It has given me a chance to become a better and stronger servant of God. It also allowed me to help Christine care for her mother in hospice in our home, and be with her at the time of her death.

Despite all that has happened, our marriage couldn’t be any stronger and we couldn’t be any closer. We believe in the strength of our union with God; that God forgives all transgressions when asked; that to despair and lose hope is to cross into the dark side, and that everything happens for a reason and a purpose, and that it serves us and God.

Please keep us in your prayers, and God bless you. K”

Jan 23

My new website is coming soon!


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