Sep 13

Elvis is Caught

Prison Life

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 |

My cellie was listening to the radio news this morning and heard the story about Elvis’ escape.  Elvis was caught sitting on a porch of a vacant home in Durham County.  The report said that he was due to be released in 2020. His family apparently told the news reporter that he was having a difficult time talking to the camp administration (just like all of us).

He didn’t get very far so I assume he had no help. Elvis could catch another five years and will spend his time waiting for trial in the SHU.  He’s going to hate the hole.  Elvis will be behind the fence until he is released. What a hassle!

In other news, we had another lockdown immediately after lunch today. In addition, we had shakedowns in our unit, another unit and the inside rec room today. They had us locked out of the unit for more than two hours, and it was blistering hot today.

I think the Assistant Warden just wanted to make a big show. They had a lot of staff doing the searching. My locker, like most of them, was barely touched. I heard that they got another five or six cell phones today. This was more an inconvenience than anything else. I’ll be glad when we get the new Warden. Things are spinning out of control.

At least it is quiet in the TV room since they turned them off.  It doesn’t bother me since I don’t watch TV.

Sep 13

Elvis Escapes!

Prison Life

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 |

We were locked in our units after 4 pm count until after 6 pm. This is highly unusual since we go to dinner at around 5 pm. It turns out that a guy in another unit walked-off the compound (as in an escape).

The escapee’s nickname is Elvis because he has a tall afro-type haircut.  I’m not sure how this equates to Elvis, but the other inmates think the name suits him.

I know the guy and it really surprised me. Elvis kept to himself and was a weird with some mental health issues. He must have walked off the compound when they opened the doors in the morning.  Elvis normally rounds-up the guys going to FMC and gets them on the bus. The bus stop is just opposite the weight pile.  I normally see him but didn’t this morning.

There’s a lot of inmate speculation about Elvis’ motivation to escape that people know nothing about, and this qualifies. Elvis spent all his free time watching TV.  The AW shut down the TVs last night because of more contraband being found. My bet is that Elvis would have nothing to do without the TVs and that he was stressed with the frequent shakedowns.  It was probably too much for Elvis so he walked off. Once caught, he would be out of the camp and in a higher security prison.

Elvis has been “down” for more than 15 years.  These guys get very institutionalized and it’s tough on them when their routine changes.

There are guys here that have mental health issues.  The serious mental health issues are handled at the FMC. There is a staff psychologist at the camp who I think is very good.  In fact, I think she is the most helpful and professional staff person at the camp. The BOP assigns care levels for mental health in addition to physical health.


Sep 13

Don’t Join an Inmate Committee!

Prison Life

Monday, June 18th, 2012 |

I previously told you about the town hall meeting where the Assistant Warden (AW) threatened to take away the TVs  and other things if they find more cell phones. In addition, I’ve written about how poor and unsanitary the central laundry is.  The campers are upset about these things and complain among themselves.  But, most inmates don’t think it is worth the risk of staff retaliation to complain too loudly to the administration.  However, there is a guy in our unit who wants to form an inmate committee to take grievances to the camp administrator.

This guy is very outspoken about certain things here including the laundry. He got some rashes that medical have attributed to the laundry. The water is probably not hot enough and no non-bleach whitening agents are being used. He wrote a cop out to complain and he has been openly complaining about a few other things.

The camp administrator invited him to form an inmate committee to present inmate complaints to herself and the AW. He asked me to be on the committee. I turned him down. The administration will play him as a fool and dupe. This is especially true since the new warden is supposed to be starting on July 1st.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they are trying to head-off some of these inmates’ complaints in advance. I also think it is a trap because they would never tolerate inmates getting together to form any type of committee. They would frame it as “incitement”. If you have a complaint, you are better off addressing it yourself.

Sep 08

Cell Phone Offenders Get Shipped

Prison Life

Friday, June 15th, 2012 |

All new inmates must through Admission and Orientation (A&O).  This is where the staff goes over the different resources and policies at the institution with the new guys. The camp administrator told the new guys at yesterday’s A&O that the camp associated ten previously confiscated phones with the inmate-owners. She said that the hole was full so they were going to pick-up these cell phone offenders as space becomes available.

In addition, they “know” that there was a drop of more cell phones earlier in the week. The shop guys were told not to report to work today so we assume they are shaking down the shops today. We are expecting a shakedown in our units this weekend.

The camp administrator also said that they were shipping the cell phone offenders as far from home as possible. There are some North Carolina guys going to Texas and California. I keep thinking, “what are these guys thinking?” Apparently, at least one of the guys had nude pictures of himself on his phone that he was sending to girlfriends. I would say that is proof positive – dummy!

Why work yourself down to a camp and then blow it on a cell phone? Now, they go back behind the fence permanently and are far from home. How can this possibly be worth it?

Sep 07

Jockeying to Get the Right Cellie

Prison Life

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 |

Smith, my old cellie, went home today. He has a 27-hour bus trip back to Detroit. They are giving him 30 hours to report to the halfway house from the time the bus leaves.  There’s a Native American guy who goes home next week and his bus ride is about 36 hours.  They are letting these guys go home with the clothes on their back and one change of underwear.  The guys on the beach are now jockeying to get the open bunks.  The guys in the cell want to make sure they draw the right cellie.

Smith’s cellie is cleaning out his locker while I write this. There are three guys trying to move into Smith’s lower bunk. The guy who is next in line has a reputation for being uncleanly and just plain weird. This dude has mental problems from too much meth and skin rashes all over his body. He and the upper bunk guy have nothing in common.  I know there will be a lot of tension.  The guy in the top bunk is fighting the counselor over this assignment. He was told, “I own that bunk not you”. This is terrible to put two guys together who aren’t going to get on well together.

All new guys must start their stay in the beach, and then they move into cells as guys leave. This is the whole problem with the system – you can get unlucky and draw the wrong cellie. There’s another counselor here that would have honored the upper bunk guy’s request not to move the weird guy into the cell, but not our counselor. The upper bunk guy can move out of the cell and back to the beach. But, he can never get moved into a cell after that. I’m not sure how much he cares since he is probably going home in September.

Sep 07

Assistant Warden Threatens to Cut-off Phone, Email, Recreation, Visitation & TV!

Prison Life

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012 |

There was a mandatory town hall meeting today regarding cell phones where the Assistant Warden (AW) read the campers the riot act about cell phones. There a lot of stupid guys that have cell phones. They are stupid for having them in the first place, but doubly stupid for getting caught. The camp has been coming down hard on these cell phones.  To say the SHU is filled with campers, as has been reported, is perhaps an exaggeration, but probably not by much. However, this does tell me that they have not been shipping these guys out fast enough.

The AW threatened to cut-off all the TVs, cut-off access to the weight pile, eliminate visitation and cut-off all telephone service, if they find another cell phone. Everybody is PO’d. Can you imagine the blowback from families if visitation and phones are cut off from their loved ones! It is common to take away privileges as punishment but her threats are going way too far.

Essentially, she is willing to punish 340 guys for the action of one person. I doubt that BOP Regional would let her cut off visitation and phones, but you never know.

I got to tell you that nobody can make this stuff up. First and foremost, the staff doesn’t respect the inmates, so the inmates don’t respect them. This place is out of control, and it is not solely because of some bad inmates. We keep hearing that there is a management change coming but it cannot come fast enough!


Sep 05

Camper Goes to Deuce to Make Lunch

Prison Life

Friday, June 8th, 2012 |

The COs found three bullets on the Deuce recreation yard on Tuesday. They immediately put any inmate that was on the yard in the hole and locked down the entire compound.  The inmates do all the cooking in prisons. All the Deuce inmates, including the cooks, are confined to their cells.  So, campers are making the Deuce inmate meals during the lockdown.    The Deuce has 1700 inmates there with a total capacity of around 2000.  This means there are a lot of meals to make!

The Deuce inmates were being fed sandwiches and other cold foods. However, they had a hot meal today for the first time since the lockdown.

My Experience at the Deuce

I went to the Deuce today to make lunch with 17 other campers.  We didn’t see any of the Deuce except for the dining room and the kitchen.  The experience was miserable. They had bought large cartons of pre-packaged lunch boxes so they didn’t need us to do the lunches. Instead, they started me and others cleaning the dining room. We didn’t sign up to be their custodians. All this work could have been done when they opened the compound by their inmates.

After about 90 minutes or so, I was told to go to the kitchen and wait for further instruction. Another guy and I were assigned the job of defrosting a pallet of frozen chicken and put them on baking racks. The chicken had a Tyson label on it but you could tell the quality from Tyson was low grade. In fact, I didn’t eat any chicken on the following day because I was so disgusted with its quality. I’ll get my courage up to eat it next week.

Anyway, this chicken was so frozen that there was no way we were going to be able to get 2000 pieces of chicken on pans by ourselves. Three COs and another camper jumped in and helped. We defrosted the chicken in large vats so we can place them on the pans. It was a miserable job. In the end, we were able to get 3000 pieces of chicken on the baking pans.

We were promised as much food as we could eat and that we could take food back to the camp. Wrong! They wouldn’t let us take any food back, and they served the same old stuff that we eat here. In fact, I would have been better off staying at the camp and eaten here. The only reason that I went on this little excursion was because the food service CO asked me to. He has been good to me so I could hardly say no.

I made $16 for the one day of work – that is about what I make for three months of my regular job. This is the only time the volunteering worked out.

Sep 05

Cigarettes in Prison

Prison Life

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012 |

There is a lot of money to be made by bringing contraband into a high security prison, so it is not surprising that a CO that was busted for trying to bring cigarettes into the Deuce.   The CO is in serious trouble that will probably include prosecution. There was also a rumor that a mysterious substance was also involved, perhaps heroin, but this is just a rumor.

It is very easy for COs to bring contraband into the prison, where it is extremely difficult without CO help for anyone else.  This doesn’t mean that inmates aren’t creative.

I knew a guy who worked at the Butner central warehouse.  He told me he would put cartons of cigarettes into supply boxes destined for the Deuce.  He arranged to have another inmate-friend intercept the boxes to get the cigarette cartons out of the box to sell.

Cigarettes sell for three to four books of stamps for each cigarette! An inmate can buy a $9 book of stamps from other inmates for $5 or $6, on a best-case scenario. So, you are looking at least $15 per cigarette – that is $3,000 per carton!  The guy I knew was paid $1,000 per carton.  His friend could sell the packs for $200 each ($2,000 for the carton).  The guys buying the packs were then sell the individual smokes.

The camp gets a lot of cigarettes since it is easy to get them in the camp. Cigarettes sell here for two stamps each. It is a supply/demand function. Cigarettes won’t get you booted from the camp.  But, you will lose multiple months of phone, email and commissary privileges.  One of my friends lost all three for eight months. He was caught again but he was treated less harshly the second time by a more lenient disciplinary officer.

Sep 01

Home Confinement Restrictions

Prison Life

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 |

Chris was scheduled to go to home confinement in late June provided they gave him his full six months of advanced release. He found out today that they are only giving him 47 days of home confinement time.

Apparently, there is a sliding scale restriction on home confinement depending on sentence length. Generally, the rule provides for an early release of six months to home confinement or halfway house, but home confinement cannot exceed 10% of sentence length. Chris got caught in this rule since he had a short sentence. He was not aware of this rule.

However, Chris could have left Butner in June if he was being released to halfway house.  Chris’ probation officer is agreeable for his release to a halfway house. The benefit is that the halfway house can release him to home confinement when they feel it is appropriate, not subject to the above 10% restriction. The probation officer is willing to help him get his date changed for an earlier release to halfway house.

However, the case manager is refusing to make any changes to his paperwork to facilitate the change. She really didn’t give him a good reason, besides the fact that she thinks her job is done with his file.  The BOP case management personnel are lazy and just don’t care about the guys. It is very common for them to lose paperwork and let open files just sit on their desk using the excuse that they haven’t gotten it back yet. This hassle is very common.

Family Health and Financial Problems Aggravate the Situation

Chris has not been treated here to the same level of care that he had on the street. He was really looking forward to getting back to his doctors. To make things worse, his wife and son have very serious health issues as well.  They cannot take care of themselves physically and financially. The family may lose their house to foreclosure, and are struggling just to get the money for their medicines.   The case manager told him that she could care less about his personal problems.

Chris’ wife will try to get his attorney and probation officer to intervene with the case manager, or someone, to get his revised paperwork processed. No telling how long that will take. This is typical government BS and very sad.

I hope this resolves itself positively.

Aug 31

Contraband Busts

Prison Life

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 |

Some guys are so stupid. I have written often that guys are always trying to bring in contraband such as cell phones and smokes. It happened again last night. Two guys got busted when they ventured into the woods at around 8 pm. I know a guy that warned them that there was a lot of COs around, and they blew off the warning. Of course, they were spotted by the perimeter trucks.

The COs shut down the compound and a bunch them converged on the area. They got the guys and their stash which included large quantities of booze, cell phones and cigarettes.  These guys can get additional charges for bringing contraband into a prison. This is very serious.

I’m getting the impression that there are few cigarettes and cell phones on the compound because of all the recent raids.  So, I bet there is serious money involved in bringing new stuff in.  There are a lot of snitches on the compound trying to save their own asses. This is a huge consideration for the guys that bring in contraband.  This is a small place and rumors spread fast.

All this is compounded by the finding of some cell phones in the Native American Indian camp area. They have a teepee and campfires in this area. It is on the far edge of the recreation yard so it is a tempting area to hide phones. Those guys had to change their worship schedule to accommodate the chaperoning by a chaplain.