Category Archives for "Prison Life"

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.

Aug 29

Wasted Food On Memorial Day

Prison Life

Monday, May 28th, 2012 |

The camp served BBQ chicken, fried chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers and watermelon for Memorial Day. I was in visitation with Chris, but I heard it was a zoo getting everyone served. It was the same hotdogs, chicken, etc. that they normally serve but just served all together. They also had popcorn at the inside recreation area.  But, there was a lot of wasted food.

Opie spent the holiday going through lockers, and being a pain, confiscating food from the Memorial Day lunch.  In the visitation room, we saw him dragging the confiscated food through the visiting room.  Family and friends stared at him in disbelief. I thought it was totally classless and unnecessary.

He shouldn’t have taken the food from the guys. The food service COs gave approval to the guys to take this food with them. There was so much food the inmates couldn’t possibly eat it all in one sitting. A CO certainly has the right to go through lockers, but he should have been more discreet to avoid making a show in front of the visitors.

Wasted Food Is Common

On another day, for the first time since I was down, they passed out chocolate cookies at lunch. I couldn’t eat mine so I left the lunch hall with them in my hand. Opie would not let me leave the cafeteria with them. He said I had to eat them there. I know that at higher security institutions this is SOP, but they are generally more flexible at camps.

There is so much food thrown away that you can probably give everyone an extra meal for the amount cooked. I think it would be better to just put the food on a hot bar or cold bar and let everyone serve themselves.

It’s not so much that they are giving such substantial quantities, they are putting food on the tray that the inmates don’t want. It’s too much of a hassle to tell the server not to put a certain item on the tray because of the noise (server has a tough time hearing you). Also, the speed with which they are trying to get the inmates through lets you know that everyone is more interested in getting the job done and getting out of the cafeteria.

There is one CO who would rather throw food away than give the inmates a second helping. It’s not all that way. My favorite CO puts excess food on the “short line” (food service workers’ meal). A CO told another to cook up the excess food around the fiscal year-end so the BOP could justify its’ current budget level. This is common.  The COs regularly throw out equipment rather than trying to fix it for this reason. Inmates have seen COs fill their personal vehicles with gas from the compound fuel tanks!

Aug 29

Staff Changes

Prison Life

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 |

We are becoming aware of some staff changes from several of the staff.  They said the camp administrator was no longer here, but on medical leave. She had a lot of medical problems and had taken a lot of leave in the past year. I sure this is the best thing for her, and it is great news to us.

We have an “acting” camp administrator that we know nothing about. It couldn’t be any worse than what we had. There’s has been no general announcements about any of the management changes. I find this extremely unusual coming out of the corporate world. There are so many rumors going around you wouldn’t believe it. This is called “”.

It will be interesting to see what changes are made by the new “acting” camp administrator or a new permanent administrator.

Camp Doctor Leaving

The other change concerns our camp doctor.  Apparently, he is taking a FMC complex medical administration position. I have mixed thoughts about this change. On the one hand, he did protect some inmates from relocation when he thought it was in their best interest.  We had good conversations about medical conditions. I also thought that he was generally trying to do his best. On the other hand, the medical staff under his supervision are incompetent and totally lacks judgment and compassion. In reality, the entire medical staff needs to be transferred out of the camp and new blood brought in. The inmates have no confidence and respect for the medical staff. I’ve written extensively about this subject.

In addition, it still grates me that a nurse stood over an inmate while he was having a medical emergency.  Nurse Valentine accused him of faking it rather than calling for an ambulance. Instead, she told the COs to take him to the hole. As I have said before, he died in front of the nurse and the two COs trying to get him handcuffed and shackled. They just watched him die. There has been no investigation that we have seen.  None of the inmates have been interviewed. Furthermore, none of the staff involved were put on administrative leave pending investigation.

In my opinion, these BOP staff were at the very least negligence in his death, and at worse, were willfully neglectful. As I said before, I fully expect BOP to whitewash this whole thing. Given the chance, the BOP will blame the inmate’s bad health including diabetes, heart issues, etc. to deflect attention from their culpability. They’ll probably get away with it.

Aug 21

Money Smart and Release Expo

Prison Life

Monday, May 21st 2012 |

I started teaching Money Smart today. This group is tough, meaning that they are always asking questions off-subject and interrupting me. I will have a hard time keeping on message. There were one or two guys that I expect to drop out.  Remember, campers only take this class because it is required.

Many of the campers have never taken any responsibility for sensible financial management. Many of the guys have never had a bank account and/or a real job. This is a real problem being released to the outside world. They are going to have a tough time assimilating into the outside world and staying straight.

One of the guys told us that he would rather have $1 million in credit than $1 million in cash, and was adamant about it. Really!

Release Expo

There was a release expo, which is a panel of people from the Department of Labor, counselors, social services, etc., to answer questions about the services available to them when they are released. One of the guys asked the Department of Labor guy about accessing the computer to search and apply for jobs.  The fact is that nearly all higher paying jobs require some computer skills. The DOL guy absolutely said that this was the case, and that we needed computer experience before being released. The education director was cringing while this guy was answering the question.

I also think that Butner tries to keep it hidden that we don’t have access to the computers except for email. I’m sure he thought that we had this computer access but we don’t. We can’t even use a word processor with the ability to save files. I don’t know how they expect guys to prepare a resume in advance of their release, or have the skills that they need in the outside world. This is more indication that BOP is not interested in reducing recidivism.

Aug 18

Self-Study Education Programs on the Horizon

Prison Life

Saturday, May 19th, 2012 |

I had heard rumblings of an update for a self-study education program available on the computers. Its available at most other prisons, but is not available at Butner yet. The new computers are installed, so I’m not sure why we don’t have access now. There are supposed to be 70 classes available for self-study.  I hope to get an update on when we will have the new education classes available to us.  These self-study classes are better than doing all my reading.

A guy who just transferred here from FMC was a tester for the new system. He took Spanish and said it was very good. Remember, I told you that the regional BOP office visited recently. A friend overheard the education director tell the regional inspectors that we had access to the new system and loved it. This was a blatant lie. I’m never surprised at what these BOP people do to hide their incompetence and make themselves look better.

This is the week that all the new courses start, so I start teaching again tomorrow. I will have a very full class since Money Smart was not taught last quarter. It is required for guys to “program”. Programming means that there are certain classes that are required to get your full 6-month halfway release time.  Money Smart is one of them.


Aug 17

Problems Getting My Prescription Renewed!

Prison Life

Friday, May 18th, 2012 |

Medical wants us to turn in a prescription renewal form when we have four days of pills remaining. I submitted my form last Friday when I had five days remaining because of the weekend. But, medical will throw the prescription refill form away if you send it in with any more than four days remaining.  It didn’t matter that I turned it in early because of the weekend.

A nurse yelled at me today for checking on the status of my refill after two days. I hadn’t got my pills by the fourth day, so I went to check with the nurse during pill line. She didn’t have them and said that I should have re-sent the form after two days. I always get conflicting instructions from these people.

So, like everything else here, it was my fault that they didn’t refill my prescription. I’ve written about this often – it is always the inmates’ fault.  The staff is never at fault. Government employees are unbelievable! I dropped off another form indicating the urgency of the refill and went to sick line to ask them to call the pharmacy. I haven’t had my pills for two days, and I can’t go through the weekend without my drugs. We’ll see if they have them this afternoon for package pick up.

In another instance, I have a friend with serious back problems. So serious that he is on a narcotic pain patch. He goes to medical on certain days to get the patch replaced. My friend went the other day for a replacement when he was in significant pain. The nurse told him that the prescription was not renewed, and she didn’t know why. She started accusing him of not renewing the prescription and essentially blaming him. He asked how it was his fault? He told her that he wouldn’t know the renewal date. She was belligerent and unwilling to help him. Eventually, he went back again and got his patch. But, this attitude is very typical in the health services here.

Aug 17

Homesick, A Funeral, Old Friends Leaving, New Guys Arriving

Prison Life

Thursday, May 17th, 2012 |

Another week has just passed, and again I am feeling homesick. A friend was released this morning in great jubilation – I would be happy too. I inherited a new pillow and blanket from him to replace older ones that I had. It is common for departing inmates to disperse their personal property to their friends.

The memorial service for Gary, the guy who died last week, was yesterday. He was Jewish so the memorial service provided was consistent with his faith. It was completely run by the Jewish community, and I thought tastefully done. The guys still talk about the unjust nature of his death under their breath.

We are still besieged by inspections (though far less frequent).  And, the twice daily census calls are such a waste of time. We also had two guys “packed out” yesterday. We are not sure why. Many times, we will know but no one has an idea in these cases. One of the guys was my neighbor and the other was Joe’s cellie.

We had a bunch of guys come in from the FMC, but none from the Low (at least, not that I am aware of). We are due do get some guys from the Low. It has been a long time since I have seen anyone transferred from the Low.

Aug 17

Overzealous CO Enjoys His Power

Prison Life

Monday, May 14th, 2012 |

An inmate, who is in the inter-racial relationship, was caught holding hands during visitation with his girlfriend. He was warned by our overzealous CO, Opie, who I have designated as the Super CO. Technically, the rules state that an inmate can hold hands and kiss once at the beginning of the visit, and once again at the end of the visit.

Just before the guy got up to end visitation, he briefly held the hand of his girlfriend again. He was called up by Opie, and was told he was not getting a shot for it.  Instead, Opie would search the guy’s locker. Opie searched the locker and found a couple of magazines with someone else’s mailing label.  In addition, he had more than five magazines. Opie threw enough magazines away to get the number to five.

Opie could have given shots to both the inmate and the guy who gave the magazines to him. I have never heard of this rule being enforced at the camp. The BOP limits the number of magazines because an inmate could tape the magazines to his body creating body armor. Obviously, this shouldn’t be an issue at a camp.

An inmate cannot give ANY property (including magazines) to another inmate. Opie is just being a major pain, and he enjoys it. The inmate is probably going to write-up Opie because he thinks that Opie singled him out because of the inter-racial relationship.

Will Karma work against the staff?

I was wondering how karma work with some of the staff here. For example, how would Opie like to get a traffic ticket for doing one mile over the speed limit? That’s a good comparison for his lack of judgment and discretion with the shots he is giving or threatening.

We also see the out and out hate that some of the staff spews towards the inmates. It is the type of hate that will eat someone from the inside out. This is also true with the callousness and disrespect towards the inmates. The perfect example was when the COs carted out the dead inmate on a stretcher.  They allowed his hands to drag on the pavement. There’s nothing we can do to change the system. If only the public knew!