Camper Goes to Deuce to Make Lunch

Why would they send a camper to the Deuce?

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.

Horticulture Class

What does the horticulture class do?

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.

Town Driver Positions Open

Saturday, January 21st, 2012 |

The town driver got busted for bringing in contraband.  I think it was weight loss or muscle pills, both in high demand. He got sent to the SHU (Hole) and will be eventually to transferred out of Butner. We all suspected that he would “rat” out the guys who were his “customers”. Sure enough, the COs packed out two guys from our unit on Thursday. One of the COs made a comment like “what do you expect when someone goes to the Hole?”, implying that the driver gave up these two guys.  There’s another driver that will be released to go home soon.  So, there will be two driver positions open.

The camp has complex drivers and town drivers. The complex drivers pick up and drop off people from one facility to another. The town drivers run errands and drop released inmates at the airport or bus station, etc. The camp administration obviously put a lot of trust in these guys.

Is the Town Driver Position Good for Me?

I expressed an interest in the driver position when I first got here.  My thinking was that it would be nice to get out of this place every once and awhile. It turns out the job is really time consuming. Drivers are constantly paged for work. I was told today that the camp administrator wanted me to submit a Cop Out requesting a complex driver position. I’m sure I could get the job if I wanted it. But, I am going to ignore the request. The reasons are multiple: I have a good kitchen job now that gives me a lot of free time; I’m teaching two classes; I’m taking two classes; there’s no incentive for me to do so, and I know that I will be approached by other inmates to bring in contraband. I know I can resist such offers, but I don’t need the hassle.

As is, inmate instructors don’t get any recognition or benefits for teaching, and I know the same is true for drivers (and for everyone else for that matter). The way this prison is managed doesn’t provide any incentive for anyone to do anything good. I’m not just talking about teaching -I’m also talking about the incentive to always positively operate in all aspects of life here. In fact, it is the negative threat of going to the hole or behind the fence that keeps any order here. The camp doesn’t give furloughs, period. Another teacher friend was denied a request to have his handicapped son’s assistant accompany him on a visit because the number of adult visitors would exceed three. I can go on.

More Incentive Needed for Some Jobs

Inmates that have teaching or trusted positions should be positively rewarded. Also, this is a camp. There are a lot of things that are not allowed here that are allowed at other camps. The Butner camp is run as if it had a fence, and all inmates were not to be trusted. What harm would it be if they allowed a two-day furlough for every 90 days of being incident free? Why not allow the computers the capacity to save and print word documents? Why not allow limited access to the internet?

They believe that the inmates can’t be trusted. I’m sure that some inmates can’t be trusted but we will never know. The inmates do look for angles -to get around certain rules – but there is no positive incentive to abide by the rules. If they can’t trust inmates then they should be behind the fence.  I doubt anything could change without a wholesale change of management and staff.

Killing Time While Doing Time

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 |

I was thinking today about how different guys are killing time while doing time.

Classes

As I have written before, there are no vocational skills training. What little classes there are here, they are one or two hour classes – some during the day and some at night. Some guys are good about going to classes, some refuse to go. Despite the total lack of beneficial classes (in the sense of being able to use the info to get a job), the Camp tries to encourage guys to go to the classes by holding early halfway house time over their heads. I’m not convinced that it matters much as the camp administrators are very stingy about giving guys benefit for anything.

Jobs

Most of the jobs do not take up much time during the day. The skilled facility and Unicor jobs pay better and are 6 hours/day. The Unicor jobs pay the highest and preference is given to guys who have fines to pay. These jobs are also good for the guys who have no money coming in. I think about the most you can make is a little over a $1/hour. The other jobs take much less time out of the day and pay almost nothing. I get $.12/hour for my job.

Recreation

A lot of guys work out on the weight pile or on the track. I try to walk at least an hour a day. Card games are very popular here. You would not believe how many guys watch worthless TV, day and night. I like to read my books, papers and magazines. I see some guys stay in bed and read all day long. Sleeping is also very popular here. You can walk into the unit, and you will see at least several guys napping at any time during the day. I’ve seen some guys that never go into the cafeteria so they cook their own food.

Hanging Out

Some guys just hang out, as if they were probably doing on the street. A few guys hang out at the library and use the electronic typewriter for letters or books they are writing. Unfortunately, they have no way to save word documents and no computers to use for word processing. I like typing on a draft email, and then printing it out as my final product. The problem is that this is expensive.

Overall, it is extremely difficult to be productive in the traditional sense. I’m witnessing a total waste of human capital. There is nothing going on here that would prepare these guys for the outside. It is sad. No wonder that the recidivism rate is about 85%. I think the taxpayers would be shocked if they knew about this human warehousing machine.

Adjusting to Camp

Thursday, October 27th, 2011 |

I am adjusting to the Camp and getting into a rhythm. It is very easy to meet other campers since this is not a large facility.  Guys I met only recently are going home in December.  Everyone at a camp must have less than ten years remaining on their sentence.  I’ve noticed that campers are coming and going every week.  Beds rarely stay open for more than a week or two – as soon as campers go home, they bring new ones in. Most come on “moving day” which is on Thursday.

My Camp Schedule

It is turning cold and rainy here. Winter seems to be approaching. I have been keeping myself busy by reading and walking.   We eat at 5 pm and mail call is either immediately before or after the 4 pm count. I walk for 30 – 45 minutes every night, except the two nights that I have class. When I get back from walking, I read until the 9 pm count. I go to sleep around 9:30 when count is done and things settle down a little.

My job is the easiest job in the camp rolling silverware from 6:20 am to 7 am.  I then walk for 45 minutes and shower. “Short line” refers to the food line for the food service workers which starts at 10 am. It seems early but we get the best food at that time. The afternoon is spent reading, some talking and some relaxing. It’s tough not having anything productive to do.

I’m still trying to get off the “beach”. I doubt if I have slept past 3:30 am in the month I have been here. I get up at 5:30 so I am in and out of drowsiness for two hours.

I’ve gotten very agitated with a few of the guys over their rudeness and their ignorant perception of the world. Most of their nonsense I just ignore. It’s hard to argue with idiots. It just does no good. I’m doing more to just keep to myself.

The camp is really laid back so there’s no pressure to fully utilize the guys here.  Most of these guys are doing very little to prepare themselves for the outside world.

Camp Jobs

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 |

Just like the Low, I need to find a job if I am to avoid working in food service.  However, the food service jobs are better at the Camp than at the Low.  The Camp jobs have a greater diversity than the Low. All campers are required to have jobs unless they are truly unable to do anything for medical reasons.  There are a lot of guys who are so sick at the Camp that they can’t work.

Education Job

My first job choice is working in the Education Department.  I want to teach for the benefit of the guys, as well as to keep me busy.  This job also gives me an incredible amount of flexibility so I can use my time for my personal enrichment and exercise.  I have already agreed to teach a real estate investing course starting in January.

The BOP requires that all inmates take a course titled “Money Smarts” as a requirement for their release.  It is basic money management for guys that have probably never had a bank account.  The current instructor (a former banker serving 17 years for laundering mob money) has been designated to a different facility.  He doesn’t know when he is to be transferred, but he has recently developed a health issue.  They asked me to teach this class in his absence.  It starts tonight, so I will sit in on it and take over teaching it when he leaves.

I also talked to the education director about teaching Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU).  I asked the education director to review the curriculum online, though I’m not sure what is online to look at.    FPU might be a good advanced class to Money Smarts.

Other Jobs

The whole purpose of a satellite camp is to provide manual labor to a federal correctional complex such as Butner.  Off the camp compound, campers work in the food service and the general warehouses; as orderlies for the lobbies of the secured facilities (Low, Medium & Medium/High (Deuce)) and the mailroom; landscaping all the grounds outside of the secured areas; as plumbers, electricians, drivers and more.  In addition, UNICOR employs many campers in the complex, mostly making military uniforms.  These jobs all pay more than jobs on the compound, with a few exceptions.

Many of the jobs on the compound are simply make-work assignments with little or no supervision, such as litter pick-up.  There are orderlies for the chapel, education, visitation room, each department office and the housing units.  Campers also work in the recreation, commissary and the laundry areas.  Of course, food service employs the largest number of campers of the on-compound jobs.

Campers can request jobs by submitting cop-outs to department heads or those BOP employees responsible for the position.  The counselors make the job assignments based on need and the requests from the department heads.  Pay is at the slavery pay scale.  It is difficult to earn more than $20/month for any job, but $10/month is common.

 

Working Food Service

Thursday AM, September 1st, 2011 |

My second day of working food service was today. A CO woke me at 5 am to line up at the front door with other food service workers where we would be released to go to the dining room a few minutes later. I noticed that my cellie wasn’t in his bunk. He appeared a moment later as I was dressing. I could smell dope on his breath as he passed me. I said in a low voice so as not to be heard by others, “Dude, man, brush your teeth! You reek. Aren’t you concerned that you are going to get busted?” He didn’t say anything, stared blankly at me and went to his bunk.

Food Service Job at the Low

I got assigned a job serving inmates their food in the dining room. What a trip! Food service is the most dreaded job assignment on the compound, and it is generally required for all inmates to work in food service, at least for a while.  There are a lot of inmates required to serve 1400 guys three meals a day.  There are two shifts – am and pm.  I got assigned the am shift by my counselor, but probably would have preferred the pm shift.  The jobs generally include line servers (me), cooks, table clean-up guys, moppers, tray/dish room operators, etc.  The cook jobs pay well compared to the measlier wages that are paid to other inmates.  But, the cooks also work a full shift.  It probably doesn’t take a grand total of an hour out of four for everyone else to do their job.

After all the inmates left breakfast, the food service inmates cleaned the dining room and kitchen, and then sat – for a solid three hours! The CO’s wouldn’t let us leave unless we had a call-out. Some food service CO’s won’t even let the inmates read or play cards while they wait to serve the next meal. I brought a book and read. No one said anything to me about it, except to be discreet.

Uncomfortable Interaction with My Co-Defendant

I saw my co-defendant sitting by himself across the room. Skip was a principal of my former employer, Peerless Real Estate Services, Inc. Skip and his brother owned a small manufacturing company in South Florida but vacationed in North Carolina. They met Tony Porter, a land developer in North Carolina, in Spruce Pine and together started Peerless. Skip quit working with his brother to devote all his time to Peerless’ real estate projects. I had previously met Porter when I was brokering large real estate projects and we became friends. Porter asked me to join Peerless to manage their income portfolio, conduct due diligence on new projects and seek institutional financing on those projects.  Others were brought into the company and Peerless commenced operations in January 2004.

Skip had first seen me a few days earlier while we were waiting in a medical line and started talking. He was initially friendly.  I was friendly as well and we engaged in small talk. However, he seemed to get agitated whenever we talked subsequently.   It was really weird seeing him and talking to him. He had reported to the Low at least a year previously.  It had been more than four years since I had last seen him, and I hadn’t had any communication with my other co-defendants since our case broke. I knew that co-defendants were NOT supposed to be in the same facility, and I could not be sure of his intentions.  I told Christine about seeing Skip, and I thought that we should let my attorney know.  Christine said she would reach out to my attorney and discuss.

We were allowed to go back to our units after lunch and I settled in with a book.  This day would be the last time I saw Skip or worked in food service at the Low.

Orientation & Depression

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 |

I was depressed today due to a culmination of many things including being treated curtly by several guards for not having an empty trash can, having some things other than my bible on my locker, and a guard told me to take off my hat in the dining room.  This last item wouldn’t have bothered me except that another guy was standing near me wearing a Rastafarian rainbow hat.  Several other guys were wearing either wool hats or baseball caps. It just appeared that these guards were trying to get on my case.  Also, I’m really realizing that I am in prison. Sometimes it is very hard for me to keep my mouth shut. I’m trying to stay out of trouble but I must watch what I say.

Admissions & Orientation (A&O)

I went to my Admissions & Orientation (A&O) today and was given a A&O Handbook.  A&O is mandatory for all new inmates and is given every Tuesday. They had representatives from each department talk a little about their programs and do’s and don’ts.  Some things that came out of the session:

Mail

Anything weighing more than 16 oz. must have printed on the package “Authorized by BOP Policies” and state the contents (e.g. magazines, books, etc.). A magazine is technically not media mail and has to go at a higher postage rate.

Education

They have new continuing education classes posted all the time but the inmate must pay the tuition if there is one. Inmates teach some of the classes, and they set up their own curriculum. I’ll check to see if there is anything interesting. I’m going to try to get setup to use the legal library.

Email

They also said that there is a minimum wait of 60 minutes for email coming and going, and the system does break down occasionally. They know there is a problem and they are trying to fix it. I am paying $.05/min for the email system. I bought 600 minutes when I came in and I now have about 200 left. It’s not a problem buying more time if I have money in my account.

Phone

The maximum phone numbers I can call are 20. Also, I would need to get approval for collect calls (which really doesn’t pertain to us).

Jobs

It is mandatory that all inmates work for at least 90 days in the kitchen, which is about the worst job on-site, unless they have another job that facilitates the entire prison. I have been working hard trying to find a job. So far, I applied to library, education, laundry, psychology, and to Unicor for a clerical position.

Unicor is the textile factory run by the prison making Air Force shirts and jackets and food service pants. I would not be able to work in the factory per se because I can’t sew, but I applied for a clerical position. The problem is – all tell me that they aren’t hiring right now. The regular jobs pay something like 5 to 10 cents an hour. The Unicor jobs pay between $.23 to $1.15/hr. Preference is given to guys that have restitution, fines or child support to pay. I have none of that so I may not get the job.

Psychology Services has an inmate to inmate mentoring program. I would be perfect as a mentor because of my Stephen Ministry training. I’m meeting with that department head this afternoon.

Family Calling to the Facility

One CO said the prison is very adamant that the family should not call unless it is a true emergency. The prison will check and verify the reason for the call (i.e.; call the hospital, funeral home, etc.). They can shutoff contact with the family member if that person is caught lying.

Visitation

The Compound Officer talked about visitation. They are very strict on visitation. Everyone is either watched or videotaped, and the tapes are viewed later. They also said not to get there too early. Typically, 30 minutes in advance of the visiting time is good.

The Commissary is Outrageously Expensive!

Thursday, August 18th, 2011 |

I started Thursday off by going to sick call to wait an hour for them to look at my finger in order to tell me in 5 seconds that my TB test was negative.  Later, I had to go back to medical again to have my DNA test.  So, I guess I am now in the national DNA database.  Even later, I went back to medical once more for my prescriptions which they normally distribute through a pill line.  They gave me mine to take back to the unit so I will not have to wait in line each morning.

Looking for a Job

Everyone is telling me that I should find my own job or the counselor will assign me to a food service or orderly position.  I decided to play to my strength so I went to the library/education department and applied for a job in either the library or tutoring inmates.  They took my application but said that these were popular jobs and guys did not give them up easily.   I also got the application for paralegal training offered from a correspondence college.

Inedible Food Last Night

The food last night was not edible.  They served scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy for dinner!  I ate almost nothing.  On Friday morning, they served cake with breakfast.  I haven’t even seen dessert at lunch or dinner, and they serve cake at breakfast!!

Commissary

I picked up my stuff at the commissary last night after dinner.  I went over my spending limit so I had to take some stuff off my list but got everything I thought was really important.  I really can’t survive without a watch, tennis shoes, radio, head phones, lock and some toiletries.  I can buy stamps every week but I can’t go to the commissary for another 30 days!!  Everything is 3-5x as expensive as in the real world. Christine tells me that the vendor for the Commissary is under investigation and there have been numerous complaints about what they charge in the system, but nothing changes. $300 doesn’t buy you much here. Just look at this Commissary List.

Stamps as Cash

Stamps are the underground currency here.  There are guys who carry them around as they would cash.  You can also buy stamps at less than face value by buying commissary items for the seller, so I am told.

I slept well last night.  Went to bed at about 10:15 and woke about 5:45. Fridays are supposed to be laid back so we will see.  I am going to work out on the next move.

I got some clarification on visiting hours from another inmate.  Sat, Sun and Mon are 8:30 – 3, Thurs & Fri are 2:30 to 8. Saturday and Sunday are only every other weekend.  I’ll confirm one more time with the counselor.