Getting Started – Don’t Stress

Posted: December 27, 2012 in Preparation

First let me get started by saying this process is not the same for all inmates, pretrial or not.  Everyone will experience the justice system differently.  Many inmates; such as myself will never spend a day behind bars prior to sentencing and even then many won’t see a jail cell until they self-report to their assigned penitentiary/camp.

I was sentenced in July 2012 to a term on three months confinement with three years supervised release (one of which will be served on home confinement).  I left the courthouse defeated, exhausted, and unsure of how life would be with everything falling around me.  I was placed in Pretrial release and told that I had to contact the Probation Office once a week.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was very lucky.  Individuals who have just entered a plea or are convicted are either immediately placed in custody of the US Marshals Office or placed in a Home Confinement status.

It took almost three weeks before I was informed about my reporting site.  I knew I was going to end up at a Federal Prison Camp, but I surely did not expect to be heading to Atlanta.  Especially since there is a camp less than 10 minutes from my home.  However the Bureau of Prisons makes the decision about where all the inmates go so I was selected to go to Atlanta.  Don’t expect the Department of Justice or the Bureau of Prisons to be any help in assisting you when it comes to how you are supposed to present yourself if you are a candidate for self-surrender.

Couple of things to remember is you are a Self-Surrender for the Federal Prison Camp:

  1. Make sure you deposit some money into your account before entering the facility.  You will not be allowed to bring any money into the institution and they will not automatically put it on your books.  The best way to get money on your account is through Western Union.  While there is a fee to doing this, it will be on your books and ready for you to use almost immediately (shows up about 3-4hrs after putting it in).
  2. If you have any medications, put them in a clear plastic bag and bring them with you.  Don’t be alarmed if they take them from you and don’t allow you to keep them with you.  At least for the first couple of weeks they will have someone bring you all of you medications.
  3. Come to the penitentiary wearing a white t-shirt, white boxes, white socks, white shoes, and grey sweats (no hoodies and no logos).  If you have items that are not approved to be brought into the Federal Prison Camp you will be given a choice (either donate the items or send them home).  I was told by several of my fellow inmates that these options are dependent on the place.  There are some corrections officers (CO) that will not give you the option to mail your items home.  Several CO’s that I spoke with told me that often they are do not have the time (or don’t want) to do the proper paperwork.
  4. Carry a list of phone numbers, addresses, etc of your loved ones.  You will not be allowed to bring any other documents with you.  They will be confiscated and destroyed.  DO NOT BRING YOUR PSI!!!!
  5. Bring your driver’s license.  You will most likely just show it to the CO’s when you enter the facility and then give it to your family.  You will not be allowed to keep it with you.
  6. Prepare your family and friends that you may not be able to contact them for a week or so.  This depends on your place, but it took me a week before I was able to make a phone call or send an email.

While all of this is a lot to remember and comprehend don’t worry.  You will be fine.  Mind your business, stay out of everyone else’s, and stay out-of-the-way.

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