Day Zero

Posted: December 28, 2012 in Detention Center Unit Complex

Entering Federal Prison is a very daunting and challenging event emotionally.  You will be spending time on your  own for a long period of time and you will need something to keep your mind active outside of just staring at the wall.

When I was first brought into my cell I was told nothing, not informed of the rules, and was left to spend time to yourself thinking about what you have done and the sentence you have in front of you.  Trying to communicate with staff (at least at Atlanta USP) is near impossible.  If you ask questions, they won’t get answered.  If you need something; other than medical treatment, it won’t be given to you (at least right away).

I self-surrendered on a Friday afternoon.  I arrived at the assigned time (just before 2pm Eastern Time).  I was taken away from the self-surrender area and escorted to the in-processing area.  Here I was required to complete several forms for medical, emergency contact, and other waivers.  During this time you will be locked in a cell.  I was by myself as there were no others coming in when I was.  There is a possibility that you will be with others who are being processed.

Once all your forms are complete, you will be required to go through a strip search, issued a jumpsuit, photographed, fingerprinted, and rushed through a brief mental health examination (consists of a few questions).  Yes it is embarrassing and yes there will be many people milling about while you do all of this, but rest assured you will only have to do once unless there is another problem.

I waited about 2 hours until I was finally taken to my cell.  If you come in following a meal (6am, 11am, and 4:30pm) they will make sure you get a sandwich.  Don’t expect much more to be given to you.  As the CO’s prepare to send you to your assigned cell they will give you a bedroll consisting of a blanket and a sheet.  I was never given a pillow, but some locations will give you a pillow along with these.

Do not expect that they will give you any toiletries.  Like I said, I came in on a Friday afternoon.  That basically meant that I was not going to be coming out of my cell until Monday morning.  Yes, that is correct.  we were in lockdown for 22 hrs a day and 24 hrs on Saturday, Sundays, and Holidays.  So if you come in on a Friday, do not expect to be let out again until Monday morning.

The CO’s expect that all rules and information will be passed along from inmate to inmate.  Pay close attention to all the information given to you.  Some of it may not be correct or may just be a way to carry out a goal of another inmate.  Just know this for sure, you will only be allowed to shower three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).  During these days you will be able to get new towels, jumpsuits, razors, and other toiletries.  You will have to stand in line for everything; taking a shower, using the email system, and making a phone call.  However, since you just came in you won’t be able to use the phone or email.  This requires that you have your Register Number, a PIN Number, and your PAC Number.  These can only be given to you by a counselor.

In my experience the counselors were only around once a week and usually not when we were out and able to talk to them.  You may have to complete what is call a “Cop-Out” form or a Request to Staff.  Again, don’t expect to get a response, but persistence will eventually pay off.  Do not expect that you will have any visitors while you are spending your time in the Detention Center (DCU).  Most of the inmates at the DCU are in transit to another facility, awaiting transfer to the Federal Prison Camp, or awaiting trial (there are many Pre-Trial Inmates).

Keep yourself occupied.  Get several books to read, find an inmate that will share some magazines with you, and by all means make sure your family sends some letters.  Remember you won’t be able to communicate (directly) with your family until the counselors set you up with your PIN and PAC.  Ask the CO’s for paper, pencil, and envelopes.  You will be able to write letters, but you won’t be able to shop in the commissary unless you put money on your account.  You will be limited to only one book of stamps so make sure you use them wisely.  I’ll discuss the usage of stamps in another entry, but for now make sure you have enough to write letters to your family.

Keep your head up and don’t let the system get the best of you.

  1. mike says:

    geez im kinda reliving it as im reading worst 11 days of my life Atlanta dcu was exactly as you have written it did u have a cellie?

    • Bryan says:

      I did have a cellie after about my 9th day. He came in because he got caught with a cell phone. It seemed like there were about 15-20 guys that were there waiting for reassignment because they had a cell phone. Actually if you are who I think you are, I remember you. I came down with the guy you were partners with for a short period time over in E unit. I was in F and later moved to C-unit with one of your co-workers in the education area.

      I’m glad I got the depiction accurately. Thank you for the comment!

  2. Anonymous says:

    yes thats me small world when i try to explain how it was i always point family to your blog i couldnt say it any better myself

    • Bryan says:

      Yes it is a small world! I’m so glad that you enjoy the blog. If you ever see anything that doesn’t match the experience please feel free to comment! I really appreciate it. Hopefully everything is going well with you and your family!

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