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You will be detained in a jail under contract to hold Federal Prisoners or in a Corporation owned and run facility to house Federal Prisoners after you have been charged by the Federal Government.

You may have been held in a city or county jail after your arrest. If both Federal and State charges are pending against you , you may be continue to be housed there until one or the other claims jurisdiction. These facilities house up to several hundred detained, arrested and convicted individuals. Federal prisoners are usually separated from others by wing, tier, pod, facility, floor or cell. Violent offenders and/or gang members are usually segregated further.

After arrest you will be strip and cavity searched, fingerprinted and photographed as you are processed into the holding facility. You will be required to shower and be issued outer clothing and underwear. You are not permitted to keep any personal belongings except a wedding ring, eye glasses and an inexpensive religious medallion. The contents of your pockets will be held by the jailers until you are released or transferred. Everything else in your possession must be sent home or donated. This includes all of your clothing and shoes. You will be interviewed and assessed as to where you will be housed. Those with gang affiliations, gang tattoos and/or prior violent history are usually kept apart from the minor crime or “white collar” accused.

A minimal amount of “hygiene” (toiletries) will be issued: soap, towel, comb, etc.. You will not be allowed to have a razor. A razor will be issued to you each morning so that you can shave and it will be collected within 30 minutes to prevent inmates from fashioning a weapon.


Hepatitis is more prevalent in prison than anywhere else, especially Hepatitis C. The reason is that it is a blood born disease usually contracted by the sharing of razors, needles (remember, most arrests are for drugs) and tattooing with unclean needles. Tattooing is big in prison even though it is not permitted. You may be certain that a large number of individuals in prison have Hepatitis in one form or another. Avoid sharing any item (eating utensil, razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.) that will compromise your health. Wash your hands frequently. Clean your sink and toilet frequently. You will be assigned a bunk or bed of some sort, depending upon the facility. Each cell has one or more bunk beds constructed of steel or cement. A thin mattress will be provided along with a sheet and a blanket. If there is overcrowding your cell may house others who will sleep on “boats”. These are plastic, body length containers with sides that are placed on the floor somewhere within the confines of the already small cell where the other detainee will sleep.

Your cell usually has a toilet and a sink constructed of stainless steel. If you are on lock down you and your cell mates will have virtually no privacy to relieve yourself or clean up. Showers are located in the common area and shower times are regulated to conserve water and to make certain that all have an opportunity to take a shower. You will be permitted visitation, telephone, commissary privileges, library or law book access and writing materials. You will be afforded at least one hour per day exercise either in the “yard” or in a gym.

If you are indigent (without funds or family support) you will be given a couple of stamps weekly to mail letters. You will be given three meals per days usually brought to you and your fellow inmates. These meals meet the minimum requirement for caloric intake, protein and carbohydrates. You may or may not get any fresh fruit or vegetables. Most meals are prepared by inmates supervised by the Correctional staff.

You will be issued a plastic “spork” which is a combination of spoon and fork. You will use this to cut your food, use as a spoon and a fork. Some facilities issue a heavy duty spork which you will use at every meal. Other facilities will issue a lightweight plastic spork each meal which is usually discarded after each meal. There is a common eating area or dayroom where inmates are fed at the same time in a group. A sugared beverage is usually provided at mealtimes. Coffee will be available in the morning at the breakfast meal. Eating utensils will be made of plastic.

You will usually be required to work at some job in the facility. For this labor you will be “paid” something like $.10 per hour up to $.25 per hour depending on the facility or job that you do. Many are “make work” types of activities to keep you busy: “Idle hands the workshop of the devil” sort of thing! Many of the jobs are necessary for safety and cleanliness; sweeping, mopping and waxing the common areas and cells. Scrubbing the showers, sinks and toilets. Food Service, cleaning and waxing the hallways. Laundry service. Painting. These tasks will be done as many as three times per day. With your “pay” added to your Commissary account you are able to purchase items such as coffee, candy, pens, paper, envelopes, batteries, radio, sweat clothing, shoes and other food items. Your account can be replenished by money order from family or friends. Without any funds in your Commissary Account you are left with your three meals per day and no “luxuries” such as a radio, sweats or tennis shoes. There are various ways to “earn” some of these, usually by doing someone else’s job for them, ironing their clothing or cleaning their cell. These activities are prohibited but a regularly done by the inmates.

You will be subject to “counts” during the day where the Correction Officers/Jailers regularly do a head count to verify population and that no one has “escaped” or aren’t where they are supposed to be. Any count that is “off” results in a “lock-down” where each and every inmate is locked in their cell and another count is taken. If the count is verified then inmates are released to the common area until lights out at night. Periodically, the jailers will conduct searches, called a “toss”, of your area and cells to confiscate any contraband that may have accumulated by the inmates. You will be stripped searched, constrained with handcuffs and situated away from your living area while they conduct a thorough search of every container, mattress, light fixture, ventilation duct, sink, toilet, shower and clothing. If anything is found that was not issued, or had been modified in any way from its original form it will be confiscated and an incident report will be issued against you or your cell mates. Believe it or not some inmates will “brew” alcoholic beverages, be able to acquire drugs, tobacco, cell phones and other items that seem to be impossible to obtain. Avoid these and those individuals who have them. They can only bring you trouble and compromise your safety and well being. If the contraband is deemed “dangerous” or consists of drugs or cell phone the inmate(s) will be taken to the Special Housing Unit (SHU), usually solitary/segregation, and be locked down for several weeks with no contact with others except the Correctional Officers. The SHU is sometimes called the “hole”.

The Correctional authorities very likely will bring additional charges against the violating inmate resulting in more prison time, if convicted, on top of those charges already pending, A disciplinary report against you is called a Shot and will result in a blemish on your file which follows you throughout the jail/prison system. Shots are based upon severity of the infraction, from talking while a count is being taken to rioting or killing. Depending on the severity you will be restricted in your activities to being confined in the SHU or sent to a more secure facility. Again, additional charges can and will be brought against the inmate. You will be confined with others who constitute the full spectrum of racial makeup, language and culture. Each group will have a “leader” , called a “Shot Caller” who represents that group to others in the cell block or pod. These individuals will act on behalf of their “constituency” on conflicting issues among individuals or groups. These issues might range from someone disrespecting another, stealing, “buying/selling”, “bull dogging” or anything that would never seem an issue anywhere else. Bull dogging is when an inmate or group decides to intimidate you for favors or extortion to share your commissary items or account. The intimidation or threat is real and unless you are allied with another group or are able to thwart these inmates by your own wherewithal you could find yourself co-operating or injured in some way. The idea is to keep the peace without resorting to violence especially among gang member or gang affiliations. As often as not things will get out of control and confrontations resulting in assault or worse occur, more often than you might think. The Shot Callers can intervene on your behalf so it is wise to make an alliance with the one who can speak on your behalf, if you are in that kind of environment.

While you are in Detention do not, repeat, do not, repeat, do not, repeat, do not discuss your case or your charges with anyone, even your Cellie/Bunkie! These people are not your friend. After Detention it is unlikely that you ever see them again. It is acceptable to talk about other things with your fellow inmates but do not discuss your case. Everyone has a story. Everyone will tell you the story that puts them in the most favorable light. Your “story” or case may or may not be used against you. Some people like to embellish their story to make themselves look more favorable, more savvy or more dangerous than they really are. Others can use another’s story in an attempt to get a better “deal” for themselves from the Prosecutor or to challenge the other individual’s integrity. Many inmates in Detention and Federal Prison have nothing left but their integrity or what dignity they can muster. They have nothing else to lose. By disrespecting them with a slight, a slur, a disparaging remark heard by others you can be the target of an assault and worse. Above all, in a confined, incarcerated environment never “dis” (disrespect) a fellow inmate, his family or friends. Keep it to yourself. You will only bring grief from which you have no escape!

If fighting breaks out the jailers will come in force, stop the altercation and place the entire facility on lockdown while they conduct an investigation. This lockdown can last from a day to several weeks, depending on the extent of the violence and injuries sustained during that violence.

Avoid any and all altercations while in Detention! Go to your cell and close the door. It will automatically lock. STAY OUT OF HARMS WAY!

During lockdown, no one leaves their cell, day or night. All food is brought to the cell. There are no telephone privileges, library or exercise.

Never borrow anything from anyone and never lend anything unless you have no expectation of ever seeing it again! No one knows when they are going to be moved, transferred or released. If you have “loaned” someone something you or they may not be around to collect it. On the other hand the individual may simply refuse to return or reimburse you for the item. Is it worth a confrontation? That is a decision you have to make. It is better just not to lend or borrow, period.

Laundry will collected by Trustees, washed and returned once per week. Medical services will provide the medications that you require after an initial medical exam and assessment shortly after you arrival. You will not be permitted any psychotropic medications. There will be a “sick call” each morning and evening where you will be issued pills, inhaler for asthmatic conditions, diabetic shots or any other medication for treatment that has been prescribed by the facilities physician. New medical conditions developed after your arrival must be requested and will take some time to address by the medical personnel, sometimes up to several days!

If you have an attorney at this point he will visit you periodically to discuss your case and to advise you on various issues. These are further covered in a later Part. After the Arraignment he should file several Motions with the court. One will be for Discovery which forces the Prosecutor to reveal any and all information he has regarding your case. This would include Officers and investigators affidavits, interviews with witnesses, time and dates that you were alleged to have committed the crimes they have charged you and any other document the Prosecutor may have. It is possible that your attorney may file for dismissal, reduction or elimination of bond and other issues affecting your case. You can, of course, perform all of these filing yourself but will not carry the weight to the court of an attorney filed motion.

The Law Library in the Detention Facility gives you opportunities to review the law, various Motions and how to file Briefs supporting your Motions. More often than not there are other inmates who have “worked” the system before and are very familiar with the legal process. They can be very helpful and can perform a lot of preparation for you for a “fee”. This fee can range from money being sent to their Commissary account to providing actual commissary items or other “service” such as doing their duties for them, cleaning their cell, etc.. You should be advised that these “jailhouse lawyers” are only sometimes successful in obtaining anything in the legal process. Judges often view these filings as frivolous and designed to delay or offer spurious arguments about your case and the charges filed against you. Nonetheless, it may be beneficial to use the Inmate for some of the earlier filings that are commonly done.

Formal communication with jail officials are accomplished with what are called “cop outs’ or “kites”. These are used to address grievances, seek permission for various issues and to request special medical treatment or medications. Response is usually slow and require multiple submissions to higher authority within the jail chain of command to get results.

Periodically you will be required to appear before the court as your case proceeds. This can be done by video conferencing on simple rulings over motions or you may be transported to the court for more formal proceedings. You will be shackled, hands and feet and appear before the Judge in your jail uniform. All this is designed to demean and degrade you in the courtroom. You look like a criminal, you look like you are guilty and you look like you need to be sentenced for a very long time by the Judge. Unless you are being tried before a jury (and sometimes even then) you will always wear jail clothing and be shackled while in the courtroom.

When all is said and done, if you are released for lack of evidence or the investigation has resulted in another being arrested for your “crime” or even bring acquitted by a jury, the fact remains that you have lost your freedom for however long you were in jail. There will be no apology, no compensation for lost wages or for “false imprisonment”. You are on your own. You have no recourse but to pick up the pieces of your life and make an attempt to get a normal life back. The Government is uncaring, insensitive and aloof to you or your well being.

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