What to Expect on your First 24 Hours in County JailApril 18, 2019
As movies and popular shows make prison seem like a common and somewhat interesting occurrence, it can be easy to think that the whole process goes smoothly from start to finish. If you or a loved one is actually facing federal prison time though, you suddenly realize that what is seen on television leaves out the harsh reality of what is happening. While shows like Orange is the New Black got some aspects right, they do little to prepare anyone for becoming an actual BOP inmate.
For those who may have little or no experience with the federal system, even the idea of preparing for time behind bars as a BOP inmate can be overwhelming and frightening. If this is your first trip behind bars then you may be worried about everything from getting snacks and supplies to what will happen to your family while you are gone. These are valid concerns and there are some answers available if you know where to look.
How to Prepare for Life in Prison
Whether you have less than a year or ten years, the following tips will help you be a bit more prepared for your sentence.
- Get Educated: Believe it or not, there is a great deal of information about being on the inside. This is not just the crazy stories that are often sensationalized, but real information that can help you go in with some basic knowledge about what will happen and what is expected or allowed. You can start by speaking with someone you know or know of that has done substantial time within the last few years, incarcerated at the same security level. This person can be a great source of information about the unspoken rules of prison. If you cannot find anyone or cannot find someone who will discuss it, then educate yourself through books. One of the best books is the Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons. There are also online resources that offer information and contact with prison consultants that can answer any relevant questions you may have before going inside. As for your family, there are also online resources and chat rooms that can offer support and information.
- Get in Shape (Physically and Medically): Though fighting in prison is less than ideal, violence is a real issue. Before you head inside, learn to protect yourself. Hopefully you will never have to use what you learn, but it is best to be prepared. Get in shape by joining a gym or a self-defense class of some type hand to hand combat or boxing class. This will at least get you looking tough even if it is not necessary. While this may not be as necessary for a minimum security, camp type placement, it still will not hurt. Along with this, resolve any medical and dental issues that may be needed ahead of time. Prison does offer dental and medical, but it is likely well below the standards of any doctor or dentist on the outside. Get a complete physical, any surgery you have been putting off, glasses, and any dental work or checks that you need. Even if you need this in prison it will likely be a lengthy wait.
- Study Your Prison: Assuming you know where you are going, which is likely, spend some time reading about the facility online. Learn how someone puts money on your books, how to self-surrender if that is part of your sentence, how to contact people once inside, and the basic rules and regulations. Some prisons allow or control more than others. For specific regulations and available services go to www.bop.gov and locate the page for your prison. From there you should find an Admission & Orientation Handbook that can be downloaded. Leave a copy for your loved ones as well. Once you are inside, others can look you up using a federal prison inmate search.
- Get Your Finances Organized: Whether you have less than a year or a substantial amount of time, you need to get your finances organized. If you are married then it is likely your spouse will handle paying bills and such, but in case they need to make changes you need to appoint a business or financial manager that you can trust. This could be a spouse, close friend, or even an attorney. You may want to make this person your power of attorney (POA) so that they can make deposits and withdrawals on your behalf as needed. You should also arrange with this person to send you a set amount monthly or even quarterly if possible. While any amount is helpful, between $500-750 each month will give you about $350 for commissary, minutes for the phone, and the ability to purchase an MP3 player with music files. This will also give you limited access to the prison email system which can make your time pass much faster. However, if you cannot afford that amount you may have to carefully budget what you can get.
- Don’t Let the Time Do You: This may sound cliché, but it is true. You have a sentence and you will serve all or a majority of it in all likelihood, so find something safe to do while serving time. There are often classes offered (high school/GE and college correspondence), exercise, groups, teaching, and others. Get started right away if possible so that you can work toward your release day instead of counting each minute while bored. Staying busy does not negate being in prison, but it does help you improve yourself and pass time much faster.
If you have other questions regarding preparing for prison life or finding someone already in prison, then click here to learn more.
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