Tales of harrowing and/or redemption? Not so much. Just the facts.
January 1, 2013 10:56 AM   Subscribe

What are good resources, online and offline, for information about the average experience in federal prison camps (minimum security prisons)?

I'm not looking for a story of a particular individual's time in prison (e.g. Jeff Smith's story about prison), but information along the lines of:

- What rights and privileges (e.g. Exercise, books, outdoors time, Internet(?!)) are commonly available at this sort of prison?
- What dangers and problems should be expected?
- What are most people's daily lives usually like?

Also, has anyone read the Federal Prison Guidebook? I'm thinking of getting it, but the $80 price tag is giving me pause, previews are unavailable, and it is not available through interlibrary loan in my area.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Prison Talk is a good resource for this type of information.
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:36 AM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

This isn't a kind of detailed description you're looking for, but just single anecdote if that helps:

A relative of mine got busted for drug trafficking and went to one of those minimum security places. Because of his Italian-sounding name, there were a lot of guys in this facility that were interested in being buddies with him. He stayed clear of that scene by spending his days picking up cigarette butts while strolling around the yard.
posted by colin_l at 1:48 PM on January 1, 2013

I used to volunteer at a federal prison camp, spending days at a time in the prison. The training only took one day, but there was a background check and fingerprinting session. I recommend volunteering in one to get the idea. Most of the prisoners had jobs on the outside during the week. Food was a big deal. Even if they were serving something that you didn't like, you would take it because maybe you could trade it for food that you liked. Also, due to some bureaucratic error, we were served Cornish game hens one day.

There was a boot camp program that you could volunteer for in exchange for a shorter sentence. It looked just like the military.

There were dorms instead of cells. Most people were there for drug offenses or white collar crime. All of the offenses were non-violent. It is impolite to ask someone what they are in for. I can't think of anything else off the top of my head. This was many years ago, so there was no internet access because there was barely an internet. Feel free to email me if you have questions that I might be able to answer.
posted by kamikazegopher at 2:20 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

(kamikazegopher, why'd you volunteer in a federal prison camp? I'd love to hear more about the experience of volunteering if you're inclined to post publicly, or share/point me toward what you've written elsewhere!)
posted by tapir-whorf at 2:57 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Email me.
posted by kdern at 4:38 PM on January 1, 2013

My father did some time, about 40 years ago, in a Federal minimum-security prison. I have no idea how different it is now. He could go outdoors whenever he wanted, and there was a gym-ish facility they could use when they weren't otherwise occupied. There was a library, and we could have books sent to him, but they had to be direct from the publishers. My father loved his time there - he loved the structure, having everything decided for him, having company all the time. Emotions do get distorted, and take a while to unscramble afterwards.
posted by melesana at 8:56 PM on January 1, 2013

From what I've heard:

Plenty of opportunity for exercise: walking, running, weight room, stair masters, excercise bikes, yoga, tennis etc.. whoever is going will likely be in the best shape of their lives coming out.

Outdoor time - Plenty ... Kamikaze is right about "dorms". Most prison camps are former military bases or similar meaning there are dorms for sleeping and then a campus of other buildings and grounds. There may or may not be a fence (most prisoners volunteer to wrap up or do their time at prison camps (FPCs)), but prisoners are more or less free to roam the grounds until bedtime.

Books - Plenty, most have libraries and books can be mailed in, some might have bookmobiles or similar.

Internet - Doubtful, unless one were to smuggle a mobile device - not advisable.

Dangers - Other than boredom or a sprained ankle from playing hoops or tennis, little or none. One is probably safer in a federal prison camp than an average city street.

Daily lives - A little bleak but not entirely dissimilar to being in the military. other people decide your schedule and what you'll be doing during the day (cooking, cleaning, mowing grass, teaching or taking classes).

Remember Martha Stewart did about 10 months as did many a Illinois (and other states) politician ... whoever is headed to a FPC should plan learning a lot about themselves and likely meeting some of the most interesting characters they'll ever cross paths with.
posted by specialk420 at 11:12 PM on January 1, 2013

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