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PART II - FEDERAL PRISON
A. STATE v. FEDERAL
In most cases I would say that doing time in a Federal Prison
is better than doing time in the state institutions. Some state
prisons are such violent and pathetic places that it's worth doing
a little more time in the Federal system. This is going to be
changing however. The public seems to think that prisons are too
comfortable and as a result Congress has passed a few bills to
toughen things up.
Federal prisons are generally going to be somewhat less crowded,
cleaner, and more laid back. The prison I was at looked a lot
like a college campus with plenty of grass and trees, rolling
hills, and stucco buildings. I spent most of my time in the library
hanging out with Minor Threat. We would argue over who was more
elite. "My sentence was longer," he would argue. "I
was in more books and newspapers," I would rebut. (humor)
Exceptions to the Fed is better rule would be states that permit
televisions and word processors in your cell. As I sit here just
prior to release scribbling this article with pen and paper I
yearn for even a Smith Corona with one line display. The states
have varying privileges. You could wind up someplace where everything
gets stolen from you. There are also states that are abolishing
parole, thus taking away the ability to get out early with good
behavior. That is what the Feds did.
B. SECURITY LEVELS
The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has six security levels. Prisons
are assigned a security level and only prisoners with the appropriate
ratings are housed there. Often the BOP will have two or three
facilities at one location. Still, they are essentially separate
prisons, divided by fences.
The lowest level facility is called a minimum, a camp, or
FPC. Generally speaking, you will find first time, non-violent
offenders with less than 10 year sentences there. Camps have no
fences. Your work assignment at a camp is usually off the prison
grounds at a nearby military base. Other times camps operate as
support for other nearby prisons.
The next level up is a low Federal Correctional Institution
(FCI). These are where you find a lot of people who should be
in a camp but for some technical reason didn't qualify. There
is a double fence with razor wire surrounding it. Again you will
find mostly non-violent types here. You would really have to piss
someone off before they would take a swing at you.
Moving up again we get to medium and high FCI's which are
often combined. More razor wire, more guards, restricted movement
and a rougher crowd. It's also common to find people with 20 or
30+ year sentences. Fighting is much more common. Keep to yourself,
however, and people generally leave you alone. Killings are not
too terribly common. With a prison population of 1500-2000, about
one or two a year leave on a stretcher and don't come back.
The United States Penatentury (U.S.P.) is where you find the
murderers, rapists, spies and the roughest gang bangers. "Leavenworth"
and "Atlanta" are the most infamous of these joints.
Traditionally surrounded by a 40 foot brick wall, they take on
an ominous appearance. The murder rate per prison averages about
30 per year with well over 250 stabbings.
The highest security level in the system is Max, sometimes
referred to as "Supermax." Max custody inmates are locked
down all the time. Your mail is shown to you over a TV screen
in your cell. The shower is on wheels and it comes to your door.
You rarely see other humans and if you do leave your cell you
will be handcuffed and have at least a three guard escort. Mr.
Gotti, the Mafia boss, remains in Supermax. So does Aldridge Ames,
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