Prisonology interviews Jack Donson, Bureau Of Prisons Case Manager - Retired, on actions that should be taken prior to reporting to federal prison.
There are usually 6-8 weeks of time from the day of sentencing until self-surrendering to prison. In this section we provide some guidance that will help you and your family get through the prison experience. While we know this is a difficult time and it is hard to think clearly, we will present you a plan of action that prioritizes things that need to get done and will certainly make life easier in the future.
Avoid procrastination! You have a limited amount of time to get some important things done, which we cover in this segment. All of these will make your life, and your family’s life easier after you report to prison.
Get documents in place that may be needed in an emergency, such as a Will, Living Will or Power of Attorney.
Put all legal documents and other documentation in a single location that is known by a designated person who you trust.
Get a physical and visit with your doctor. You need to discuss medications you are taking and make sure those are available on the BOP Formulary (Part II), which is a complete alphabetical listing of prescription medications. You also want to make sure that you are in good shape. If a procedure needs to be done, have it done prior to prison if possible.
Set up a Western Union Quick Collect Account so that money can be sent to your trust account in prison (commissary, phone, email). Make sure someone knows how to access the account and sets up reminders to send money periodically. You will need money while you are incarcerated.
Prepare a letter to send to yourself in prison on the day prior to surrendering. The letter should have contact information (Name, physical address, email address and phone number) of those you want on your phone, email and visitation lists. Even though you are limited on the number of people you can have on these lists, many inmates manage them over time by dropping and adding people throughout their incarceration.
Make some goals that you want to accomplish. Many people in prison lose weight, write books, read classic literature, learn to play a musical instrument or learn a new language.
Get a new pair of glasses that are cheap and durable. You are not going for fashion and breaking a pair of glasses in prison means that you will not be wearing glasses for a while. Prisons will usually allow you to bring in two pairs. Note, contact lenses are not allowed.
Go to the BOP website and look up the institution where you will be incarcerated. The BOP has updated their website and you will find useful information relating to the location, rules for visitation, A&O Orientation Handbook and a commissary list for each individual facility.
Make sure you have made your travel arrangements for your surrender to prison and plan on having someone accompany you. You never know what can go wrong on a trip so having someone to assist you is a great idea in addition to having the company. Having your spouse and children drive you to prison is never a good idea. They would all be upset and then have to drive miles back home without you. Say your “Good-byes” at home and have a friend or sibling drive with you.
K.W. (Inmate) Preparing for Prison
"OK FIRST THING FIRST ... Find that ONE PERSON that you can trust. I highly DO NOT recommend a wife, girl friend or life partner..JUST TRUST ME ON THIS. I say a first choice is a mother or father, You need to find a person that YOU CAN TRUST! Second,. this is the ONE regret I have that I did not do. Have a garage sell!! Sell as much as you can afford to part with. Electronics will NOT be of use when you get out!! I kept a lot of computers and flat screen TVs thinking I would need them. Those things change so quick and if you got over a 3 year sentence those things are useless!! TRUST ME!!
Prison costs money. To live comfortably in prison a normal person needs about $200.00 a month. That's $2,400 a year and in 5 years that's 12,000 dollars!!! I would say TRY to have $2,400 dollars saved for every year you are gone. I understand a lot of people can’t afford this but this is also why I am stressing to you to MAKE SURE YOU SELL WHAT YOU CAN and give it to your 'trust person' so that they can put money into your commissary account when you are settled into your prison.
Last but not least. I hate to tell you this, but people are going to disappear when you’re gone. It will be YOUR JOB to stay in touch with people. Not many people are going to hunt down your prison address and write you. SO, make a long list of people on regular paper (address books are not allowed to be mailed into prison) of ALL the people that you want to keep in touch with. Get ALL their info. Email, phone number, and physical address and after you complete your list give this to the person you trust. So that when you are settled into your prison all they have to do is send it to you. Remember, you can not take ANYTHING with you into prison. To be honest, I don't even know where the clothes went that I wore to court over 6 years ago. It will sometimes take up to 6 months to get to your prison. You spend time traveling through "HOLDOVERS" and "COUNTY JAILS" waiting for "BED SPACE" you don't just go directly to prison unless they let you SELF SURRENDER, which is also very rare. Also remember, it gets 100 times better once you get to your prison ..TRUST ME! The first three months of waiting for your bed space is NOT FUN but it gets better. If I had to say what's the number one thing for PREPARING for prison I would have to say get ready Financially. TRUST ME, no one wants to be broke in prison. It can be pretty miserable."
G.B. (Inmate) Preparing For Prison
"To prepare for prison I got my life as organized as possible. Since I was living alone and the Government took my apartment and every dollar I had, I needed to rely on family and friends to live when I was out on bail. I didn't know what I was going to do with my clothes and furniture. I figured if I got a low sentence I could store them all locally. If somehow I got a long sentence, I could get rid of most of it. I got rid of much of my stuff.
I consolidated everything else I had left. I made lists of everything I had and stored all my date on a USB and on Amazon cloud. I gave every bit of information I could think of to my Mom. She got all my passwords, all my bank information, etc. I showed her how to get into my email and all the folders I set up. She forwards emails to me if anyone emails my old email. The prison has it's own email system.
I also made a list of every person I might want to correspond with while in prison. I put their name, address, telephone and email onto a piece of paper which I brought with me the date I self-surrendered to prison. I also mailed myself a copy [at prison address]."
J.L. (Inmate) Preparing For Prison
"Personally, I got things in order at home. I organized things so my wife would know how to pay bills, access accounts, etc. I did as much of this kind of stuff as I could to make her life easy while I am gone. To prepare myself, I really dove deep into the web, which had some good information and some not so much. I didn’t know anyone who had gone to prison, so I did the best that I could.
I tried to stay as positive as possible as I looked forward the future. I knew that by keeping busy and moving forward the entire process would some day be over and getting to prison was part of moving forward. Physically, I tried to keep myself in good shape and to eat well. I did not want to go into prison overweight and out of shape. I thought this would only made my life harder in prison."