Prisonology interviews Jack Donson, Bureau Of Prisons Case Manager - Retired, on the importance of the Unit Team and Team Meetings.
Inmate life is centered around the Unit Team concept of supervision and care. Every prison is separated into units, usually by dormitory living spaces, that are managed by a team of BOP professionals that monitor discipline, healthcare, living needs, and general supervision of inmates. An inmate's interaction with the Unit Team in important to obtaining privileges in prison and can directly affect the amount of time spent in prison by increasing (decreasing) amount of time spent at the halfway house at the end of the prison term. This section presents the Unit Team and how to get the most out of it.
Be cordial and be prepared to ask questions about your case and the expectations the staff has of you.
This is one of the rare times when you will have privacy and the attention of staff, so do not feel rushed and make sure that any questions you have are asked.
Develop a positive rapport with all Unit Team members because these people set the stage for things like your release (maximize halfway house time) and furloughs.
Do not ask for much (e.g. lower bunk, new cell mate, better bedding, etc.) and avoid complaints. Staff recognize people have issues but there is a means and time to ask for things. The fewer complaints you have, the better you will be viewed by staff.
Be careful that inmates can overhear conversations during Team meetings. Most meetings are held in a conference room with a line of inmates sitting in the hall waiting their turn.
Do not let the Team rush you through the process. This is your time to voice concerns.
Do not appear to be overly disappointed if the Team gives you an adverse decision based on your request. Keep your cool.
Never compare yourself to another inmate or question Team decisions made about another inmate. Every person is unique and every decision is unique to that person.
Anything you sign you need to get a copy of it. So ask for your copy.
Jack Donson (Bureau Of Prisons, Case Manager - Retired) Unit Team (Meeting)
"My work as a Case Manager was both rewarding and challenging. I have helped inmates attend funerals, get the maximum amount of halfway house time, and transfer closer to home. In some cases, I intervened to get someone credit for prison time that they had spent in another jurisdiction, which led to a much earlier release than they had expected. On a bad day, I have had to write incident reports on inmates, some of whom I respected, for violations that led to punishment. Those punishments, time in the SHU, loss of privileges like phone and email, typically hurt the family more than the inmate.
The staff of the Unit Team has a tremendous affect on the time you will serve, but they also have that same responsibility for hundreds of inmates. The best way to make a positive impression on staff is by tending to your own business, not having many complaints or demands, and concentrating more on getting out of prison. It is not difficult for inmates to see who the trouble-makers are, and the staff sees the same thing. They are aware of everything going on in the unit behind the scenes so be careful who you associate with or talk about."
G.B. (Inmate) Unit Team (Discipline)
"The most common way an inmate gets into trouble is by stealing food from the dining hall. Anything taken out of the dining hall is called stealing even if it is put on your tray. Getting caught with large quantities of stolen food will most likely get you a shot [violation] but even small quantities of stolen food can get you in trouble. It all depends on who catches you and what mood they're in. It seems like there is no consistency in anything in prison, despite all the rules.
Insubordination can also get you in trouble. Don't talk back to a guard or you most likely will lose your job and get thrown out of camp and sent somewhere worse than here. Many guys can't control their temper and they tend to yell at staff or other inmates. There are very few fights though. I have never seen one, but I have heard they happen.
Smoking will get you in serious trouble but I see it all the time. They usually don't throw you out of camp the first time you are caught, but they give you a shot and take away privileges such as commissary, email, visiting or phone. You can lose all of these for 6 months.
Having a cell phone will get you thrown out of camp immediately and transferred. I've seen that happen in the short time I've been here.
Having contraband items (items that are not sold by the prison) will also get you in trouble, but there is no consistency to the punishments or lack of punishment. Best to just stay away from it."
K.W. (Inmate) Unit Team (Discipline)
"I can think of 10 common ways that inmates get into trouble (incident reports otherwise known as "SHOTS") in the BOP:
Talking back to staff also known as insolence.
Contraband, having anything that is not approved by the BOP to be in your possession at that time.
Tobacco, such as smoking or possession.
Out of bounds, being somewhere where your not suppose to be such as in other units.
Sanitation, not cleaning your room or having your bed made.
Tattooing, yes people have ways to tattoo and they have the real equipment.
Stealing food from the kitchen, taking something back from the chow hall or having in possession chow hall food in the unit
Drinking, such as blowing dirty for alcohol or in possession of intoxicants
Gambling, yes there are tickets you can buy in prison and bet on any sports game, this is VERY COMMON.
Fighting, which surprisingly is VERY VERY rare in the low security prisons. Once you are giving a SHOT in the BOP the incident is referred to the lieutenant who decides on the punishment. Shot range from 100 series, such as a violent act (which is the most severe and can get you 47 good days taken, loss of commissary, days in the SHU, loss of phone privileges,and visits) to 400 series (which can be as simple as "extra duty" and cleaning a restroom for the night)."
Unit Team (removing potential detainers)
"Hey.. Basically my unit counselor called the City courts and they say they have nothing on me relating to the charges that appeared in my PSR..He said as far as he is concerned that I am cleared but we need an official document from someone in City stating they have no detainers on me. So we sent 5 letters to the 5 courts in the City. They are all on official BOP letterhead stating that the prison is asking for some sort of confirmation via fax or email stating there are no outstanding charges on me. Once my counselor gets that info he will send it to records and get it cleared off my record. That will reduce my points and make me camp eligible."