First Day in Federal Prison Camp

I’ve been here in the wilderness for 40 days, long enough now that I can reflect on my first day of camp.

On August 26, 2015, I arrived at Bastrop Satellite Camp. It’s called a satellite camp because it is on the same campus as Bastrop Federal Corrections Institution, a low security federal prison. I was allowed by the sentencing judge to self-report as this was recommended by the U.S. Probation Officer who prepared my Pre Sentencing Report. Self-reporting is highly recommended as I was simply given a time and place to show up. I’m told those who don’t self-report have a much different experience that generally means an inmate is transported to the camp from his hometown by the U.S. Marshall Service with many stops at random facilities of random security levels in random locations, sometimes taking weeks or months to arrive at camp.

My first stop was the low security Bastrop FCI, called “The Low”, where I was taken to R&D, Receiving and Discharge. I intentionally wore clothes and shoes that I did not want to keep. Otherwise, the Bureau of Prisons would have mailed them home at my expense or kept them for Christmas gifts to friends. I was given temporary clothes consisting of a t-shirt (too big), boxers (way too big) and pants (too small) which is not a good combination. It was further accessorized with tube socks and shoes that must have been captured from the Viet Cong during the Tet Offensive in 1967. In addition to the obvious fashion faux pas, the ensemble was uncomfortable.

I was fingerprinted, photographed, given my photo ID and otherwise processed into the system. All this took about 20 minutes, but in fact lasted 6 hours. It served as my initiation into the new reality of how cheap and plentiful time is here. No one is ever in a hurry.

My surrender instructions were to arrive before 2:00 pm and I arrived at 10:30 am since like every inmate, I was dependent on a friend, my family or a cab/Uber for one way transportation. Around 4:30 pm a camper arrived at The Low to drive me the 800 yards to the camp. I was pretty hungry by then, but too late for dinner. A few inmates who have become friends loaned me a water bottle, showed me the ice machine, the filtered water faucet and gave me two Snickers. One of the Correction Officers directed me to a place to get my sheets and towels. I’ve written about the towels, so let me just say that the sheets are of equal quality.

I was then sent to “The Fish Bowl” which is a small room with four bunk beds where the newbies go until receiving a bunk assignment. I chose one of the empty lower bunks, made my bed and started a self-guided tour. There are two wings in the camp, each designed to house about 48 inmates, for a total of 96. Current population is about 175 and has been over 200 in recent months. Overcrowding has been typical for most camps.

Obviously the new guy because of my temporary attire, inmates on this first night went out of their way to be welcoming. Someone loaned me a radio so I could listen to the TVs which are otherwise mute and to local radio, and someone offered me some running shoes which were too big but a major improvement from the Ho Chi Minh Striders I was wearing.

At this point, is was time for my first 10:00 pm count and lights out. I survived Day 1 at camp with 1700+ days to go.

It’s now been 40 days, but it seems like only 39.