First Day in Prison | First Day in Federal Prison
Chances are you will remember your first day in prison for the rest of your life. While the experience can differ between different prisons, new admissions generally go through the same intake process. Below we discuss what your first day in federal prison will be like.
If you are interested in receiving individualized prison coaching to help you prepare for a term of federal incarceration, please email [email protected]. You can also read about our prison consulting services, prison preparation services, and fee structures. We also offer a simple, single-issue consulting service for $150 per issue which can be resolved within a 30- to 45-minute call. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of the Federal Prison Handbook, the leading book on life in federal prison.
First Day in Prison
Upon arrival, either as a self-surrender or a prisoner in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, prisoners will first be taken to Receiving & Discharge (R&D). Once here, they’ll have all of their possessions reviewed to determine what is permitted, receive a set of prison clothes, and be photographed and fingerprinted. An identification card will also be issued. This is much like the jail booking process. This is how your first day in federal prison starts.
In addition to the booking of new arrivals, prison officials from various departments will also meet with them to conduct admission and orientation interviews. This is to determine if they can stay at the prison, where they should be housed, and if there are any security or medical concerns which would preclude placement in general population, or if certain types of care are required (e.g., physical healthcare, mental health care, etc.).
After completion of the intake process, if there is space at the prison, new admissions will be assigned to a specific bunk within a housing unit. Prior to leaving R&D they will receive a bed roll, which consists of sheets, a blanket, hygiene items, a towel, shoes, and perhaps a pillow case. Then they will make their way to their assigned housing unit. If there isn’t space in general population, or if someone isn’t there who is an essential part of the interview and intake process, the new arrival will be placed in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) pending resolution of the issue. This is the start of your first day in prison.
What can I take with me for my first day in federal prison?
In general, you are permitted to bring two pairs of glasses, any required medications, a list of addresses and phone numbers, required legal papers, a wedding ring (one with no stones embedded), a simple religious necklace, and some prisons permit you to bring a U.S. Postal Money Order made out to your name and inmate registration number (if you know it). It might not be a bad idea to bring both the money order and cash. This way if the procedures are different, then the money can be immediately deposited directly into your trust fund account. There are a few options for items that the R&D guard will not permit you to keep. You can mail the item home, donate it to a local Goodwill, or have it destroyed.
Do I have to strip in front of guards on my first day in prison?
Yes, but it is something that you will get used to. It will also be conducted by a member of the same sex. Those arriving for their first day in prison, much like those leaving, will be required to take all of their clothes off, run their fingers through their hair, open their mouths and lift their tongues, squat and cough, and raise their arms. All of this is done so prison officials can ensure that no contraband is being smuggled into the prison.
If I don’t feel safe going into the general population can I just stay in protective custody?
This is generally not advisable. Protective custody in the Federal Bureau of Prisons consists of being locked in a Special Housing Unit cell relatively indefinitely. This is like voluntarily going into disciplinary segregation for months or years on end. But, if you want to go this route, all you have to do is advise the R&D guard that you want to be placed in protective custody and it will occur. It would be better to try to make it at the prison than to give up before you even try. While you might feel that this is the best answer on your first day in federal prison, we highly recommend that you not do so.
The only time that “checking in” is advisable at this stage in the game is when a sex offender or informant is being reviewed for placement at a tough medium-security prison or high-security prison. In these cases, going into protective custody can be a smart move due to potential safety issues. Note that USP Tucson is a Sex Offender Management Program facility and, as such, is an easier high-security prison. With this in mind, if you find yourself in one of these two categories, you might make it on that particular yard.
If you are considering this option, please contact us at [email protected]. We can analyze your situation and help you come up with the best action plan.
What are my housing options?
This is decided by prison officials. While some prison administrators do try to place people of the same race in the same cells (a political concern in prison), this is often not accomplished due to staff simply not caring enough. Regardless, this can be fixed easily once you get to the housing unit.
What types of questions will I be asked during the R&D interviews?
Some of the questions will be about your mental and physical health. These are fine to answer. But during your first day in prison, prison security staff will also ask questions about your case and about other security-related matters. Simply put, they already know what they need to know. Do not volunteer information about group or gang affiliation, if you testified against co-defendants, or other types of information. Some of this is a fishing expedition. Don’t play into it. Keep your cards close.
Will I be provided with clothing, bedding, and hygienic items?
Yes. Before being sent to the SHU or to general population you will be issued slip-on shoes, socks, boxers, pants, t-shirts, sheets, blankets, soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and a towel. You will be provided with everything that you require for a few days. On your first full day being on the compound you will need to head over to Laundry Services to be officially fitted for clothing. Once there, they will issue you everything that you need. From that point forward, you can exchange worn items and purchase new ones from the commissary, if so desired.