How to Prepare for Federal Prison

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How to Prepare for Federal Prison

In Hollywood, prison is all the rage. We’ve all seen OZ, the Shaw Shank Redemption, Orange is the New Black and ConAir. Their creators got some of the facts right, but what they don’t tell you about is how to prepare for federal prison.

For those with little experience with the criminal justice system, the notion of time behind bars is beyond scary. But know that, if this is your first time going to prison, you’ll likely be placed in an area with a lower level of security alongside others who have a limited criminal history and little or no violence on their record.

Whether you are serving six months or six years, these tips will help you prepare for your time in prison.

  • Educate yourself beforehand: This means reading quality prison preparation books and speaking with a knowledgeable advisor who has ideally done substantial prison time in the system where you will be incarcerated and at the same security level. The best books for this is the Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons. For prison consultants we highly recommend Brandon Sample and Jack Donson. We tell it like it is and not offer false promises or scare you into opening up your checkbooks.
  • Get your finances in order: Appoint someone you trust to act as a business/financial manager – your spouse, an attorney, or a close friend. You may want to give this person power of attorney and arrange for the bank to allow them to make withdrawals from your account. Arrange to have them send money monthly or quarterly – if you can afford it, ask for between $500 and $750 a month. This will give you a $360 commissary spending limit, the max 300 minutes of phone calls each month, purchase of MP3 player music files and use of the BOP’s Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System email. This investment will make your prison time go by faster. It’s worth it.
  • Resolve any medical and dental problems before you go to prison: This means a full physical, any required surgeries, resolving any dental issues, obtaining a new glasses prescription and eyewear, etc. While the Federal Bureau of Prisons does provide medical, dental, and eye care, it is substandard, slow, and often not forthcoming.
  • Get yourself in good physical shape: If you are being housed at a camp (minimum security) or low-security federal prison, there probably isn’t any pressing need to learn how to fight. But if you’re headed elsewhere in prison, you may want to hire a personal trainer to help you become as fit as possible (even if that just means looking tough). Consider hiring a boxing or other hand-to-hand combat trainer to learn how to protect yourself. Violence in prison is a real issue, and people do get hurt. A fight is never a good idea, but you do need to be prepared.
  • Research your prison: If you have been ordered to self-surrender, go to and locate the specific page for the prison in question. Once there you can download the Admission & Orientation Handbook for the prison. It will provide an overview of opportunities available at the prison and protocols for things such as education, recreation, housing, health and psychology services, etc. We can also use our news service to connect you with an inmate who can answer your questions and offer insight about the prison in question.
  • Find purpose behind bars: A prison equals a lot of open time on your hands, which can be a positive or negative – its your choice. There are many positive activities in prison which can help you find purpose in your life, even helping you improve your circumstances upon release. College correspondence courses, writing, exercising, and teaching in the prison’s Education Department are just some examples of the many activities you can become involved in that will give you purpose. This purpose will help carry you through your sentence. How you find purpose is up to you: a good friend, who was a doctor prior to his incarceration, spent his time helping those who needed physical therapy. Find something that works for you. It’s a good idea to put the plan in place so from the time you start serving time, you can focus on the day of release.

Contact us for more information on preparing for prison life.