I don’t consider myself to be a professional on the subject of anything prison related. I feel that I would have to spend much more time in prison than the twelve months (of a seventeen-month sentence) I spent at Herlong Prison Camp. If there was someone that stayed longer than I, then I would consider them the professional.
My purpose for this blog is to share my experiences with the hopes of educating those who are unaware of this lifestyle and world. Maybe I could ease the mind of a family member who has a son or husband going to Herlong camp. Maybe I can spark a conversation and discuss prison related things. MAYBE I could solve a problem that has existed in a community. Maybe I could just entertain you. However, by no means am I trying to be a “professional” that can suddenly relate to those who have been in the worst situations or higher security institutions. At best, I could only TRY to sympathize and possibly understand.
That being said, prison camp life isn’t that bad. Compared to what the world sees on television, it’s pretty damn laid back. Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve never been to prison, then this is prison for real. My first night there I damn near broke down once I realized how real it was. However, if you were in a low or medium prison, then this is cake. The inmates that have come from high-security prisons told me that Herlong Camp was sweet! It’s very laid back and calm compared to a lot of other places. For example, in high-security prisons you can’t wear slippers unless you’re in the shower or your cell. At Herlong, inmates walk around in slippers all day long inside the dorm. I did too!
What is FPC-Herlong?
FPC-Herlong is a satellite prison camp. This means that it’s a camp that’s within, or around a larger institution. In this case, FPC-Herlong was a satellite camp to the Federal Correctional Institution-Herlong (FCI), which is a medium security prison. There wasn’t another prison in the area. There used to be rumors that the federal government was going to build one, but I didn’t find any truth to that rumor. The purpose of the satellite camp was to assist the FCI in functioning. Due to security risks, the prison camp inmates would have to do tasks that the FCI inmates couldn’t do. We processed orders, took in deliveries, and took low risk inmates to the hospital. We even did community service for the community of Herlong, CA.
The camp was built on an old Army base. In fact we all slept in the actual barracks, but they were modified for prison security. It was one massive room with bunks for each inmate. At times we had as much as 136 inmates and as low as 90 inmates in one room. Each of us had twin a bed. I had a top bunk because I was too short so my bunky always had the bottom bunk (more on that later). The barracks had a total of seven televisions: four out front and three TV rooms with one TV each. The laundry room had six washers and six dryers, an ice machine, tables to fold laundry, ironing boards, and a hot water dispenser. Laundry was pretty easy to get done because there weren’t too many inmates competing for the washroom. If you did your laundry early in the day, you’d have a better chance that everyone would either be sleeping or at work, then you could pretty much have the room to yourself.
Next to the CO’s office, there was a computer room where inmates could check their emails via TRULINCS and get memos from the administration and the BOP. The law library was next to the computer room and had up-to-date files on court cases, past cases, and laws. I’ve seen plenty of people in the law library more than the other library and came out damn near lawyers.
Things To Do
Outside the barracks was the barber shop, leisure library, the cafeteria, commissary and the administration buildings. More on those in future blog posts. In the administration building, there was a very small exercise room with broken treadmills. Also, there were two bikes without the electrical monitors on them. Rooms for hobbies and crafts, church service and medical services were also in this building.
Some inmates believed that the missing electrical components for the treadmills were stolen by inmates. However, another inmate told me that the administration removed them because of a federal law that prohibits electrical wiring in prison. I haven’t heard or read about such law and I’m not saying it’s untrue, I’m just stating that I haven’t seen it. I’m sure you can probably tell that everyone lies around here. Only God knows what’s true and what isn’t.
There were three full size basketball courts and a handball court with a wall made by inmates at the GM6 (General Maintenance Six). There was also a regular size baseball diamond, like at a city park, but without the grass. Next to the baseball diamond was a black track, made of asphalt, with soccer goal posts. Around the whole camp was a larger track for running. There were even two gardens where inmates planted tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables (while the CO is watching to make sure no contrabands were hidden in the garden). Weights were banned from the workout room, but I believe older prisons still have them. I believe all prisons after 2004 (and don’t quote me on this) don’t have weights. I heard one story that claimed the inmates got too strong and beat up CO’s. Another story claimed inmates beat up each other with the weights. Who knows, they are probably both true.
When we went to work or met with an administrator we had to wear green collared shirts and green pants with black boots. While inside the dorm we could wear sweats, tee shirts or whatever was from the commissary. We had the privilege of moving around freely. We didn’t have ten-minute moves or gates. As long as we stayed within the signs that read, “OUT OF BOUNDS,” then we were good.
I hope you enjoyed this introduction. As I begin to develop this blog more, I will dive deep into the processes of prison and the emotions that it stir up. Some believe inmates have it all, however, there are still restrictions prisoners must live by while incarcerated.