How To Survive Federal Prison Camp

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17 Ways To Survive Prison

Let’s be honest, prison camp or any kind of prison is stressful. You’re already tired from the drawn out court process of being convicted and now you’ll be separated from all your friends, family and other loved ones. Those same people will also now have to get by without you. This is extremely stressful if you are the person who fixed the car, paid the bills, or touched her the right way. On top of all of that, you’re wondering how you’re going to survive your sentence. Even a short sentence can seem like a long time. Well, I’ve been to prison, survived and even wrote the book called Subprime Felon about it. I can tell you the ups and the downs you’ll experience, the type of people you’ll meet and advice on how to deal with the CO’s. So how do you survive federal prison camp? There is honestly no easy answer, but here are a few suggestions.

1.Stay Busy
The only true way to keep your mind from going crazy is to fill it with other things and distract yourself from your negative surrounding. Read books, write a journal, and find every way you can to educate yourself. In prison they have inmate classes, attend as many as you can. As long as your mind is busy you’ll keep from losing it.

2. Focus on the Positive
I understand this is easier said than done, but negative thinking isn’t going to help. In fact, it stresses you out. Even worse, it will stress others out and cause unnecessary drama. If you begin to think about how long it’s going to take you to get home, shift your mindset and focus on how great things are going to be when you go home. Looking forward to your next visit will be extremely helpful.

3. Create a Daily Routine
What was once considered dull in life will become one of your biggest stress relievers. Having a schedule will help you focus on positive things and give you better sleep at night.  It’s also proven to aid in reducing stress. This daily structure helps the camp life become a little more predictable.

4. Learn to be ALONE
This is really important. You must learn to have fun and enjoy yourself, by yourself. There is nothing more annoying than someone continuously bugs everyone. The same is true for someone who wants to hang around all the time. If you’re going to be around someone, look for like minded individuals.  Staying busy without company will attract those types of people. Having people with a positive mindset makes your sentence more enjoyable.

5. Find a Low Stress Job
You definitely don’t want anything else to cause you stress. If you’re going to get a job to stay busy, find something that doesn’t add stress to your sentence. Everyone is different when it comes to stress. You may like cooking while others would be stressed in the kitchen. When searching for a job, don’t look for something you think will make time go by fast. I promise, whatever you do will make time go by quickly as long as you are buy and positive. If you notice the majority of the people who work in laundry are stressed, then it’s a sure sign that you don’t want to work there.

6. Relay Positivity
Although you are having a rough time, know that your family will be more stressed than you are. You’re in a world they only see on television and they think it’s like the prison show OZ or whatever prison tv show they watch. Tell your family positive things about prison. This will help them relax as well as help you relax knowing they won’t be worried. Prove to your family, with a smile on your face, that you’re getting a license or you’re reading that book you always wanted to read. Try to make prison camp look as fruitful as possible.

7. Stay Away From Negative People
Anyone who is extremely negative or anyone who is continuously complaining about being in prison camp will bring you down. I cannot stress this enough, negativity will make things worse for you and everyone else around you.

8. Accept the Things You Can’t Change
There is a lot of responsibility and privileges you lose while being locked up. You won’t be able to help your wife fix the TV, help Junior with the model car or help your daughter with her boy problems. Accept it and move on. Truth be told, you’re no longer obligated because you no longer have the freedom to do so. I’m not saying that you should stop caring. However if you overwhelm yourself with the former responsibility of caring for your family and couple it with the heartbreaking truth that you physically can’t accomplish any of it will only further drive you crazy. The inmates who accepted the fact that  they couldn’t do those things seemed to be a lot happier than those who stressed over it.

9. Don’t Rush Your Sentence
Many new arrivals concern themselves with their release date as soon as they are locked up. The truth is, you’ll leave when you leave. Don’t get caught up with early releases or rumors about early releases. Most of those things will change several times throughout your stay and most rumors end up being false.

10. Keep Your Mouth Shut
This isn’t the place to be a saint or completely honest. You’ll see someone steal—you didn’t see it. You hear about something illegal—you didn’t hear it. In prison, there’s nothing worse than a snitch. In fact, you’re not a better person because you told on someone. It’s a bad idea because you’re not helping the person you snitched on and to make matters worse, the CO won’t even like you anymore. On top of that, everyone is watching you closely; they’re careful about what they say and block you out of conversations because they think you’re going to snitch again. The CO’s will also have less respect for you. The entire community will see you as a sellout and an ass kisser.

11. Keep Low Funds
Never put more than $50 on your books a month. This will prevent you from having to pay so much in restitution fees. Also, you really don’t need that much money in prison. I was able to get by with $50 every two months.

12. Don’t Be in a Hurry to Make Friends.
If you’re a first-time felon like I was, then NOTHING HAS PREPARED YOU FOR PRISON. My advice is to learn the prison camp system. Observe the people inside and find out who is cool, who isn’t, who runs things and who’s full of shit.  Keep in mind that the first people you find to hang out with in prison are going to be the first people you dislike. Usually, people who rush to be your friend in prison don’t have any friends and are desperate to make some.

13. Don’t Brag About Anything
I would think this is something that doesn’t need to be discussed, however you wouldn’t believe that people still make this mistake. No one likes an all knowing nobody. You couldn’t have been that smart if you ended up in prison with the rest of them. Even if you are brilliantly intelligent, don’t make yourself sound smarter than anyone. Actually, I find that if you try to learn as much as you can from others, you’ll get a lot more friends.

14. Stay Away from Cell Phones and Smoking
Cell phones and smoking are violations in prison. You’ll end up going to the SHU (the hole) as punishment. If you’re a first-time inmate, going to the SHU would be like “real prison” from what I was told. You know, the horrible stuff you see on television. Also, these crimes will increase your sentencing time.

15. Respect Everyone
This is simple. You don’t have to be overly polite, but use wisdom and don’t have an attitude or try to act hard. When you respect people, the people will in return respect you.

16. Avoid Sarcasm
Sarcasm in its nature, is very difficult to understand even to the wittiest of people. To avoid terrible misunderstandings avoid sarcasm even in joking.  Wait until people better understand who you are. Hopefully by that time your friends will be quicker to ask what you meant, then to harm you.

17. Don’t Take ANYTHING Personal
You will experience things that just aren’t fair, but remember, nothing is about you. No one cared about what you did before jail and no one will care about you after you leave. Just worry about staying positive and making it to your release date.

Remember, it’s an unfortunate situation to be going to a prison camp. However, you can make it a positive and fruitful experience by desiring to stay positive.

Why The Climax Is Important To Your Audience

climax

If you are a writer or aspiring to be one, then you should know that the best part of the book is the climax. This part of the book excites your reader to the point to where they never want to stop reading. This is the part of the book that makes readers hold their breath, stop what they’re doing or even yell out, “Oh shit!” or “Damn”. The climax of the book makes it an overall great story.

According to Fiction Writing Careers, a climax is a moment of great intensity in the plot “of a literary work, generally bringing events to a head and leading to the conclusion.”

To me, a climax is what your readers constantly talk about. They spend their time talking about it to their friends, writing about it on social media and with other people that are reading the book. If done correctly, a story’s climax will be talked about more than the beginning, the characters, the overall plot, and even the resolution. I have even found that some people think they are discussing the end of a book, but it was really the action of the climax.

Can you understand why it is so important? If not, I’ll tell you. For starters, I was always taught to view your story as your reader views it. This means you should take into account your reader’s investment of time and emotion. Your audience wants a nice return on their investment just like any investor does. A powerful climax gives your audience the greatest satisfaction, which is what they want since they’re willing to invest the time to read your book.

Now that you understand, I’m sure you want some tips on making sure your story’s climax is the best it can be. I have found that in order to give your readers the perfect return of investment, your climax must be overwhelmingly satisfying. To achieve this, consider the parts leading up to the climax. The specifics about characters, environments and events should be full of details. Everything leading to the climax should be packed colorful imagery and characteristics that feels like a road with twists and turns.

Your Climax Should:

  • Be Explosive and Surprising
    Your audience should never see the twist coming. It’s no fun when your reader can spoil the surprise because the climax is cliche. This is creative writing for goodness sake, get creative!
  • Stay Within the Limitations of the Story and Settings
    If done incorrectly, this makes the climax a complete fail. It’s opposite of what you want to do. No one wants to read that a comet randomly fell from the sky and killed the masked murderer, who just happened to be the main character’s father. Cohesiveness is of the utmost importance.
  • Aid in Wrapping Up the Loose Ends
    Although the climax contains a an extravagant plot twist, it should explain some details from the beginning of the story and help to bring the story to a close. No one likes unanswered questions, well not too many of them.
  • Feel as if There Would Have Been No Other Solution
    At least in the main character’s eye, there should seem as if there was only one solution. If there are multiple solutions available but you choose to have the character go in a direction that is unlikely, the reader will pick up on it. This disappointment can make your reader decide to put your book down and never pick it up again.

Once reached, the climax should feel like the ultimate plot twist. Although all parts of your book are important, I believe that this is the make or break it element that ultimately determines your book’s success or failure.

So, in the comments below, use one word to describe the best climax to you?

New Exercise Routine–Building Cardio Without Running

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Cardio Routine: Squats

Cardio workouts are known to help people strengthen their heart and lungs. It also helps the muscles to use oxygen more efficiently. Over time, your body gets used to your fitness level and your endurance has increased! With these types of benefits, I have been trying to workout more. For some reason, as soon as I get home, I don’t workout. Instead I make a ton of excuses like:

  • I’m too tired
  • I don’t have the money for a gym
  • I can’t run to build my cardio

Finally, I came up with a solution to workout at home, which of course, cost NO money at all and I’m actually getting a good daily workout. After googling, “how to do cardio without running” I found a site called http://www.shape.com. They had some GREAT exercises in their article called “No-Running Cardio Workout You Can Do at Home”.  The article has like fourteen different exercises, but I only did four.

Here are the four I did:

Squat Jumps
Squat down and up straight up, arm over head.  Do 10 reps.

Pilates 100
“Lie face up with your knees and hips bent 90 degrees, hands by your side. Lift your head, shoulders, and upper back off the ground, and begin to pulse your arms, taking long, deep breaths (inhale for 10 counts, exhale for 10 counts).

I did this 20 times.

Mountain Climbers
“Come into a straight-arm plank position with your hands directly below your shoulders. Your body should form a straight line from neck to your ankles. Lift your right foot and drive your right knee up into the center of your body. Quickly switch legs, driving left knee up into the center of your body. Try to keep your hips level and your shoulders directly above your wrists. Do as many as possible for 1 minute.

Actually I did this 20 reps, instead of one minute. I counted my right coming up and my left coming up as one rep.

Squats
Bend your knees, drop down and come back up with no weights. I did ten of these.

 

Believe it or not, I was very sore the next day. Then two days later, I was still sore.  Again, I didn’t use any weights and it only took me twenty minutes.

What do you think about this routine? Please leave your comments below.

Federal Prison Camp Herlong Entry 03

BOP-Logo

The funny thing about being here in prison is that the correctional officers (COs) think they are better than everyone else. I don’t know if it’s their job status or just because they’re COs. I wonder if it’s a superiority complex or an inferiority complex. Either way, it’s like they’re showing off their riches in front a homeless man. Doing so only proves all uncertainties and makes them look weak.

Here are some things inmates have told me about the CO’s:

  • Some believe that they have to always be superior even on things that you are clearly superior in.
  • No matter how annoying, never allow it to make you snap. I’ll talk more about the CO’s in future posts.
  • Sometimes it is better they think they are smarter. Correcting them the wrong way could be seen as disrespectful, especially if they are sensitive.
  • Let the CO do what he thinks is his job. If he’s wrong, calmly talk to him about it when he able to have a conversation.
  • Never take anything personal.

I learned most of those lessons dealing with COs face to face. For example, I worked on a business idea with a good brotha named Dennis; he worked in the food service area. Dennis is cool and has a lot of knowledge in his thirty-five year old mind, and he also got me into yoga! We were talking about using Black articles to provide for African Americans and by playing with the figures, it seemed like the business idea that I came up with could actually work out fine.

A short, chubby food service CO sat next to us and listened as if he was mildly interested. He suggested a search engine called Startpage. It’s a unique search engine because it doesn’t save your IP address. Um…apples and oranges right? Well, I told him about my next idea, but he blew me off and continued a conversations with Dennis – as if I wasn’t in the room. Okay, no sweat. They talked about online paper trading and the short, chubby CO was giving Dennis advice on how to trade and make money. What he didn’t know was that Dennis was already a millionaire and already knew how to make money from stocks. In my opinion, “Short Chubby” was trying to sound smarter than us or prove that he was smarter than us (in his own mind).

He must have been past his prime. He looked like he was in his late forties or fifties and didn’t have any other skills other than bossing around inmates. Rumor was that he was a woman’s “doormat” as well as his fellow COs, especially because he couldn’t cook. As far as I know, he could only do work at the prison camp, only in that kitchen. I also heard rumors that he couldn’t work at our brother facility, the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) because the inmates bullied him and he couldn’t handle it. Since we are campers, most of us bow to him, until we realize he’s a punk! Although he gets more respect from campers than FCI inmates, campers will just work with him or around him.  

As they talked to each other, a White female CO that looks like a white butterball with no neck, came to me and said she’d recommended me for the food line. That was where the food was served. I explained to her that I had already had a job lined up; I was going to the Power House to learn HVAC and already had a cop-out signed. I was just waiting for the physical and ACI (more on that later). She lost interest in me and focused on Dennis. She began asking him how to make more money since she didn’t make enough as a CO. Even though inmates only make about ten dollars a month and that’s if they had a job. I’m sure both COs made much more than that.

Minutes later, both COs lost interest in Dennis and began gossiping and complaining about their job. “Short Chubby” acted high and mighty and “Butterball” talked ghetto and even acted ghetto. We sat there quietly as not to disturb them. We could have walked away, but we were hoping they leave so we could have the space. They soon left minutes later.

As mentioned earlier, this was one of my first lesson in tolerance—don’t let anything bug you. To be honest, one of my pet peeves is being interrupted during a conversation over some BS.

The experience made me want to keep quiet and to stay to myself as much as humanly possible. I had good relationships with other inmates as well as the Blacks, but I kept it professional with the COs. I respected their authority by being polite, but I never went out of my way to enjoy time with them. I saw some campers get into a lot of trouble with the same CO they had befriended. Remember, the funny thing about being in prison is the way the COs will act toward you and every other inmate.

If you have a story about a CO with a superiority complex, let me know in the comments. If it’s interesting, I could feature you.

How To Avoid Writing Like A Victim

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There are many ways a writer can harm their own novel. There is one type of character that, if not done properly will annoy readers like me. I’ve seen a lot of books or other literary works with poor characterization consistent with the inability to keep the audience’s attention solely because the author solicited for it without using creativity. The genre comes from stories that feature a victim as the main character.

The biggest problem I have with stories that have a victim as the main character is that the author will often force me to feel a certain way about the character. The writer tries to tell me how I should feel about what the character is going through or what has happened to them. This breaks the famous writing motto, ‘show, don’t tell.’ When writers show their readers, they are begging for the reader’s emotions with their words instead of using imagery or other literary agents to provoke a reader to make up their own mind about the situation.

This sad attempt to draw a reader in has the tendency to insult a reader. Once this occurs, the reader is now void of passion and interest in reading your book. To avoid turning off your readers, here’s what I suggest.

  • Just Tell the Story
    Allow the events of the story to unfold naturally and your story will figure out it’s own tone.
  • Show the Struggle
    If you revolve your story around a human struggle, it will be much more interesting. This shows the reader how deprived the character is of normal human pleasures and needs. Later show how the character overcomes it.
  • Use Humor
    Choose whatever type of humor you like, whether it’s sarcasm, dark humor, or whatever,  a well placed, humorous line will lighten up the mood instead of purposefully triggering your audience’s emotions. (If your reader feels any emotion, they’ll feel it regardless of your humor.)
  • Focus on Literary Languages
    Don’t forget to focus on your poetic devices or maintain your colorful literary language to create vivid scenes or action sequences.
  • Dialogue Matters
    Writer with this type of character should allow the dialogue to move the story forward.

If you have a character who becomes a victim in your eyes, let the reader decide if the character deserves a victim status. There’s nothing worse than having a reader who disagrees with their writer.

Federal Prison Camp’s Weekly Meal Menus at Herlong FPC

Prison camp's weekly meal menus

According to TV, prison food always looks like slop from a pig trough that’s ladled into a bowl or plate. It’s the most lumpy looking goop you’ve ever seen. It’s something that you can’t imagine that people would ever eat, even if they were starving. However, prison food isn’t like that at all. At least not at the prison I attended in 2012.

The prison I attended was Herlong Federal Prison Camp in California. The food wasn’t too bad, it was just as good as eating at Denny’s. The inmates cook the food and the CO’s oversee the cooking. Herlong provided three meals a day. We ate breakfast at 6:00 am, lunch around 9:30/10:30 am, and dinner at 3:30/4:30 pm (or after 4 pm count was complete). At Herlong, we waited in a long line along the wall of the food service hall. It usually took about fifteen minutes to get through the line. Then we had another fifteen minutes to eat.

The cool thing about Herlong was that if you were lucky, you could get a second or third helping. It depended on how much food was left, but more importantly, it depended on which CO was in charge. Some CO’s believed that inmates should eat their own food for seconds, but others realized that most inmates don’t have the money to eat in their dorms. Those types of CO’s have no problem offering second helpings. The one rule for multiple helpings were never to take food from the service hall. Any inmate caught doing so would be subjected to the “hole” or put on cleaning duty. Despite the enforced consequences, I have never seen anyone being disciplined for taking food.

As I’ve said earlier, we had only fifteen minutes to eat. One reason was due to the inmates that washed dishes. If we took too long, they would get annoyed. However, as far as I know, as long as I didn’t miss count, I could stay in the food service hall as long as I’m eating.

This lists below are old and it is very possible the menu has changed.  I’ll talk more about how the food and the overall service was in a later blog.

Weekly Menu 1
Herlong Prison Camp Weekly Meal Menu

 

Weekly Menu 2
Herlong Prison Camp Weekly Meal Menu

 

Weekly Menu 3

Weekly Menu 4
Herlong Prison Camp Weekly Meal Menu

 

Weekly Menu 5
Herlong Prison Camp Weekly Meal Menu

 

Sending Money to An Inmate

How to Send Money to a Federal Inmate via Western Union or MoneyGram

EFFECTIVE MARCH 22, 2004

Being locked away from society doesn’t remove the need for having a few dollars for yourself. If you have a loved one behind bars and need help sending them money, here are ways to send money through Western Union and MoneyGram.

INMATE ELECTRONIC FUNDS TRANSFER – QUICK COLLECT

 An inmate’s families and friends may now send them funds through Western Union’s Quick Collect Program. All funds sent via Western Union’s Quick Collect program will be posted the inmates account within two to four hours, if those funds are sent between 7:00 am and 9:00 pm EST. Money can be sent seven days a week and even on holidays. However, funds that are received after 9:00 pm EST will post the following day by 9:00 am. The program has three options in which money can be sent. The three ways are below.

  1. Using An Agent (Multiple Locations Available)
    The inmate’s family or friends must complete a Blue Quick Collect Send Form. To find the nearest agent they may call 1-800-325-6000 or go to www.westernunion.com. 
  2. By Phone
    By using a credit or debit card, an inmate’s family or friends may simply call 1-800-634-3422 and press option 2.
  3. Online
    Go to www.westernunion.com and select bill payment. Scroll down to Payment Service Quick Connect and click login. You will need an account and the payee information (name). Use your credit or debit card to complete the transaction.

For each Western Union Quick Collect transaction, the following information must be provided:

1) Inmate Register Number

2) Inmate Name

3) City code: FBOP

4) State code: DC

Please note that the inmate name and register number must be entered correctly, if the sender does not provide the correct information, the transaction cannot be completed. The City Code will always be: FBOP and the State Code will always be: DC. Each transaction is accepted or rejected at the point of sale. The sender has the sole responsibility of sending the funds to the correct inmate. If an incorrect register number and/or name are used and accepted and posted to that inmate, funds may not be returned.

*Western Union will charge the public a $9.95 fee for U.S. cash transfers up to $5,000 processed at Western Union agent locations. Transfers via the telephone or internet have higher fees. Non-U.S. money transfers also have higher fees.

Any questions or concerns regarding Western Union transfers should be directed to Western Union.

Western Union Pic
Example of a Western Union Quick Collect form found in Western Union locations

How to send money to a Federal Inmate via MoneyGram

Another way you can send your loved ones money is through the MoneyGram Express Payment Program.

All funds sent via MoneyGram Express will be posted to an inmate’s account within two to four hours. Funds must be sent between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. (EST). You can send money seven days per week, including holidays. If funds are received after 9:00 pm EST, it will be posted by 9:00 am (EST) the following morning. Funds sent to an inmate through MoneyGram Express must be sent through an agent since it only sends out cash. Once with an agent, family or friends must complete a MoneyGram Express Payment Service Form. To find the nearest agent you can call 1-800-926-9400 or go to www.moneygram.com.

For each MoneyGram transaction, the following information must be provided:

Inmate Register Number
Inmate Name
Receive Code: 7932 (The Receive Code will always be: 7932)

Please note that the inmate name and register number must be entered correctly. If the sender does not provide the correct information, the transaction cannot be completed. Each transaction is accepted or rejected at the point of sale. The sender has the sole responsibility of sending the funds to the correct inmate. If an incorrect register number and/or name are used, accepted and posted to the wrong inmate, funds may not be returned.

Money Gram will charge the public up to $9.95 fee for U.S. cash transfers up to $5,000 processed at Money Gram agent locations. Any questions or concerns regarding MoneyGram transfers should be directed to MoneyGram by the sender (general public).

Perfect Characterization

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Characters are the life force of any story, movie, or book. If you want a compelling story or book, your character has to be equally compelling. It’s through the character’s eyes and thoughts that the reader or movie goer understands the environment and sees themes. The better the character, the better your audience will understand the message you’re trying to convey.

Normally, when I think of a character, the idea is already in my head. This allows me to write the character just as I see them—it’s a free write, without spell or grammar check. I’m just getting the idea down as its is in my head without interruption. Then, as many other books suggest, I’ll write a questionnaire about my main character. I’ll also use a shorter version of the same questions for the minor characters. Here are some of the things I’ll ask myself about the character.

I need to know the character’s

  • Physical status
  • Feeling of employment
  • Education background
  • Spirituality
  • Type of childhood and most fondest memories
  • Social skills
  • Emotional Strength (How well they deal with various emotions)
  • Philosophy (On love, sex, community, parenting, etc)

Then I ask myself two questions:

  • How does the personal goals of the character directly and/or indirectly influence my main character.
  • How does the character help shape the overall theme for the piece

Answering those questions helped me answered questions like, “What does he or she do when their angry.” Now the answers to the questions will help bring out the overall theme. It also helps to move the theme along or it’ll reflect on the main character.

However, if see that one of my characters doesn’t seem to move the theme or story forward or they add nothing to the main character—then the character needs to be reworked or deleted.

I try to make sure that everything that happens in my story, both directly and indirectly, impacts my main character. That prevents me from getting off or away from my theme. It also helps me keep the pace and intensity.

If you have any tips for perfecting characterization, let me know in the comments section.

Writing Advice: Start Your Story In The Middle

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“In Medias res’ if the Latin term for the middle of things, and that’s how Homer opened the Iliad and that’s where you should usually start, although rules can always be creatively broken.”
So You Want To Write” by Marge Piercy and Ira Wood

Starting your story in the middle is like telling a joke. As we’re hanging out, I tell you about a Rabbi and Monk at a bar. Keep in mind we are also at a bar and our attention span is shrinking as our liquor intake increases. I tell you and everyone around what the punchline is. This was a quick joke. I set it up nicely, but quickly and kept it moving.

Now imagine I’m telling the same joke, but long before the punchline, I begin to tell you the family history of the Rabbi starting back in 1945 — see you’re already turned off. By this time, you’ve probably interrupted me or cut me off long before I could tell you the Monk’s background. At this point, forget the punchline.

The second example feels like a buzz kill, huh? It was the Rabbi’s biography or his background that did it because in reality, everyone really just wanted a joke. Writing is the same way. Everyone wants to read the punchline, so get to it! It makes it more fascinating, but how do you write from the middle? Better yet, where is the middle? My suggestion is to start your story close to or as near the conflict as you can. You can fill in the “beginning” when or wherever you may need.

So let’s say this is your story:

  1. The calm before the storm—the husband comes home tired and she a good housewife.
  2. This is when we have a couple having a drink and going over their bills for the month. But no action is taking place.
  3. The couple, after about twenty minutes discovers a transaction made by his wife that he didn’t know of. It’s a dinner for two at the city’s finest restaurant coupled with an overnight hotel bill charged to the card.
  4. The couple has a heated argument and a lot is said, but he forces her to apologized for her actions.
  5. However, the husband leaves wife, files for divorce and falls in love with a beautiful new woman.
  6. While reflecting on his decision, he analyzes the pros and cons and is now in contempt with his decision.
  7. He returns back to his normal life.

My advice would be to start your story on point 3 and end it at point 6. You can use points 1 and 2 for background info, keeping with the pace of points 3 through 6, but do so sparingly.

In fact, I would start with the husband’s emotion when he finds the bill. I would then write about her response to the argument, allowing action or dialogue to develop the conflict. That usually makes the conflict more interesting, as long as you’re showing and not telling. You can keep the story moving by omitting unnecessary dialogue and unnecessary one-liners. Try removing one-word dialogues like “what” or “huh” unless they somehow add to the character’s mood or book’s setting. If the dialogue is going to be a back and forth conversation, it’s probably best to summarize it.

Be sure to answer the question: “Why am I reading this?” This is what every reader is going to ask themselves—almost like they’re asking the story the question. By starting with the conflict, or a small build up for the conflict, you answer that question almost immediately. This example was another creative take on cheating couples, but your craftsmanship of the sentences and storytelling will hold their attention, or it should, until the end. However, if you start it off with point one, the answer to the reader’s question is “This is another take on a tired husband coming home from a day’s work.” There’s no action or intrigue about that and any given reader would know that husband came home and took the load off—so what? You just lost your reader.

Remember to start just at the conflict and keep the background info, even names of characters, until later in the story, and you can add them in without messing up your flow.

Visiting A Loved One in Prison

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Is Your Loved One in Prison?

Visiting a love one in prison (camp or otherwise) can be a very rewarding experience. I admit it, I loved seeing my mom during visiting hours. She only came to visit twice during my stay at Herlong Prison Camp, but those times were simply amazing! I have never forgotten how much it meant to me to catch up with family affairs. I loved the fact that I was able to ease my mom’s emotions about my safety while behind bars.

In fact, this is a common experience. Talking to a few brothers inside, it was expressed that their most important aspect of visitation was providing relief to their family members. In visitation, family, friends and other loved ones can physically see that you’re safe and in good health. A lot of times people only have TV to relate to and knowing you’re in a place like TV prison brings a certain fear to mind.  It’s difficult to provide true relief to someone over the phone, but seeing someone face to face makes the difference.

There is a certain process needed in order to visit a family member or loved one. Below is a visiting form for those who need to visit your loved ones inside a prison camp.  Please be sure to contact your loved one to make sure the counselor’s name is correct.

Herlong Prison Camp Visitor Form

Once you fill out this form and send it in, you will be waiting about two weeks until it is approved. The bad part is that you will never receive confirmation of the approval. Instead, you will have to contact your loved one to make sure they received approval and updates. Each night, inmates receive a handout of who is on their approved visiting list. It is important to let your loved one know when you will be arriving. Let them know by phone or email the day and time you expect to visit so they can be ready. If someone visits unexpectedly and an inmate is called three times and misses each call, the visitor will be sent home. I’m unsure if this is just hearsay, but I wouldn’t risk it.

At Herlong Prison, inmates are counted at 10:00 am. These counts can last anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour. It all depends on the CO’s and what they are dealing with that morning. If you arrive around 10:00 am you will have to wait until count is complete before your loved one is released to the visiting room. However, if you arrive between 8:00 am and 9:30 am and your loved one is in the visiting room before 10:00 am, then all is well.

Before you visit, make an effort to know the rules as well as your rights as a visitor. The following list is extremely important. Keep these rules in mind while visiting your loved one.


(The following is copied and pasted from the BOP website)

“Visiting is an extremely important family function, and dress code requirements are necessary to maintain the dignity of those involved. All visitors will be properly dressed while at the institution. All visitors must wear a shirt. No shirtless visitors will be allowed. wearing short shorts (with Visitors are prohibited againstthe except of children 12 and under), miniskirts, low cut, (if skin can be seen see-through or transparent blouses or pants through the garment), tube, tank or halter tops, backless clothing, low cut blouses, shirts, dresses, sleeveless shirts or spaghetti straps, swim suits, sweat suits, spandex pants, bodysuits or any other type of form fitting pants or skirts, or excessively tight clothing of any type (e.g., skintight clothing, etc.). If a visitor chooses to wear a dress, the length of the dress will not be shorter than the natural break of the leg at the back of the knee. This requirement includes any type of slit or cut in the dress. Visitors over age ten may not wear miniskirts, halter tops, sleeveless shirts, tank tops, backless outfits, spandex pants or bodysuits or see-through clothing. With the exception of religious headgear, hats may not be worn during visits. Inmates are responsible for advising their visitors of the dress requirements in the Visiting Room, including not wearing clothing which is khaki in color at the FeI, and green in color at the FPC. Visits may be denied by the IDO and/or Operations Lieutenant for noncompliance after review of the situation. Excessively provocative attire is reason to deny and/or preclude visiting.

At the FCI, visitor purses, car keys, cell phones or other electronic devices, coats, jackets, and headgear must be secured in the lockers provided. Camp visitors will leave these items in their vehicles with car keys kept by the Camp Visiting Officer in the key retention box. During cold weather, heavy winter coats may be brought into the Visiting Room. However, these coats must be hung on a coat rack by the officer’s station.

Visitors will be authorized to bring the following items into the Visiting Room:

  1. Clear change purse (eight inches or less in height and width)
  2. Reasonable amount of currency (bills, no larger than five dollar bills) total each day per inmate visit. Coins are preferred in lieu of bills.
  3. Comb
  4. Prescription medication (to be maintained by the Visiting Officer)
  5. Jewelry
  6. Clear diaper bag containing up to six of each of the following items: baby food or formula (in a sealed, unopened container), empty plastic baby bottles, diapers and wipes
  7. The diaper bag will be supervised by the Visiting Room Officers at their station and accessed by the parent when needed.

A greeting/farewell kiss and embrace of visitors is permissible. All contact must be consistent with proper order and good taste. No physical body contact beyond initial and departing embrace will be tolerated and will result in the immediate termination of the visit. Only 20 visitors, inclusive of immediate family, friends or associates will be authorized on the approved visiting list. No more than 5 adult visitors in the Visiting Room at anyone time. Children under the age of 16 years will not be counted toward this total. There are no limitations on frequency of changes to the inmate’s visiting list.”

For more on these rules and other please click here

As you can see, there are many things to keep in mind when visiting a loved one staying at a prison camp. Although the process may seem tedious, it is a rewarding experience to see a family, friend or loved one and know that they are safe and well.

 

Federal Prison Camp Herlong Entry 02: The Truth about the Prison Healthcare System

I remember I was in the Sports room watching the Heat during the Eastern Conference finals. All of the inmates had assigned seats. The seats that were closer to the TV belonged to the brothers that were in prison the longest. The seats that were against the wall and directly across from the television were the most desirable. They were also close to the television, but people hardly moved around over there which means you wouldn’t be bothered too much. On the left side of the television was a wall with the only window facing outside the room. To the right side of the TV were three rows of chairs (sometimes there were four rows) that reached all the way to the second window on the other side of the room.

The room was mainly filled with Blacks and those who usually kicked it with Blacks.  Some Whites didn’t want to be a part of this room because they felt Blacks were too loud. That could have been true, but there was also a power struggle. I’ll talk more about television in later blogs. I sat on the second row behind a brother called nicknamed “Good Word.” He got that name because he spread the Word to other inmates. Although he wasn’t a pastor, he did it because he was passionate about Christianity.

As we watched the game, I sneezed. I sneezed into my elbow; it was a “vampire sneeze.” No big deal right? Well, it turned out that it was. Everyone in the room swore I sneezed without covering my nose. Even Good Word jumped since he thought I sneezed on him. Needless to say, the room went silent. This made me paranoid and I started to wonder what was going on.

“What?” I said.

After more silence, a brother nicknamed “T” (he slept in front of me) said, “We got a lot of germaphobes here bro. We just don’t like getting sick.”

I could see what he was talking about because one brother to the right of me nicknamed “Short Khop” covered his face with his t-shirt to avoid contact with my germs. Good Word actually jumped up and changed his shirt just in case I sneezed on him. The brothers in the room began to share their disgusting stories about inmates and their unhygienic sneezing habits. There wasn’t any drama, just jokes and some long stories. At the end of it, they asked or rather instructed me to cover my nose with my shirt or to sneeze in my elbow (which I did). Also, if I used my hands, I had to wash them immediately.

I thought about that all night. It bugged me that these brothers would be so paranoid about health with such a good health plan in prison.  I mean that was what I was told in schools as well as conversation with friends; inmates in prison get the best education and health care. I was told it was as good as the senators and politicians. Maybe it was because people are just that nasty here? Honestly, and this proves my ignorance to the whole prison life, I assumed prison would be the cleanest place ever. All of the money that went into prisons made me feel that it should be the cleanest place in any state. However, because these brothers were so concerned about health it made me question if the health care system inside the prison was really as good as I’ve been told.

The next morning I asked T and he told me, “There isn’t any great health care in prison. People don’t care about themselves or anyone else. The nurses and doctors didn’t care about doing their jobs either. They do as much work as they can at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) then if they have time or if they feel like it, they come over to the camp.  You gotta remember, you’re in prison. No one gives a fuck here.”

So I asked, “Why don’t they isolate the sick to avoid germs spreading? The government could save money that way and take care of the minimum number of people.”

T said, “It ain’t about money. Look at how much they spend on lights, shelter, food, bedding, laundry, water, hot water. It’s cheaper and profitable to put low risk, low danger criminal on an ankle bracelet then to pay for all this. If the government really wanted to save money, they would save it.”

He went on to tell me that one time at a higher security prison, one person got sick with the flu. Within hours, the whole area got sick.  Some people took months to get over the flu. Before long, everyone within the 1,000 inmate prison had the flu. Since everyone doesn’t practice good hygiene, some people got the flu twice.  He told me some people missed visits and work assignments just because of it. Now he didn’t tell me this part, but I’m guessing the hospital couldn’t give out medicine because the medicine was on the commissary. If it is in the camp commissary, then the hospital or clinic will not give out the medicine.   Not all inmates have the money for commissary due to lack of family support or too many financial responsibilities. This means that inmates barter and trade to get the things they need if they can’t afford it (I’ll explain in other entries).

He told me that it took three months or more for inmates to receive needed surgeries, even life threatening ones like hernia surgeries. I saw two brothers that worked out too hard and got hernias. It took them four months to get someone to look at it and one year to get the surgery. It took 22 weeks to get his arm fixed because the nurses were on vacation. When inmates play football and break their legs or ankles, it could be two or three days before a nurse would see about them at the camp. This could also be due to fear of disciplinary action for those inmates who play tackle football or work out too hard. As far as I know disciplinary action could have been going to the SHU (the hole) or some kind of chore.  I’ve heard stories that some inmates would wait as long as they could in order to come up with a better story. If they had a better story for the administrators they would most likely prevent themselves or others from getting into trouble.

His explanation explained a lot. I was always wondering why people use their shirts or jacket sleeves to touch doorknobs and light switches. I noticed no one liked handshakes because they didn’t know what was on the other person’s hands. This explained why inmates took three or four showers a day and washed their hands so much. Some inmates washed their sheets and clothes daily. Personally, I washed my clothes daily, but my sheets were washed every two weeks. I also took two showers a day and used Magic shave once a week. Poor medical health was also why inmates gave me hygiene products when I first arrived in prison. They also gave me pens, paper and other things I needed in order to get situated.

Again, because of poor medical health standards, no one walked around with bare feet even if they were in the shower. No matter how many times the floors were cleaned, they got dirty just as fast. Also, inmates from higher security prisons were trained and conditioned to believe that a fight or a riot could occur at any time, so they needed to be ready.  I’ll save that for another post. That’s also why they worked out so much. They wanted to keep in shape, but they also wanted to keep their immune systems running smoothly. They took several vitamins and ate as healthy as they could in prison. Of course it was a challenge because of the limitations in our food choices, but more on that in another post. Herlong had a lot of random weather patterns, so it was definitely important to keep their immune systems healthy.

Prison isn’t always what the tv tells you or what your friends and family mentions to you in conversation. I had to find out the hard way about the prison system’s healthcare department. It’s a shame that inmates have to be treated unfairly. They’re already serving their time, why punish them even more?

Assariyah–Money Over Everything: Book Review

I believe fellow writers have to stick together. Today, that’s just what I’m doing. I want to introduce to you, La’Toya. She wrote a novel and I’m pleased to be able to critique it and write the below book review.

The author, La’Toya lives and works in London. She studied at the University of the Arts in London where she gained a BA (Hons) in Media & Cultural Studies. She has taken her passion for writing to the next level and transformed it into Assariyah, her debut novel.

Book Overview

Jones has a motto, “cash over everything.” She believes that cash is the single most important thing to her and no matter how low she has to go, even selling out her own friends, she’s going to get that cash. Even if it means becoming a highly priced prostitute. At first, these things work for her. She becomes a woman of the world. She’s able to see amazing places like Thailand, Paris, and the Bahamas. She meets movers and shakers in the US and in Europe. She has clothing , cars and money beyond her wildest dreams. However, this comes back to bite her. She is set up for a huge fail from grace which forces her to rethink her choices. Unfortunately, for most of her choices, it’s too late. This forces her to sit through the consequences and relive her own choices. She must deal with some things that will forever be a part of her life. These things will never change.

Book Review

This book is a fast read. La’Toya does a great job, in my opinion, keeping me in tuned with Assariyah and diving into her personality and personal thoughts. I did think the novel started a bit slow for my taste, however, it picked up nicely through the middle. I feel like I understand how and why Assariyah thinks money is so vital to her. She’s trying to secure her happiness while preventing the problems of her childhood and earlier life. Not to mention she just hates to be broke, like many of us. The twists and turns in the story seem organic and caught me off guard. None of which I’m going to display here in this review. I don’t wanna spoil it for anyone.

La’Toya also does an amazing job with the sexual scenes. These type of scenes can be tricky because it could easily turn a book into an erotic novel, which is fine, if that’s what the writer intended. However, this book and this reader wasn’t looking for that type of literary work. The author’s sex scenes are very classy. This book was extremely refreshing to read, especially because a Black person wrote it without all of the unnecessary stereotypes that are seen in most Black literature. Overall I give the book four out of five stars and I recommend it for Kindle.

How to Email Inmates in Federal Prison

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When you have a loved one in prison, one of the most important things to remember is communication. Despite their actions and the fact that they are locked away, they still need to communicate with their family. It’s an entirely new and oppressing situation that they are facing and your support is needed. Communication with loved ones adds to the emotional stability of an inmate. Regular communication from family and friends contributes to positive thoughts and a healthy mental status.

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has made it mandatory that all federal prisons incorporate a system called TRULINCS. This system allows inmates to communicate with loved ones and access BOP news and updates. It’s a simple email system.

Here’s how to set up the account:

  1. Give the inmate a valid email address by way of regular mail or over a telephone.
  2. Once the inmate adds the email address to his/her TRULINCS account, you’ll get an email requesting he’d add you to his TRULINCS account. (Note: you dont have to be on his visitors list to send and receive email).
  3. Click Register as a new users for the CorrLinks system. You’ll sign up with your email address and your current information.
  4. The next screen will allow you to add the inmate’s registration number, then click accept.
  5. Once completed, you’ll get a verification email.

For more information on the TRULINCS system, click here.

TRULINCS: How It works for Herlong Prison Camp

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According the the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), TRULINCS (also known as Corrlinks) is described as follows:

“The Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS) is a new program currently being deployed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to provide inmates with some limited computer access, to include the capability to send and receive electronic messages without having access to the Internet. This program is designed in part to assist in the inmate’s eventual release to the community. Electronic messaging has now become a standard form of communication within most American homes and businesses, and it can now be used to help inmates stay connected to their families. Strengthening or re-establishing family ties helps inmates improve the likelihood of a successful re-entry into the community, thus reducing the potential for recidivism.”

The description states that this email system has limited access to the internet, so this isn’t the email that most people think of. The email that an inmate’s family member sends goes to a server that’s monitored by the BOP. Once it’s approved, it goes to the inmate’s computer. Since emails have to be monitored and approved, it could take up to two hours for an inmate to receive an email or for the family to receive an inmate’s email. For one conversation, the turnaround time is four hours! If you or a loved one would like to sign up for TRULINCS, use the form below. Don’t forget, there’s a cost for this service, about $0.05 per minute.

Herlong’s Prison Camp had two rooms with computers. The main inmate computer room and the Law Library. Inside the Law Library, inmates were allowed to use the two computers free of charge, but only up to two hours at a time. If an inmate logged off, he would have to wait 15 minutes to log back in.  However, in the Law Library, inmates had no access to the public messaging system. In the other computer room, inmates had access to everything except the Law Library functions.

During my stay (May 2011 –  May 2012), music, request to staff forms, and surveys were unaccessible in either rooms.

Below are pictures from the “Bulletin Board” option of TRULINCS, which is how an inmate might see it at Herlong Federal Prison Camp.  To see how TRULINCS looks from the Inmate’s family computer, click here: Corrlinks.


Trulincs 1

Trulincs 2

Trulincs 3

Trulincs 4

Trulincs 5

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Trulincs 8

Trulincs 9

Federal Prison Camp–Herlong, Entry 01

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Introduction
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 year 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.

Dress Code
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.

Conclusion
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.

Can a convicted felon vote in California?

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It is well known that anyone with a felony conviction cannot vote in elections. It’s been an issue for many years. Some think it’s wrong, some think it’s right, and others are indifferent. It’s a big issue in the Black community since most of us make up the majority of inmates.

Once I served my time at Herlong Prison Camp, I just assumed that since I was a felon that I wasn’t allowed to vote. It dawned on me that I couldn’t vote for the rest of my life. Honestly, that didn’t bother me. To be transparent, I have never voted. I know that may make my Black “brothas” and “sistahs” cringe considering our history concerning voting, but I have never believed in the political process of determining America’s leaders. I don’t believe my vote truly makes a difference. This argument is a subject for another day and another post, so let me get back to voting with a felony.

After doing some research and reading, I found out that I could have voted in the November 2012 election. According to ProCon.org

“Felon voting has not been regulated federally although some argue that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act can be applied to felon disenfranchisement and that Congress has the authority to legislate felon voting in federal elections.”

This means that states currently have the right to restrict your voting privilege.  However most states only restrict you for a certain period of time. It is usually until after your prison sentence, parole, or probation is complete. Once you’re done with that you can most likely vote. There have only been a small number of people that have completely lost their voting privilege. You can find a lot more information on ProCon.org. Also, click here to view a chart by state that tells you when you can vote.

What’s your thoughts on voting after prison? Let me know in the comment section.

Herlong Prison Camp Commissary List Page 2

Prison Shopping List 2

What if you could write a list and have your family or friends go shopping for you? All you would have to do is fill out a form that helped them to know what to purchase. You’d get to know the prices ahead of time so you can make a decision as to whether you wanted to buy that item or not based on your budget. Well, since prison inmates don’t have the luxury of shopping in the store for the items they need, they instead, have to fill out a form called a commissary list. It’s just like having a family shop for you.

Most likely a correctional officer would do all the shopping, perhaps even an inmate that worked at the commissary would do it. An inmate would be given a commissary list (pictured below) that included a lot of different items such as food, hair products, healthcare items, and things like stamps and batteries. There are a lot of various items on the list. In fact, it is two pages long (click here for the first page).

The rules for using the list are strict, most likely because they had so many orders to fill. There are not substitutions or additions allowed. However, if you didn’t fill it out correctly, the paper says that it would be discarded. Although inmates are forbidden to do so, some trade these items since they don’t have enough money to pay for them. If caught, the administration would certainly discipline them.

Read over the list below and let me know what you think about it in the comment section.

Commissionary List 2

Herlong Prison Camp Commissary List Page 1

Prison Shopping Lists

What if you could write a list and have your family or friends go shopping for you? All you would have to do is fill out a form that helped them to know what to purchase. You’d get to know the prices ahead of time so you can make a decision as to whether you wanted to buy that item or not based on your budget. Well, since prison inmates don’t have the luxury of shopping in the store for the items they need, they instead, have to fill out a form called a commissary list. It’s just like having a family shop for you.

Most likely a correctional officer would do all the shopping, perhaps even an inmate that worked at the commissary would do it. An inmate would be given a commissary list (pictured below) that included a lot of different items such as food, hair products, healthcare items, and things like stamps and batteries. There are a lot of various items on the list. In fact, it is two pages long (click here for the second page).

The rules for using the list are strict, most likely because they had so many orders to fill. There are not substitutions or additions allowed. However, if you didn’t fill it out correctly, the paper says that it would be discarded. Although inmates are forbidden to do so, some trade these items since they don’t have enough money to pay for them. If caught, the administration would certainly discipline them.

Read over the list below and let me know what you think about it in the comment section.

Commissionary List

View from Gap

As a writer, I’m always looking for a way to share my thoughts and experiences with you. Sometimes I never know what I’m going to share, but I’m always ready to share it. While living at the halfway house in Oakland, I was lucky enough to work with a temp agency called ACROBAT. Although the job wasn’t the best of jobs, it came with some perks.

Working under them, I was a dishwasher as well as serve at various restaurants throughout the bay area. I’m going to share more of my experiences from those places in later posts, but today I want to tell you about one of the coolest assignments I ever had. The temp agency gave me the opportunity to work at the GAP Headquarters located in San Francisco.

Don’t get me wrong, this was still your normal dishwashing nightmare. This place was so bad that I was never able to finish my work. There were always dishes left over when I worked there. However, during my lunch break I could stop the hustle and relax. I found the best place to do so. It was on the rooftop of this six story building. I could sit up there and see the Bay Bridge as well as Embarcadero. That’s not all. I also received free food. I loved it because their food was hands down better that the food at the halfway house.

Here are some pictures I took while on my lunch break. I hope you enjoy them just as much as I did. If you do, write me below in the discussion section. 

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Five Ideas to Grow Your Facebook Fan Page

Everyone is trying to grow their Facebook fan page, including me. On the Pyerse Dandridge Fans page there are 92 fans, but my desire has always been to increase my following. As I was searching for suggestions I found a website that gives some great ideas. I’m hoping to try them some day. Below are the five ideas that they mention.

Give ‘Em Some Incentive
Everyone likes something for free and by giving people something that will benefit them will give you more traffic and/or profits. Don’t become one of those pages that is super proud of your product and just wants people to look at it without offering something. Sending and posting links to your page is spammy.

“According to a recent study from ExactTarget, 58% of Facebook users expect to receive discounts or promotions from “liking” a business page. ;Pony up a few prizes or give incentives and see what happens.”

Monthly Giveways (or Weekly)
If you create a contest announce the winner. No, don’t just announce them, brag about them and make it a big deal. The winner, in return, will brag about themselves being tagged in your post. They will share it with all of their family and friends. Remember to choose a contest topic that you’re audience will be interested in. For example, if you are a writer then a short story writing contest is great. You could also have a contest for the best joke from your fans if your page is about comedy.

Raise Money for a Charity
There is something warm and fuzzy about a generous person and if your business promotes a charity, then you’ll have fans warm and fuzzy about your business. With passion, promote a charity of your choice and ask your fans to support it as well. It could be a church or an orphanage. People often jump on the bandwagon; entice them with your passionate posts about your charity so that they jump on your
bandwagon.

Fan of the Week
It doesn’t matter how you choose the fan, but pick one and highlight them. You can choose a fan who is crazy entertaining or someone who is very active on your page. Once you have chosen someone begin to hype up their profile page. Make them look like the greatest fan in the entire world. If you show them crazy love, they’ll return the love.

Give Your Fans Rewards
Once in a while give your fans discounts to things like restaurants or plays. It could be whatever your fan base enjoys. You could partner with a restaurant and swap fans. As you promote their business, they could promote yours.

I love each one of these ideas and hope to use the advice soon. If you have had any luck with these ideas, please comment below.