“Cop-out” AKA Inmate Request to Staff

Filing A Request In Prison

Filing an Inmate Request to Staff form while in prison can seem like a daunting task. The form itself isn’t scary, but the thoughts of retaliation, punishment and denial can cause fear, depending on what is being requested. However, there are times it must be done regardless of the request. Although it is your legal right to file this form, CO’s and Warden’s have the upper hand. If you’re currently in prison or have ever been in prison, then you know this form as it’s slang name. In prison, this form is commonly called a “cop-out” or “copout”.

If you’ve never been to prison, then it seems as if the slang term for this form is incorrect. Outside of prison, a copout is someone who is less ambitious and doesn’t have the courage to handle a situation. This person uses any excuse to get out of doing something. However, in prison, this is furthest from the truth.

A copout form or an Inmate Request to Staff form is used to make a written request to the presiding staff and administrators. With this form, you can tell on your CO or other inmates, make requests for changes applicable to religious practices, sign up for classes, create a class, exchange laundry, talk to your counselor or just to send suggestions.

To get a copout form is easy. All you have to do is go to the CO’s office. At Herlong, the copout forms were outside the CO’s office. If they were out, you can ask the CO for a form or go to the admission office and they could give you a form.

Inmates use these forms to complain about the prison camp conditions. If you need to complain, just remember that your name and number is on this form. I’ve mentioned in my book that I have seen these forms come back and bit inmates in the form of CO and inmate retaliation.

Below is an example of the copout form that I used when residing at Herlong Prison Camp.

Cop Out

National Food Service Menu Inmate Preference Survey

Ever year, inmates are given a survey about the food the prison serves. It asks each inmate which food they wanted to keep and which foods they wanted to get rid of. There are a ton of conspiracy theories about the quality of the food at prison. There are also questions about who really chooses the food and if this form is just a cover up. My thoughts about this are in my prison camp journal entries.

When I received this form, honestly, I didn’t fill it out. I was told that the correctional officers that were in charge of food were the ones that collected the forms. These forms supposedly helps them figure out what food to keep on the menu and which items to remove.


National Food Service Menu

Inmate Rights and Responsibilities And Disciplinary Scale

What Are Your Rights and Responsibilities As An Inmate?

Most know that there a lot of liberties and privileges taken away while in jail, but which ones? When you’re arrested, the law enforcing personnel is required to “read you your rights”. This tells you what you can do and how to protect yourself from further scrutiny. However, did you know that if you are locked up in a federal correctional institution, you must also be notified of your rights as well as the current disciplinary system. This information can be found in document called “Inmates Rights & Responsibilities & Disciplinary Scale”. This document is important to read over so that you don’t allow yourself to get caught up in a serious offense while inside prison.

Inside you’ll find rights such as the right to:

  • Shower regularly
  • Be respected by personnel
  • Religious worship
  • Visit and correspond with family members
  • Participate in educational & vocational activities

This document also explains that you have the responsibility to:

  • Treat personnel and other inmates with respect
  • Know and abide by all rules
  • Never waste food, follow the shower schedule, etc
  • Take advantages of the opportunities that help you live a successful, law-abiding life within the institution
  • Conduct yourself properly during visits

The last thing this document details is the disciplinary system. This system consists of a scale going from 100 to 400, with 100 being the most heinous of crimes. Within the classification called Greatest Category Code Prohibited Acts (100’s) you will find actions such as killing, rioting, making/possessing tools for harming and/or escaping, possession of narcotics, and sexual assaults (non-consensual) as well as many others. This category will get you a recession of your parole date, disciplinary transfer or segregation, money restitution or more.

The next classification is called High Category Code Prohibited Acts (200”s) and include making threats, bribery, causing other to boycott work, practicing martial arts or wrestling, theft, tattooing and more. This category faces the same discipline as the first category, but also includes the chance of an internal transfer, loss of a job, removal from program, impounding of personal property and more.

The classification in the 300’s is called Moderate Category Code Prohibited Acts. This includes refusing to work or obey orders, lying, being in an authorized place, failing to be at count, offering products for money profit, smoking, being untidy and much more. The disciplinary actions are the same as the High Category Code with added sanctions such as restriction to one’s quarters or giving an inmate extra duties.

The lowest classification is the Low Category Code Prohibited Acts (400’s) and includes visitation violations, using obscene language, unauthorized physical contact and feigning illnesses. You can expect the same sanctions as the categories above and add warnings and reprimands.

Please note that there are several punishments for one offense. Depending on the severity of the crime (or the CO’s opinion of the offense) an inmate could get a 400 series shot (sanction) or a 100 series shot. To find out the details of the document, you can read it below. See anything you think is unfair, write it in the comments. 

Inmate Rights and Responsibilities And Disciplinary Scale

Inmate Rights and Responsibilities And Disciplinary Scale 02

Inmate Rights and Responsibilities And Disciplinary Scale 03

Inmate Rights and Responsibilities And Disciplinary Scale 04

Inmate Rights and Responsibilities And Disciplinary Scale 05

Inmate Rights and Responsibilities And Disciplinary Scale 06

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.

Federal Prison Camp–Herlong, Entry 01

BOP-Logo

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.