This book is a personal account into some of the authors' experiences while incarcerated in various Federal prison facilities. From those experiences, he offers insights into the system and how best to persevere through the term of the sentence.
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Federal Prison for Dummies
By Brent M. Barber
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2016 Brent M. Barber
All rights reserved.
Indictment, what does that mean?
Well, if you are reading this book, most likely you have already been indicted or are going to be very soon, but in the Federal world they may hold off for several years. In my case, I was indicted 2 weeks before the 5 year statute of limitations of fraud would have expired, and I knew of FBI interests and subpoenas for 3 years in advance. I even spoke with FBT and Treasury Agents a year or two before the Indictment hit.
The Federal government can indict you, which means the prosecutor, who hates you and thinks you are the Devil, although they've never met you, goes before a grand jury. The Grand Jury is picked randomly by mail, from voter registration, place in a room for possibly days on end and told horror stories about people, and you, by the Prosecutor or AUSA (Assistant United States Attorney) without the Defendant, you or any representative on your behalf being present. So who is there to ensure that the truth is being told or maybe even stretched a bit or outright discarded? No one!
If your name is ever brought up before a grand jury, you will be indicted. But the reasoning is you always have the option to clear yourself during trial. The consequences of this action are never taken into consideration by Government. It's a great blackmail tool, used daily.
If you or your attorney have been talking or working with the prosecutor during their investigation period and you agree to the charges or a negotiated part of them, instead of going to the Grand Jury, the prosecutor will fi le an informational, which essentially is a guilty plea without the formality of a judges blessing, which will take place later.
When the indictment has been given, it can be either filed and you arrested, or it can be sealed, meaning the government does not let you know you have been indicted yet, as they follow up on other items on you or others in your alleged ring or conspiracy.
On the day they decide to pick you up, which you can be assured will be a public and embarrassing as possible, yon will be taken to the federal court house into the Marshalls custody, via the basement, in cuffs, printed, photo, brief question period of birth-date, scars, tattoos and misc., nothing regarding your charges, then placed in a holding cell to await arraignment or the preliminary reading of the charges before the judge, plead not guilty and see if you will be released on bond.CHAPTER 2
BOND HEARING, Will I get out until Trial?
A Bond Hearing is just that. You are taken from the holding cell and into the court room before the judge. The Prosecutor will be there with the FBI or other Agents used to investigate you and hopefully at the other table will be your attorney, and in the back there will be US Marshal or two and probably someone from the Legal Department of the newspaper.
In Federal Court you are constitutionally guaranteed the right to bond and are to be considered innocent until proven guilty, unless, it is alleged by the Prosecutor, and deemed so by the court that you are a flight risk or a danger to society.
A flight risk is usually a drug dealer with substantial assets and few tries to home or a business person with a visa and a history of oversea travels or contacts and substantial assets.
A danger to society is someone who has physically threatened witnesses or has a history or propensity to do so, or some other type of danger as deemed by the Court.
I, for instance, was finally deemed a danger to society and my bond revoked by the Court and held in jail until trial, two years later! And I just bought and sold real estate, have never physically harmed anyone, nor traveled outside the US.
Back to the bond hearing, or arraignment. The charges are read, you plead not guilty and unless objections are raised you are given bond, Now what if the bond is, for example, $50,000, it's not like State charges, in that you put up NO money, usually, but only the promise to pay if you do not show.
The Feds would love to see you run, for them justice will always be served. You have only helped drive nails in your coffin; added years to your sentence and you will eventually he picked up and when you do, you will not get bond and it is very difficult to defend yourself from jail.
My attorneys, who I used to enjoy long leisurely lunches with or unhurried recitations on problems in their offices at $350.00 per hour, with drinks and pineapple dipped in chocolate and pretty secretaries flittering about, now when visiting in a cramped, noisy, visiting cell, legal discussions involving my life were reduced to 30 minutes, either due to jail rules or discomfort by my attorney of the surroundings.
When the Judge announces his decision to allow bond, he will ask the Prosecutor if they would like any special circumstances placed as a condition of bond; such as, report weekly to probation officers, submit to random or scheduled drug tests, surrender passport or agree not to engage in the questioned type of business or leave the county in which you live in without consent or permission of the court or your probation officer.
Then off you go with a new court date from 90 days to a year from now.CHAPTER 3
Guilty or not, is principle worth risking 10 years or more of your life?
The Federal Government has a very impressive statistic of guilty pleas and guilty verdicts in Court.
Over 90% of all people indicted by a grand jury agree to plead guilty. Are they all guilty? Well if your a math professor you'd say no, but the reality is you can plead guilty regardless of what the real facts are and get probation or a year or two, or maybe ten, or you could face the prospect of going to trial and facing 20 or 30 years, or even life if you lose, and you will lose.
Of those who do go to trial, approximately 97% lose and get hammered at sentencing and again you will lose.
I, for example, chose to go to trial, to exhonorate myself and my reputation and lost, got 151 months, or a little over 12.5 years for you math challenged readers, where as my co-defendants, who pled guilty went home the same day with probation or a year at the camp.
In the process of my court proceedings, after my initial indictment, the Government subpoenaed my mother to appear before the grand jury. Her responses to their questions were honest, that she didn't know details of my business affairs, which was true.
After my bond was revoked and I was placed in the custody of the Marshals and still I made it clear that my intentions were to go to trial. The government indicted my 60 year old mother for perjury, saying they felt she lied when she said she knew nothing of my business affairs.
Now my mother is truly an innocent and never even had a traffic ticket, but her attorney told her to plead guilty or face a year in prison. "Why would I plead guilty" she said, "I've done nothing wrong". Simply put the guarantee of not going to prison is much more agreeable than the 97% chance of going.
This is a common tool used by the government to put pressure on you to plead guilty.
So if the feds are at your door, recognize you are going to prison, you will not beat them, this is not about money or better attorneys or who you know or who you are.
You are caught up in this, right or wrong, your thoughts now should be on damage control and navigating your life thru this nightmare. Ask the government simply what they want and then give it to them or have them get it themselves thru other sources and remove you from life as you knew it to a suspension from your world, as it goes on without you for many un-replaceable years.CHAPTER 4
Trial or Guilty Plea, PSI (Presentence Investigation) then sentencing.
Whether you went to trial or negotiated a guilty plea, you will ultimately be sentenced. From your original indictment, then arraignment on the charges, where you plead initially not guilty, the time can vary quite a bit, and although the constitution guarantees you the right to a speedy trial, which is 70 days from your indictment, it is very seldom used. Usually your attorney will request and receive one extention, if not more, and once he does your right to speedy trial is lost. This may be fine if you are free on bond, but if you are being held pretrial it is not as fun!
The judge will then set a preliminary trial date, about 30-90 days before the scheduled trial date to see if the case can be resolved without a trial, and if both sides are in agreement the judge will set a change of plea hearing, where you can plead guilty or you simply go to trial.
It's like buying a lottery ticket, if you lose or plead out, the judge will decide if you are to remain free on bond or remanded to the custody of the Marshals to await sentencing, he will usually follow the request of the prosecutor.
If you are allowed to remain free on bond you walk out the door after scheduling a time to meet with a court probation officer to perform a PSI, or Pre-Sentencing investigation.
This will entail an interview with you, then maybe your wife or family members, then also the prosecutor and investigator in your case, or victims, if any. They will further get copies of your school transcripts, all past arrest reports, even if they were dismissed. Just pretend this is Santa Clauses sadomasochistic cousin making a naughty and nice list of your life, very few things will fall thru the cracks. Anything anyone tells the interviewer can and will be included and usually the prosecutor, with the help of the arresting agents, either FBI or DEA, basically write the meat of the report.
You may of been caught with $100,000 cash and a kilo of dope but plead out to a simple possession of an ounce, but the interviewer will include all the omitted details into the PSI under relevant conduct, which you will be enhanced on and your sentence increased. I, for example, was enhanced 30 points at sentencing. Increasing my sentence from 6 months to 151 months.
Please study the sentencing chart, although it can be manipulated by the government to produce any length of time it wants, at least you will have an idea of what everyone is talking about when they say you are looking at a sentence level 25, category II, this chart will rule your life, read it!
At the change of plea hearing, the judge will order the PSI and sentencing will be scheduled shortly after, usually the PSI is completed in 30 days and you have a right to contest any part of that to the interviewer and they may change their report. Your attorney will also prepare a PSR (Pre-Sentencing Report), where he mirrors your past, outlines the charges and recommends a sentence length. If the interviewer (a probation officer) declines to accept your changes or objections they will submit it to the judge as is or may note your objections, but usually disregard them, but both reports go to the judge for consideration, but before you get too excited, my PSR recommended 18-24 months, the government recommended 151 months and as I said in the beginning of this report, I was given the 151. Actually I was given range level 34, which would be a sentence of 151 to 188 months, the judge can decide which length to choose from in between that range.
Now you go to sentencing or in the words of my sentencing judge, "Your day of reckoning has arrived".
Your attorney will start by making a statement of how you did wrong and are sorry, but should be granted leniency, the prosecutor will then stand and say how you are the devil incarnate and should be buried beneath the prison, then you will have the opportunity to stand before the court and apologize and tell them how you'll be good if you could get just one more chance and lastly any victims will get to stand up and tell the judge how you have made their lives miserable and you should be locked up never to be released and you can also have family or friends say something good on your behalf, but usually that is done in writing and delivered to the judge thru your attorney before sentencing.
The judge will then retire for a moment to consider everyone's statements, come back out with his hanging rope and give you what the PSI said, which is usually what the prosecutor recommended anyway.
You will then either be taken into custody then or allowed to self surrender when the BOP has designated you, usually 2 or 3 months later.
If, for example, you are designated several state away, you may turn yourself into the local federal court in your area who will take you to a holding facility, then to a transfer facility then to a federal facility, or if you have the ability, you can present yourself directly to the designated facility at the designated time and begin your federal sentence. The latter is a preferred mode of transportation, the other routes are not fun.CHAPTER 5
Holding facility, Transfer facility Federal Correctional Institution
There are all typed of jails, prisons, holding facilities and correctional facilities. In the federal system you will visit quite a few and each will have its own unique flavor. So let's start at the beginning.
Let's say right after sentencing the judge remands you over into the custody of the Marshals. At the Federal court house, they have holding cells in a detention unit and individual cells right outside each court room, they are not set up for you to stay overnight so by 5 or 6pm you will be picked up by either county police and taken to a small county jail to be housed until the transfer center in Oklahoma has room or a fl ight for you, or you will be sent to a private holding facility like CCA (Corporate Corrections of America), both of these entities house people for the Feds for approximately $60-100 dollars a day. I have been to a few CCA's, as they are located throughout the USA and are usually similar in floor plan and ran the same in format.
They come in to the Federal court house at 7am to bring people to court appearances already being held there, come back at noon to drop off another load for afternoon court, and take back any new deliveries or those previously dropped off who are done and again at 6pm or so. They typically drive vans that hold 3 in the middle seat and 6 in the rear, when they come to get you, you will be, along with everyone else in your holding cell, asked to strip completely, stand facing the guard, show your palms, front and back, open your mouth, stick out your tongue, show behind your ears, raise your penis then you're nuts, turn around, bend over, spread your cheeks, squat and cough, then show the bottoms of both your feet, your clothes are then searched, then you are allowed to redress, then you are cuffed in the front, with a chain around your waist and attached to the cuffs, so you cannot lift your hands, then your feet are shackled.
It makes no difference if it is CCA or a county facility picking you up, you will be cuffed and chained like this during all transportation from now on.
Now, on to the van single file, drive to the facility, unloaded and taken to a holding cell, where you are uncuffed and unshackled one by one, then stripped by the new people, squat and cough then placed in another holding cell, where over the next hours you will be interviewed, which is only base information, name, address, DOB, scars and tattoos, aliases, income range, type of charge, previous charges, then you'll be photographed and given an ID card for that facility, now you must be seen by medical, weighed, blood pressure, you'll fill out a form asking medical history, emergency contacts, drug usage, get used to this procedure, it will be repeated every stop you make, even if it's twice a day, every day for weeks, every new place you enter will do the same process, TB test, talk to a Psych, fill out a psych form, are you suicidal? are you homicidal, etc.
My first outing, I was remanded by the judge at 10am, arrived at CCA by 3pm, forms, photo's, nurse interview, psych by 9pm. I told the psych nurse, I was nervous and without my medication I didn't know how I would react to my new environment, while everyone was being called out to their assigned pods, I was pulled aside and escorted to a suicide watch, stripped naked, given a paper gown and a 5x5 canvas sheet and placed in a 6x10' empty room, no bed, no mattress, and had a guard peer in on me constantly for the next 4 days, until I was taken to see the psych doctor to see if I was feeling better yet. "sure", I said, "I feel much better now, cured in fact, just give me some clothes and a bed, I'm freezing and haven't slept in 4 days! Thank you for curing me."
I loved my new CCA orange uniform, it was so warm. I was then invited to share a cell with another crazy in a unit full of crazies.
Excerpted from Federal Prison for Dummies by Brent M. Barber. Copyright © 2016 Brent M. Barber. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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