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 FPC Alderson (Camp Cupcake): 10 Insider Tips 

Michael Santos

Michael Santos

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10 insider tips on FPC Alderson to make the prison journey more productive and successful. Go to prisonprofessors.com to better prepare.

FPC ALDERSON (CAMP CUPCAKE): 10 INSIDER TIPS

FPC Alderson is a 159-acre facility located in Alderson, West Virginia, in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. “Camp Cupcake” is a nickname the media coined when Martha Stewart went there to serve a five-month term.

INTRODUCTION

FPC Alderson is a minimum-security camp directly managed by the Bureau of Prisons. It is not a privately run facility, as some people suggest. Given the minimum security designation, there is no barbed wire on the fence surrounding the camp. Alderson regularly appears on surveys of the best places to go to prison.

The FPC Alderson resembles a college campus. During orientation, some guards refer to FPC Alderson as “Cornell on the outside, high school on the inside.” 

THE COMPOUND

FPC Alderson is a standalone women’s prison camp. There are no other prison facilities on the compound.

Women stay in two dormitory buildings, A and B, at the top of a hill. Each building has four open-style dorms, and each dorm has about 62 cinderblock cubicles (size about 6×8 ) with a bunk bed, two lockers, and a desk.

Alderson has capacity for about 1200 women. Since the pandemic, the population gradually went down to about 600 to make it easier to socially distance and manage the spread of Covid-19. The current population is around 640. 

In addition to the two dorms buildings, the Recreation building (which includes the Chapel and Library) and the Health Services building are also at the top of the hill.  

Spread throughout the compound are dozens of red brick buildings and cottages. There is a lot of greenery and open spaces. Women at Alderson FPC get lots of opportunities to walk as they go about their daily routines. They walk to meals at the Central Dining Room (CDR) 3 times a day. They also walk to laundry drop-off and pick-up, commissary, classes at Education building, Psychology services, and Skype video visitations. All of these areas are down the hill from the dorms. (Women with medical issues can get a van pass to take a shuttle up and down the hill.) One round trip from the dorms to CDR and back up the hill totals about a mile.

Women can also walk the compound grounds for exercise during certain hours of the day. 

The Recreation Department (“the Rec”) has stationary bikes, treadmills, ellipticals, and stairmasters. 

The Rec typically offers dozens of exercise classes, including yoga, pilates, HIIT, circuit training, abs, step aerobics, fusion fitness, and silver fitness. The Rec also sponsored courses in nutrition and weight management. 

In addition, the Rec organized basketball, softball, and volleyball teams for intramural competitions. 

Also available at the Rec are hobby craft classes like knitting, crochet, beading, painting, drawing, pottery, card making, music literature, guitar, and more. 

10 INSIDER TIPS

Alderson insiders have shared with us the following 10 tips to help people plan for the journey. 

1) Working At Alderson 

Working at FPC Alderson is not optional. Everyone has to have a job unless exempted for medical reasons. Finding a job is not a problem. There is plenty of opportunities to work. Everyone starts earning basic BOP maintenance pay, which is $5.25 per month. Depending on job duties, people can get job posts paying more than $5.25/month and up to several hundred dollars per month. The highest paying jobs tend to be administrative clerk positions in each department.

Tip: Having a job will help make your days go faster. And you may even learn a thing or two. 

2) Central Dining Room

The first job for most new women arriving at Alderson is at the Central Dining Room (CDR) for 60 days. Morning duty. It can feel like a rude awakening. New CDR employees at CDR help set up and clean up for each meal. If unable to work at CDR for medical reasons, counselors assign women to other jobs. After completing the mandatory 60 days at CDR, women are free to transfer to another department. 

Tip: Embrace the challenge. On the bright side, the work is not hard.

3) Staying Busy

Successfully getting through the prison journey requires staying busy and productive. Women at Alderson typically work five days and get two days off. In addition, FPC Alderson offers more classes and programs than most other camps. Due to the pandemic, there are fewer programs available. Insiders report that they anticipate programming will ramp up again as the pandemic recedes. Classes and activities at the Rec., and religious/spiritual activities at the Chapel (see #4) also help women stay busy.

Tip: Staying busy will help keep your spirits up. 

4) Chapel 

Alderson FPC offers women the opportunity to practice many different religions and spiritual practices. The Chaplain’s office posts a monthly schedule for each type of service and the resources offered.

Tip: Religious or not, the Chapel can be a quiet place to read and reflect. Plus, you can sign up to watch movies there.

5) RDAP

Many women go to Alderson FPC for RDAP (Residential Drug Abuse Program), a highly sought-after program that awards sentence reductions of up to a year. Before the pandemic, about 250 women participated in RDAP at any given time, working with 8 Drug Treatment Specialists and 2 Directors. After adjustments due to the pandemic, RDAP has about half the number of participants. It is unclear if the administration will return to prior enrollment levels. Other substance abuse groups and drug programs at Alderson FPC include the Non-Residential Drug Abuse Program (NR-DAP), Drug Education Class, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Gamblers Anonymous (GA).

Tip: Drug education classes can qualify for earned time credits under the First Step Act. Sign up if you can.

6) Cosmetology

This program allows women to learn cosmetology and apply for state licensing. The cosmetology program takes approximately 18 months to complete. It is a very popular offering, and there is usually a waiting list to join.

Tip: Sign up as soon as you arrive at the compound. Cosmetology is a full-time program, and participants do not work a separate job. Hours qualify for earned time credits under the First Step Act.

7) Apprenticeships & Vocational Training 

Most recently, training opportunities included: Electric, Plumbing, AC/Refrigeration, Powerhouse, and Welding. Other options offered in recent years included Teacher’s Assistant, Customer Service Representative, Horticulture, Library Clerk, Medical Office Clerk, Receptionist. Keep in mind that many apprenticeships and vocational opportunities are in flux due to the implementation of the First Step Act programming requirements. The pandemic also affects the timing of these programs. 

Note: FPC Alderson no longer has UNICOR, community firefighter training, or dog training program.  

Tip: These options will help you keep a job, stay busy and learn a trade. 

8) Furloughs

Many women go to this camp hoping to obtain furloughs for upcoming family milestones, like graduation. Others find themselves needing a furlough due to a family emergency or funeral. On paper, Alderson accepts furlough requests, but in reality, they are very few and far between. The warden has complete discretion, and in our experience, does not easily approve them. Sometimes, a furlough is authorized only if the family can pay for guards to accompany the woman on the furlough. 

Tip: Keep perspective to avoid disappointment. The administration at Alderson is generally not friendly towards furloughs.

9) FRP Payments 

Anyone with restitution payments should learn about the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (IFRP). While some federal prisons will allow a set quarterly payment towards a person’s FRP obligations, others — like FPC Alderson — base a person’s FRP payments on the amount of money the person receives from work, family, and friends. Unit team counselors at FPC Alderson spend considerable time monitoring how much money a person gets to adjust FRP payments accordingly. Refusing FRP at Alderson is not tolerated. Many programming benefits, including RDAP, are denied to people who refuse to pay FRP. Unit team also limits halfway house placements and commissary shopping limits for people who refuse to pay FRP as directed.

Tip: If your judge orders a specific FRP payment, such as $25 per quarter, bring a copy to discuss with your counselor. Counselors do not always follow, but it’s worth a try.

10) Alderson Hospitality House

Many women and their families stay at the Alderson Hospitality House the night before they self-surrender. AHH is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization with a mission to provide support for the women at FPC Alderson and their families and friends. AHH provides temporary lodging, meals, transportation, emotional support, and education. There is no charge for the stay. AHH accepts donations. The couple that runs AHH is knowledgeable, friendly, and dedicated. They understand what people who stay there are going through and are very generous with their time and support. The accommodations are clean, comfortable, and spacious. The location is just minutes from FPC Alderson. 

Tip: Use the Alderson Hospitality House. It is convenient and cost-effective when visiting someone at FPC Alderson. Reservations are required. 

CONCLUSION

People can prepare to make the prison journey productive and successful. The team at Prison Professors aims to share the most current inside information about each male and female facility within the BOP. To that end, we talk regularly to those recently released and in prisons about current conditions. Share these 10 Insider Tips about FPC Alderson with anyone who may benefit. 

For additional information from the BOP about FPC Alderson, click HERE.

Please contact us for more information about FPC Alderson or any facility within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Prison Professors, an Earning Freedom company, regularly prepares clients for the journey through the federal prison system and beyond.

Prison Professors, an Earning Freedom company, works alongside (not in place of) civil and criminal defense counsel to help clients proactively navigate through investigations and prosecutions. Our team also helps clients prepare mitigation and compliance strategies.

If you have any questions or are uncertain about any of the issues discussed in this post, schedule a call with our risk mitigation team to receive additional guidance.

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