Everything You Need To Suceed Through Federal Prison
If you want to prepare for prison, we can help. Our team has a deep knowledge of every aspect of the federal prison system. More than that, we’ve each mastered prison. That means we:
- Learned lessons that others can use to prepare for the earliest possible release date.
- Built strategies that others can use to have the most successful journey inside.
- Created roadmaps that others can use to get the highest levels of liberty upon release.
- Show others the pathways we carved to prepare for success after prison.
The more you learn about our stories, the more you will know why and how we can help you.
You may have seen our partner Shon Hopwood recently on 60 Minutes. As he told Steve Kroft during the October 15, 2017 broadcast, Shon robbed banks as a young man. A judge sentenced him to serve about a decade in federal prison. Shon mastered federal prison. The venerable journalist described Shon as “the most successful jailhouse lawyer ever.”
Shon wrote briefs that won cases in the district courts, appellate courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Following Shon’s release from prison, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation granted Shon a full scholarship to the University of Washington Law School. The former bank robber then clerked for the D.C. Circuit Court. Today he is an Associate Professor of Law at Georgetown Law School.
No one can argue that Shon did not master federal prison.
Our other partner, Justin Paperny, leads our consulting division. After graduating from USC, Justin began his career as a stockbroker. He built a book of business overseeing assets for professional athletes and hedge funds. When Justin learned that a hedge fund manager lied to his clients, Justin did not report the fraud. He didn’t want to sacrifice the commissions. That bad decision led to a federal indictment for securities fraud.
A federal judge sentenced Justin to serve an 18-month prison term. Justin and I met while he served that sentence in the Taft Federal Prison Camp. Together, we crafted a master plan that put Justin on a pathway to emerge successfully. His businesses generate seven-figure revenues while providing an amazing quality of life for his family.
My name is Michael Santos and I’m happy to work with my friends Shon and Justin. My journey through prison began with bad decisions I made when I was a young man.
I sold cocaine. It was the mid-1980s, at the dawn of our country’s War on Drugs. After a lengthy criminal trial, a jury convicted me. A judge sentenced me to serve a term that required 26 years in federal prisons of every security level. Thanks to guidance I received from masterminds, I mastered prison. While inside, I visualized success. I put a plan together. I set priorities. And I executed the plan every day, just like my partners Shon and Justin did.
When I concluded my prison term, in 2013, I had an unmatched depth and breadth of experience. Three weeks later, I began teaching as a professor at San Francisco State University. Simultaneously, I began building businesses with Justin and Shon. Those businesses now include more than $5 million in assets under management.
The content above will show our authenticity. You’ll see that we never ask anyone do or say anything that we did not do while we were in prison. You will see how a proactive adjustment before federal prison and during federal prison influences the way for:
- The earliest possible release date;
- The most successful journey through prison;
- The highest levels of liberty after prison; and
- The most opportunities for success after prison.
We’ve shared our credentials simply to demonstrate we have the experience, skillset and resume to help guide you and your family.
Before we get into the benefits of our course and the investment, let me make this disclosure:
Our team and our clients have thrived because of our willingness to work hard and follow proven time-tested principles. We do not believe in shortcuts.
If you are looking for a magic pill, you should leave our site. We have the process and game plan to guide you, but you will have to work and take action.
- Understanding the Process
- Stakeholders in Federal Prison Journey
- Understanding Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification
- Preparing for Federal Prison
- Personal Narratives and Surrendering to Federal Prison
Understanding the Process
We’re going to start by paraphrasing Stephen Covey. In his timeless bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Covey advised that we should try to understand before we try to be understood.
That guidance applies to anyone who wants to master prison. We’re going to assume that our readers have never gone through the criminal justice system before. If you’ve gone through the criminal justice before—and yet you find yourself going through it again—then we advise you to stick through every module. Our criminal justice system is designed to receive. To master it, we need to understand every aspect of the system.
On the other hand, if you understand the system, you may want to skip the rest of this module and turn to another. Work through these modules in sequence, or pick and choose. Our goal is to help readers make decisions that will put them on the path
And the best possible outcome requires good decisions. To make good decisions going forward, we need to understand how the process works. That understanding will give us insight that we can use to make better decisions in the future.
Defendants come into the criminal justice system because investigators have started the process. Those investigators may work with the SEC, the IRS, the FBI, the DEA, or any of the other law-enforcement body. It doesn’t matter how the investigation starts. Allegations set the process in motion. During that investigation phase, agents will collect evidence. The agents will work closely with prosecutors. If it’s in the federal system, federal prosecutors will make a decision on how to proceed. If they want to charge a person
When prosecutors choose to bring a case against someone, things change. At first, the person may be a “target” of an investigation. The investigation can take place secretly, with a grand jury.
In the grand jury proceeding, a prosecutor puts together a group of citizens. Those citizens listen to evidence that the prosecutor presents. That evidence usually includes live testimony from investigators and other witnesses. Grand jury members listen to the witnesses respond to the leading questions from the prosecutor. At some point, the prosecutor will ask the members of the grand jury to “indict” the target of the investigation.
In some cases, prosecutors use a less formal way of charging people. Rather than going through a grand jury, prosecutors may file a “criminal information.” The criminal information can result from an agreement that the prosecutor makes with the defense team.
Regardless of how prosecutors bring charges, things change. To start, a person becomes a defendant. We have all heard stories that in our country, we have a presumption of innocence. Yet few people who have been charged with a federal crime recognize that distinction.
Statistics show the consequences. We encourage readers to do their own research. Simply type into Google “United States Attorneys’ Annual Statistical Report.” Or download it from our website at PrisonProfessors.com.
- S. Attorneys Annual Statistical Report
- (insert link)
Read the data. That data should help people make better decisions as they advance through the process.
At Prison Professors, we do not dispense legal advice. Although our partner Shon is a lawyer, his legal advice requires a lot more guidance than we can provide in a simple, self-study course. Shon needs to invest many hours to grasp details of a case before he can get involved. We trust that all participants in this course will have a legal team in place to advise them. If they don’t, they may use our lawyer directory to find lawyers who have experience in the federal judicial system.
Those who want to master prison quickly should realize implications of every decision along the way. We make better decisions when we have
The Defense Attorney:
Once a defendant is charged, he will need a defense attorney. If a client does not have the resources to hire a defense attorney, the Court will provide an attorney. The court-appointed attorney may be a part of the Federal Defenders team. Or the court-appointed attorney may be a defense attorney that agrees to work on the Criminal Justice Act Panel (CJA panel).”
Regardless of whether the defense attorney serves on the CJA panel or with the Federal Defenders, that lawyer will have been exposed to extensive amounts of training and resources. They are highly qualified to represent defendants in federal court.
Other defendants may retain counsel. Attorneys who have extensive practice in federal court charge a premium. Hourly fees for defense attorneys with experience in federal court depend upon how long the attorney has been practicing and geographical locations. Defendants should expect to spend tens of thousands for any representation in federal court.
For those who lack access to capital, we urge defendants to use federal defenders rather than hire an attorney who lacks experience in federal court.
Our team has a process for vetting defense attorneys in federal court, and we offer
If prosecutors bring charges against a defendant, a plea hearing will follow. That plea hearing can happen quickly, or it can be postponed. We work with some defendants who may wait for years before they actually face charges and enter a plea. In most cases, people enter not-guilty plea hearings. Then, after defense attorneys work out the most favorable deal, defendants change their plea to guilty in accordance with the plea agreement.
Let’s talk about pleading guilty.
Entering a guilty plea is a formal proceeding. There will not be much conversation. Early in the hearing, the defense attorney will let the judge know that the defendant wants to enter a
Pleading Not Guilty:
If the defendant persists with a “not guilty” plea, a trial will follow. The trial can last for days, weeks, or months. During the trial, prosecutors will present evidence. The defense attorney will argue to discredit the evidence. The judge will decide what evidence the jury will hear. And in time, the jury will render a verdict. If the verdict is not guilty, the judge will release the defendant—and he can go home. If the verdict is guilty, the process will continue with a Presentence Investigation.
If you’d like to see a sample of a Presentence Investigation Report, you may find a sample at the following link:
- Sample Presentence Investigation Report
- Insert link
A federal probation officer will begin the Presentence Investigation (PSI) by reviewing a report from the federal prosecutor. That prosecutor’s report will present the government’s version of events. Probation officers will cut and paste the prosecutor’s version of events into a report that is known as the Presentence Investigation Report, or PSR.
To continue the investigation, the probation officer will speak with the defendant. The defense attorney should be present during the PSI interview. If a defense attorney chooses not to prepare the defendant for the PSI, the defendant will have a red flag; he is not being advised appropriately. Defendants should take every effort to prepare for the PSI, as it will have lasting implications. Those implications stick around long after the sentencing hearing.
During the PSI interview, the probation officer will ask the defendant about what he or she has to say about the offense. We advise defendants to prepare for this question. Ideally, the defendant will have written a narrative in advance. The defendant can explain the process by thinking through the content of that narrative.
Watch video interviews our team has done with federal judges by clicking the following links. Those judges explain the value they place on a PSR:
- Interview with Federal Judge Mark Bennett
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linkto YouTube video
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- Interview with Federal Judge Stephen Bough
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linkto YouTube video
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According to what we learned from those video interviews, the PSR can have an enormous influence
Fortune, as you know, always favors those who prepare.
The probation officer will conclude the investigation with an extensive presentence investigation report. The PSR will include what the probation officer learned from the defendant and also from other people who are related to the defendant. The probation officer will likely want to speak with family members, employers, creditors, and even victims.
The PSR will include both objective and subjective information. The objective information includes information about the conviction. It will also include information that will influence the federal sentencing guidelines.
- Click the following link to view the federal sentencing guidelines table.
- Insert link to
- Insert link to
Those federal sentencing guidelines are complex. We urge defendants to learn how various factors influence those guidelines. Also, it’s crucial for defendants to know how they can work to get the most favorable outcome during the sentencing hearing. The process begins with adequate preparation before the presentence investigation.
Learn and understand about sentencing hearings before the inevitable date. Unfortunately, when federal prosecutors bring charges, more than 80 percent of all defendants face a sentencing hearing. Influence the outcome
- Think about the perspective of all stakeholders. Their perception is much more important than your perception. Learn more about stakeholders in the following chapter.
- Think about the victims of the crime. If you don’t think your crime has a victim, then you’re not thinking about the stakeholder’s perceptions. From the stakeholders’ perception, the crime has victims. Who are they? How have they suffered?
- Prepare to reveal what you’ve learned from the process. In what ways have you grown as a result of this experience?
- Execute a plan that will differentiate you from other defendants. Think about the judge’s perception. Think about perceptions of others you will encounter in the future—including prison personnel, probation officers, and future employers or business partners.
- Influence the process by showing what steps you’ve taken to make things right.
- Help the judge understand how you will adjust your life in light of this experience.
- Convince the judge that you’ll never appear in Court as a criminal defendant again.
Designation in the Bureau of Prisons:
In some cases, a comprehensive strategy will result in an alternative sanction that does not include time in custody. Our team at Prison Professors does its best to help defendants who want to advance arguments for a non-custodial sentence. No one can change the past, but we can sow seeds for a better future. Unfortunately, in most cases, sentences include prison. When prison becomes part of the journey, the next step after the sentencing hearing will be for the Bureau of Prisons to assign the appropriate prison.
Several factors go into the equation of prison designations. The Bureau of Prisons relies upon the latest edition of Program Statement 5100 to determine prison designations. To get an idea of how officials in the BOP will assign your custody score, click the following link:
- Bureau of Prisons Program Statement 5100.08
The complicated matrix assigns points to objective factors that include criminal history, type of offense,
Our website includes a calculator that calculates the point system. Access that calculator by clicking the following link:
- Custody and Classification Calculator
Besides custody and classification scoring, the Bureau of Prisons will also consider judicial recommendations, medical needs, prison population levels, institutional needs, and geographical locations. All of those factors go into
Defendants should learn everything they can about the designation process. The more they understand, the better prepared they become to influence where they will serve the time. Although we can master any environment, the earlier we get started in mastering the process, the better off we are.
Isn’t that always the case in life?
Serving the Sentence:
Success through any prison journey begins with a clear understanding. When we define what success looks like on the other side of the journey, we have a start. The heart of this booklet will describe how to take us from where we are today, to the life we want to create. Many of us would like to change the past. Yet we don’t grow with fantasies on what we cannot do. We become masters when we deal with all the complexities that we must overcome. We seek to understand. We create plans. We set priorities. And we execute the plans every day, using best-practice strategies that our team at Prison Professors offers. We are here to help every step of the way.
- Understanding the Stakeholders
As we wrote in the initial chapter, people who want to succeed seek to understand the system first. By understanding the system, they can make better decisions. They can use all of their intelligence to put themselves on the right path.
In this module, we are going to discuss the importance of understanding stakeholders in the system. Since we’re talking about the federal prison
For those looking for information about how to prepare for the lowest possible sentence, visit our website at PrisonProfessors.com. Or text PrisonPro to 44222. We have many products and services that help.
Federal Prison Hierarchy
To succeed in the federal prison system, start by improving your understanding of how it operates. Our partner, Shon Hopwood, tells a story that might
When Shon began serving his sentence for armed bank robbery, he wanted out. All people in prison want out. But not all people understand how important it is to understand how they can use the system in appropriate ways.
Shon read a case that highlighted a favorable judicial decision. He thought the legal ruling might apply to him. He wrote a legal motion and he filed his motion in a court that he thought would grant relief. The judge refused to accept Shon’s motion. Instead, the judge offered advice. He suggested that if Shon wanted to get relief in court, it would behoove him to file his motion in an appropriate court that would have jurisdiction on his case.
Obviously, Shon’s accomplishments in prison show that he went on to master the judicial system. As Steve Kroft of 60 Minute said, while serving his sentence, Shon became the most successful “jailhouse” lawyer in history. The legal briefs that he wrote for other prisoners resulted in victories in the district courts, circuit courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court. His legal victories changed laws and resulted in liberty for many people in federal prison.
But if Shon did not learn how to master federal prison first, he would not have succeeded in mastering the federal judiciary. Nor could he have become a skilled jailhouse lawyer. We must take first steps first. And for people going into the prison system, it’s essential to understand how the Bureau of Prisons operates.
Branches of Government
Like the federal courts, the Federal Bureau of Prisons is a massive bureaucracy. Many years may have passed since some of our readers took a class in civics. As a quick reminder, our nation has three bodies of government. Prisoners who want to master the system must understand those various branches of government. At various times, we will need to access the right people to get us what we want. We’ll offer some specific examples later. But let’s start with a brief overview of the three federal branches. They include the following:
- The Legislative Branch
- The Judicial Branch
- The Executive Branch
Our elected members of Congress make up the Legislative Branch of government. They include representatives from each of the 500+ districts in the United States, and they include the two senators that represent each state. Those members vote on legislation in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Once they’re in agreement, the legislative bills go to the President. If the President signs the legislative bills, they become laws.
In our country, we have more than 90 federal Judicial Districts. For example, in California, there are four separate federal Judicial Districts—including:
- The Northern District Court,
- The Central District Court,
- The Southern District Court, and
- The Eastern District Court.
Each of those Districts is part of a Circuit. We separate those Circuits by geographic regions. For
The Executive Branch of government oversees the many different applications of government. Our president appoints people who oversee the different departments. For our purposes, we know that the Attorney General of the United States oversees the Department of Justice. And the Attorney General of the United States oversees the Director of the Bureau of Prisons. For that reason, we must understand how the hierarchy operates.
Politics and Prisoners:
Earlier, I encouraged you to complete your due diligence on my partners and me. That way you could assess the veracity of our claim to have mastered our time in federal prison. It takes a lot of discipline to grow in prison. In my case, I went through 26 years.
By the time that I met our co-founder Justin Paperny in the Taft Federal Prison Camp, our country was going through a historic election. The economy was in the tank, sliding into the worst recession in recent memory. Unemployment was on the rise. Justin asked me why I followed the political race so closely.
As a prisoner, I explained, we must live with decisions that come down from the top. The president’s perspective on governing will influence the policies that he wants to set. As a prisoner, we must live with those policies. If the president believes that people have a capacity to change, the president will appoint an Attorney General that shares that liberal viewpoint. If the president believes that we need to preserve the systems that are in place, then the president will appoint an Attorney General that shares such a conservative viewpoint. Policy shifts in prison will reflect the perceptions of both the president and the Attorney General.
To illustrate, let us provide two recent examples of such change.
The Second Chance Act provided prison administrators with new discretion regarding halfway house placement. Prior to the Second Chance Act, leaders in The Bureau of Prisons could authorize prisoners to serve the final six months of their sentences in a halfway house. After The Second Chance Act, leaders in The Bureau of Prisons could authorize prisoners to serve the final 12 months of their sentences in a halfway house.
Obviously, from a prisoner’s perspective, 12 months in a halfway house would be better than six months in a halfway house. But it was up to the Bureau of Prisons to apply the law.
The U.S. Congress passed The Second Chance Act. But leadership in the BOP has discretion. When President Obama was in office, the Attorney General was Eric Holder. Under that administration, people in prison could have some influence on how much halfway house time they could receive.
In 2017, President Donald Trump appointed Jeff Sessions to serve as the Attorney General. Both President Trump and Attorney General Sessions had a different perspective. President Trump and AG Sessions had a conservative perspective, meaning that they believed that people should serve the maximum amount of time in federal prison. The 2017 administration cut funding to halfway houses.
But a master of federal prison would know how to cope with such change.
To prevail on maximum halfway house time—or any other matter pertaining to federal prison—Prison Professors urges people to understand the system. Pursue a strategy to get the best possible outcome, depending upon the political philosophy of the administration in power. The strategy that may result in success during a conservative administration may differ from the strategy that could result in success in a liberal administration.
To master federal prison quickly, make sure that you understand the political philosophy on both a macro and a micro level. Then use that understanding to apply pressure to the appropriate body, in the appropriate way. By understanding stakeholders, you can craft a plan. That plan must deal with the world as it exists, and not as how we want it to be.
Directors of the Bureau of Prisons:
The Bureau of Prisons is a massive organization. It employs more than 40,000 staff members that serve in six different regions. Those regions include federal prisons in most states, halfway houses in all states, regional offices, training centers, and headquarters in Washington D.C. For more detailed insight into the Bureau of Prisons bureaucracy, visit the following website:
The Director of the Bureau of Prisons presides over the entire bureaucracy. He reports to the Attorney General of the United States.
For the nearly 200,000 federal prisoners, it’s important to understand the different roles in the BOP. What is the role of the Director?
Well, the Director must make sure that the prison system is operating in accordance with the wishes of the Attorney General. And the Attorney General wants the Director to operate the Bureau of Prisons in accordance with the political philosophy of the President.
The Director is not going to express concern for individual prisoner issues. Rather, the Director focuses on systemic policies. When prisoners attempt to seek relief from the Director, the prisoner reveals a lack of understanding
Unless a prisoner wants to advocate for systemic change, it doesn’t make sense for him to advance arguments at the highest levels of the Bureau of Prisons. In fact, doing so can cause problems. Leaders know that the right decision at the wrong time is the wrong decision. Although people in prison may see many injustices on a systemic level, as masters, we should always have a very clear perspective.
- How are we defining success?
- What battles are we striving to win?
- What price are we willing to pay in pursuit of success over our battles?
By focusing on victory as we define victory, we know where to concentrate our energy. It rarely works in our interest to seek relief from the highest levels of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
To oversee the Bureau of Prisons, the Director relies upon a large team. That team includes a Deputy Director, several Acting Directors, and several Regional Directors. It would be highly unusual for any of those directors to make decisions regarding any individuals in prison. Rather, the directors rely upon their subordinates. We should expect the subordinates to make decisions in accordance with the political philosophies of the people in power. Directors set policies and oversee budgets. Subordinates carry out those policies.
Federal Prison, an Overview:
We know that the Bureau of Prisons is a massive bureaucracy. It includes many different divisions. People who want to master federal prison should broaden their understanding of how it operates. The more people understand, the more likely they become to get on the best trajectory.
Masters seek to understand more so that they can influence more.
Although a later chapter discusses custody and classification levels in detail, we can provide a brief overview here. The Bureau of Prisons categorizes people in accordance with security levels. Consider the following:
- ADX: This designation refers to an Administrative-Maximum U.S. Penitentiary. It is the highest level of security. Most people who serve time in an ADX start in a lower-security prison. They make decisions in prison that result in new criminal charges, or disciplinary problems. When a team or staff member identifies people in prison as being sufficiently disruptive, they may send them to an ADX penitentiary.
- SMU: This designation refers to a Special Management Unit. Like the ADX, the SMU is a highly restrictive prison. Staff members may send people to an SMU when they want to restrict their communication. Although most people who are in an SMU have violent histories, it’s important to remember the adage “The pen is mightier than the sword.” If staff members consider a prisoner to be a prolific writer, and the prisoner writes content that staff members consider inflammatory, they may confine the person in an SMU.
- USP: This designation refers to a United States Penitentiary. In the broader community, people consider the word penitentiary as being synonymous with prison. But in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the word penitentiary has a different meaning and connotation. It means high-security. People going to a USP live in restrictive conditions. Staff members consider USPs to be more volatile. They govern USPs in response to population levels that include higher percentages of people who have violent, volatile, and disruptive histories.
- FCI: This designation refers to a Federal Correctional Institution. The FCI includes both medium-security and low-security prisons.
- FSL: This designation refers to a Federal Satellite
Low SecurityPrison. The people in an FSL have the custody scoring of people in a camp. But they have some issue that prevents them from going to a camp. For example, they may have a detainer of some type, or they may have longer than 10 years to serve.
- SCP: This designation refers to a Satellite Prison Camp. The camp is adjacent to a secure prison, and the inmates in the camp provide labor that keeps the prison operating.
- FPC: This designation refers to a federal prison camp. It is frequently a stand-alone camp, meaning it is not tied to another prison, as with the SCP.
- FCC: This designation refers to a Federal Correctional Complex. A complex will have several prisons of different security levels in a single location. People in one prison do not mix with people in another prison, but they’re all in the same geographical location.
- FDC, MCC, or MDC: These designations
referdetention centers. People in detention centers, ordinarily, await outcomes of judicial proceedings. Although some people serve the entire term in detention centers, or they are assigned to the work cadre—performing maintenance on the prison, they are not necessarily serving time.
- FMC: This designation refers to a Federal Medical Center. People who need medical attention may serve all or a portion of their time in an FMC.
- FTC: This designation refers to the Federal Transfer Center, in Oklahoma. Prisoners may spend time in the FTC while traveling to other institutions, or they may serve their sentence in the FTC if they’re part of a work cadre.
- CI: This designation refers to a privately operated federal prison.
- CO and RO:
These designationrefers to the Central Office and the Regional Office. We can use our understanding of the regional office and the central office to influence our placement,or to influence favorable outcomes.
Mastering the federal prison system requires some knowledge of the different types of institutions. The more we know about the Bureau of Prisons and the staff, the better we can position ourselves to get to the best possible environment, at the soonest possible time. Through our course on mastering prison, our team teaches strategies on how to master any type of prison environment.
All secure institutions include the following staff members:
The warden is the CEO of the institution. Wardens have an enormous amount of influence with regard to how the prison operates. Some wardens make themselves approachable. To the extent that a person in prison positions himself well, he can influence the warden’s perception.
As a prisoner, it’s crucial
Masters know that to win the war, they have to lose some battles. Mastery requires us to know which battles to fight. Fighting the wrong battle puts us on weaker ground when it comes to fighting the battles that will have the most influence on our prospects for success.
The associate wardens are part of the warden’s executive staff. They oversee various departments within the prison. For example, the Associate Warden of Programs will oversee unit staff. The Associate Warden of Operations will oversee facility management. The population level of the prison will influence how many AWs are available.
Department heads oversee specific departments. For example, the Unit Manager oversees all case managers. A Unit Manager reports directly to the Associate Warden of Programs. The Unit Manager will ask inmates to resolve matters directly with the case manager.
Line staff includes case managers, cook supervisors, counselors, landscape foreman, maintenance leaders, and others who work in various departments. They report to their respective department heads.
Case managers oversee all matters that pertain to a person’s case. Once the judge sentences a person “To the custody of the attorney general,” that person becomes an “inmate” as far as concerns the system. And case managers will have direct oversight of the inmate. The inmate will not have a lawyer. The inmate must learn how to advocate for himself effectively. Case managers will be a key person to influence. Although policies guide decisions, there is always some discretion. A master will learn how to influence staff members in the Bureau of Prisons in a positive way.
Counselors in federal prison do not offer the type of counseling that someone outside of prison would expect. Rather, they perform jobs like approving visiting lists and assigning jobs. It’s best to understand the limited role that counselors play in federal prison. That way, people spare themselves the disappointment that comes from expecting too much.
Influence and Manipulation
At Prison Professors, we discuss the long-term approach of influencing a positive outcome. That differs from shortsighted efforts to manipulate staff members. To influence does not mean to manipulate.
For obvious reasons, staff members are extremely cynical. Every day, staff members in prison work with convicted felons. Many of those people have criminal mindsets. That is why many staff members expect inmates to lie. They expect inmates to do or say anything that will ease their burden. Masters of the system do not whine or complain about this reality. Rather, they learn how to work within the system, and how to succeed in spite of the challenges.
Masters know that the Bureau of Prisons invests a considerable amount of resources in staff development and staff training. Part of that training teaches staff members how “to be firm but fair.” The Bureau of Prisons wants to make sure the public is safe, the prisons are safe, and the staff members are safe. As such, it’s extremely conservative.
The Bureau of Prisons invests extensive amounts to train staff members. Leaders want all staff to rely
If you want to master federal prison, make sure that you know how to use all policies to your advantage. This strategy of understanding the system and the stakeholders that operate the system will advance your prospects to succeed
- Custody and Classification
This chapter will cover Custody and Classification. Those who have never been to federal prison may not know anything about custody and classification systems. But understanding the system can make all the difference in the world.
For my partners and me, success after prison began with the decisions we made while we were in prison. People who want to master the federal prison system must remember that it’s a massive bureaucracy. As we discussed in the previous chapter, the system employs more than 40,000 staff members. In an effort to keep decisions in harmony, the BOP relies
The Bureau of Prisons operates a website at www.BOP.Gov. Through that website, visitors can access the Program Statements. The BOP published Program Statement 5100.08 on September 12, 2006. This Program Statement covers Inmate Designation and Custody Classification. It is the eighth version of the program statement. In time, the BOP will likely revise the Program Statement. When the BOP revises the Program Statement, it will be known as 5100.09. For
Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification
Our team at Prison Professors has thousands of stories that reveal why an understanding of Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification is so crucial. We’ll start with the case of Erik.
A federal judge sentenced Erik to serve a 48-month sentence for wire fraud. Prior to being charged, Erik said that he didn’t know the meaning of wire fraud. He didn’t consider himself a criminal. Many people make bad decisions during the course of their careers. Sometimes, those bad decisions lead to criminal prosecution. Erik owned, for example, a small finance company. Some financial structuring problems led prosecutors to indict Erik. Inappropriate use of Email and the Internet led to his guilty conviction. Regardless of his self-perception of not being a criminal, a federal judge ordered Erik to surrender to a Federal Prison Camp so that he could serve a 48-month sentence.
Had Erik understood the Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification system, he would have behaved differently, he said. Instead, Erik made decisions when he first surrendered to prison. Those bad decisions really complicated his journey.
As anyone can see from the free calculators that we make available at PrisonProfessors.com, Erik should have finished his time in prison early. With credit for
Erik’s decisions led authorities to prosecute Erik a second time. They charged him with having possession of contraband in prison. Although he could have returned to his family in less than two years, Erik ended up serving the entire four-year sentence. He also received a new felony
How did that happen?
Erik’s struggle came because he did not know the importance of decisions in prison. He did not consider himself a criminal. And he thought that others wouldn’t consider him a criminal. By not understanding the prison system and motivations of the people who operate the system, Erik put himself on weaker ground.
The following sequence of events occurred. Erik surrendered to prison in accordance with the judge’s order. As soon as he settled in, he wanted to use the phone. He didn’t know the rules associated with the phone system. To use the phone, Erik had to wait for staff members to set up a list of approved numbers that he could call from his account.
Erik grew frustrated because he couldn’t use the phone in a timely manner. He wanted to talk with his parents, but the phone number wasn’t approved. Not knowing the rules, Erik asked his wife to patch him through on a conference call. Staff members learned about the three-way call.
After finding him guilty of violating the phone rules, a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) sanctioned Erik with the loss of telephone privileges for six months. Erik responded by using a cell phone that he borrowed from another prisoner. Cell phones are contraband. Staff members caught him. Possession of a cell phone brought a series of new problems. Because it wasn’t only contraband, it was also new criminal conduct. As a result of his decisions:
- Erik lost his good time.
- He lost eligibility for RDAP and the time
offthat would have resulted had he completed the program successfully.
- Prosecutors charged him with new criminal conduct.
- He underwent more expenses with legal fees.
- He pleaded guilty to a second felony and he received a new six-month sentence that ran
consecutiveto his first sentence.
- He served more than a year in the Special Housing Unit—otherwise known as the hole.
- He served the remainder of his time in a low-security prison, where he faced other problems.
Erik liked to say that he wasn’t a criminal. Yet those who worked in the system did not concern themselves with Erik’s self-perception. They judged him in accordance with
- Eric pleaded guilty to the white-collar crime of wire fraud.
- A judge sentenced him to serve a 48-month sentence.
- BOP staff members relied upon Program Statement 5100.08 for his Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification.
- The objective scoring showed that he should serve his time inside of a minimum-security Federal Prison Camp.
- Eric’s adjustment in prison resulted in a new scoring.
- Eric received a Public Safety Factor (PSF) that resulted in his serving the remainder of his time in a higher-security environment.
Security in The Federal Bureau of Prisons:
At the time of this writing, in November 2017, The Federal Bureau of Prisons confines 184,855 people. About 83% of those people, or 154,844 inmates, serve their time inside Bureau of Prisons facilities. The other people serve their time in privately managed prisons or other types of facilities. Males make up more than 93% of the federal prison population. Those people serve sentences in the following types of security levels:
- Minimum-security Federal Prison Camps: 32,189 people, or about 17% of the population
- Low-security Federal Correctional Institutions: 69,437 people, or about 37% of the population
- Medium-security Federal Correctional Institutions: 55,377 or about 30% of the population
- High-security United States Penitentiaries: 21,524 people, or about 12% of the population
- Unclassified: 6,980 people, or about 4% of the population
Our partner Justin Paperny served time for a white-collar crime. He served his entire sentence in at the Taft Federal Prison Camp, a minimum-security camp. Shon Hopwood served time for armed bank robbery, and he served his entire sentence inside the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution in Pekin, Illinois. I served time for convictions related to selling cocaine. And over the course of 26 years, I served time in every security level.
Developing literacy of Program Statement 5100, also known as the Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification system, or the Custody and Classification
At any time, however, we can start sowing seeds for a better future. In our book Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Prison Term, I show how I started sowing the seeds very early during my journey. The seeds I sowed allowed me to make significant progress in prison.
I took the opposite approach of Erik. He started in a camp. Once he surrendered, Erik made bad decisions that led him to higher-security prisons. I say they’re bad
I started in a high-security United States Penitentiary. As soon as I got there, I started to understand the Custody and Classification system. That knowledge helped me make decisions that would put me on a path to ease my adjustment. By understanding the Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification system, I laid the foundation carefully. That foundation would allow me to transfer to a medium-security Federal Correctional Institution. Then I transferred to a low-security Federal Correctional Institution. Then, at the soonest possible time, I transferred to a minimum-security Federal Prison Camps.
The key to mastering the system is knowing how to influence the system, and how to influence the appropriate stakeholders at the appropriate time.
Understanding Program Statement 5100.08:
The Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification system is an objective system. On our website, we offer a free calculator to help people determine how staff members in the BOP will score them.
Simply visit PrisonProfessors.com, click on the “Calculators” button in the main menu, and respond to the questions.
The calculators simulate Program Statement 5100.08, seeking responses to questions on two separate levels:
- Base Scoring
- Custody Scoring
To arrive at the scoring level, respond to 10 separate questions. The response to each question will provide an objective score. Those questions include the following:
- What type of detainer do you have, if any?
- What is the severity of your current offense?
- How many months do you expect to serve before your scheduled release?
- What will the BOP say about your criminal history?
- Do you have a history of escape attempts?
- Do you have a history of violence?
- Will staff in the BOP recognize that I voluntarily surrendered to prison?
- What will the BOP say about your age?
- What will the BOP say about your education level?
- What will the BOP say with regard to your history of alcohol or substance abuse during the past five years?
Notice that we always ask what the BOP will say. It’s not important what you or anyone else says. We need to assess what the BOP will say in order to calculate your score appropriately.
Program Statement 5100.08 will attach a score to each of your responses to those questions. This score will be known as your “Base Score.” When it comes to the base score, you will note that the questions focus on your past. For the most part, you will notice that they require static answers—meaning that you will not have opportunities to change the outcome. Since you cannot change the past, you must wait for calendar pages to turn to influence the Base Score.
It’s important to understand this score as early as possible. You may be able to influence the score during the presentence investigation process.
Once you calculate the Base Score, the next step will require you to answer questions that will lead to your Custody Score. Those questions follow:
- What will the BOP say with regard to how much time you’ve served as a percentage of your sentence?
- With regard to program participation, will the BOP assess you as average or good?
- How will the BOP assess your living skills?
- What will the BOP say with regard to your record of disciplinary infractions?
- What will the BOP say about the frequency of disciplinary reports you’ve received in the past year?
- What will the BOP say about your community ties?
- What will the BOP say about your gender?
Program Statement 5100.08 will assign a score to each answer that you provide. The sum of those scores will result in your Custody Score. Then, Program Statement 5100.08 will require you to consult a variance table that may either add or subtract from your score.
By taking all factors into consideration, you receive a scoring. That scoring reflects all of your security points. Those security points will determine the type of prison where you will serve your sentence. Your behavior in prison will determine whether you move to higher security levels, and potentially extend your release date, as was the case with Erik. Or if you pursue the path of a master, your behavior in prison will result in your moving to a lower-security prison, and potentially advancing your release date.
These scores will come from your Presentence Investigation Report. If you want to influence these scores, then learn as much as possible before the PSI. We urge you to review the information available on our website. It will help you understand the importance of the PSR, and it will offer guidance on how to influence that PSR. If you need guidance, contact us today.
Higher-Security Prisons as Compared to Lower-Security Prisons
Learn how behavior in prison influences the Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification. Although nothing but the passing of time will influence the Base Score, the Custody Score is more dynamic. In other words, behavior in prison can result in lowering or raising the Custody Score. By understanding how the Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification system works, a person can choose to behave in ways that
Experience in Different Security Levels:
As a founder of Prison Professors, I would be remiss if I did not share what I learned from serving time in prisons of every security level. I started my term in 1987.
What types of decisions will you make?
After being sentenced, authorities transferred me to the United States Penitentiary, in Atlanta. I had a 45-year term. Under the laws that existed at the time, I could earn credit for good behavior. As long as I didn’t lose any of those credits for good behavior, I could complete that term in 26 years. I started to set goals. I wanted to get out of prison at the soonest possible time. Further, I wanted to make sure that when I returned to society, I would be in the best possible position to succeed. I understood that there were some things I could not control. But I had opportunities to make decisions every day. Those decisions would lead me closer to success, or further away from success.
Coincidentally, Program Statement 5100.08 rewards decisions that I consider to be consistent with success. By avoiding disciplinary infractions in prison, I could put myself on a path to move to lower security levels. It wasn’t going to happen overnight. Yet by gradually working through programs in prison, I could begin to influence change. I could assess my environment. Although I couldn’t avoid the volatility of prison, I could make choices that would minimize my exposure to problems. I could choose jobs that would be more consistent with my goals. I could maneuver my way into the best possible housing situation. By understanding Program Statement 5100.08, I could succeed in a high-security penitentiary. I did not receive any disciplinary infractions. I earned an undergraduate degree. I successfully coordinated my transfer to the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution of my choice.
Once I got to the next stop, I repeated the process. At the soonest possible time, I transferred from the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution to the low-security Federal Correctional Institution of my choice. By the time I arrived, I had a master’s degree. While in the low-security prison, I continued the same pattern. While there, I married the love of my life. And at the soonest possible time, I transferred to a minimum-security camp. While there, I built many relationships that influenced my success in prison and beyond. Indeed, I met my co-founders at Prison Professors while I was serving time inside of those minimum-security federal prison camps.
Get Ready to Master Federal Prison
If you or a loved one is facing challenges with the criminal justice system, we urge you to understand the Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification system. You may research the entire manual by reading Program Statement 5100.08. If you want a quick assessment of how the Bureau of Prisons will score you, turn to our free calculators at PrisonProfessors.com. The more you know about the system, the stronger you will become. As you restore confidence, you’ll make better decisions. Those better decisions will show that you’re a master of the system.
Regardless of where you serve your sentence, you can make decisions that will lead to a life of meaning and relevance. That said, we ask you to consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We all have the
- Preparing For Prison
Howard Phillips Lovecraft was an American fiction writer who wrote horror stories. One of his published lines brought Mr. Lovecraft eternal fame:
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,” he wrote. “And the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
If you’ve never been to prison before, then you may have some fear. That’s normal. People who have never been to prison before don’t really know what to expect. We’ve seen prisons depicted in movies.
Prison population levels have soared over the past several decades. As a result, artists portray prisons in film, television, music, and literature. When artists portray scenes from prison, they feature the sensational. They produce the scenes to elicit an emotion. Frequently, film producers want to elicit the emotion of fear.
Our team at Prison Professors provides you with a different perspective. If you’re going into the prison system, open your eyes to the best possible outcome.
What does the best possible outcome look like in your case?
If we can see the best possible outcome, we begin to realize that pathways to success exist.
Look at the success of our partners at Prison Professors.
Shon Hopwood was in his early 20s when he made some bad decisions. As he describes in his book, Law Man: Memoirs of a Jailhouse Lawyer, Shon used drugs. When a friend suggested that he rob banks, Shon agreed. He pleaded guilty to multiple armed bank robberies. Authorities locked him in prison
Our other partner, Justin Paperny graduated from USC. While there, he played on the varsity baseball team. After graduating, Justin became a stockbroker. As a stockbroker, he built
Neither Shon nor Justin had been to prison before. One was going to prison for armed bank robbery. The other would serve time for a white-collar crime. Both men were afraid of what was to come. Prison would separate them from the people they love. It would separate them from the people who loved them. Neither knew anyone who had served time before. Yet both of them had seen the movies. They watched the television shows and they heard the stories.
Their outcomes on the other side of the journey, however, differed from what anyone would expect. Shon became the most successful jailhouse lawyer in history. He wrote briefs that won cases in District Courts, in Circuit Courts, and in the U.S. Supreme Court. Then, after completing his term, Shon went on to law school. He clerked for the D.C. Circuit Court. Georgetown Law School hired Shon. He’s now a law professor and
Justin chronicled his story in Lessons From Prison. When he went to prison, he feared the type of life he would lead upon release. Justin’s conviction for fraud resulted in the loss of his livelihood. He worried about how he would be able to earn a living. Like Shon,
Why did Shon and Justin experience a different outcome from what we see portrayed in media? They prepared for success!
My partners and I want to share everything we learned about mastering the prison experience. Like Shon and Justin, I went to prison as a young man. I started my prison journey in
How Do We Prepare for Prison:
We prepare for prison in the same way that we prepare for anything else in life. At Prison Professors, we urge people to define success. The person must ask the following question:
- What is going to be the best possible outcome?
Answering that question is essential. None of us can change the past. But if we want to influence the future, we must begin by defining success. If we can define success, then we can engineer the path. That path should take us from where we are to where we want to go. Use strategies that our team teaches to create your methodical approach
Defining a successful outcome from prison requires us to complete a self-assessment. What does our life look like now?
- If we’re a highly-educated person, then we may prepare in ways that differ from someone who doesn’t have a high school diploma.
- If we have financial resources, we may prepare differently
fromsomeone who doesn’t have enough money to live in prison.
- If we value close relationships with family, we may prepare differently
fromsomeone who wants to serve time alone.
- If we have a sentence in excess of 10 years, we may prepare differently from someone who is serving one year.
Preparing for a successful journey through prison requires us to define success. And as shown above, success for one person may differ from another person’s success.
My partners and I all had different life experiences. Justin was a graduate
But one fact united each of us. Justin, Shon, and I hated being in prison. We wanted a different outcome from what others would expect of us. We wanted to return to society as law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. We didn’t want to live on the margins. We wanted success, and we prepared in ways that would be consistent with that outcome. Our preparations, however, began when we were already confined.
Prepare For Prison Early:
The sooner a person can prepare, the better. Consider the oft-quoted adage on the best time to plant an oak tree. Do you know the best time to plant an oak tree? Some people say winter, some people say summer. Some people say fall, some people say spring.
A wise person knows the best time to plant an oak tree. It’s 20 years ago. The second best time to plant an oak tree is today.
The same thing goes with preparing for prison. The sooner a person can start thinking about the outcome that he wants to achieve, the better a person can prepare for a successful journey inside.
Good preparations serve a person well. Preparations will serve a person going to prison in the in the same way that a blueprint can serve a builder. It provides a guide
Not all people get to prison the same way. Some judges allow people to surrender at some point after the sentencing hearing. Through counsel, the defendant can ask the judge for time to prepare and get affairs in order. When judges allow people to surrender, they typically allow at least 30 days to pass. Some of our clients have been able to postpone their surrender to prison for a year or longer. There may be a variety of reasons that make sense for someone to delay their surrender date. They may want to complete a class. They may have family obligations. They may need to complete a business transaction.
If there isn’t a compelling reason to do the opposite, we encourage people to get started. Don’t delay the surrender if there isn’t a reason. While waiting to serve time, life can feel like it’s on hold. It’s hard to gain any traction in life when a prison term is looming ahead. For many people who must surrender to prison, the waiting can be interminable. It can feel like a person is serving time, but the time does not count. In Lessons From Prison, Justin describes how the period before surrendering to prison led to a depression. Others talk about drinking too much, or eating too much, or feeling traumatized
Each case is different, and we do not provide boilerplate guidance. But as a general rule, we find that it’s best to start serving the time as soon as possible. The sooner a person starts, the sooner a person can get on a path toward building a successful future.
We’ll provide some tips below. Some of those tips will be specific for people who have an option to surrender to prison. Other tips apply to all people, whether they’re surrendering to prison or whether they’re going to be taken into custody without notice. It’s important to remember that a judge has the discretion. The judge can leave a person out on bond for a lengthy period of time after the conviction. Or the judge can issue an order that results in an unexpected confinement. Consider the widely reported case of Martin Shkreli.
Martin Shkreli was widely castigated in the media. Headlines labeled him as the “Pharma Bro.” In 2017, a jury convicted Martin on charges related to fraud. While out on bond, he repeatedly appeared on social media. One post, supposedly, offered payment to anyone who could provide a piece of hair from Hillary Clinton. That post led prosecutors to say that Martin posed a threat. The judge agreed. He ordered the U.S. Marshals to take Martin into custody in September, long before his sentencing hearing. As a result, the Bureau of Prisons locked Martin inside a federal detention center in Brooklyn.
Had Martin prepared better, the judge likely would have allowed him to surrender to a minimum-security camp. Life in a minimum-security camp offers considerably more
It’s always best to prepare. Knowledge translates into better decisions, and better decisions translate into better experiences.
Many defense attorneys will stop their representation at the sentencing hearing. Others will be willing to assist their clients a bit further. For those who have a good legal team in place, we offer some advice. Ask the defense attorney to get some confirmations from the Marshals and the BOP regarding the designation. A process unfolds after sentencing. The U.S. Marshals will forward the Judgment Order and the Presentence Investigation Report to the Bureau of Prisons designation center in Grand Prairie, Texas. Administrators in Texas will consider many different factors. Then they will identify an appropriate prison for the person to serve the sentence.
The staff in Grand Prairie will be responsible for submitting the appropriate paperwork to the designated prison. Sometimes human errors occur. Those errors can mean that the paperwork is not in order. If the paperwork is not in order when the defendant arrives at the institution, staff members may lock the individual in the Special Housing Unit. That means the person will be held on lockdown, without access to the telephone or recreation. Time will be much more difficult.
If possible, prepare in advance. Ask the defense attorney to confirm with the Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshal service that all paperwork is in order. Our team has known many defendants who suffered because they were locked unnecessarily in Special Housing Units because they did not prepare in advance.
Point of Contact (POC):
Identify a point of contact prior to confinement. Defendants may have a family member or friend who will serve as this point of contact. Let the POC know that they should expect to hear from you within two days. Defendants should understand that the Bureau of Prisons might not activate the phone or email system immediately. Still, if a defendant is
Create a plan for your POC to follow. If your POC does not hear from you after three days, ask your POC to take action. Your POC should contact your attorney. If you don’t have an attorney, you need an advocate who will help you. Your advocate should contact the Bureau of Prisons. Effective advocacy will lead the BOP to investigate why you’re not able to communicate. If you’re being held in the SHU because of misplaced paperwork, your advocate can take steps to correct the problem.
Alan was a client who could have used an advocate. Alan was convicted of
Every individual has a unique situation. Some people have family members to support. Others do not have any financial responsibilities outside of prison. Think this through. Craft a plan that works for the support group. Coordinate a budget, or plan to assist
It’s possible to live in prison without any financial resources. Yet financial resources can ease the burden significantly. Remember that prison is a microcosm of our broader society. An underground economy will exist in every prison. By understanding how that economy works, a person can avoid problems that can complicate life inside.
In our book Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Prison Term, I wrote about my experiences with the prison economy. I describe why I would spend about $600 each month to live in prison. Those expenditures allowed me to pay for the email system, the telephone system, postage, and to purchase commissary.
Other people live without resources. Some people have “hustles” in prison that allow them to function in that economy. They wash clothes, they clean, they cook for other people. Other people earn an income while working
A good plan will keep a person on track. Take steps to understand the financial opportunities and limitations in prison. I’ve written extensively about my experience in prison. When I left prison, after 26 years inside, I had more than $100,000 in after-tax savings. Those resources allowed me to start my life. The financial resources reflected my preparation. The preparations began with a visualization of how I wanted to emerge. Then I put my plan in place. Then I set priorities. Then I executed the plan. Make sure that you do the same.
A good planner will see advantages everywhere. We encourage you to plan your reading list. That plan worked well for our partner Shon Hopwood. He chose to read selectively in prison. That selected reading plan led to his developing knowledge of the law. By reading, he became an expert in writing appellate motions. While in prison, Shon wrote briefs that led to liberty for many people. His briefs won in U.S. District Courts, in Circuit Courts, and in the United States Supreme Court.
Likewise, Justin followed a disciplined reading schedule while in prison. He read books that would lead to his success upon release. What books will you read while you’re in prison? How will reading contribute to your success while in prison, and beyond?
In several of our programs, we describe the strategy that empowered us through
- Why did I read the book?
- What did I learn from reading the book?
- How will reading the book contribute to my success upon release?
By responding to those questions, we show a disciplined, deliberate path to make time in prison productive. It’s part of an excellent preparation strategy.
Journaling and Reputation Management:
At the soonest possible time, anticipate the challenges that you’ll face upon release. Use your time inside to begin crafting your personal image. Anticipate how prospective employers, creditors, business associates, and anyone else will perceive you. What will they find when they search your name on Google?
If you anticipate challenges in the future, you can begin sowing seeds today to overcome those challenges. That strategy worked well for Shon. It worked well for Justin. It worked well for me.
Each of us documented our journey in prison. Each of us chronicled our journey to show our disciplined, deliberate preparations inside. Those initiatives allowed us to overcome enormous obstacles.
Shon persuaded a law school to admit him, he persuaded members of the Washington State Bar to admit him. And he persuaded a federal judge to hire him. Justin’s journaling and strategies for reputation management while in prison opened enormous opportunities. Within three weeks of concluding 26 years in prison, I was teaching as an adjunct professor at San Francisco State University.
What led to those opportunities? Our journaling and our efforts to redefine our image made all the difference. Rather than judging us for the bad decisions that led to our prison term, people judged us for our how we responded. We prepared while in prison.
Success does not follow prison by accident. We must plan for it!
- Personal Narratives and Surrendering
According to the Department of Justice, grand juries or prosecutors bring charges against more than 80,000 people every year. Statements made
- MEMORANDUM FOR ALL FEDERAL PROSECUTORS
In the second paragraph, the Attorney General says:
“First, it is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense.”
The Memorandum goes on to rescind previous policy decisions that gave more discretion to prosecutors. As a result, prosecutors will bring charges against more people. In light of the Sessions Memorandum, we anticipate prosecutors will initiate more grand jury proceedings. Those proceedings will lead to more criminal indictments.
Prosecutors will also initiate charges through a process known as Rule 7 (b), a Criminal Information. With a Criminal Information, a person may waive indictment and simply agree to plead guilty to the charges a prosecutor brings.
Whether through an Indictment or a Criminal Information, at Prison Professors, we believe more people go to prison. That’s why our team publishes so much free information to help.
Subscribe to our Prison Professors podcast to learn while you drive, while you exercise, or whenever it suits you.
According to easily verifiable statistics, prison follows for the vast majority of people who face charges in federal court. Yet a federal prison term doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road.
Staring down a lengthy prison term can bring a disheartening
We could offer instructions for days. To break it down simply, we recommend adhering to the same principles to succeed or overcome any other challenge. There are specific steps, as follows:
- Visualize success. What’s the best possible outcome?
- Create a plan. What steps will take you from where you are today, to the success that you envision?
- Set priorities. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s crucial that you set incremental goals. Know and understand that achieving one goal will put you on a pathway to achieving higher goals. More to come on this subject in future installments of our podcast episodes and chapters.
- Execute the plan. Although a plan is essential, without execution, it’s nothing more than happy talk. Leaders take action every day. If you’re following the Prison Professors pathway, you’ll take action. You’ll climb from where you are today, to the success you’re determined to become tomorrow.
Still, we recognize that it isn’t easy. Statistics show that the vast majority of people face many struggles upon release. Others return to society and thrive. As examples, I frequently cite my partners.
Our team shows people how to succeed
Our personal experiences convince us that if we prepare early, we enhance prospects for success. We don’t mean success on a marginal level. We mean success on multiple levels. Success is a mindset. The sooner we can adopt that mindset of success, the sooner we can advance prospects for success.
Surrendering to Prison:
When prosecutors choose to bring charges against a defendant, life changes. We never know when the time will come for us to surrender. For example, in Justin’s case, prosecutors brought charges against him. Yet the judge did not order U.S. Marshals to take Justin into custody. Justin remained free on bond while his judicial proceedings played out. His judge allowed him to surrender to federal prison voluntarily several weeks after the sentence.
In my case, authorities took me into custody on the day of my arrest. I’ll always remember that day. It was August 11, 1987. I was 23. I had never been to prison before. Yet the bad decisions I began making when I was 20 caught up with me. I faced a sentence of multiple decades in prison. I remained in custody until I concluded my sentence in a federal halfway house more than 26 years later, on August 12, 2013.
Take another case, like that of Paul Manafort. A federal grand jury charged Mr. Manafort with several charges, including conspiracy against the United States and money laundering. After he surrendered to face the charges, the court placed Manafort under “house arrest,” which is a form of imprisonment. After a month
We never know when authorities will require a defendant to surrender to prison. Yet we know that the sooner a person establishes a deliberate course of action, the sooner a person can stop the free fall that derails peace for so many defendants.
In the previous installment, we encouraged people to define success. We encourage people to remember the pathway to
We ask defendants to make a decision. Will they allow
We encourage people to write out a personal narrative, or a life story prior to surrendering to prison. Let me explain why.
When authorities allege that someone has committed a crime, that crime can have a tendency to consume the individual. Newspapers or media outlets may report the crime. A Google search will reveal that criminal charge. The statement from prosecutors or other authorities will begin to take on a life of their own. If an individual doesn’t do something about it, that story will become an immutable part of his character. A personal narrative can help to counter those allegations.
We are all more than decisions we made at the worst moment of our lives. And the sooner we begin to write out our personal narrative, the sooner we can begin to write the next chapter.
I learned this lesson of writing new chapters at the very start of my journey. I was locked inside the Pierce County Jail back in 1987. Authorities arrested me for leading a group that trafficked in cocaine. When caught, the only thing I wanted was to get out of jail. As a result, I listened to every word my lawyer had to offer. He told me that there was a big difference between an indictment and a conviction. Anyone who knows how to research could find data that would undermine such a statement. When the federal government indicts someone, a conviction follows in more than nine out of every ten cases.
My lawyer told me what I wanted to hear rather than what I needed to hear.
After a jury convicted me, I realized that I made a horrific decision
- At 20 I sold cocaine.
- At 23, I was arrested.
- Once in jail, I made the decision to change.
- I made a decision to prepare myself in ways that would lead to my success upon release.
Our other books offer more about that transformation. We encourage you to read those books. They show strategies that worked for us, and strategies that can work for you.
The question you must ask yourself is whether you’re ready to make changes. If you’ve been targeted for a criminal prosecution in federal court, then decide how you want to emerge from the struggle of imprisonment.
In my case, let me say that transformation began with introspection. By thinking about my past, I could begin to connect the dots. Authorities locked me in prison because a jury convicted me of crimes related to selling cocaine. Introspection gave me a broader perspective. By reflecting on my past, I could see that I had begun to go astray long before the conviction. My life went off course long before authorities arrested me for selling cocaine. Decisions I made much earlier put me on a course for a bad outcome. No one could change that outcome
I started to change that outcome with my personal narrative. I had to write out the person that I aspired to become.
My partners have a similar story. I did not know Shon when he started serving his sentence. I know that he was young. He had longer than a decade to serve because he pleaded guilty to a series of armed bank robberies. Yet rather than allowing those armed bank robberies to define him, Shon began crafting a new narrative for his life. No one dismisses Shon because of his bank robbery conviction. He is a lawyer and he is a law professor. Shon wrote a new chapter
You can do the same.
Similarly, when Justin Paperny joined me inside the Taft Federal Prison Camp, he was new to the system. In contrast, I had more than 20 years of prison behind me. Like many people who first surrender to prison, Justin felt lost the day he surrendered. He had been a stockbroker and an asset manager. He defined himself by his degree from USC, his prior baseball career, and his profession as a financial-services professional. But authorities gave Justin a different narrative. He pleaded guilty
He had to write his narrative.
We sat together each morning and I showed Justin how introspection could lead anyone through a difficult situation and into prosperity. It’s a lesson that leaders have taught for thousands of years. Scholars attribute the following saying to Socrates:
- The unexamined life is not worth living.
All lives are worth living. Yet I found enormous strength in the power of reflection. Justin learned lessons from Socrates and other philosophers. As those lessons have empowered millions of others, they empowered him. He agreed that introspection could put him on a path to a better life, too. We worked together, side by side, to write his narrative. That commitment to writing resulted in his book Lessons From Prison. It launched an entirely new life for him.
We encourage anyone who faces a prison journey to use this same recipe to prepare for success. Introspect. Then begin writing a narrative that will become the new chapter of your life.
Again, at Prison Professors, we do not ask anyone to do or say anything that we didn’t do or that we’re not doing. Shon’s book reveals how much thought he put into his future. Justin’s book shows what he learned through introspection.
A magical process unfolds through these exercises in introspection and writing. We feel empowered. We begin to see the patterns that led to where we are today. By documenting our journeys, we can take control of our destiny. We can set our lives on a new course. This process can show the how and why of our lives. If we execute the plan well, in time, we can show others how we became successful. Our narratives show that we are who we are today because of the decisions we made yesterday. And at any time, we can begin making new decisions that will redefine our lives. Personal narratives can start.
Those who choose not to write their own narratives should understand what transpires. Prosecutorial statements will have a longer life. From directives in Session’s Memorandum, we know that prosecutors will bring the worst possible charges that they can prove. But we also know that there is much more to every individual’s life. The question is whether an individual will write a narrative that begins to show the next chapter of life, or whether the individual will allow statements from prosecutors to influence the future.
At Prison Professors, we urge our clients to prepare personal narratives at the soonest possible time. Some defendants feel so disoriented from the criminal charge that they cannot muster the concentration to write their own narratives. We show them how the process worked for us. We introduce them to our courses on writing personal narratives. In many cases, we conduct the interview and write the narrative on their behalf.
The personal narrative can serve several purposes. By writing the personal narrative early, the defendant can provide stakeholders in the system with a different perspective. Some defense attorneys use those personal narratives as tools to influence the prosecutorial process. They may use the narrative to show why the individual may be worthy of lower charges.
Presentence Investigation Report:
Those who start early can use the personal narrative as a tool to influence the presentence investigation. After a defendant pleads guilty, or after a jury convicts a defendant, the next step will be for the defendant to meet with a probation officer. That probation officer will conduct an investigation that will culminate with a report known as the Presentence Investigation Report, or PSR.
During the investigation, the probation officer will ask the defendant whether he has anything to say about the offense. A
It’s never too late and it’s never too early to prepare for success. A person may write the personal narrative before surrendering to prison. Or a person may write the narrative once he or she is in prison. Either way, we’re confident it will help.
- A personal narrative will clarify thoughts.
- A personal narrative will lead a person to define a success.
- A personal narrative will help the individual craft a plan.
- A personal narrative will help an individual establish priorities.
- And a personal narrative will motivate an individual to
perform,or execute the plan.
Although a criminal indictment or conviction can feel like the end of the world, a personal narrative can set a person on a path to recalibration. It can lead to change. It can set a person on the pathway to success. That strategy of writing personal narratives worked for Shon Hopwood. It worked for Justin Paperny. And it worked for me.
We also encourage people to recognize that the process doesn’t end with a sentencing hearing. The person will surrender to prison. Then, a series of authorities will judge the individual at different intervals. Those authorities will always look to the PSR—and the prosecutor’s statements—when assessing the person. If an individual writes out his narrative, he can influence those eventual assessments.
Again, it’s never too early and it’s never too late to begin sowing new seeds. A good narrative will influence the way BOP staff will assess each prisoner. The narrative can influence where a person serves the sentence and what programs are available in prison. The narrative may influence liberty in prison, and influence when authorities will release a person to a halfway house. Once the sentence ends, the personal narrative can influence the level of liberty while on Supervised Release. It can even influence the career a person launches. The narrative may persuade authorities to advocate for early termination of Supervised Release.
In conclusion, expect prosecutors to paint the worst possible picture of any defendant. As Jeff Sessions wrote in his Memorandum, they have a job of proving serious charges. Justice—in the eyes of many prosecutors—equates with convictions and long sentences. For defendants who want a better outcome, we encourage them to write personal narratives. We encourage them to use those personal narratives as blueprints. They lead to the next phase
And if you want more comprehensive courses to master the prison system, please visit our store at PrisonProfessors.com.
Our team at Prison Professors
- My name is: (Insert anonymous if you don’t want to publish your name.)
Perhaps you have seen my videos, read my blogs or books. If you have, you know I value honesty, directness and your time.
I know you have questions. I am confident I have the answers.
Before determining how and if we can help you, let’s identify some commonly asked questions.
Let’s address those now…
You wonder (or should be wondering):
How will an indictment influence your career and earning capacity?
How will an investigation influence my family?
How will a government press release impact my reputation?
What steps should I take today to prepare for the best sentence possible?
What steps should I take today to make a favorable impression at sentencing?
How will my life change if I am sentenced to prison?
What steps should I take today to ensure I serve my sentence in a federal prison camp?
What steps should I take today to restore confidence, establish relevance, and live a life of meaning before, during and after imprisonment?
Further, you wonder who you can trust to guide you and your family…
You’re reading this so you know the value of preparing, but don’t know where to start…
If You Have Interest In Learning How To Answer Those Questions, Keep Reading…
Before I go on, let me make clear who this program is for.
The Blueprint Program Is For:
Those willing to invest the time, resources and energy it takes to succeed.
Those who understand we cannot change the past.
Those who accept what we can control and accept what we cannot control.
Those who are committed to being proactive, and never reactive or in a state of emergency.
Those who are committed to taking it one step and one day at a time…Patience and persistence are vital virtues.
Those who are committed to being the provider, protector and producer for their family.
Those who want to learn how to advocate for themself.
Those who believe we can get them to their desired outcome quicker than they could on their own.
Families looking to gain support through this difficult time.
Now, let’s consider Who This Program is Not For?
Defendants not willing to embrace some discomfort.
Defendants who are unwilling to hold their attorney accountable.
Defendants who are looking for results without doing any work.
Anyone who wants immediate results just because they joined, but fail to take any real action or implement what we teach.
Defendants who do not believe having a coach can get them closer to success.
Defendants looking for shortcuts or expecting something for nothing.
Defendants who default to, “There is nothing for me to do. I paid my lawyer to do everything.”
By now, you know if this program might be right for you and if you should keep reading…
So, can the Blueprint Program help you?
Rather than tell you myself, I’ll share some feedback from our members…
The Blueprint does not work if you are simply a passive participant. This only works by implementing specific tactics and strategies we teach you.
What is one of the strategies?
Most defendants fail because they want to fix everything at once. You should not invest in this program if you expect to have it all figured out today. Yes, I know you want the shortest sentence, the best federal prison, time off through RDAP, and maybe a new career and new reputation. I get it. I have been there.
By trying to eat the elephant in one bite, most defendants get overwhelmed, give up and quit. Then they default, to,” Life sucks as a felon. No opportunities exist.” They have acted their way into an all too common outcome—failure.
If you do not see this as a daily effort to prepare for the best outcome, we are not for you. I said earlier I was honest, direct and I valued your time. Life is too short. If you do not value discipline and patience The Blueprint is not for you.
As someone who has endured all aspects of the criminal justice system, I’m doing my best to share with you what does not work. And whether you invest in our programs or not, I respect you enough to tell you truth.
Are You Interested In What Works?
Myth #1: It Worked For You Justin Or Your Other Clients, But I Do Not Need This Because I Hired A Lawyer, Who Used To Be A U.S. Attorney
Do more than rely on your lawyer, a hired gun. I know defendants who gave a million dollars to a lawyer. I know defendants with a similar case who had a public defender. In many instances the defendant with the public defender got a better outcome.
Why? Easy..The defendant with the public defender recognized that to get the best outcome he/she would have to contribute to the proces. If you wish to sit back and do nothing, this is not the place for you.
Myth #2: Nothing I Do Will Help My Outcome
I know one thing for sure..there is someone right now in federal prison complaining over his outcome and how he get a “raw deal.” That prisoner I assure you did little to prepare.
The strategies we teach help ensure the government, and all stakeholders, begin to see you differently than your criminal actions. Rather than offering boilerplate information anyone can find online, The Blueprint offers a step by step process to follow, complete with quizzes at the end of each course.
Myth 3: I Am A Convicted Felon. Few Opportunities Exist For Me Now
Myriad case studies show how people have worked to overcome their conviction, start new careers, re build their family, their network and reputation.
I assure you our clients who thrive do not buy into the myth that there future is full of struggle.
Nothing beats experience. Forget about any misperceptions you have. This is your opportunity to learn from the successes and failures of thousands who have come before you.
Cost versus investment…
I once read that when making a sale you should not use the word, “cost.” Rather, you should use the word “investment.”
It make sense. I agree that if you view this program as a “cost” it will never happen. It should not happen. It would not matter if it was $9 dollars, $97 dollars, $497 dollars or $1,997 dollars.
Master The Presentence Investigation:
The Blueprint prepares for the presentation investigation. By knowing what to expect, defendants can take affirmative steps to counterbalance the government’s version of events. Those deliberate steps may influence the outcome of the presentence investigation report that will follow.
The PSR will also play an essential role after the sentencing, when Bureau of Prison administrators evaluate the defendant. Administrators will rely upon the defendant’s PSI, along with the Judgment order when determining the appropriate security and classification level.
Further, the PSI will play a decisive role in the types of programs that will become available for the defendant while he is incarcerated.
By teaching you about the presentence investigation report, we can provide options for you to consider.
Become Your Own Sentencing Mitigation Expert:
The Blueprint will teach you how to create a personalized packages that narrates the defendant’s background in a first-person voice. The package provides a compelling story. If done successfully, the strategy not only portrays you in the most favorable light, but also shows why the defendant is worthy of the lowest possible sentence.
You’ll learn how to anticipate the sentencing hearing from a different perspective. While the defendant has his agenda, what influences the other stakeholders in the process? What drives the probation officer, the prosecutor, the victim’s, and the judge?
By considering those different perspectives, the defendant becomes much more effective in crafting an appropriate allocution strategy.
Custody and Classification:
Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP):
The challenge for many defendants, however, is that statements they made early on during the proceedings resulted in their ineligibility of being able to participate in the program. When halfway house is taken into consideration, completion of RDAP can mean walking out of prison up to two full years early.
For that reason, The Blueprint ensures our clients are well educated about what steps are necessary to qualify for the program. By helping our clients understand the qualifying details for RDAP, we empower them to make better decisions. This program isn’t for everyone. But it behooves those who place a high priority on being released from prison at the soonest possible time to learn everything about RDAP at the soonest possible time.
By understanding the disciplinary code, our clients are better prepared to avoid complications that disrupt or derail their adjustment. Rather than offering boilerplate information, we provide real stories that will teach clients everything they need to know to ensure that they advance through their prison term in the most efficient way possible.
Right Frame of Mind:
The Blueprint provides provides tangible proof that even with a criminal prosecution, the loss of professional licenses, and imprisonment, an individual can recalibrate and return to society strong, with dignity intact. Such guidance puts others in the right frame of mind during a period that can feel like the darkest hours.
Prepare Prior to Sentencing/Surrender:
These preparations in anticipation of the prison term can make an enormous difference. Statistics bear this out. When authorities choose to prosecute an individual, they set a course of action in place that can have lasting implications. Without proper preparation, many defendants sink into lasting depressions that can bring further troubles. Those who prepare develop a plan for a deliberate journey inside.
Your First Day of Prison:
The first day in prison can be crucial. It is like walking into a fish tank. Everyone looks at the new comer and assesses him by the decisions he makes. The more an individual understands about the process, the more competently he can make decisions.
First Weeks in Prison:
Students who are serious about going to college retain help from mentors. My life is fundamentally different from other people who’ve been convicted of white-collar crimes because of the guidance I received and the preparations I made. If you want the best possible outcome, then I urge you to take the road ahead seriously. Prepare now by enrolling in our Blueprint Program.
The Blueprint does more than explain the different mechanisms for early release. Those who join learn how they can position themselves to be released at the soonest possible time.
If you want to advance your release date through administrative rather than judicial procedures, this course will teach you how. We explain every mechanism available, and then we guide you through the necessary steps for success.
Yet not every person who serves a term under Supervised Release experiences the same level of liberty. Would you like to learn how you can position yourself for maximum liberty and early termination of Supervised Release? This lesson plan will teach you how to master supervised release.