As you read these blog posts, please understand in order for me to be a “professional” on anything prison related, I’d have to spend a lot more time in prison then the twelve months (on a seventeen month sentence) I spent at Herlong. If someone who spend more time in prison, as an inmate or otherwise, I would consider them the “professional”. My purpose is to share my experiences with the hopes of educating those who are unaware of this lifestyle and world. Maybe I could ease the mind of a family member who as a son or husband going to Herlong camp. Or maybe I can spark a conversation and disgust, MAYBE solve, a problem that has existed in a community. And maybe I can entertain you. But by no means am I trying to be a “professional” and can suddenly relate to those who been in worst situations or high institutions. At best I could only TRY to sympathize and possibly understand.
That being said, camp life isn’t that bad. Compared to what we saw on television, its pretty damn laid back. I mean don’t get me wrong, if you never been to prison, this is prison for real. My first night I damn near broke down once I realize how real it really was. But if you came from a low, medium or pen, this is cake. Inmates, who came from these high securities, told me that Herlong Camp was sweet! Very laid back and calm compared to other places. In high securities, you couldn’t wear your slippers unless you were in the shower or in your cell. In Herlong, inmates walk around in slippers, I did too, all day long inside the dorm.
FPC-Herlong is a satellite prison camp. This means that it’s a camp that’s within, or around, a larger institution. In this case, FPC-Herlong was a satellite camp to Federal Correctional Institution–Herlong, or a medium security prison. There was not a low or other prison in the area. Though there were rumors of the Feds building one, but I don’t know any truth to it. The purpose of the satellite camp was to assist the FCI and help it function. The campers would do tasks that the FCI inmates couldn’t do because they would be concerned a security risk. So we processed orders, we took deliveries; we took low risk inmates to the hospital. We even did community service for the community of Herlong, CA.
The camp was built on an old Army base. In fact we all slept in the actual barracks, modified for prison security. It was one massive room, with bunks for each inmate. At times we had as much as 136 inmates at one time and as low as 90 inmates. Each of us had twin beds. I had a top bunk because I was too short. And my bunky always had bottom bunk. More on that later. The barracks had a total of seven televisions: four out front and three TV rooms with a TV each. The laundry room had six washers and six dryers, ice machine, tables to fold laundry and iron boards, and a hot water dispenser. The laundry was pretty easy to get done because there weren’t too many inmates competing for the wash room. The earlier in the day you do your laundry, the better because everyone would be sleeping or at work.
Next to the CO’s office, there was a computer room where inmates could check there emails via TRULINCS and get memos form the BOP and other administration. The law library, next to the computer room had up-to-date files on court cases and past cases and laws. I’ve seen plenty of people in that library more then the other library and came out damn near lawyers.
Outside the barracks was the barber shop, leisure library, the cafeteria, commissary and the administration buildings. More on those in future blog posts. Also in the administration building, there was a very small exercise room with broken treadmills but function. Also there were two bikes without the electrical monitors on it. Rooms for hobbies and crafts, church service and medical services were also in this building.
There were three full size basketball courts, a handball court with a wall made by inmates at from the GM6 (General Maintenance Six) I believe. A regular size baseball diamond, like at a city park (without the grass). Next to the baseball diamond was a black track, made of asphalt, with soccer goal posts. Around the whole camp was a larger track for running. There were even two gardens where inmates plant tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables in (while the CO is watching to make sure no contraband are hidden in the garden). Weights are banned from the workout room. I believe older prisons have them. But all prisons after 2004 (and don’t quote me on that) could not have weights. One story I heard claimed that inmates got too strong and beat up CO’s. Another story claimed inmates beat each other up with them. Who knows they are probably both true.
As far as the electrical parts form the treadmills, some inmates believed it was stolen by inmates for whatever reason. But that the funny thing because another inmate told me that the administration took them out because there was a federal law that banned wires in prison. I haven’t seen such a law, not saying it’s not true, just haven’t seen it. So as you can already see, everyone lies here! God only know what’s true and what’s not.
We are allow to wear green collared shirt and green pants with black boots to work or to meet with an administrator. Inside the dorm we could wear sweats, tee shirts or whatever was from the commissary. Other than that, we could move around freely. No ten minute moves, no gates. As long as we stayed within the signs that said “OUT OF BOUNDS” we were good.
This is just an introduction. I’ll dive more into the experience as this blog progresses.