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Life in Federal Prison: Inmate Reflections

I received the following email from a client of ours in federal prison. These inmate reflections are right on the money. If you are going to federal prison or have a loved one in federal prison, this is well worth reading.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”  Philo, early Jewish scholar, philosopher and mystic, 30 B.C.E.

Good morning and greetings from Butner North Carolina. Today the sun will shine and the birds will sing. I will walk the track some four or five miles and men, some are friends of mine, will die here in prison with no one by their side in their final hours.

Completely isolated. Alone in their cells with no comforting family. No hospice care for the 85-year-old man here in federal prison for not paying all of the taxes the government says he owes. How about that 55-year-old family guy, who lives down the street from you. You know, the guy who tried to supplement his family income by growing some marijuana in his basement. Or maybe that neighbor you know from your Tuesday morning Rotary meetings. The one who got caught up in the mortgage frenzy of a few years ago and overstated his income on a bank loan application. He will die in prison and have no loved ones holding his hand as he draws his last breath.

All of these men’s last words will be spoken to his maker alone in deafening silence. His dying day and fate will only be discovered the next morning or later that day by another inmate. All of these men’s debts fully paid to “society.” No balance owing.

This is cruel and unusual punishment at the highest level according to these inmate reflections.

Nothing Is Going to Change

Regarding the United States government practices and treatment of the aging or dying prison population, nothing is going to change in the near future. It works just perfectly for the BOP and US government with little regard for the dying prisoners or their surviving families. This is apparent in inmate reflections.

Have you ever overstated your income on a loan application? Fudged just a wee bit on your taxes? Sold the business and received some cash that went under the mattress? Maybe you were the one who gave your neighbor’s husband just a few painkillers such as Vicodin, Oxycodone or Oxycontin after he hurt his back gardening.

It could have been your friend who was having just one of those days. The kids were getting on her nerves or her boyfriend decided to leave her. She just needed a little something to get her through the moment like Xanax or Valium.

Is it possible that you were the lawyer who took on a client and the source of your fee turned out to be supposedly tainted ill-gotten monies according to the federal prosecutor’s office?

It Could Be You

Well if this could be you or someone that you know, a federal prison might just be in your near future. Who knows. You might just be one of the unfortunate ones who will die a lonely death while “paying your debt to society.” Yes, the very same society which you enjoy living in right now. 

It doesn’t take very much to get into prison these days. Our government’s conviction rates in the 97 plus percentile and the federal conspiracy laws able to convict on mere say-so. (Evidence is not a requirement to gain a conspiracy conviction in federal court.) Consider the newest tool in the prosecutor’s arsenal against innocent men. They call them “ghost drugs.” Drugs that never were found but were testified to usually by someone looking to get a much lighter sentence. Let us not forget the explosion of Oxycontin abuse convictions and the carrier weight sentences reminiscent of the life-plus life sentences handed out years ago for mere possession of LSD. Getting out of prison? Well, that is another story altogether. 

The possibility of leaving prison feet first, dead and stuffed in a body bag is an option which the federal government and all their henchmen in the White House, the Congress, and Senate are well prepared to deliver. In the end, it will matter not the color of your skin or of your collar. Make no doubt about it that today people, men and women from families just like yours all across these United States of America, are going to be dying in prison with no one to comfort them during their final hours here on planet earth. Yet not one of them was sentenced to life in prison without parole. 

Medical Treatment

Once an inmate is declared ill by the sentencing judge or deemed in need of medical attention by the Bureau of Prisons, they are then shipped off to one of the BOPs “medical hospital complexes” for evaluation and supposed medical care. Upon arrival at such a facility, a medical screening process is carried out by a substandard medical staff, a nurse practitioner, a physician assistant or just a nurse. The staff, more often than not, has problems in their medical work history: poor performance in their job or an outright lengthy history of malpractice.

To share more inmate reflections, when inmates can no longer dress in the uniform of the institution to access the visiting room, all contact with family and loved ones will cease. That is until your family comes to retrieve your body from the prison morgue. 

There will be no bedside final days with your loving family. No flowers or photos of the children and grandchildren to cast your eyes upon as death slowly caresses your body. There will be no one to wipe your brow, to hold your hand, to tell you one last time that they love you.

Prisoners across the country are also getting older and experiencing all the same ailments as those the same age not behind bars. Our extreme sentencing policies and guidelines combined with a growing number of life sentences have effectively turned our correctional facilities into veritable nursing homes. You, the American taxpayer, pays for all of it.

The United States keeps elderly men and women locked up despite an abundance of evidence demonstrating that recidivism drops dramatically with age. 

Funding

State and federal governments currently spend 77 billion dollars annually to run our penal system. These correction costs are mainly spent on incarcerations. Incarcerating aging prisoners costs far more than younger ones. Specifically, this report finds that it costs $34,135 per year to house an average prisoner. But $68,270 per year to warehouse a prisoner age 50 and older. To put this into context for you, the combined annual average American household income is $40,000.

I Am Currently Incarcerated

I’m at the United States federal medical facility in Butner North Carolina. A simple Google search of Butner Medical Prison will bring forward words such as “crown jewel” and “best rated penal hospital.” I assure you this place is far from that description. More like a laboratory experiment to see the smallest that could be done to treat any medical condition from flat feet to a sprained wrist. A life-threatening illness such as cancer gets the same kind of care.

When a disease such as cancer actually is treated by the Bureau of Prisons the first thing that happens is a cost management study. This determines the least expensive route to the most minimum amount of treatment. That treatment is often delayed. Many inmates simply die before treatment begins. Once treatment actually begins, they go to the point of bombarding a human being with extreme doses of radiation and chemo. Their bodies simply cease to function. They expire into the afterlife as an inmate number. They’re buried in a nameless grave or their body picked up by the inmates family.

I am so sorry to be on such a downbeat with this talk of death and dying in prison, Michael. But I need to share these inmate reflections. Last night just before dinner, my friend Tracy aka, “Truck”, was found slumped over in his wheelchair, dead. Fortunately for me, it was another Inmate Care Provider and not me who found him. He was 47 years old. RIP my friend, Truck. Sleep in the stars.

As always, Michael, be well. Peace, love, and freedom.

Inmate Reflections

Michael Frantz is a Federal Prison Consultant with Jail Time Consulting (JTC). He has been contacted as a federal prison expert by the Fox News Network, the Oprah Winfrey Channel, ABC’s 20/20 news show, the New York Times, the BBC, and many television stations and radio stations nationwide.

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