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Life While in Federal Prison/Atlanta Camp: The Wild, Wild West of the BOP!

Updated on August 10, 2014
Marijuana use was rampant and made it into the camp nearly everyday with the help of so called guards. All of whom were on the take.
Marijuana use was rampant and made it into the camp nearly everyday with the help of so called guards. All of whom were on the take.
Drinking alcohol of course was supposed to be prohibited but it took place everyday. There was a bar set up in the bathroom of one dorm. The Liquor stored in the ceiling above a closet.
Drinking alcohol of course was supposed to be prohibited but it took place everyday. There was a bar set up in the bathroom of one dorm. The Liquor stored in the ceiling above a closet.
Cash though strictly forbidden was readily available and changed hands everyday, much of it going to the guards hired to keep that sort of activity in check
Cash though strictly forbidden was readily available and changed hands everyday, much of it going to the guards hired to keep that sort of activity in check
Even women, a much desired and valuable commodity were sneaked into the camp with the help of crooked guards and set up a brothel in the bathroom of one of the back dorms
Even women, a much desired and valuable commodity were sneaked into the camp with the help of crooked guards and set up a brothel in the bathroom of one of the back dorms

I have written often about my experiences in Federal Prison and with some frequency made references to a crooked guard or an illegal activity here or there. Heretofore however, I have stopped short of being totally forthcoming about the seriousness and regularity of the prohibited, even illegal activities that took place in the Atlanta Federal Prison Camp.

While I can't say for sure exactly, I think it in large part has to do with a fear of retribution somehow by someone high in the legal system who might see my willingness to expose this behavior as something of a "black eye" for the BOP and might come after me.

It was until I wrote a book on the experiences designed to help someone who might be facing federal incarceration that I began to really think about all the things that went on, how bad it was and how important it might be to at least in some way prepare the prospective inmate who was desirous, like me, of entering the system, keeping his nose clean, doing his time, and coming home. Clearly I stopped short in may book of doing that in detail. While I do feel as if I wrote a good book for the purpose of preparing one for prison life.


Don't get me wrong, I am not at all surprised that illegal activities take place in prison. After all, when you coral up 500 plus criminals in one place, deprive them of money, whiskey and women, three things that majority of them love most in the world, with the desire for one or more of those being the overriding reason that many of them are there to begin wit. It comes as no surprise to me, given the preexisting criminal bent, that the vast majority of them are going to do everything they can to test the constraints of the system to it's fullest.


What did surprise me however was that the guards, those paid to patrol the hallways of the institution and keep this sort of thing from happening, some of whom held supervisory positions we so readily willing to assist them in their endeavors. Frankly I was shocked as I witnessed it with my own eyes.



Don't get me wrong, I am not at all surprised that illegal activities take place in prison. After all, when you coral up 500 plus criminals in one place, deprive them of money, whiskey and women, three things that majority of them love most in the world, with the desire for one or more of those being the overriding reason that many of them are there to begin wit. It comes as no surprise to me, given the preexisting criminal bent, that the vast majority of them are going to do everything they can to test the constraints of the system to it's fullest.


What did surprise me however was that the guards, those paid to patrol the hallways of the institution and keep this sort of thing from happening, some of whom held supervisory positions we so readily willing to assist them in their endeavors. Frankly I was shocked as I witnessed it with my own eyes.


Understand all guards aren't crooks just as all inmates weren't involved in illegal activities but many of them were both guards and inmates. I was often taunted for being a "goodie two shoes" so to speak because while I will stop short of saying I never did anything wrong during my 18 month stay in Atlanta, I can tell you that I didn't knowingly do much for fear of going to solitary confinement or being transferred to a higher security facility, neither of which appealed to me in any way.


Yes some people did get sent "up the hill" but it was usually someone who had sufficiently provoked an honest guard or somehow gotten on the bad side of a dirty one. Either of which could put you somewhere that you didn't want to be in a hurry. Either that or it was someone who got caught after ratted out by a "snitch" or informant.


Snitches are hated in prison, during my stay in Atlanta, I saw an inmate labeled as one (I can't confirm or deny that the allegation was true) nearly beaten to death by a group of inmates who converging on him like a pack of wild dogs and wielding broom handles, beat him so brutally that he was in the hospital for 8 weeks before being transferred to another facility for his own protection.


Snitches often make the dread mistake of assuming they can trust a guard and somehow elevate their own status by informing on someone else. In my estimation this was a very risky proposition. First of all no one ever knew for sure which guards were on the take and which ones weren't and if you make the foolish mistake of attempting to inform to a dirty guard on an ally of a that guard, to put it in prison vernacular you my friend were in a "World of Shit."


Just as I chose not to involve myself in illegal activities, I also chose never to even give the slightest appearance of sticking my nose where it didn't belong or being the type who would inform on someone else. What other inmates did right or wrong, was there business. Some of my friends did some things that I didn't agree with and that quite frankly I thought were stupid but they were them and I was me and I wasn't about to try to convince them to do otherwise. That simply was not my style or part of my game plan. So I made the choice early on that I just wasn't going to go there.


While I never informed on anyone or wanted to, it certainly was not for a lack of seeing plenty take place that would have given me sufficient ammunition had I been the type. Everyday in Atlanta things were done on the part of daring inmates often with the help of guards that to say the least were often shocking to the point of being comical!


The federal prison system does not allow conjugal visits. To my knowledge it never has. During the spring of 2005 however that was not a problem for some enterprising inmates in one of the rear dorms of the Atlanta Camp. Using an open place in the fence toward the rear of the compound, they dressed a Puerto Rican hooker in prison garb and sneaked her back into the camp where she set up shop in the bathroom and serviced a number of inmates by letting them "run a train" on her for several hours. Her job complete and prior to late count, she was dressed again in uniform and slipped back through the fence. This happened on several occasions.


In my dorm another inmate literally ran a bar out of the ceiling above the mop closet in the bathroom. The liquor was sneaked into the camp hidden in a shop vac that was used to clean the hobby shop. He would take drink orders prior to the eight o'clock count and deliver them between the eight and ten PM counts. The available selection was fairly diverse as I understand it.


Cigarettes although made illegal shortly after my arrival where available by the carton, the pack or the smoke depending on you financial condition all day everyday.


Funny cigarettes were available as well, along with other drugs but as I understand it they were a little more expensive.


Inmates who worked in the kitchen would steal food, then resell it to other inmates who were still hungry after chow and had the ability to pay. Inmates however weren't the only ones stealing food. One day during an early return to the camp from my job at the powerhouse. I personally witnessed one of guards in charge of the kitchen loading cases of food from the supply room into the trunk of his Cadillac. I was later told by another inmate that it happened on a regular basis and that he owned a store across town where those items were sold.


In my opinion however the worst and most daring infraction of all was the number of inmates who were allowed, I was told for a payment of $20 to the guard on duty, to leave the camp after dark for a number of hours. Dressed in sweats that could be purchased at the commissary, they would exit through the same whole in which the hooker entered after the 10 o'clock count and were required to return prior to the count which took place at 4AM. I can only recall one situation in which an inmate failed to return and that was in the case that he was arrested for speeding in his girlfriends car, of course he had no license, you know the rest, he didn't make it back was charged with escape and sent to a higher level institution apparently keeping his mouth shut.


Often upon return the participating inmates would be carrying large trash bags full of hamburgers from McDonald's or boxes of chicken from Church's that they would sell to other inmates with a willingness to pay and a hunger for something other than prison food. At the risk of sounding coy, that activity brought a whole new meaning to the phrase "You deserve a break today!"


Without question Atlanta, during my stay at least, was a wild and crazy place. Given the fact that while inmates come and go, crooked guards remain and are more than willing to break in a new batch of "gunslingers" however, I can only assume that it still is.


I must confess that in my last few days in Atlanta, before my transfer to the Edgefield, South Carolina camp where the situation was distinctly different partially at least restoring my faith in the prison system and people in general. I took a good look around and laughed a few times at all the madness think to myself "What will these damn fools think of next?"


If you enjoyed this HUB check out my book "The Prison Experience" by Kevin Washburn on Amazon for Kindle.




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