- Politics and Social Issues
20. Arriving at Federal Prison
Arriving at Federal Prison
Arriving at Federal Prison is the continuation in a series of hubs in which I discuss my life of rebellion, dabbling in the Occult, drugs, crime and prison to life-changing conversion through Jesus Christ. Click here to read it from the beginning. In this hub, I will discuss details of my experience when arriving at federal prison.
It was mid-February, 2004 when I arrived at Lompoc FCI. Just prior to that, I had been sentenced to nine years for drug trafficking and gun possession offenses. Lompoc FCI seemed like a country club compared to Santa Rita County Jail. It had more freedom. There was a big yard with a weight pile, a softball field, a tennis court, a soccer field, basketball courts, handball courts, and a track. I got to go outside every day for several hours. There were more options in the canteen. There was even a very nice chapel there.
The food in the chow hall was better; although, not always good; and we weren’t always fed enough (especially for breakfast). However, we did get some pretty good holiday meals. There was an indoor gym with exercise machines, pool tables and ping-pong tables. The prison grounds were pleasing to behold. There was a lot of green grass; and the weather was generally nice, since we were situated in sunny Southern California.
There were roughly 1,600 inmates held in Lompoc FCI. We lived in dorms of bunk beds, and we had lockers in which to store our property. For most of my stay there, I lived in a 70-man dorm. It had its pros and cons. At least I wasn’t locked in a cell all day long, and I had more than one person to talk to. However, noise and anonymous people farting was always an issue.
Throw the Book at 'Em!
Most of the inmates in Lompoc FCI were Mexican or South American. They were incarcerated for illegal entry and / or drug charges. Can you believe that a first time offender for illegal entry into the United States could serve up to 36 months in federal prison? That was the standard sentence for that crime. For re-entry, the sentence increases to five years. The third time around, it jumps to seven yeas.
I knew a guy in Santa Rita County Jail that was serving a seven year sentence for illegal re-entry. It was his third time; and he was at least 70 years old! That’s practically a life sentence; because the chances of someone surviving such an ordeal are slim. Also, in federal prison, you must serve at least 85% of your sentence before being released. I was serving a nine year sentence. I got released after doing eight years, on good time. In state prison, good time reduces your sentence by up to 50%.
There was quite a variety of prisoners in Lompoc FCI. There was everything from murderers, who had worked their way down to low security status over the years, to corporate criminals, to ruthless thugs and gang members. I couldn’t believe some of the tattoos some of those guys had. Not only were there guys with their arms sleeved in tattoos, their neck and head would be covered in them too! I even saw guys with tattoos on their face. There was this one Hispanic guy from the 18th St. gang in Los Angeles that had a big “18” on his face, each letter covering half of his face.
There were child offenders there, most of which were there for downloading child pornography. That was a five year sentence! Granted, that’s wrong and perverted; but five years seems stiff for downloading pictures. Nevertheless, they got beat up a lot. I had a friend who was a “coyote”. In other words, he smuggled Mexicans into the country. He had been caught doing it several times by the border patrol; but each time he was either lightly penalized or released. Also, his “cargo” was sent back to Mexico. Finally, the feds caught him on one of his trips and gave him a two year prison sentence.
In Lompoc FCI, everyone had to be assigned some kind of job. I was fortunate to get a job fairly quickly in the Unicor Sign Factory as a quality assurance inspector. It helped me to be independent because it offered better pay than any other job in the institution. I got to the point where I was earning over $200 a month, which is excellent in prison. I was able to buy all of the canteen I needed and pay for all of my phone calls. It was practically impossible to save anything, though.
I worked in Unicor for at least three-and-a-half years. It was kind of stressful because everyone wanted to be the chief and no one wanted to be the Indian. I eventually quit. Afterwards, I made money preparing motions (legal documents) for inmates. I did that until my transfer to the Mira Loma deportation center. I made good (prison) money doing that; but I had some misgivings about the guy I was typing the motions for. He wrote the motions by hand for other inmates and I typed them.
Some People Never Learn
The name of the guy I typed motions for is Henry Jones. I noticed that he made promises to inmates about their legal motions that I was almost certain he would not be able to fulfill. I heard he got beat up pretty badly after my release. He kept insisting that he was innocent and that the U.S. government falsely incarcerated him for political reasons. He was filing motions on behalf of himself and said that he should be released any day. It turns out that he was a huge scam artist serving a 20 year sentence for a scheme which swindled religious investors out of over 30 million dollars. I found this out after being released and googling his name. American Greed featured an episode about him entitled, Fool’s Gold.
Lompoc FCI was like a country club compared to Santa Rita County Jail. The conditions were overall better, and inmates were kept busy because they were required to work and had a lot of activities to occupy their leisure time. This didn’t stop them from clashing once in a while, though. Once, I was awaken at about 11 p.m. at the sound of a riot involving hundreds of inmates. I will discuss that in my next hub. Click on the link below to read it.