What Mike Carona can expect when he goes to Federal Prison

So ex-sherriff Mike Carona (excuse me, the disgraced and convicted felon ex-sherriff Mike Carona) has lost his appeal and is off to federal prison.

But what will federal prison look like for Carona exactly?  Since he’s former law enforcement, he’ll likely have minimum security but for a  sense of what jail is actually like, we turned to the Internet to get an idea.

Some great tips can be found here. We’ve cut and pasted some of the best ones below. But as a former law enforcement officer, we have to guess ex-Sherriff Mike knows some of the basics.

Bite your tongue. If the judge doesn’t allow you to self-surrender to the prison where you have been designated, you will be handed over to the U.S. Marshal services. Do not speak to a Marshal (or let him overhear a conversation) about your case or anything else for that matter. Nothing you can say will make the situation any better and it might even make things worse: just because you have already been convicted doesn’t mean that you can’t be charged with something else. Put simply, anything you say can be taken down in evidence and used against you. So, keep your mouth shut as much as possible.

Don’t overlook dental care. That’s because the choice and quality of care is much superior outside of prison. Certain treatments that you take for granted may not be available in prison, or won’t be as good. After all, if you’re in prison and you don’t like the prison dentist, where else are you going to go to have your teeth fixed? It’s not like you can easily find someone else! So, if there’s time to do it, consider having a dental check-up before you self-surrender, and get anything important fixed. Also, if you wear glasses you may want to have an eye test and get new lenses, assuming you need them. As with dental care, you’ve got a better choice of lenses and frames outside prison.

Line up some reading material. Most federal prisons allow magazines and books to be sent to inmates – on condition that these are sent directly from the publisher or a retailer like Amazon. If you’re self-surrendering and you know which prison you’re going to be in, consider taking out a subscription for magazines/journals, and order a couple of books from Amazon to read. Do this a couple of days before you self-surrender. Alternatively, give your friends and family a shopping list of books/magazines and let them take care of ordering things. There’s no web access in prisons, so make your selections before you enter prison

Try to find out as much as possible about how the system works. If there is an official rule-book for the prison, read it. You can be punished for breaking a rule that you didn’t know existed. Breaking the rules will not only piss off personnel but inmates as well. It makes life harder for everyone. Ignorance of the rules is no defense. Information is power.

Take the maximum amount of money you are allowed to prison with you. You may be allowed a certain amount of money (up to $500). This money will be used to buy supplies you may need while incarcerated. This is called putting “money on your books”. You will need money for supplies such as stamps, envelopes, snacks and also hygiene supplies. Cash is not necessary and will be confiscated. It’s best to go in with a US Postal Service money order as they are widely accepted in all prisons (federal and state). Additionally, don’t let anyone know that you have money. Pretend that you’re poor and penniless. That way there’s no danger of other prisoners trying to extort money from you.

Don’t trust anyone. That goes for guards, other prison officials, and the person in the cell next door. If someone is being nice to you, ask yourself “What’s in it for them?”. They almost always have some hidden motive that you don’t know about. In prison, nothing is free. For example, if someone gives or loans you something, you will probably have to pay it back with a hefty rate of interest added. If you can’t pay, they may demand a favor that could get you into big trouble, like hiding contraband in your cell.

Do not show fear, anger, happiness or pain. Emotions are your worst enemy. Emotions reveal your weaknesses. Both inmates and guards prey on weakness. Don’t give them the opportunity to do so. If someone can figure out what makes you angry, they can use that knowledge to manipulate you. In the same way, if someone knows what makes you happy, they can try to ruin it for you. And because they are around you 24/7, they have unlimited opportunities to test their manipulative skills on you.

Don’t tell people anything they don’t need to know. Choose your words carefully. Potentially, anything you say to guards or prisoners (no matter how innocent you think it is) can be used to hurt you, manipulate you or be taken out of context. Avoid discussing dangerous conversation topics. Otherwise, it can easily get you into trouble. Obvious subjects to steer clear of are religion, politics, racial issues, or your own personal feelings about someone or their family and friends. Some of the prisoners you’ll encounter may have a short temper, or are mentally ill, of low intelligence, or just plain bad. Prisoners like that don’t have a warning written on their forehead – they look like regular guys. You can easily be misunderstood or deliberately misquoted by someone who’s trying to stir up trouble. What starts out as a petty argument over a trivial issue can turn into someone bearing a strong personal grudge against you. Don’t be paranoid. Just be aware that things may not be what they seem e.g., the prisoner who tells you that gay or black people are just like everyone else, then asks what you think may in reality hate homosexuals or black people – he’s just testing your attitude or yanking your chain.

Always be polite and respectful to guards and other prison employees, even if they are evil SOBs. That’s because if you piss them off, they are holding all the cards and can make your life harder than it already is. So, don’t give them a stick to beat you with. It’s true that some prison employees are better than others. Even so, never forget whose side they’re on – it certainly ain’t yours. You need to get it in your head that the staff are always right and you need to do what they say. Even if you know it is wrong at the time, it is best to just follow the order, and if you have a problem with it, you can address it at some later point. Example: You work as a server in the kitchen and a staff foreman tells you to go clean tables in the dining room. You know that is not part of your duties and that you usually do not clean tables, but the best thing to do in this situation is to just go clean the tables, because you are an inmate and you are not going to win an argument with a staff member. Don’t do anything that makes staff feel challenged or intimidated; they have various ways of making you pay for that mistake

Don’t stare at other prisoners. Although you’re simply curious about them, the other person can completely misinterpret what’s happening. In prison, if someone stares at you it usually means they feel intense hostility or disapproval towards you. Alternatively, staring is a way of showing sexual interest. It’s OK to look at people, but don’t stare at them. There’s a difference between looking and staring.

Don’t join a prison gang. Just like in the real world, in prison there are gangs. But in prison, gangs are far more prevalent. These gangs work very differently on the inside than on the outside. Be mindful of gang members, but avoid joining a gang; gang members are soldiers, and gang leaders demand absolute loyalty. If you join a gang, you may be ordered to do something that will keep you in prison a lot longer; a gang member has no choice, because aside from getting out of prison, there’s only one way to quit a prison gang while in prison: die.

Find people who come from the same place you do. In most federal facilities there are inmates from all over the country. You can do an inmate search prior to turning yourself in. You’ll be able to look through the prison inmate listing to see if you know anyone or where their home state is. When you get to your designated facility, you need to find other inmates who are from your city or state; these are your “home boys” and they will usually help you with things you have an immediate need for, such as basic hygiene items, shoes, etc. But beware of your home boys if there is anything wrong with you or your case, like if you are an informant, sex offender or anything else frowned upon by inmates, in which case your home boys will probably be the ones that will confront you on it. This could include assault, stabbing or whatever else they think you deserve

Above all, remember that the normal rules of the outside world simply don’t apply any longer. When you’re in prison, you’re living on a different planet where all that matters to you is surviving the experience with as little damage as possible.

A message board had this description:

Self-Surrendering (walking in un-cuffed) is generally better than coming in chained to other cons. They process you into the prison faster because you usually are by yourself. When you come in with 40 other guys, you are going to be doing a lot of hold-over cell time before you go anywhere..

When you first get there they will take you into R&D (Receiving & Discharge). They will strip search you.. They do a pretty thorough job so don’t try to slide anything by ON your body.. If you have a bunch of tattoos they will probably shoot digital pictures of you to put into your file.
Where I went (F.C.I. Beaumont Medium) they did not make me shower or put any de-lousing powder on. (I don’t like the stuff but I’d rather all of us go through it so it doesn’t run through the joint)
Next I met with a medical nurse who took my blood and gave me a 1/2 ass physical. Asked if I had any STD’s, this, that, AIDS, HEP-C Etc. Etc.. I also got a “shot” for TB.

Since I got there on Memorial Day by mistake and there wasn’t any other staff to process me in, I went to the hole to spend the night. The following day they pulled me out to meet with an Intake Case Manager who asked me all sorts of questions. Did I have any gang affiliations? Was I homosexual? Who will be visiting me first? (They will give you a temporary visitation form for immediate family – fill it out and turn it in right away)

Next, they put me in front of the camera and shot my picture for my Inmate ID card. They kick it out right there and you will need it to get mail (until the staff knows you), commissary, check out library books, and to use the vending machines (depending on what institution you are at), etc..
Next you will dress out in some temporary Khaki clothes, get a bed roll and other odds and ends such as soap, toothbrush, etc. (You cannot wear your own clothes) They will tell you your housing assignment and you will head out.

I don’t know what type of housing situation you will be dealing with unless I know what type of institution you will be going to, and the area you are trying to go to. The higher security prisons are generally two man cells/rooms (Medium to High/USP prisons) where I believe most of the Low security prisons are dorm room style living areas. (Some older prisons may vary but the new No-Frill institutions are all about the same)

Depending on the time of day, you will need to go to the laundry for them to issue you all your uniforms, boxers, bedding and hygiene stuff. You will get one pair of steel toed work boots (Usually new if they have them), 3 button up kaki shirts, 3 kaki pairs of pants, 3 undershirts, 3 boxers, 3 pairs of sox, etc.. Everything will have your name and number on it. Get used to it.. You will be calling it out quite often. Also, forget your first name.. Everyone will know you by your last name.

I’m wondering if anyone will use Carona’s nickname to call him out.  There’s also a book, he might want to get: “Behind Bars; Surviving Prison.” 

Here’s an excerpt:

“The Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) is thought by convicts to operate a better system than most states. The prisons are cleaner, with more desirable food, and the prison staff is better educated, trained, and paid. It is fair to say that most prisoners would prefer to do federal time, day for day, as compared to state time.

That said, federal prisoners are usually allowed fewer material possessions than state convicts. Individuals serving time in state prisons may have their own televisions, collections of books, music, clothes, and posters or pictures hung on their cell walls. Federal prison cells are more austere. These prisoners are restricted to only basic items, such as five books, toiletries, and a few changes of institutional clothes, no television. All of these possessions must be able to fit in one small locker

The Convict Code

What follows is the convict code, at least the idealized version cons give lip service to and outwardly endorse:

Mind your own business
Watch what you say
Be loyal to convicts as a group
Play it cool
Be sharp
Be honorable
Do your own time
Be tough
Be a man
Pay your debts

Snitch on another convict
Pressure another convict
Lose your head
Attract attention
Exploit other convicts
Break your word

And lastly:

Your going to prison is like a death in the family, minus the medical bills, bedside vigil, or funeral expenses. If they care, the others can write or come to visit you in the pen. But the longer you stay incarcerated, the more you lose. Stay in prison long enough and even the most loving of families are liable to forget you ever existed.”

One has to wonder how many times Jon Fleischman will pay a visit to his old boss.

  2 comments for “What Mike Carona can expect when he goes to Federal Prison

  1. StevefromSacto
    January 13, 2011 at 10:59 am

    I think you need to add a few items to your list, considering where Carona will be spending his sentence:

    Don’t leave your wet swimminmg pool towels lying around.

    Replace your divots.

    Nothing beats HBO HD on the wide screen.

    Remember, white wine with fish; red wine with meat.

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