There are two ways to get to Minimum Security Federal Prison Camp. One, escorted by US Marshals under remanded custody and two, on your own recognizance, which is known as self surrender. Self surrender is by far the more desirable of the two. If you are expecting to get to Minimum Security Federal Prison Camp via remanded custody, you will be taken into custody immediately after being sentenced. Thereafter, be prepared for an uncomfortable few weeks or months before you arrive at your designated Federal Prison Camp. If you have been granted the opportunity to self surrender to Federal Prison Camp, the judge has done you a favor that you should be very thankful for and take full advantage of.
If you are taken into remanded custody at your sentencing by the United States Marshals, you will spend a number of weeks or even months at detention centers, transfer centers and city and county jails before you finally reach your designated Minimum Security Federal Prison Camp. You will be transported between these institutions and finally to Federal Prison Camp free of charge courtesy of the United States Marshals. By all accounts, Federal Inmate Transportation is extremely uncomfortable, slow and tedious.
There are two factors that make remanded custody to Minimum Security Federal Prison Camp particularly unpleasant. Firstly, inmates of all security levels are transported together. This means that security is maintained at the highest of levels. Even though you are headed to a Federal Prison Camp, you will be treated like a maximum security Federal Prison Camp inmate.
Your wrists will be handcuffed in front of you, while leg irons will prevent more than a slow walk. A chain connecting the handcuffs and leg irons will further limit your movement. During the transport process, which takes place on vans, buses and airplanes (affectionately referred to as Con Air by many inmates) the leg irons and handcuffs are not removed, even when you need to use the restroom.
Armed with shotguns, the Marshals are concerned with one thing and one thing only, getting you from point A to point B and finally to your Minimum Security Federal Prison Camp. As one can imagine, the mood during this process, both amongst the inmates, just recently sentenced to Federal Prison Camp and amongst the Marshals charged with ensuring security during the trip to Minimum Security Federal Prison Camp, is quite serious.
Secondly, there is absolutely no hurry to get you to your designated Minimum Security Federal Prison Camp. You will be transported at the convenience and according to the schedules of the US Marshals. This, coupled with the fact that US Marshal policy allows transport during day time hours only means that relatively short distances can take weeks or even months to travel.
The entire process of checking in and out of various facilities and sitting shackled on vans, buses and planes can be grueling, so much so much so that inmates commonly refer to the ordeal as diesel therapy. For the first time Federal Prison Camp inmate, diesel therapy will serve to teach a valuable lesson. The BOP has very little interest in your privacy, convenience and comfort.
Self surrender to Minimum Security Federal Prison Camp is a luxury granted to those the court deems at no risk of escape and at no threat to the community. If you are lucky enough to be allowed self surrender, following your sentencing you will spend the next one to six months at home, awaiting your Minimum Security Federal Prison Camp designation.
Whether you have been told to wait for a designation letter or not, I highly recommend calling the US Marshals office at the court where you were sentenced to ask for updates on the designation status. It is your responsibility to show up at the Minimum Security Federal Prison Camp on the specified date and at the specified time. Failing to show puts you on escapee status with serious consequences.
In my case I was told to wait for a letter, which never came. Thankfully, I was in touch by phone with the US Marshals office and eventually I was given my designation over the phone. The details of your designation will include the name of the Minimum Security Federal Prison Camp, the time and date you are to surrender and the Federal Prison Camp address and phone number.
The US Marshals will also be able to tell you your new eight digit BOP register number, which must be listed in order to receive funds into your Federal Prison Camp account and in order to receive mail.
A quick word on the location of your Federal Prison Camp designation. A recommendation from the sentencing judge that you be sent to a certain prison is just that, a recommendation. The BOP is under no obligation to comply. Further, the BOP states that they make an effort to place an inmate within 500 miles of his family. This effort is not always successful. In my case, I was designated to a Federal prison over 2,000 miles from home.
While my medical history dictated that I be sent to a Federal Medical Center rather than a Minimum Security Federal Prison Camp, there were two other such facilities within 500 miles. For whatever reason I was not sent to either one. If you find yourself far from home, eventually you may be able to transfer to a prison closer to friends and family. But it is not going to happen quickly and you need to be prepared for this eventuality.