Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world that only dimly enters our awareness. They are members of a "total institution" that controls their daily existence in a way that few of us can imagine. "[P]rison is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures, all wholly governmental, all wholly performed by agents of government, which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, walking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. . . ." It is thus easy to think of prisoners as members of a separate netherworld, driven by its own demands, ordered by its own customs, ruled by those whose claim to power rests on raw necessity. -- Justice William Brennan, dissenting in O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 354-55 (1987).

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Finally ... a Job

Today I finally got my work assignment ... sort of.

FPC Pensacola is a federal prison camp; that is, a work camp. FPCs are minimum security prisons - there is not a wall or fence separating the prison from the outside world. FPC Pensacola is located on a military base at Saufley Field. FPC Maxwell, near Montgomery, is the only other FPC located on a military base. I am told both will be shut down in the next couple of years. The BOP is instead going to "satellite" camps that are part of a larger medium and low security complex.

As best as I can tell a prison camp serves 2, maybe 3, purposes that a regular prison does not.

First, for those inmates who are serving long sentences that began behind a wall or fence at a higher security prison (inmates must be within 10 years of their release date with no history of violence to be eligible for assignment to a prison camp), an FPC allows some limited contact with the outside world to hopefully facilitate their integration back into society. Usually the work is simple groundskeeping.

Second, it provides a source of cheap labor for the military bases. FPC Pensacola serves the Pensacola Naval Air Station (PNAS) and Eglin Air Force Base (EAFB). The PNAS is nearby and the EAFB is about an 80 minute bus ride, I am told.

Third, I would assume it is a source of revenue for the BOP since the PNAS and EAFB pay for the groundskeeping services. At PNAS, a company contracts for our services. Inmates report to this company's supervisors. Of course, there are probably a lot of contractual details I don't know.

At 5:30a every weekday morning large touring buses leave the prison for EAFB and at 6:30a, other buses leave for PNAS. I was assigned to a very large PNAS field, which is home to the famous Blue Angels (you can see and hear them do flyovers).

The buses I ride look like yellow school buses, but nicer. They are air-conditioned with stereo music. The windows are darkly tinted although I don't know if that is for the benefit of the inmates or passers-by!

After a short ride, we are dropped off at a warehouse, which I think is the main office for the contractors. It is a simple building and largely empty.

Inmates with previously assigned work details know where to get their equipment in this large industrial compound and begin their work.

In my case, I have no work detail; I just sit in the warehouse and read my book. They briefly interviewed each of the 6 new guys. It was immediately apparent that I was the least qualified for the work they need done!

By the way, now that I have a job I will get paid 12 cents an hour or 84 cents a day. This is for 7 hours work. That may not seem like much, but it is tax free!

We return about 2:30p and get back to the prison before 3p, in time for the short line for dinner and then the 4p standing count. Boy, I'm so exhausted from my work I might not make dinner! :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello William,
first of all many thanks for your reference work you did on Pensacola.
As of today, five years later, it is still the most detailed and informational resource I have been able to read on the web on any prison.

I have heard that Pensacola houses only inmates with US citizenship (including those naturalized).
On the contrary there are other BOP location that are also for resident aliens, and others only for illegal immigrants.

So my question is in regards to the two "categories" of citizens in Pensacola:


In the normal world the only difference is that the latter cannot become President of the U.S.A.

Have you noticed if there was any distinctions between them during your stay? Priorities in job assignments?

I am asking this because a fellow friend in Tallahassee told me that US Citizens gets better jobs compared to resident aliens.

Once againg thank you for what you did.

Cheers, Gabriel.