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).

Monday, November 5, 2007

Long Overdue Update

It has been quite a while since I have updated my blog. That was never my intent but there are several reasons:

1. My life just isn't as "interesting" as it was in prison. While in prison, I was writing about novel experiences from the point of view of an embedded reporter trying to explain to "outsiders" what it is like. My current life, while I like it, just isn't as interesting.

2. Now that I am "out," my style of writing and point of view are different. While "in," I intentionally wrote in a "stream-of-consciousness" style to record my experiences and feelings in real-time. While there was some reflection, most of what I wrote was more raw, which I believe gave my blog more intensity and people seem to like, especially those who are facing similar circumstances (or are related to those facing similar circumstances). I was also able to give nuances that are missing in other prison blogs (such as, as one reader told me, the price of cup o'noodles and the brand of work boot). Now, that I am out, my style becomes more that of a commentator simply giving my opinion on legal issues, which requires a lot more organized thought and preparation. While I have a perspective that might make my opinions more interesting or authentic, it still requires more time to write these kinds of articles. Which brings me to the third reason.

3. I had more "free" time in prison to write which is quite ironic since I was not "free," but of course the reason is because I had far less options on how to spend my time. Now, something more important always seems to come up. Or, if it is not more important, it is more pressing. The old "tyrrany of the urgent."

Well, now I am going to make myself take the time... at least today!

Status of Home Confinement and Electronic Monitoring

As I stated in my post New Bling, my ankle bracelet (see pictures on previous post) was installed on July 12, about 2 weeks after I was released. I was allowed out of the house from 9a-6p weekdays, 10a-2p Saturday, 9a-1p Sunday. While confined to my house, I could not even go out to get the mail or newspaper, nor use the pool in the back yard. The best part though is that my wife had to take the trash out on Thursday morning because they pick it up at 7:30a, before I am allowed out of the house!! :)

What was my typical schedule?

Well, since I am self-employed, I have some flexibility. I moved my workouts to 10:30a, instead of the previous 7:30a appointments that I used to have. I played golf on Friday, instead of my normal Saturday. I took extra long lunches at my favorite restaurant since I knew I could not eat out at night. And, otherwise, I moved a lot of my work to the evenings.

I did cut it close a couple of times getting in by the deadline with a minute or two to spare. If I am out of the house outside of the allowable time frame, the receiver is supposed to send a message to my probation officers pager, but I am not otherwise notified. It is not like an invisible fence collar for a dog.... I don't get shocked or beeped. :)

I bought the entire 6 seasons of The Sopranos. My wife and I made it through season 4 in the evenings so we still have 2 more seaons to go. We usually would go out to dinner and a movie on Friday nights so that had to change.

On weekends, I watched a lot of sports, especially once football season started. ("Dear, I really want to work in the yard but my probation officer won't let me. Sorry.")

On the whole, however, home confinement is just a series of minor inconveniences that I just had to re-organize my life around. I think my wife was more bored than I was because she wanted to go out in the evenings and we couldn't.

On Thursday, October 11, I disconnected the receiver (my PO said he would turn off the monitoring at 6a) and brought everything into the probation office. We had a little "circumcision" ceremony and my ankle bracelet was cut off (they replace the rubber band and clips and re-use the transmitter). I did my second drug test (I have to do 3 while on probation).


On Oct 11, my electronic monitoring ended and on Oct 12 my wife and I went to Florida for 10 days. (We didn't wait long to get out of town did we?)

All travel outside the western district of NC requires approval from my PO, so I had discussed this in advance with him. If the trip is for pleasure instead of business, he gives me a "Permission to Travel" document (click on link to view document). If I were to have an encounter with a police officer while travelling and am questioned about why I am out of my district, I can produce the document. Even if I do not have the document, he can call my PO to confirm his awareness of my trip so it wouldn't be a disaster even if I didn't have it; it is more for my convenience than anything. My wife and I like to travel a lot so I don't know if there will be a limit to how many trips he will approve or not.

Of course, as fate would have it, on my second night on Sanibel Island, we were driving home from a restaurant on the deserted two-lane main road. The speed limit was 35 and I was pulled over by an unmarked police car... a local Sanibel traffic cop. He informed me that I was driving about 50. I gave him my license and rental car agreement. Fortunately, my wife didn't pull out my Permission to Travel letter which was sitting on top of the rental car agreement in the glove compartment!!! I figured this would be a good opportunity to see what information he is able to pull up on his little police car computer. Why volunteer I am a convicted felon on probation? In any case, he came back and gave me a verbal warning. I think it had as much to do with the fact that I was from out-of-state as anything. Nonetheless, it was nice to actually catch a break with the law.

My wife was a total basket-case at this point. I don't think she stopped hyperventilating until we got back to the room. All she could imagine during the stop was me being carted off to the local jail for the night. Not a nice way to start our long-awaited Florida vacation! Ironically, I was pretty calm. I thought I might get a ticket but that would be it. I doubted he would pull my name up on his computer and, even if he did, I would show him my document. I suppose knowing that I was a conviced felon might motivate him to have a little less mercy on me, but after you've been to federal prison, a speeding ticket just doesn't get my heart beating real fast.

The next day, I faxed a letter to my PO indicating that I had been given a verbal warning for speeding the night before. A standard condition of supervision is that all encounters with law enforcement must be reported to your PO within 48 hours. I never heard back from him so I guess he didn't have any questions.

When we returned from the trip, I left a message on my PO's voicemail letting him know we had returned as scheduled. Again, a standard condition of supervised release is to notify your PO within 24 hours of your return to your district.

International Travel

As I stated earlier, my wife and I like to travel a lot, including internationally. Strangely, my PO says that all international travel must be approved by the judge. I was able to find a reference on the internet that New Jersey Probation Office likewise requires judge's approvel for international travel and that the request must be submitted 4 weeks in advance so I guess this really is standard Probation Office policy, not that I doubted my PO.... I would never do that Chris!!

I asked my lawyer about this because the Judgment and Commitment document simply says that I need permission from my PO to leave my district; it makes no distinction between domestic and international travel. Currently, the Probation Office has my passport. If international travel is approved (either by PO or the judge), they would give me my passport for the trip, and then I would return it when I get back. The problem with getting the judge's permission is I hate to bother the judge with trivial matters like this when I may need his "help" on more important issues (like getting my probation terminated early!!).

One thing I have learned through this experience is to fight the battles at hand, not the ones in your mind. I have a tendency to want to get answers to all my hypotheticals scenarios... scenarious that may never occur. I now try to only address issues that are on my plate... present realities, not future possibilities.

I will deal with the matter of international travel when I am sure we are going overseas.

Behind the Scenes Correspondence

While I have not been updating my blog lately, that doesn't mean I haven't been getting emails from other defendants awaiting sentencing or prison.

Technically, I am not to associate with other felons, according to the standard conditions of supervised release, a condition I find totally absurd by the way, for reasons I will address at some time in the future. However, my PO has approved "associations" with individuals who respond to my blog. Officially, these individuals are not convicted felons until the judge signs the Judgment and Commitment document after sentencing so I don't think there is even a technical issue until that point but my PO approved it nonetheless.

There are probably 6 or 7 people who have written me for more information. All are white collar... mortgage fraud, embezzlement, political corruption, etc. One is actually due to be sentenced today so I am wondering how that's going... and remembering how I felt in the days leading up to sentencing. Another recently reported to Pensacola FPC, so I was able to give him some tips and give him the names of some people there who will make sure he gets situated ok.

Funny story. When I was at the Probation Office getting my ankle bracelet cut off, my PO said he got a call about me the previous week from Charleston. (Yikes.... what have I done now??)Turns out that a probation officer in Charleston was informed of my blog by one of his "clients" and he was just calling my PO to make sure he was aware of it, which of course he was. He had also called Pensacola FPC to make sure they were aware of it, which of course they also were (you can read all about THAT here.)

I don't know how much the government wastes time reading this blog, but, to date, no one has told me I can't do this; indeed everyone has told me I am providing useful information, albeit with a little bit of humor that occasionally tweaks "the system." God help them if Maureen Dowd ever goes to prison and writes about it! She'll skewer everyone. I know I push the envelope a little with some of the detailed information I provide but I assume someone will let me know if I cross the line. Hopefully it won't be in the form of US Marshalls knocking on my door!

How Have I Changed

I have actually asked this question of a few friends. I don't feel like I am much different than before... maybe a little calmer... if that is possible. However, they claim to notice a difference. Maybe a little more "humble." Sensitive. Empathetic. Quieter. Those are the terms I hear.

I certainly feel less "afraid" of the judicial system. Prison doesn't scare me anymore, not that I really want to go back, but it has reaffirmed that life is lived, not in a place, but in the mind. Attitude is everything.

I am less optimistic (or is is less naive) about politics and government. I hate to use the word "cynical" because that is such a copout... a defense mechanism against caring in order to avoid the disappointment that is the risk of caring. I want to care. I don't want to just be cynical. Nonetheless, there are aspects to the judicial system that are maddening... aspects that the general public just doesn't understand. I understand the disposition to trust your government, but if they only knew....

In an earlier post, I listed a variety of topics I wanted to comment on... issues that I knew nothing about until I experienced them myself... issues that I have to believe the general public would be shocked to learn are really part of the American judicial system and are fundamentally unfair.

I still want to do that but it requires so much effort to compile. Also, the issues are complicated, which requires more nuanced explanation. Our system didn't get here by accident but there are also unintended consequences... laws and regulations that were supposed to make things more fair but in fact had the opposite effect.

Hopefully, I will find the energy and motivation to do so.


The Road Home said...


Welcome home..I was missing your blog very much. I have a loved one very close to me in prison and has the needed points for work release but I think he still has a ways to go. Anyway, you are right 5 months ago I thought none of us would ever make it through this horrific ordeal. While everyday is painful for Jerry and every one involved we have managed. Your blog has been such a source of comfort!!!!!

Jerry and I worry about when he comes home and not breaking any rules whatsoever..I panicked when I saw you speeding story..I was never a coffee drinker but now I have taken it up because I will be the designated driver from here on out. Jerry is not a big drinker but does miss his couple of cocktails a week. Under zero circumstances can he drive after one sip..Hope all is well. Thanks for your response in he advertising and welcome home. Eileen Beairsto Lake Como, New Jersey

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading about every aspects of your prison experience and its aftermath.

How does your situation affect your sleep? Do you sleep less now? Or it has no effect whatsoever? I've heard stories of ex-prisoners sleeping with their light on, even years after their release.

Keep up great job, Bill!


Bill Bailey said...

I'm not sure what the deal is with ex-prisoners sleeping with the lights on. Maybe some prisons keep the lights on when you sleep, but at Pensacola FPC, it's lights out soon after the 10p count. I thought it was like that in all federal prisons.

The only change in my sleeping habits is I now sleep later and go to bed later, which was my old routine. In prison, you get up early (between 5a-6a depending on whether you want to eat breakfast or when you have to report to work) and are usually in bed early. I adapted to that routine pretty quickly mostly because there was not much else to do at night once you were restricted to your dorm floor after 10p count. Some guys would hang out in the tv room or do their laundry, but most would just go to bed.

The only residual physical effect from prison seems to be a reflux condition that was probably latent before but was somehow exacerbated by my brief stay.

I'm sleeping fine however :)

I also have gained 15 pounds since getting out after losing 7 or 8 while in.

Anonymous said...

Please discuss employment opportunities after confinement but during probation? As part of your probation, is being gainfully employed a condition? Does this mean you have to prove to the PO your Monthly earnings, w-2 ? if self employed, how do you prove this or are you required to prove this? Once a felon how do they expect you to be gainfully employed? The real world jobs, discriminate if you are a felon...Example: A senior executive now a felon can't expect corporate america to provide him the same job and same pay, so as a felon he may refuse to work for domino's pizza if he can even get that, so what happen's? does this person and his family become a burden on the system? what are the collateral damages economically for tax payers?

Bill Bailey said...

Please look through my posts in July. One is called "On Paper" which is the inmate expression for supervised release. I include a copy of the report which must be filed monthly with probation which requires you to list monthly income and expenses.

There is also a post on collateral consequences of felony conviction.

Gainful employment IS a condition of supervised release. If you are self-employed, you must demonstrate income, which may include providing copies of bank statements. The level of documentation required may depend on the level of trust between you and your PO.

I am self-employed. I give my PO 12-15 pages of documentation concerning my self-employment income and expenses every month. The point is that I want to make his job as easy as possible even though I have brought up the issue that it seems rather intrusive to require so much financial disclosure since all fines, assessments, and restitution have been paid.

Since I am self-employed I decided not to fire myself :) But I understand the challenge for others.

The only recommendation I can make is to be transparent. The appropriate timing and amount of disclosure require much discretion and wisdom, but the goal is to rebuild trust.