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).

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Inmates refer to the period of supervised release or probation as being "on paper."

I met with my probation officer (PO) yesterday to go over the terms. As all of the "foot soldiers" in the system of justice have been, he was professional and friendly. While he has some flexibility in managing each case, he is largely constrained by the rules the court has established. It is his job to monitor and enforce compliance with those rules.

The probationary period is part of the sentence imposed by the judge and reflected in the Judgment and Commitment Order. I have attached at the bottom of this post the page of this order that explains the standard conditions of supervised release. I will post the page that describes the special conditions (i.e. home confinement) in a laster article.

The PO went over each standard condition in case I had questions.

The following points deserve comment:

Drug testing was not suspended which was surprising because my case was not a drug case nor does my presentence report show a history of drug use. I have simply never used illegal drugs. I took the first of 3 required tests after our meeting. This first test was urine-based. He indicated that the next two are saliva-based. I didn't know there was such a thing

I cannot possess a firearm. Actually this condition applies for the rest of my life as a convicted felon (see USC 18, 922(g)) unless I apply for an exception to the Bureau of ATF. While I do not possess or ever use guns, this is a potentially dangerous condition because I do not actually have to own or touch a gun to be found in violation. I could, for example, be riding in a friend's truck with a hunting rifle in the toolbox in the back. Should he get pulled over and his vehicle is searched, I could be charged with "constructive possession" of the firearm. The sentence is a mandatory minimum 5 years! Yes, you read that right. And, yes, it has happened. My PO even told me of a case involving one of his clients.

DNA Collection. This was already done by BOP so probation does not have to do it again.

I cannot leave the judicial district without permission (this primarily applies after my home confinement period is over). The western district of NC comprises 32 counties. My county is on the eastern edge and also borders South Carolina. This means I could drive 4 hours west and still be in my district but could drive 10 minutes south and be "out of bounds." In reality, I can travel to any county immediately adjacent to mine as long as I leave a message with my PO.

Alcohol consumption is allowed as long as it is not excessive.

Associations with other felons are prohibited. I thought this was unreasonably strict. There are several men I met in prison that I would like to continue to correspond with as well as guys who are awaiting sentencing and prison who reply to this blog. According to this condition, that is not allowed. Very frustrating. While permission can be granted by the PO in special cases, those special cases generally involve family members or employers or fellow employees (for example, you don't have to quit your job just because another employee is also a felon). For many guys in prison, the people who are in the best position to help them are those who they met in prison and have since been released. While the intent of this condition I assume is to prevent felons from associating with the same "crowd" that got them into trouble in the first place, there are many situations in which these associations can help inmates get back on their feet so as not to be tempted to break the law to earn a living. This condition has the unintended (?) effect of increasing recidivism, not reducing it. My PO didn't necessarily disagree, but says his hands are tied by the court.

I also have to submit a report to my PO within the first 5 days of each month. The report is attached below. While most of the questions are understandable, the financial questions are unreasonably intrusive. If I still had a fine or restitution to pay, it would make sense for the government to pry into my financial affairs to make sure I was not avoiding my debts. However, once all financial penalties have been paid, it is no longer any of their business.

What do they want to know?

Total income and expenses.
List of all financial accounts.
List of all expenditures over $500.
List of all PO Boxes, Safe Deposit Boxes, or Storage Spaces.
If you enjoy the benefits of someone else's financial accounts (wife, dependant), they want those also.
Failure to tell the truth on this form can get your probation revoked and result in another charge.
The only significant special condition remaining is home confinement and electronic monitoring which I will write about separately.

Click on images below to enlarge.


Anonymous said...

The felony firearm ban relief is kind of can apply (if you can find the paperwork) but, congress has chosen not to fund processing of the applications..........

...been there, done that..white collar, non-violent

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings surrounding your incarceration. Reading your words has somewhat eased my fears and replaced my nightmares with ... less fears and not so horrifying nightmares. I have twin brothers (who are 3 years younger than me)who are incarcerated on drug charges. It has been 3 years since their conviction (their release dates are 2009 for 1 and 2016 for his twin)and not a day goes by that I don't shed a tear or two for them. We are extremely close and usually they share everything with me but I know they leave out the things that would hurt. Those are the things that I have nightmares about .... your blogs have helped me to picture their day to day life better than I imagined.

Thank you again for sharing your incarceration with those of us with an overactive imagination. I wish you and your family all the luck and love in the world. Enjoy your new found freedom.

Life ticks on said...

You know I stumbled across this blog a month or so ago. I really like it. Some times you really crack me up with your insight into things. Other times its just interesting to see how things really work inside. (The tv thing was funny you gotta admit that!)

Anyways I am flabbergasted by the information the are having you file. Give me a break my sister-in-law never saw a day in a jail for a white collar crime and didnt have that much stuff to do. She got probation for like 10 yrs. She has to go to a probation officer and I know for a FACT that she has been using illegal stuff the entire time. Nothing not one bump or anything. She doesnt have to provide all this information either. I honestly think that it is insane that you have to provide the actual numbers to your accounts especially with todays methods of getting money stolen. Anyways that is just me I am afraid I would be back in jail just because I am so untrusting in giving out my information.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

First they give you a felony then make it a MUST that you be supporting your family by being gainfully employed? They take your ability to work and be a tax paying citizen but expect that you work? What kind of job can you get as a white collar felon? The system is really screwed have PAID your debt, I don't understand why this post traumatic treatment? White Collar is now treated same as drug or other violent felonies?

Bill Bailey said...

I am more fortunate than most white collar felons in that I am self-employed and have a business that continued to operate while I was in prison (although I was not allowed to operate it myself) so that my family did not suffer economically. I also chose not to fire myself when I got out of prison, which was nice of me :)

As you suggest, however, the professional implications for the typical white collar felon can be profound, starting with the loss of the primary job when indicted (if not earlier), continuing throughout incarceration, and then extending well beyond release. In come cases, there are licenses that are lost that may not be recovered till supervised release is completed (if then), effectively requiring perhaps an entirely new line of work.

Those who do best have extended family connections that can ease the transition and provide employment opportunities when they get out and also assist their family while they are incarcerated. (Many times the wife and kids have to move in with parents or in-laws.)

I will write about this more later because I don't believe the average citizen understands that the incarceration is perhaps the easiest part of the punishment; the worst parts are the collateral consequences that don't show up in the official sentence.

Anonymous said...

What resources/organizations are availble for ex-inmates when they are On Paper? How do they find a job? When they are trying to get a bank loan or a credit card, what does their credit report show? Can they get a drivers license?

Bill Bailey said...


Good questions but I am not sure I have the answer, but I may ask my PO.

I did not have to look for a job because I am self-employed.

Most inmates serve some time in a half-way house after prison but before supervised release begins and it is my understanding that they have contacts with businesses who are willing to hire felons. Of course, most of these jobs are hourly at relatively low pay. I am not aware of any resources that the Probation Office has to assist in employment.

I do not believe criminal history is relevant to getting credit or loans. I do not recall that question on any loan applications in the past (although the question is on some life insurance applications, much to my surprise).

However, if you still have restitution or fines to pay, you are required to get permission from your PO before you can open any account or line of credit.

Criminal history has no relevance to obtaining a drivers license (unless of course it is a special condition of probation due to the nature of the crime, such as DUI).

I wish I could help more, but I will ask my PO. Maybe I could get him to post comments on this blog! He is aware that I am doing this.