Part Two: Life in federal prison means a job

Here’s Edgar, my Jan 6 federal prisoner, who has just encountered a serious prison handbook, maybe for the first time.

Edgar has received the Bureau of Prisons Admissions and Orientation Handbook, as a reward for getting sentenced to a prison term. Even before I clicked on the handbook link, I noticed the overarching title: Resources For Sentenced Inmates. Like, all sorts of promising possibilities. And prison personnel are termed Unit Manager, Case Manager, Correctional Counselor, Unit Secretary, Unit Officer…Sounds like summer camp.

Well, we’ll see.

Edgar has already faced his serious duties within his living space — clean and sanitize. Now he finds out he’s going to have a job. This is exciting, especially for one of those white supremacist militia cultists who raged through the Capitol. I mean, have you learned about what careers these guys have held? Offhand, I don’t remember any professions, other than declaring their allegiance to Trump or whoever, so job training in prison offers an opportunity.

A job might sound good to Edgar. Until he sees this (I’m using the Greenville FCI site information), which I’ve lightly edited with a bit of bolding:

After you finish your orientation period…your correctional counselor will assign you to a permanent work detail, a training program, or a combination of both.
Inmates are assigned to a job based primarily on institution needs.
Other factors considered in determining specific work assignments
include, but are not limited to: physical condition, education level,
previous work experience, general aptitude, and your demonstrated
ability to benefit from job training. Inmates are not entitled to a particular
work assignment based on any of these factors.

So what was the point in getting that PhD in philosophy? Or library sciences?

However, Edgar will be guaranteed a salary. Let’s look at the numbers:

Ordinarily, inmates may be awarded performance pay at a rate of 12¢ to
40¢ per hour, depending on the grade level of the detail. Details are
graded 1 through 4, from highest to lowest, based on the complexity
and/or difficulty of the work. Inmates who perform only minimal work
may receive only “maintenance pay” of $5.25 per month.

“Work call” begins at 7:30 a.m, not to be conflated with the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. But 7:30 a.m. isn’t too bad when you consider that wake-up call is 5 a.m.

There is a work uniform — no exceptions for casual Fridays:

Steel-toed safety shoes must be worn to work, including orderly positions
in the unit. Personal tennis shoes or loafers may not be worn to work.
Shoes or sneakers are to be worn in the dining room area.

Wow, you think this is rigid stuff? You haven’t yet seen the Inmate Dress Code:

Khaki pants and shirts are the authorized attire for inmates.* T-shirts may
be worn with khaki pants; however, either type of shirt must be worn
tucked in. Shirts and t-shirts must be tucked in during normal business
hours (Monday-Friday, 7:30 am – 4:00 pm). Either type of shirt may be
worn untucked during non-business hours (weekdays prior to 7:30 am
and after 4:00 pm, holidays and weekends) in all areas of the institution,
including the dining room. All inmates should have a label on their khaki
shirts and pants noting their last name and register number. Jackets
gloves, hats etc. purchased thru the commissary are to be worn in
appropriate manner and not to disguise or hide appearance.

*What happened to the orange jump suits?

I’m exhausted. I’m sitting here wearing an untucked flannel shirt and am feeling a bit queasy. Until tomorrow, then. I’ll try to dress better for the next chapter in Edgar’s life as a federal prisoner.

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