“I hereby sentence Mr. Alec Burlakoff to 26 months…” With those words, I was sent to a federal prison camp. Fortunately, White Collar Advice had prepared me, and having served my time, albeit only ten months, I am here to share some of the top federal prison mistakes you must avoid at all costs.

1. Thinking you know what is going to happen in federal prison

Nothing you have ever seen or heard about prison from TV or movies will prepare you for what to expect in federal prison. In fact, 99.9% of media won’t tell you what really happens to you.

2. Falling into the victim mentality

When incarcerated, it is very easy to fall into mental traps, especially the victim mentality. It will do nothing to help you get through and is more likely to leave you bitter. The sooner you accept responsibility for your actions, the better you will be for it. With that, steer clear of anyone wallowing in self-pity.

3. Complaining about the length of your prison sentence

In federal prison, you will serve time with individuals serving 10 to 20 years for non-violent drugs. Compared to that, your 10-month or 3-year white-collar sentence is nothing. To whine about your sentence in those longer terms is just asking for trouble

4. Engaging in the prison hustle

Too many first-time white-collar criminals think they are savvy enough to engage in the hustle or manipulate the environment. They don’t, you don’t, so don’t even try. Sure, getting involved may get you a better job or your sheets cleaned, but in the grand scheme of things, it is likely to do more harm.

5. Taking anything from someone you don’t know

Similar to federal prison mistake #5, any give or take with people you don’t know well comes with an ulterior motive. And trust me when I say it is never good. You will put yourself in a box, and if it leads to problems, that can interfere with your efforts to get out early.

6. Offering unsolicited advice

Unless someone directly talks to you, don’t get involved in other people’s conversations.it is extremely off-putting and can set tempers. Keep your head down, and serve your time quietly. The less drama around you, the faster the time goes by.

7. Trying to engage with staff

Many first-time white-collar criminals do not see themselves as criminals, and so in prison, they try to engage with the law-abiding prison staff. May they stand outside the counselor’s office, pestering them repeatedly. This behavior puts you in their crosshairs and will lead to problems down the road.

8. Fixating on what you cannot control

In federal prison, some people think very little is under your control. Of course, some things are out of your control. To succeed, focus on what you can control: your attitude, willingness to do the work, and prove worthy of the support of your family.

9. Not doing your job

If you want to earn an early release from federal prison, you must show you are eager to contribute and willing to do the tasks assigned to you, however menial they may be. The second you try to trade work off to another prisoner, you demonstrate a lack of responsibility and commitment, undermining your efforts to earn an early release.

Final Thoughts

Your federal prison sentence is just a blip on your timeline. People could be serving much longer sentences than you, so don’t lose perspective. Succeeding in federal prison is about turning your head around and looking forward, not backward. Avoid these federal prison mistakes and follow the rules.

For more guidance and support on what to expect during your incarceration, connect with me at White Collar Advice. We’ll get through this together.


P.S. Have any questions or concerns? Call or text me at 704-654-1604!

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Alec Burlakoff