I’ve previously discussed my journey into Federal Prison Camp and recounted my initial experiences on my first day. Today, I want to dive into the lessons I learned while incarcerated.

Federal Prisons, like many government agencies, function at a snail’s pace. It quickly became evident that self-initiative and productivity would be the keys to a successful stay. You must learn how to spend your days, as boredom looms large in Federal Prison camps. I dedicated my time to learning, listening, and consistently making positive choices.

One of my early realizations was that the TV rooms often serve as a hub for drama and gambling.

Numerous verbal altercations commence there. My daily routine started at 5:00 AM when everyone was still asleep. This precious morning solitude allowed me to catch up on the news without the distractions of illicit activities or drama. During this time, I would outline emails and letters I intended to send and read my daily affirmations. Having a morning ritual set a positive tone for my day.

When interacting with BOP staff, including my unit counselor and case manager, I quickly realized the importance of organization and efficiency. I utilized their office hours sparingly and ensured that I was the first in line when I could be. I discovered that brevity was a virtue in dealing with them. Being polite and respectful yet to the point is essential when interacting with them.

I considered myself fortunate to have a formal education, something many of my fellow campers lacked.

I seized the opportunity to give back by volunteering my time. I offered free tutoring to women who were working towards their GEDs. Many struggled with writing, so I helped transcribe their words and assisted them with their homework. These actions were not part of my assigned duties, but they gave me a sense of purpose and a constructive way to fill my days.

Another significant lesson I learned was the value of hard work. My professional background was predominantly in white-collar roles, focusing on mental rather than physical exertion. However, this changed in prison as I worked in the kitchen. My shifts involved carrying heavy items, standing on my feet for hours, and getting wet and dirty. I soon realized the importance of physically demanding work. I was exhausted after my shifts, but the days began to pass quickly, and I looked forward to the days I worked.

The final and most crucial lesson I learned from Federal Prison was the act of self-advocacy.

Inside those walls, there’s no one to hold your hand. I took it upon myself to become well-informed about the system, policies, and procedures. I engaged with fellow campers, maintained meticulous notes, and conducted research in the prison’s law library or through communication with my family. 

In conclusion, my time in Federal Prison was a profound learning experience. It taught me the importance of self-motivation, efficiency, empathy, and the value of hard, physical work. I also discovered that self-advocacy and self-improvement were vital survival and personal growth tools. While challenging, this chapter of my life brought life lessons that resonate with me today.

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Louise H