Miami Federal Prison Camp

My friend, Michael Szarfanski wrote a blog highlighting one day in his life at Miami Federal Prison Camp. Enjoy…

“One of the first things every federal inmate at Miami Federal Prison Camp is told as soon as he gets there is that the Miami FPC operates with its own set of rules within the BOP. What goes on at Miami Federal Prison Camp is unique to Miami.

Many activities that are permitted in other federal prison camps that are not allowed at Miami Federal Prison Camp. That said, there are restrictions at FPC Miami that are not found in other camps. The sleeping arrangements at Miami FPC are similar to what a bunk in a sleep away camp looks like; there are no cubicles and therefore no privacy whatsoever.

Part of the reason its uniqueness is simply the location of the federal prison camp.

Namely, it is in Miami and is actually a satellite camp for a low security prison. As a result, the population is radically different from other federal prison camps. Over half of the prison population is Hispanic; many of them from Puerto Rico itself. Since Miami Federal Prison camp is the closest camp to Puerto Rico, Miami gets the bulk of them.

Life At Miami Federal Prison Camp

Life At Miami Federal Prison Camp

Furthermore, as a result of being next to a low security prison, the camp will have many inmates that were simply moved from the low to the camp. To add to the complexity, Miami FPC is one of the few camps that has an RDAP program. The net result is a population that is less white collar offender than other camps.

Unfortunately, that means that in many ways the camp is run more like a low than like a camp.

Seasoned prisoners, as well as non white collar inmates are more inclined to not follow the rules. For the inmate at Miami Federal Prison Camp this means being subjected to frequent shakedowns, and few jobs outside of the facility. There are barbed wire fences around most of the camp, but should someone want to they can just leave. The mentality, and arbitrary rules have led to inmates referring to FPC Miami as “camp max”.

The prime benefit to Miami Federal Prison Camp is the weather. If you are going to have to spend time in federal prison, you might as well do it in a warm climate. In other camps inmates are either trapped inside or forced to shovel snow during the winter. In Miami, an inmate will spend most of his time outdoors.

Miami Federal Prison Camp is also located in an urban area which means that if an inmate lives in South Florida his relatives do not have to travel far and if he has visitors flying in they will not have to travel that far from the airport. The lack of jobs outside of the camp means most of the jobs are inside the camp. There are usually more inmates than jobs available. Whereas many camps are very strict in this regard, an inmate at Miami FPC can, with most of the guards, be able to sleep well into the morning and spend the rest of his day watching TV or working out.

The makeup of the population, while unattractive to many white-collar inmates does provide a couple of advantages. There is an abundance of inmates who are willing to provide any service. For example, when I was there I was paying one inmate to make my bed and clean under it every day. This cost me $10 per month. I had another inmate wash and fold my laundry twice a week for $4 per week. Every inmate has to have a job. If an inmate does not want to do his job, he will find one of these other inmates to do it for him in exchange for his pay. Finally, the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) at Miami Federal Prison Camp is considered to be the easiest in the entire BOP. Due to the demographic of the inmate population, the RDAP program is similarly lax, usually to the benefit of the white-collar inmate.

With regard to rules, Miami FPC is a bit of an enigma.

I have been told by inmates who were in other federal prisons, that Miami is lax with regard to certain issues. For example, there are camps where they will come down hard on an inmate who is found to have taken food from his locker. Not so in Miami. The guards simply look the other way and if they find it during a shakedown, they will simply confiscate the food with no penalty to the inmate in whose locker it was found. I have heard that in other prisons someone can she sent to the SHU (hole) for that. Plenty of food also magically makes it out of the dining hall that can be purchased. There are many inmates who even have a personal chef for their entire stay.

The currency in Miami is also unique.

It is tuna. Tuna is $1.50 in the commissary and is used to pay for any of the services such as laundry or cleaning. Since tuna is also in excess supply there is even a “black market” for tuna whereby it can be purchased for 20% off. I managed to arbitrage this whereby I bought tuna for $1.2 from the person I bunked with because he had a food store. I then used this tuna to pay the inmate who made my bed. Of course, the street value was the full price at $1.50. He then used this same tuna to buy food from the person who I bunked with who then sold it right back to me at $1.20.

A typical day at Miami Federal Prison Camp is really different for everyone, but because most people do not have prison jobs that require more than an hour’s worth of work, it is critical to stay busy. My day started at around 6 am when I would wake up, shower, have some coffee and then go pray. If there were bananas being served at breakfast, I would head over there before I went to pray. This usually kept me busy until 730 which is officially the time to start work. For most of the time I was there I was officially an orderly. Usually between 730 and 8, I would check my email and watch the news for a little bit. From there I would make myself breakfast. By 830 I was usually on the track for an hour.

I had decided that I was going to use my time to get into shape.

Miami is one of the few camps that has a full weight pile so an inmate can really use this time to get in shape. I know myself well enough that left to my own devices I would never go near the weight pile so I found myself a trainer. At 10 AM every day I had an appointment with him. At 1030 I would go back to my dorm and shower and then get ready for lunch. That usually kept me busy until 1230 or so since I often made my own lunch and used this time to check my email again. By 1 I was back on the track and this was usually for a run, Normally I would try to get three or four miles in. From 2-230 I had my second training session of the day. From 230-330 I usually checked by email again, checked the news of the day and read a little bit.

At 330 PM, the entire population is sent back to their dorms for 4 PM count.

This is usually used for down time, to read, and to catch up with some of the other inmates. Usually, by 430 the count was completed and we were released to dinner which is served was 445. Between 445 and 6, I usually ate, called my wife and kids, checked my email, and got my mail.

If my newspaper did come that day I would also read the paper during this time. From 6-730 I was back on the track for a run. By 730 I normally did 10 miles on the day. At 730, I would go get changed because at 8 PM I would usually go to a class until 9. From 9-930 I did one last check of my email and checked the news of the day. At 930 we had to report back to the dorms for 10 PM count. I would usually finish reading the paper and read some books until I fell asleep.

Of course, there are constant variations and disruptions. On my shopping day, I would work out less. If I had an appointment of any sort, that would disrupt my day. Weekends are obviously different than the rest of the week since that is when visitors can come. Miami Federal Prison Camp is certainly a camp unlike any other in the system. For some white-collar inmates, they find the excess rules, lack of response from those running the prison and the overall demographic to be frustrating. On the other hand, many inmates will say, that the weather and other benefits more than make up for the downside.

I would check out Justin’s videos to learn more about life in federal prison camps. If you are headed for Miami, I hope you found this blog useful.

Michael Szafranski”