I meet a lot of people who ask what they can bring, and cannot bring when self-surrendering to federal prison.
First off, don’t plan on packing a suitcase, you’re not going to need that. However, there are a few things that you can bring with you or send to yourself, that will make life a bit more easy on the inside immediately.
When you first self-surrender, you will have nothing. They will put you in SHU, or solitary for about 14 days. This is extremely stressful, especially for people who have never been incarcerated. In order to make the situation a bit more manageable, we recommend the following items should be brought or sent in.
Self-Surrender Survival List
- Your contact list – You will want to save a list with the names, phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses of everyone you can, even if you don’t think that you will contact them right away. Most facilities will allow you to bring this in with little to no interference.
- Cash – Most institutions will allow you to bring in a certain amount of cash when self-surrendering. Why? Because instead of having to wait weeks for money to get on your books, it will be there INSTANTLY. Meaning if you are lucky enough to be able to get commissary while in SHU (it’s a toss up, some facilities allow it during your COVID hold, others don’t) you can get the things you need like soap, deodorant, food, a radio or mp3 player, batteries, stamps, and envelopes. These little things will be major things when you have nothing to do all day.
- Photos – You CANNOT bring photos in with you. BUT you can send them to yourself!!! The day you turn yourself in go onto freeprints, or shutterfly (I prefer the former) and order 25 pictures of whatever it is you love the most. Trust me, you’re going to want some reminders of the outside world, and things that are nice while sitting in a cell 24/7 (that’s right, forget about rec, you get no rec with a COVID quarantine). Do this a day or two before you turn yourself in. Look up the facility you are going to, and look yourself up on the BOP’s website, specifically the inmate locator to get your number. Then go to the web page for that facility, to get the actual address, and see the formatting that is required for mailing something to an inmate (in this case your future self). Do NOT send more than 25 photos!!! Seriously. If you do they will mark it return to sender and you can forget about getting your pictures.
- Books – So you can actually bring books to prison, but you can mail them to yourself before you go in using the same method that we described with the photos. You’re going to want to send them to yourself from Amazon. Amazon is an approved retailer, and the books will be accepted. Just like in the photo, there’s a woman. Send no more than five books to yourself. I’ll show you if you want to make sure that they are not hardcover books. Some facilities allow you to have hardcover books, but if you’re not sure, then you’re best off airing on the side of caution and not getting hardcover books. Even if you call the facility and they say they do allow hardcover books, the cop that’s in the mailroom might decide that he doesn’t want you to have him that day. So always go with soft covers. My advice is to make sure that when you do pick out a book, you pick out a long one. Get one that will be able to keep you occupied for a prolonged period of time. The nice thing about a thick book is that it can also serve as a weight if you decide that you want to do some exercising.
- License – Why would you need a driver’s license in a federal prison? You don’t. I’m not talking about your ID. I’m talking about your paperwork. Most facilities will allow you to use your judgment and commitment. Or as it’s called for the shorthand J & C, you may find a different term for it, like a statement of reasons. Essentially, this paper tells you what you were convicted of along with all your upward and downward departures. Even if you’re going to a camp because you don’t know who is at that camp, you are much better off bringing paperwork to be able to show who you are, what you did, and why you got the sentence that you got. That said, if you did tell on someone, or have bad paperwork, you may not want to do this.