Prison Rules: What are Major Infractions in Federal Prison?

Prison Rules: What are Major Infractions in Federal Prison?
By Richard McDonald

I cannot state enough how important it is to follow the prison rules. Minor infractions are one thing, and they have consequences. Minor infractions can cost you admission into programs. They also hurt your chances at home confinement. 

But major rule infractions have more serious consequences. You’ll go to the segregated housing unit (SHU) if you break these rules. In the federal prison camp where I served my time, the SHU was the county jail. You did not want to go there. The conditions at a county jail make a federal prison camp look like a country club.

Is having a cell phone against the prison rules?

Yes. Cell phone use is the number one major rule infraction in federal prison. If caught with a cell phone, you’re shipped to the county jail. Generally, prisoners use cell phones in the middle of the night. They hire fellow prisoners to serve as lookouts. The lookouts track the COs so they don’t catch the prisoner using the cell phone.

Prisoners buy smart phones for between $200 and $500 each. These are not iPhones. They are basic smart phones that you can buy at Walmart for around $100. Flip phones also sell for between $100 and $200. Prisoners hide their cell phones in the ceiling, under sinks in the bathroom and in the walls. They also rent out their phones for around $50 per month.

Prisoners use apps like Whatsapp so that their conversations aren’t traceable. If they find a phone and trace it back to you, then you will go to SHU. Getting shipped for use of a cell phone comes with criminal charges. The court may dismiss the charges, but they take months to do so, and you remain in county jail that whole time. You also risk a transfer to a higher security level prison. And it could make your sentence longer.

Inmate breaking the prison rules by using a cell phone behind a chain link fence.
Image courtesy of Keyshort on Getty Images via iStock.

Can you bring in any items?

No. Smuggling in contraband is a major rule infraction. Contraband includes cigarettes, alcohol, cell phones, drugs and even food. If you’re caught with these items, you’ll get shipped out immediately. Having a cell phone or other contraband is the most popular major rule infraction.

Are there other major prison rule infractions?

Yes. There are major rule infractions that occur less often. Physical violence is one. I saw this happen one time when I was in federal prison. Two prisoners were fighting over the television remote. It is ridiculous to even get caught up in such nonsense. 

Another major rule infraction is sexual assault. But, in my experience, sexual assault and rape in minimum-security settings is rare. I never saw or heard anything like this occurring when I was in prison. Sexual assault carries extra time and is one of the worst rule infractions. This can add many years to a prison sentence.

The Takeaway:

There are rules in federal prison. You should know what the rules and expectations are to avoid breaking them. Major rule infractions carry serious consequences, including transfer to another facility. You also risk adding extra time onto your sentence if you break a rule.

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