What’s the Typical Daily Schedule in Prison?

What’s the Typical Daily Schedule in Prison?
By Richard McDonald

In prison, you’ll follow a rigid daily schedule. You must be in certain spots at certain times. Most days will be the same. So, you can expect a typical daily schedule in prison to be the norm.

Does the day start with breakfast?

Yes. Breakfast is usually served between 5:30 AM and 6:00 AM. The menu rotates between three standard items. There are grits, oatmeal and cereal. For example, in my prison, you had grits on Monday, oatmeal on Tuesday and cereal on Wednesday. Fruit and a pastry always went with the main items.

You are not required to eat breakfast. In many prisons including my own, some people chose not to eat the prison food. Most with resources lived off their weekly commissary purchases instead. Skipping breakfast allows you to wake up later for work report.

Will you report to work daily?

Yes. Everyone must work in federal prison. You go to work detail in the morning.

Departure times depend on the type of job you have. UNICOR workers leave first at 6:00 AM, and grounds crew reports at 6:30 AM. All other jobs generally report between 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM. And all prisoners work until 10: 15 AM.

Workers take a lunch break from 10:30 AM to 11:00 AM. After lunch, everyone returns to work until between 2:00 PM and 3:30 pm.

Can you have money in prison?

Any cash a prisoner possesses, even leftover from a visit, is contraband. Possession of unallowed items may result in disciplinary action. The BOP limits commissary purchases, including postage stamps. There is a limit an incarcerated person may keep in their cubicle.

A stockpile of items is a type of inmate currency. Generally, guards will disregard this rule. The exception to this is before inspections. They may also use this rule to make an example of someone.

Image courtesy of Motortion on Getty Images via iStock.

Are there random daily searches?

Sometimes. At my facility, the policy stated that six random people are urine tested each night. Additionally, six cubicles get tossed. It seemed like the policy was actually more of a random tossing of whomever, whenever.

Keep in mind that prison camps maintain a permissive attitude. If you stay out of trouble and live by the rules, then you will be fine during an inspection.

Most minimum-security staff have a reputation for being tolerant of incarcerated people. Some COs, such as those who are young or in higher security levels, may not be as lenient.

There will still be a time when you will be in the hot seat by a staff member. Keeping your temper and complying is key to getting through this. Be patient, and you will be fine. Most of the time, if you offer common decency, staff will be respectful back.

Is there free time every day?

Yes. After the afternoon count, inmates get to eat dinner (the last official meal) at about 4:15 PM. After dinner, recreation is open from 4:30 PM until about 8:30 PM. While there is plenty of free time, guards can take it away without warning at any moment.

Are there daily counts?

Yes. There are three situations where guards conduct counts. The guards are in full control. The first time is a complete lockdown during which prisoners are restricted to their cubicles. The guards often do this when they search for contraband.

The second is a “recall,” which confines inmates to their bunks or cubicles. The third type is the headcounts that take place throughout the day and night.

Headcounts occur five times per day: midnight, 3:00 AM, 5:00 AM, 4:00 PM and 10:00 PM (lights out after this count). Inmates generally need not be standing for the early morning counts.

But, in extraordinary circumstances (e.g., an escape), the facility will get locked down. Incarcerated people will get counted while in formation. The COs may repeat this count.

You can remain in your bed during nightly counts. With nightly counts, the guards walk through with flashlights.

Missing count and not being in your designated locations are serious offenses. The only worse offense is contraband possession. Always pay mind to where you are and what CO authorized your presence there.

The 4:00 PM and the 10:00 PM counts are now “nationwide” counts. They’re called “stand-up counts.” You must be standing at your bunk for the count. There is an extra standing count on the weekends at 10:00 AM.

The Takeaway:

There is a specific daily schedule that you will have to follow while you’re in prison. From mealtimes to headcounts, the schedule is set for you. Follow the rules and abide by the schedule and you’ll make things easier.

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