When Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were sentenced to relatively short sentences as a result of a college admissions scandal. Both women served their time at FCI Dublin, a federal prison in Dublin, Ca. located 25 miles east of San Francisco. The Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin (FCI Dublin) is a low-security prison for female inmates. The facility also has an adjacent satellite prison camp housing minimum-security female offenders.
Huffman, bless her heart, barely had time to blink, have a shower, and enjoy fine prison dining before her time was up and she was back at home (11 days).
Loughlin, though, had to do hard time, counting the days one by one until she would once again be a free woman. I’m sure returning to society after serving her grueling two-month sentence was an eye-opening experience as it is for others who serve long sentences behind bars—the world had changed, planes now fly around the world, we have cell phones and microwaves and color TV.
However, no matter how short the sentence, prison policy and procedure remain the same for all. It’s a regimented system that helps maintain tight control over inmates, even the prisoners whose lifestyles on the outside are gold-plated. Once someone enters “the system” they become part of the prison population. They’re no longer movie stars, bankers, doctors, lawyers, truck drivers, or drug dealers. They’re simple another inmate who’s known by their last name and register number.
Here’s a sample of what life is like at FCI Dublin
- Upon arrival at Dublin, inmates are taken to the Receiving and Discharge (R&D) area for processing and clearance by the Medical and Unit Staff.
- If cleared, new inmates are housed in the Admission and Orientation (A&O) sections of the Housing Unit.
- Within 28 days of arrival, inmates will participate in the Admissions and Orientation Program. However, if the physical screening indicates an individual has medical needs, they’re housed in the Special Housing Unit (SHU, AKA “the hole”) and are not released to the general population (GP) until the Staff Physician clears them for housing with other inmates.
- A Counselor and Case Manager is assigned to each inmate.
- Each inmate is expected to work within their assigned unit when asked to do so by the Unit Officer.
- Beds must be made by 6:30 a.m. daily, except for weekends and holidays.
- Unit Orientation is conducted by the Unit Team within seven (7) days of the inmate’s arrival.
“A Unit is a self-contained inmate living area which includes both housing sections and office space for Unit Staff. Each Unit is staffed by a Unit team directly responsible for those inmates living in the Unit. The Unit Staff offices are located in the Units, so staff and inmates can be accessible to each other. The Unit Staff includes a Unit Manager, two (2) Case Managers, two (2) Correctional Counselors and one (1) Unit Secretary. When available, the Staff Psychologist, Education Advisor and Unit Officer will sit in on a Unit Team meeting and be considered a part of the Unit Team.” Federal Bureau of Prisons
- After completing the orientation program, approved inmates will move into general population.
Rules, Rules and More Rules!
- Inmates are not authorized to be in any area which is less than ten (10) feet from the perimeter fence.
- Entrances to housing units are “Out of Bounds” to inmates who do not reside in a particular unit. Out of Bounds infractions could result in disciplinary action.
- Clothing is issued by the facility and is marked with the inmate’s name and Register Number.
- Official inmate attire must be worn while at work and during weekday breakfast and lunch meals. Inmates who alter institution clothing (cutting off sleeves or pant legs, etc.) are subject to disciplinary action and will be required to pay for damages. Blouses must be buttoned at all times, minus the top button.
- Sexual relationships between inmates are prohibited.
- Inmates must dress in an unprovocative fashion.
- Boots must be worn while in uniform.
- Pregnant inmates may be approved by Health Services to wear a jumper during their pregnancy.
- No hand holding or other physical contact between inmates.
- Each inmate is responsible for sweeping and mopping her personal living area.
- Lockers must be neatly arranged inside and out. Inmates may have one completed hobby craft item in their room—oil painting, leather craft, ceramics, etc., and one project in progress. Additional completed projects must be sent home at the inmate’s expense.
- Inmates are not permitted to possess cash or coins.
- Inmates may not retain Polaroid photos.
- Sun bathing is prohibited.
- Haircuts and hair dye are only permitted in the designated Beauty Shop.
- Inmates are not permitted to go outside when heavy fog is present.
- If any person desires to send money to be placed on an inmate’s account, they must send it in the form of a U.S. Postal Money Order. Checks, cash, letters, pictures, etc., may not be included in the envelope.
- Inmates must present their photo identification/inmate account card to shop at the commissary.
- Inmates may shop only once per week.
- Large dollar items (radios, sneakers, watches, etc.) are available for purchase – Special Purchase (SPOs).
- Inmates are limited to spending $320.00 dollars per month no matter how much money is in their account. Inmates refer to the funds in their accounts as “money on the books.” “I only have three dollars on the books. I sure will be glad when my mom sends me more money.”
- All inmates are to be in full uniform with beds made and the room ready for inspection by 6:30 a.m. each workday. On the weekends, beds will be made prior to the 10:00 a.m. count.
- Counts are held at 12:00 a.m., 2:00 a.m., 4:30 a.m., 4:00 p.m., and 9:00 p.m. There is an additional count on weekends and holidays at 10:00 a.m. Inmates are required to stand during the 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. counts. Special counts may be called at any time. Inmates are not permitted to talk or move during count times.
- All inmates are subject to mandatory random drug testing. Refusal results in severe disciplinary action.
Time to Work!
- All medically cleared inmates are required to work. Jobs include orderly duties (cleaning, etc.), library clerk, landscaping—mowing, weeding, and more. FCI Dublin operates a Call Center where inmates are properly trained to process incoming phone calls for directory assistance. They’re taught to accurately and efficiently use a computer, as well customer service, sales, and telephone manners and techniques.
- The Food Service Program provides on the job training which includes menu planning, budgeting, procurement, preparation, serving and sanitation. Inmate work assignments in Food Prep include clerical work, cooking, baking, meat cutting, salad preparation, and dish washing.
- General wake-up time for all inmates is 5:00 a.m.
Breakfast – 5:30 a.m. to 6:15 a.m.
Brunch – 10:45 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Dinner – Units rotated after the 4:00 p.m. Official Count (Unit A at 4:15, Unit B at 4:30, Unit C at 4:45 etc.).
Breakfast – 6:30 a.m .to 7:15 a.m.
Brunch – 11:00 a.m .to 12:00 p.m.
Dinner – Units rotated after the 4:00pm Official Count.
- Visiting hours are – Saturday, Sunday, and Federal Holidays 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
- Any inmate who cannot provide proof of a high school diploma or GED certificate within 60 days of arrival will be enrolled in the GED program. MANDATORY attendance is required until the inmate has achieved a GED certificate.
Time for School!
FCI Dublin offers the following educational programs:
1. General Education Development (GED)
2. English as a Second Language (ESL)
3. Vocational/Occupational Training
4. Adult Continuing Education (ACE)
5. Post-Secondary Education (PSE)
6. Family Program
7. General Library Services
8. Law Library Services
9. Apprenticeship Program
10. Recreation Program
Yes, Inmates Enjoy Reading
Leisure libraries offer a variety of reading materials, such as fiction, non-fiction, reference books, and periodicals and newspapers. Federal institutions also participate in an interlibrary loan program with local, state, and college libraries.
Special Activities may include inter-unit holiday tournaments, bingo, and ping-pong.
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 allows the BOP to grant a non-violent inmate up to 1 year off her or her term of imprisonment for successful completion of the residential drug abuse treatment program. If drugs are not a proven part of an inmate’s background they are not eligible for the program.
Job Training for Women
FCI Dublin offers programs to assist in preparing women for non-traditional jobs, such as auto mechanics, electricians, plumbers, forklift operators, propane tank filling, and painters.
Several programs are available for female inmates who have a history of physical and/or sexual abuse and/or traumatic life events
In-house mental health programs are designed to help inmates with severe emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems.