By Christopher Zoukis
There are few aspects of life that we hold so dear than the nearly instantaneous contact we have with our friends and loved ones. Mothers like to know that they can call their daughters on their cell phones to ensure that they are on their way home from school. Fathers like to call their sons to find out what parking lot to pick them up at when at the mall. And friends constantly text, instant message, and email about everything imaginable. This is the world we live in, and it has changed drastically with the technological revolution.
Now, imagine that your husband had a heart attack, your daughter was in a car crash, or it was Christmas night and you just wanted to speak with one of your kids. Imagine that you went to pick up the phone, but there was no number to call. Better yet, there was no phone to call. This is the exact situation millions of Americans find themselves in. Sadly, it’s not only the case when emergencies present themselves, it’s every single day for days, months, years, and decades on end.
The family members and friends of federal prisoners confined within the Federal Bureau of Prisons are a silent yet growing population in the United States. As of December 2013, there were almost 218,000 federal prisoners housed across the United States in 189 federal facilities and 15 private prisons. None of these federal prison inmates have access to a cell phone. None can accept calls, they must place them at terminals in their housing units. And none of them have access to regular email, instead they must use a restricted and scaled down service — Corrlinks.com and the BOP’s Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS) — to send messages back and forth. Their use of these communications can be prohibitively expensive, at a cost more than many make from their institutional work assignments each month.
With so many roadblocks to electronic communication, families and friends of federal prisoners must use traditional correspondence: they must write letters if they want to communicate. Even that method of communications has changed. Contacting an inmate may require using the exact mailing address, something which must be adhered to or letters will not be delivered to those incarcerated within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. While those in prison do have families and friends, it can often feel as though they are isolated from them; alone on an island of violence and hatred.
The Directory of Federal Prisons: PrisonLawBlog.com’s Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility Directory (Middle Street Publishing, 2014) was designed to connect families and friends with their incarcerated loved ones. It was also designed to provide attorneys, journalists, and members of the general public with basic character information about every federal prison and private prison which houses federal prison inmates. The Directory of Federal Prisons profiles every prison which houses federal prisoners. It informs readers of the prison’s name, gender of prisoners incarcerated therein, security level, federal judicial district, population, and if the prison has an adjacent satellite prison camp. But this is not all, the Directory of Federal Prisons also provides the official contact information for every federal prison — including the street address, phone number, fax number, and email address — and also the exact inmate correspondence address which is required to send mail to any federal prison inmate.
While observers have repeatedly noted that prison regulations concerning postal mail correspondence are absolute and atrociously rigid, few have stepped up to the plate to alleviate this problem. The Federal Bureau of Prisons certainly hasn’t produced a guide to help family members, friends, attorneys, journalists, and others contact federal prisoners. Neither have many others who have a vested interest in connecting prisoners with their families, friends, and attorneys. But we — the staff of http://www.prisonlawblog.com — have because we feel strongly that contact with a loved one is not a privilege, but a right. This is an ideal that we’re willing to put our blood, sweat, and tears into.
As Americans, it’s important that we stand up for the rights of our fellow citizens who can’t advocate for themselves. One such politically disadvantaged and seemingly powerless population are those housed within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. While the Directory of Federal Prisons won’t solve the current prison overcrowding crisis, it will help connect families, friends, attorneys, and the outside world to those incarcerated in federal prisons. And this is a laudable step in the right direction.
The Directory of Federal Prisons: PrisonLawBlog.com’s Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility Directory is the book for everyone who wishes to communicate with those incarcerated for a federal crime. At the touch of a button it enables families and friends of federal prisoners to locate their friend’s or loved one’s mailing address and the street address of the prison so that visitation planning is so much easier. For attorneys, it provides the official contact information so that scheduling legal visits or legal phone calls is a breeze. And for journalists, it provides basic character information about every prison within the Federal Bureau of Prisons and every private prison which houses federal prison inmates.
If you know anyone incarcerated within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Directory of Federal Prisons is a must have. It will alleviate so much stress and worry. But most importantly, it will ensure that the lifeline to a loved one, friend, or client in federal prison is never severed.
Christopher Zoukis is an impassioned advocate for prison education, a legal scholar, and a prolific writer of books, book reviews, and articles. His articles on prison education and prison law appear frequently in Prison Legal News, and have been published in The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, Blog Critics, and Midwest Book Review, among other national, regional, and specialty publications.
Mr. Zoukis is often quoted on matters concerning prison law, criminal law, prisoners’ rights, and prison education. Recently, he was the focus of an article at Salon.com concerning America’s broken criminal justice system and potential solutions to the current crisis.
When not in the thick of the battle for prison reform, prison education, or prisoners’ rights advocacy, Mr. Zoukis can be found blogging at PrisonLawBlog.com, PrisonEducation.com, and ChristopherZoukis.com.