The Injustice of Being a ‘State’ Prisoner in the Federal System

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Stuck in the most restrictive prisons

Kevone Newsome: I was placed in a high-security U.S. penitentiary, USP Allenwood (Pennsylvania), when I came in, even though my points classified me as medium risk. USPs are more violent [than other types of prisons] and are locked down a lot more. I was told I was placed there because of the length of my sentence (48 years). Yet, I saw inmates in on federal charges who had life sentences and they were placed in medium-security facilities.

Lack of access to programs

Kevone Newsome: Even when I got to my first FCI, some things didn’t change that much. Even though I have a chance coming up to get out [due to D.C.’s Second Look Act], I’m not considered eligible for a lot of programs because of my sentence.

‘Don’t bother to apply’

Robert Barton: Being in for a D.C. code offense has stopped me from getting good jobs, like in commissary, health services, R&D (receiving and discharge) and psychology.

Medical care at a cost

James Parker: D.C. contracts with the FBOP to house and care for us, but we have to pay a $2 co-pay for any sick call we make. That may not seem a lot, but it sure is when you have next to nothing. That’s why Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced her bill [in February] to prohibit the BOP from doing that.

Us vs. them treatment

Calvin Sumler: Those of us from Washington, D.C., are definitely treated differently throughout the BOP. It’s been this way at least since 1996, when I first entered the system. I believe it’s because there’s a stereotype about individuals from Washington. We speak our minds and tend to fight for our rights no matter what. And we’re stereotyped as being more violent. The BOP isn’t used to people standing up for themselves. Sure, there are others like us, but we’re more collectively that way.

Unable to move closer to home

Calvin Sumler: BOP policy says that if we’ve been in general population for 18 consecutive months without any disciplinary infractions, we’re eligible to transfer closer to home, if there is bed space. Well, I’ve been in general population at other prisons with no infractions since 2016. But the unit team where I’m at now [at FCI Hazelton, West Virginia] tells me I have to start all over again before they’ll put me in for a transfer. I showed them the policy and they refused to look at it!

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More Than Our Crimes

More Than Our Crimes

Rob Barton has been incarcerated for 26 years. Pam Bailey is his collaborator/editor. Learn more at MoreThanOurCrimes.org