What to Expect and How to Prepare for Going to Prison in FloridaPublished: Oct 23, 2020 by Erika Valcarcel
Sometimes despite all your best efforts and the hard work of defense counsel, you may find yourself facing prison time after a criminal conviction. If you’ve never been incarcerated, or have only done shorter stints in jail, you may wonder what to expect and how to prepare for going to a Florida prison.
No one expects that serving time will be easy. Being locked up with your freedom curtailed won’t be pleasant. But it is manageable if you prepare properly and follow some basic guidelines. Remember, too, that if you retain Florida criminal defense Attorney Erika Valcarcel, you have an advocate on the outside who can work on any possible appeal of your conviction, a sentence reduction, pursue a facilities transfer, or protect your rights in other matters.
What to Expect
If you spent any time in county jail and now face a sentence to be served in a Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) facility, understand that things will be very different from your jail time. Those in county lockups are usually there to await bail, trial, or serve sentences of 364 days or less. If you are sentenced to a year or longer because of your criminal conviction, you’re headed to prison under the control of the FDC.
Unlike jail, where you may have a few sets of clothes and other personal items, you will not be allowed to take much to prison with you. Typically, you won’t have much more than the clothes on your back when you arrive at prison. Anything else will be confiscated upon arrival.
Another big difference between jail and prison is that you likely will be much further away from family and friends. Jail time is usually served in the area where you committed the crime, likely that is around where you live. But once you are under the control of the FDC, you could service your sentence anywhere there is an FDC facility in the state. This is important because you could be several hours’ drive away for any possible visitors.
If you are being held in a county facility awaiting transfer, likely you’ll be woken up well before dawn and loaded onto buses for your trip to prison. Once there, you will be strip searched, provided prison garb, and assigned to a cell or barracks-type sleeping area. Do not try to bring contraband. Following all the rules and staying out of trouble should be your goal to make the time easier.
How to Prepare for and Serve Time
Because there are more than 140 FDC facilities that range from work camps to high security, it’s hard to say with certainty the best way to prepare to serve your sentence. The rules could vary somewhat from place to place. But there are few general tips to consider before going to prison.
- Get your personal matters in order: Depending on your circumstances, you may have need for someone to hold a power of attorney for you to make decisions. Talk to your defense attorney about what legal documents you might need to execute before starting a prison sentence.
- What to take with you: as stated previously, very little can go with you to prison. But you’ll want to have your glasses and a list of medications.
- Remember your manners: Don’t antagonize guards or other prisoners. Keep your head down and don’t stare or ask others what they are in for.
- Look for ways to pass the time productively: You may qualify for work release, such as cleaning up roadsides, or get a job in the prison. There are opportunities to go to school as well.
- Maintain your health: Despite what movies have us to believe, there aren’t typically lots of weightlifting equipment in prisons. But there are ways to stay fit through body-weight exercises, walking, and running. Don’t forget about proper nutrition. The FDC generally provides well-rounded meals. While there is a canteen for snacks, you’ll want to watch what you eat to stay healthy.
- Communicate with the outside world as possible: You can make phone calls while in prison. There’s the option of sending and receiving mail, too, and maybe access to computers for email. Ask people to visit if they can. But don’t purchase or use contraband cell phones. You could be in serious trouble for doing so.
- Watch your spending: There’s a cap on how much you can spend at the prison canteen each week. You’ll want to make sure you use the money wisely. You’ll need toiletries and a combination lock if you are in a dormitory style facility.
- Stay away from drugs or other risky behavior: There’s drugs in prison just like on the streets, but way more expensive and even more risky because you have no idea of what’s in them. Consider as well how they were likely smuggled inside. There’s also lots of prison tattoo artists. These cost money and potentially expose you to diseases spread my shared makeshift needles.
- Follow the rules: By always following the rules you are less at risk for trouble and having your stay extended.
- Stay in touch with counsel: If your case is on appeal, make sure you respond to counsel if contacted. You may find there are other reasons you need your defense attorney, including a request for reduce sentence or a transfer to a different FDC facility.
- Keep focused on the future: Find ways to focus on your life after prison. Think about what you want to do and see if there is training or education is available. Consider whether you need to change who is in your social circles. Keep in touch with people who will be there for you after you served your time.
Facing Prison Time? You Need an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Preparing for and serving a prison sentence is a stressful and anxious time. Sarasota criminal defense attorney Erika Valcarcel understands this, and she works hard to keep her clients from being incarcerated. Even after you’ve received your sentence and begin serving time, Attorney Valcarcel may be able to appeal the conviction or work to get the sentence reduced. Your need for an experienced defense counsel doesn’t end after your trial.