I hopoe you take the time to read this. but I fear you're too
busy writing hatred about me instead.
by Claire Wolfe
I wrote this as the introduction to Clive Sharp's book How
to Survive Federal Prison Camp (Loompanics, 1997). This is
its first appearance outside the book.
Welcome to FFA. No, not Future Farmers of America, that
pleasant little relic of the days when America was the land
of the free.
I'm talking about Future Felons of America, the club to
which millions of us now belong. Our membership is growing
by leaps, bounds and midnight kicks on our doors. You may
not want to be part of this contemporary American FFA. (Who
in their right mind would?) But it's best to face facts; in
a country where would-be rulers, elected and unelected, are
desperate to regulate every activity, we are all law
breakers or soon to become so.
You and I, friends, are likely to end up in prison.
Worse, we're increasingly likely to end up in the custody
of the federal prison system. Activities that were once the
business of the states-or nobody's business but your own-
are being taken over by control freaks in Washington, DC
whose favorite masturbatory fantasy is that they can micro-
manage every human activity 24 hours a day and punish
everyone who deviates from their desires. That means your
chances of going to federal prison-or a federal prison camp
like the ones described in this book-are getting "better"
Here are just a few of the "crimes" that can already land
you in the federal system:
- Taking one prescription pill out of its drugstore bottle
and carrying it around in a different container. (Just
think of all those dangerous, blue-haired old lady felons
lurking in your neighborhood with pills stashed in daily-
dose containers from their local Wal-Mart!)
- Making a mistake on an Environmental Protection Agency
reporting form-even if everyone agrees it was just a
mistake and that no pollution was involved.
- Driving past a school with an otherwise perfectly legal
gun in your car-even driving a block away from a school
you didn't know was there!
- Manufacturing or selling a container that someone might
use to store illegal drugs. (Kinda makes you wonder why
Wal-Mart doesn't get busted for selling "drug
paraphernalia" to those blue-haired ladies, doesn't it?)
- Digging dinosaur bones if you're not a university
professor or government employee.
- Putting a picture of a naked lady on a wine bottle
label (unless an ATF agent decides it's "art," which
automatically makes it okay).
- Sitting in the car while an acquaintance goes into a
house to do a drug deal.
This last one comes under the heading of "conspiracy." And
conspiracy is one of a raft of ill-defined "crimes" the
feds are using as a catch-all for anyone they want to bag.
In addition to "conspiring" by doing nothing, you might be
accused of "violating someone's civil rights" by punching
him in the nose or "participating in organized criminal
activity" just for talking about the wrong subject or being
in the wrong place with the wrong people.
What organized criminal activity does this latter charge
refer to? Don't ask. If the government had an actual crime-
like murder or robbery-to charge you with, believe me, they
would. "Participating in organized criminal activity"
simply means you've gotten together with your buddies and
done something a bureaucrat doesn't like.
The feds can always find you guilty of something. If they
--The Real Reason for All Those Laws--
And that's the rub. If they want to. Because these laws, of
course, aren't designed to stop evildoers at all. They're
designed to allow selective control of people who make
waves, deviate from convention, own independent businesses,
criticize unjust authority, and otherwise insist on living
their lives as they see fit. Or they're designed to let
enforcers arrest a lot of people so they can brag about
their successes in "fighting crime"-and so they can
confiscate valuable private property under the hundreds of
new and existing civil forfeiture laws.
No one really seems to know how many federal laws and
regulations we're living under today, but five million
pages is the most reliable number I've heard. (Eleven
million pages of combined state and federal legis-
regulation.) The silly federal "crimes" above don't even
begin to scratch the surface of the pointless, harmless
things you can be sent to prison for.
And the control freaks are cranking out new crimes out at
the rate of 200 pages a day!
Two hundred pages a day. Now, obviously, all the violent,
nasty, fraudulent stuff was made illegal a hundred or more
years ago. Protections against murder, armed robbery,
fraud, rape and such are basics and were taken care of by
the people and the states long before any of us were born.
Even new technology and changing times haven't really
brought about the need for defining new crimes. Theft by
computer is still theft and is covered by laws made long,
long ago. Rape by battery-operated dildo is still rape.
Homicide by genetically engineered toxin is still homicide.
Even when you consider truly new things some government
might need to deal with (like, maybe, disposal of nuclear
wastes), there simply can't be any legitimate reason for
the volume of legis-regulation spewing out of Washington DC
and the state capitols today.
Ayn Rand said it best in her novel, Atlas Shrugged: "There
is no way to rule innocent men. The only power government
has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when
there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares
so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for
men to live without breaking laws."
And that's the way it is in America today. And getting
--Don't Expect Justice--
I know it's considered silly and na ve these days to
mention the U.S. Constitution. As Douglas Wilder, a recent
governor of Virginia, said, "I don't care what those men
wrote 200 years ago." And as Bill Clinton famously added,
the founders of this country were too radical and the
government now has to move to limit freedom. Maybe you
don't care about the Constitution, either. You, as a
private individual, don't have to. It wasn't written to
tell you what you can or can't do.
However, that beleaguered old document is still the supreme
law of the land, which every government agent has pledged
to obey. And nowhere does the Constitution give the federal
government any authority over crimes, other than
counterfeiting, treason, and unspecified crimes that occur
outside the territory of the states. Since it's quite clear
from Amendments 9 and 10 that the federal government has
only those powers specifically delegated to it by the
Constitution, the hundreds of thousands of federal laws on
the books and the thousands of new pages being passed by
Congress and their regulatory co-conspirators every year
are illegal as hell. Just about every one of them.
Isn't that interesting? Every time some marshal, DEA agent,
ATF agent or other masked, black-clad fedgoon arrests you
for a federal "crime," he really ought to be arrested
But, of course, that isn't going to happen. Because all
that matters today is power, not justice, not fundamental
principles of law. The Congresscreature who makes
tyrannical laws is never going to be forced to pay for its
crimes. The judge who enforces bad laws and lies to juries
about their rights is never going to pay for the
destruction she wreaks upon people. The fedgoon is never,
never, never going to be called to account for his
rampages. (Remember that Deputy U.S. Marshal Larry Cooper
got a reward for shooting Sammy Weaver in the back, Lon
Horiuchi was slipped into the Witness Protection Program as
a reward for murdering Sammy's mother, and not a single
agent has paid for the mass murder of the Branch Davidians.
Besides which, damnit all, no president of the United
States has gone to prison yet.)
The president of Wal-Mart isn't going to get busted for
selling plastic pill boxes to the blue hairs, either. And
it's not because Wal-Mart, that quite likable store, is
merely pursuing peaceful, legitimate business activity for
which no one in a free society could ever be busted.
Remember, that doesn't matter any more. What matters to the
feds is that Wal-Mart is rich, powerful and politically
connected. It knows how to play the government game. It
pays its "regulatory fees," its "permits" and its other
forms of tribute (legal bribery) to the powers-that-be. It
goes along to get along. Its executives hobnob with
politicians and no doubt "donate" $10,000 per plate for
rubber chicken at political fundraisers in order to be
allowed to survive in a burgeoning police state.
But a poor immigrant can-and did-go to federal prison for
making bottles someone might have been able to use to store
crack cocaine, even though he had no knowledge of, or
connection with, such use. He didn't have connections. He
didn't grease the palms of the right government
bureaucrats. So he was fair game for goons and their pet
Modern America is divided into those who are above the law,
those who manage to squeak their way around the law-and
those who can, at any moment, be crushed by the law. Like
you and me.
Don't expect fairness. Don't expect justice. Just grit your
teeth, strengthen your gut and get ready to survive when it
happens to you. If you're lucky, if you're really lucky,
you'll end up in a mere prison camp instead of a hard-core
prison, and your mental and physical survival job will be a
--Listen to Those Who've Been There--
I haven't been in federal prison. Nor any prison. I've
never even spent a night in the county jail. Heck, I
haven't even had a speeding ticket in 10 years! (Though I
did get that on the Interstate. Hmmm, I wonder why Congress
hasn't thought of making speeding on the Interstate a
federal felony-yet?)[note 1] I am your stereotypical law-
abiding citizen-or would be if such a thing were possible
in America today.
So why should you listen to me when it comes to surviving
federal prison camp? One answer is: you shouldn't. You
shouldn't listen to anybody. Any-one-body, that is. To
prepare yourself, you should find out as much as possible
from as many different sources as possible. Listen to Clive
Sharp, who wrote this book and offers his prison-survival
advice in a cool, "just the facts, M'am," manner. Listen to
Donald B. Parker, whose words appear after mine and again
at the end of this book; he speaks from three-time voice of
Listen to Dr. Reinhold Aman, in his book Hillary Clinton's
Pen Pal, who turns his federal-prison bitterness into some
of the sharpest-humored words ever written about
incarceration. Listen to G. Gordon Liddy (Will). Listen to
Jim Hogshire, whose book, You Are Going to Prison explains
with gut & grit how to survive most any prison experience.
Read Norma Jean Almodovar's harrowing, saucy and brave Cop
to Call-girl, which details her experiences in the Los
Angeles Jail and the California prison system. Read and
learn to prepare for your own future, in whatever prison
system you may end up.
Though I haven't been in prison myself, friends and
acquaintances have. They got there mostly because they
talked to the wrong people about the wrong subjects
(political ones) at the wrong time.
Some got conned by federal informants, posing as friends,
into violating rules and regulations.
Some of them got there as casualties in the War Against
A few got there because they wouldn't yield on principles-a
fatally unfashionable thing to do, these days.
As I admitted, I'm a Goody Two-Shoes at heart; I don't hang
out with lowlifes. These are terrific people I'm talking
about here. Smart, hard-working individuals with creative
hearts, strong principles and independent streaks a mile
wide. Exactly the kind of people a sensible government
would respect and leave alone. Exactly the kind of people
who build strong communities and strong nations. But
because they've refused to bow to the obsessive wishes of
control freaks, they've been ripped from their jobs,
families and lives.
- I'm talking about a Ph.D microbiologist, yanked out of
his research lab and pitched into a camp for years, where
he gets to do nothing more productive than wash dirty
- I'm talking about a good mother, ripped away from her
children because her religion forbids her to pay income
taxes, forced to watch from a distance as those children
grow up motherless, fatherless, and filled with bursting
- I'm talking about a business man, branded a "racketeer"
so that the government could seize his home, trucks and
bank account. He once employed 11 people. Now he sits in
a cell, just trying to employ his own time so that he
doesn't go nuts. His wife has since left him-as most
wives of convicts do.
- I'm talking about a father of four, thrown into jail,
wife and son shot dead by federal officers, surviving
children hustled into the custody of relatives.
These folks never hurt anybody. But they have been and are
being hurt-as you will be. They relate experiences we'd
probably rather not think about:
- They tell of being put under "suicide watch." Oh, yeah,
that sounds humane. What it really means is that voyeurs
with video cameras get to watch you piss, shit, play with
yourself, or however else you manage to spend your days.
It's all part of the process of breaking down your will,
of reminding you that your entire life is now under their
- My friends tell of solitary confinement. Solitary always
sounded like a relatively good thing to me, since I have
the soul of a monk. But picture "solitary" not meaning
one, but two-two prisoners lying on the concrete floor of
a windowless, unfurnished 4 x 10 cell, with one prisoner
screaming night and day, throwing himself against the
walls. Maybe throwing himself at you in his fits of
insane, irrational loathing. Picture being put in this
coffin-space with this madman for days simply because you
stood up for your own rights.
- They tell of having the clothes and spending money they
brought to prison unaccountably "lost" by prison
- They tell of waiting days, weeks, months for medical
treatment. (Never believe the idiots who are so jealous
of convicts' "free medical care"!)
- They tell of earning 11 cents per hour working behind the
walls for profit-making U.S. corporations.[Note 2] Hey,
not many of us are against businesses making money. But
isn't there something called slave labor? Don't we damn
countries like China for producing goods that way? (Mark
my words, this little-known, but growing, alliance
between prisons and corporations is another important
reason for the boom in prison building and law spewing.
Convicts make a handy-dandy-literally captive-work force.
And don't imagine your local congressbeast isn't
discussing this happy possibility with the president of
your local mega-corporation right now.)
- The political prisoners-those who have media and Internet
contacts on the outside-tell the worst tales of all. They
relate with shudders and fury their experience of Diesel
Therapy. Both Clive Sharp and Donald B. Parker mention
Diesel Therapy elsewhere in this book, so I won't dwell
on it. But rest assured, those who've endured it say it's
worse than anyone could describe. Picture spending up to
six months on a bus, shackled hand, foot and waist, not
even able to take down your own pants without struggle or
wipe your own butt clean at a rest stop. You never know
where you're going. You're not able to let your family or
friends know where you are. You have no way of knowing
when the endless trip will cease. You have no access to
your own books, paper, pencils or stamps. Back and forth
across the country you go, in all kinds of temperatures
and conditions, on an endless journey to nowhere-all so
that you won't be able to get word to those on the
outside who might help publicize your case. And they say
there's no cruel and unusual punishment allowed in
Even if you "behave," that doesn't mean you'll have it
easy. Simple, everyday things can be almost unendurable.
I remember phone conversations with one friend who served
more than a year in county jail while awaiting his trial,
sentencing and transfer to the federal system. He would
call me collect from a common room. The level of noise
behind him was such that we had to shout at each other to
be heard. And in nearly every conversation, there was
another prisoner, very near him, yipping and howling like
a dog. For hours. Yipping and howling at full, dog-pound
My friend endured this philosophically. I remember
thinking at the time that I would scream, myself, if I
had to listen to that much longer.
Someday, I may have to listen to that, or something like
it. Maybe listen for years. As I sit here typing this in
the beauty of a spring-green garden, with two gentle dogs
at my feet and my true love nearby, it's nearly
inconceivable. I lead a peaceful life, and I wish with
all my heart to keep this joy until my last breath on
But every day I-like you-harmlessly violate some unknown
number of federal laws or regulations. And I-like a growing
number of others-speak out loudly and often against the
injustices of an out-of-control government. So I have to
face the fact that, someday, the Sauron-Eye of Washington,
DC will turn in my direction.
On that day, if the stormtroopers of some multi-agency task
force are too lazy to find actual violations on which to
grab me, it will be easy enough for them to twist free
speech into "conspiracy" or to fake evidence of criminal
activity. (Another useful by-product of the War on (Some)
Drugs-just grab a little dope or "meth lab equipment" out
of the evidence room and plant it on anybody you don't
And on that day, my friend, when they've reached the point
of rounding up little ladies guilty mainly of having fierce
opinions, a lot of you fine readers will already be
"inside." I hope we're all prepared.
1. I later learned that, approximately six months before I
wrote Welcome to Future Felons of America, Congress had
indeed passed at least one law making speeding a federal
crime--punishable by up to five years in prison. Public Law
104-208, Division C, Title I, Section 108 says: "Whoever
flees or evades a checkpoint operated by the Immigration
and Naturalization Service, or any other Federal law
enforcement agency, in a motor vehicle and flees Federal,
State, or local law enforcement agents in excess of the
legal speed limit shall be fined under this title,
imprisoned not more than five years, or both." Courts have
ruled that it is legal to turn away from a roadblock. But
Congress wants you to serve five years in federal prison if
you speed while doing so, even if you are speeding away
from local police or sheriff's deputies, and whether you're
on the interstate or a lonely dirt track in the desert.
2. This requires some explanation. Most corporate jobs
within prisons actually pay well, by prison standards. They
pay at least minimum wage and sometimes as much as $6-8.00
per hour. Generally, they are considered plum jobs. The
slave-wage accusation made by my friends refers to several
different possibilities, two of which are facts, one of
which is a persistant rumor. First, prisoners don't receive
their entire wage. In addition to all the usual pay
deductions, they may end up with only cents on the dollar
after paying fines, contributing to victim-restitution
funds and so on. Then, there are those prison workers who
may provide some support service--such as janitorial
service--that benefits a corporation with an on-site
facility without actually being a corporate job. Third,
there are rumors that some corrupt officials may actually
take prisoners' pay. Even with the relatively "good" pay of
most corporate jobs, the growing use of literally captive
labor by U.S. corporations is ominous.