Barbara (Basia) Skudrzyk reported to the Satellite Camp at Greenville Federal Correctional Institution on June 3, 2019 to serve a thirty-three month sentence. She has been a member of our White Collar Support Group for about nine months, and will be writing letters regularly for publication on prisonist.org.
Thank you for staying in touch and being a tremendous guide during this life-altering experience. It’s day nine here at Greenville, and I would not be as strong and prepared if it weren’t for our team who have gone through the system or just started the process.
Having a space that is safe and not being judged is essential to accept what is part of this “captive” experience. I’m sure each Camp/FCI has its own culture and set of rules, but I believe there is one underlying current that can help anyone to get through this journey. This IS a journey, and NOT a destination. Through Progressive Prison Ministries we create an environment, a trust walk, that gives you the integral skillsets to manage a system that doesn’t have readily identifiable rules and guidelines.. In order to get through this journey you have to MOVE and think FORWARD.
My best advice in these nine days is to develop a schedule that develops you into who you want to be. In my case, I am awaiting orientation which will be in 3 – 4 weeks. Programming is very limited so the best you can do is request to be wait-listed on whatever you can join. I wake up at 5:30 am, eat breakfast at 6 am, walk the track for 3 miles and then read until lunch. After lunch I go to the education center and volunteer. Yesterday I was able to help a young woman write her first resume. She’s scheduled to leave in two weeks. It was a great exercise and confidence booster knowing she now has some preparation as she has to get a job within fourteen days of leaving.
I’ve sat in on the PAWS program to learn more about the process and some of the GED classes. If there’s an opportunity to volunteer while you’re waiting to be considered for a job – do it! Stay active. While sitting writing this letter in the library I observed a woman crocheting. She’s been in the system 8.5 years. I asked if she would be interested in teaching me how to crochet, so now I have another project to fill up my time.
As we’ve all been advised, lay low, be humble and do not gossip. There’s plenty of opportunity to engage, but don’t do it! If you open up your mouth like I’ve seen many women do, it’s equivalent to throwing food in a koi pond – the fish are on top of one another waiting for the bait. Don’t be the bait!
There’s a PA system with announcements on the hour. I’m trying to decipher what it all means. Depending on where you are and who the announcer is, you can get a lot of “WHA WHA WHA WHA WHA!”
Some advice that I would share with someone preparing is continue to keep an open mind, don’t pass judgment – when you’re frustrated run or walk it out. Don’t vent to anyone, just write it all out or lean on your group. Navigating a system of unknowns only gives you strength and resilience for the next day. Don’t fight the system and be okay with hearing “I don’t know” from many people around you.
Make sure you have your contact list of friends and family. You can have up to 100 contacts – 30 of these you can only email. Make sure you mail a contact list to yourself the day before you report, with full addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.
Stay positive and take this time to read what you never had time to read. I’ve read 3 books in one week! You have a $90 budget for commissary, so plan the night before on your essential needs. You can plan on two different outcomes depending which route you take: Route 1: you can put on the pounds by purchasing extra snacks and sweets, or Route 2: focus on essentials only and budget your money on communication and development. Develop a plan to workout and lose those pounds that have developed through all the years.
Just as in any environment, culture eats strategy for breakfast. Don’t try to be a super hero or someone who thinks they can change the system. This doesn’t mean giving up. Create a culture within yourself to make yourself stronger, wiser and practical.
“Walk cheerfully and with a sincere and open heart as you can, and when you cannot always maintain this holy joy, at least do not lose heart or your trust in God” – Padre Pio
Love & Blessings,
Basia (or “Webster,” my new camp nickname!)