Prison Life | What is Prison Like

Life can feel like it is falling apart when faced with the possibility of incarceration in federal prison. We are often asked what prison life is like and what to expect. To help relieve some of this fear and anxiety, we have crafted a series of resources that explain federal prisoner life. Whether you are interested in learning about life in jail or what prison is like, we can help.

Our objective is to answer all questions such as, “What is prison life like?” This survival guide to prison should do just that. Allow us to help you on your prison journey. Scroll down this page to find links to detailed and trustworthy information about federal prison life.

Don’t hesitate to contact us at the Zoukis Consulting Group. Our firm helps clients serve the least amount of time at the best federal prisons with the earliest opportunities for release. Book a one-hour initial consultation today!

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Prison Life | Prisoner Life

Life in Prison Help

If you are interested in receiving personalized assistance with prison preparation, please take a minute to read these pages:

You can also read more about our consulting fees. Please book a one-hour initial consultation if you would like to hire the Zoukis Consulting Group.

Our Approach to Prison Life

At the Zoukis Consulting Group, our approach to prison preparation is to help clients build an informational foundation from which to make good decisions in the prison context. The problem is that it takes time and experience to develop the ability to make good decisions in prison. To fast-track this process, you should read quality information about prison life before you enter. That is where this survival guide to prison comes into play.

An example is how to greet cellmates for the first time. A novice federal prisoner with no experience in such matters runs the risk of offending their cellmates, and thereby their cellmates’ friends, by not handling the situation tactfully. But if you spend time learning about this before entering prison, you will know what to do, what not to do, and how best to manage problematic areas proactively.

By putting in the time now to learn how to survive prison, your life as a prisoner will be far less eventful, and you’ll be able to sidestep issues before they present themselves.

Whether you hire us to help get you ready for prison, read the Federal Prison Handbook, or read the materials in our prison survival guide, you will be better prepared for what is to come. Take our word for it: spending time now alleviating potential issues down the road. If you treat prison preparation as a job, your life in prison will be much better and easier when you enter the prison gates.

Why Hire the Zoukis Consulting Group

When considering resources helping you learn how to survive prison, relying on trustworthy and authoritative sources is critical. Christopher Zoukis, our firm’s Managing Director, is a leader in federal prison information. Chris is the author of the Directory of Federal PrisonsFederal Prison HandbookPrison Education Guide, and College for Convicts. The Washington Post, USA Today, The Hill, CNN, ABC News, and Fox News have quoted him on federal prison matters.

Over the past decade, Chris has helped countless federal prison clients with preparing for prison, resolving problems in prison, and successfully reentering society after a term of imprisonment. There is no better guide than Chris and the Zoukis Consulting Group when it comes to prison life and how to survive prison.

Don’t allow anxiety and fear to control your journey. Book a one-hour initial consultation to speak with a federal prison consultant today about surviving prison. Whether you are a federal criminal defendant or a current federal prisoner, we can help.

Federal Prison Life Resources

While our Directory of Federal Prisons and Federal Prison Handbook are the best prison survival guides, our team has also developed the below pages discussing all facets of federal prisoner life. Click on each page to read a more complete discussion about each prisoner’s life and life in jail topics.

Federal Prison Basics

This grouping of pages discusses the basics of federal prison. Learn about the Federal Bureau of Prisons, read detailed profiles of every federal prison facility, explore how to prepare for prison life, and more here.

Guide to Federal Trials

The Complete Guide to Criminal Trial provides a streamlined overview of the pre-trial and trial processes from the defendant’s perspective. If you are charged with a federal crime, this guide will explain the various phases of the pre-trial and trial processes. This information is particularly critical if you are sitting in jail, contending with jail life.

Federal Bureau of Prisons

Our Federal Bureau of Prisons page provides an overview of the agency itself, its structure, and other pertinent information. Learn about the Federal Bureau of Prisons agency on this page.

Federal Prison Facilities

Our federal prisons landing page presents detailed profiles of every Federal Bureau of Prisons facility. You will find links to each federal prison’s comprehensive profile, where you can learn about each facility.

Preparing for Prison

Our preparing for prison page explains everything you need to know about preparing for incarceration. This page explains our approach and how the Zoukis Consulting Group can help during this stressful and uncertain time. This information is also helpful if you want to know more about life in jail.

How to Locate an Inmate

Our inmate search page explains how to find an inmate using the state and federal inmate locator tools. Here, you will find links to each prison system’s inmate locator databases and an explanation of how to operate these databases.

Prison Security Levels

The prison security levels page discusses the various security levels within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. On this page, you can learn about the differences amongst each security level, including:

How We Can Help

Read our page on how we can help to learn more about our prison consulting process, approach, and the many ways our team can help. Please think of this page as an overview of how we can make the prison life process smoother, more certain, and less stressful.

What is Prison Like | What is Life in Prison Like

First Day in Federal Prison

This grouping of pages is designed to answer your most pressing questions about federal prisoner life. Learn about greeting cellmates, what you eat in prison, restrooms and showers, commissary, and more.

Additionally, our first day in federal prison page explains what to expect on your first day in federal prison. Here, we discuss how to greet cellmates for the first time, what to expect on your first day as a federal inmate, and more. While specific to federal prisons, it can also teach you about the life of prisoners in jail.

An Introduction to Prison Life

Our introduction to prison life page provides a high-level overview of life in federal prison. As a summary of federal prisoner life, this page offers a quick overview of the structure of life in federal prisons.

Communicating with the Outside World

This page discusses the various methods of communicating with those in federal prisons. Here, we discuss regular postal mail, communicating with an attorney, inmate telephones, and more.

How to Greet Cellmates

Our how-to greet cellmates page discusses the process of greeting cellmates for the first time. We cover the dos and don’ts of your introduction to other federal prisoners. Likewise, this information is helpful for those experiencing life inside a prison.

Food in Prison

The food in prison page discusses what you eat in federal prison. We discuss food options, the prison cafeteria (“Chow Hall”) operations, and the commissary.

Showers and Toilets in Prison

Our prison showers and toilets page discusses how federal prisoners use shower and bathroom facilities. We discuss the differences between lower security prisons (where restroom facilities are typically communal) and higher security prisons (where private facilities tend to be located inside each cell).

Laundry, Clothing, & Bedding

The laundry, clothing, and bedding page discusses what you wear in prison and how to obtain sheets and blankets. We also discuss how federal inmates wash their clothing.


Our prison commissary page discusses what you can buy in prison. The prison commissary is where inmates purchase various personal items. We discuss what can be purchased, how much money inmates can spend, and other shopping protocols.

Searches & Shakedowns

Prison guards regularly conduct searches of inmates and their living quarters. This page discusses what to expect, the various types of searches, and federal prison policies regarding searches of inmates.

Inmate Work Assignments

All medically-abled federal prisoners are issued inmate work assignments. This page discusses this work requirement, how federal prisoners are assigned to prison work details, and more. Work assignments are a structural component of prisoner life for many federal inmates.

Controlled Movements

Most federal prisons institute a structured form of inmate movement called controlled movement. This is where the guards permit inmates to move from one location within the prison to another. This page discusses what to expect and the procedures for federal prisoners.

Inmate Counts

Inmate counts are a way of life in federal prisons. Inmates are counted at various times throughout the day. This page discusses the different types of inmate counts and their procedures.

How to Talk to Prison Guards

While every federal inmate must speak with prison guards at some point, this is a taboo topic in the prison culture. This is also critical for those experiencing life in jail. Here, we discuss the various factors you should consider before engaging in these interactions.

Federal Prison Staff

Federal prisons are managed by various federal prison staff. Here, you can learn about wardens, correctional officers, prison teachers, and other prison staff.

Prison Transfers

Our prison transfers page explains the ins and outs of transfer within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Learn more about transfer via bus and airplane on this page.

Information for Family Members

This grouping of pages discusses the information of interest to family members. Learn how to locate your loved one in prison and send them money. Also, learn about inmate telephone calls, Corrlinks email, writing letters, and more.

Search for an Inmate

Finding a loved one in prison can be a complicated and cumbersome process. Our inmate locator page explains how to find your loved one in state and federal prisons.

How to Send Money

Family and friends of federal prisoners can send money so their incarcerated loved ones can shop in the prison commissary. This page discusses how to send money to inmates in federal prisons. And remember, even sending a small amount will significantly improve a prisoner’s life.

Inmate Visitation

Federal prisoners are allowed to visit with authorized family and friends. This page discusses the process of visitor approval and what to expect on visitation day. While specific to federal prisons, this can also be helpful for those contending with life in jail.

Inmate Email

Federal inmates are allowed to use a scaled-down, monitored email system. This system operates through the website This page discusses how the inmate email system works and how to communicate electronically with an incarcerated loved one.

Postal Mail

Postal mail is the primary means of communicating with family and friends. This page discusses everything you need to know about postal correspondence inside federal prisons.

Telephone Calls

Federal inmates are permitted to make telephone calls. This page discusses how the Inmate Telephone System operates, usage limitations, and helpful tips for using a telephone from federal prison.

Inmate Registration Numbers

Each federal prisoner is assigned an eight-digit inmate registration number. This page discusses the last three digits, indicating the geographic region the federal inmate’s case originated.

Healthcare, Psychology, & Religion

This grouping of pages explains health care, psychology treatment programs, and religion in prison. These are critical prison life activities that help inmates address personal needs. You can also read our health and wellness page for answers to common questions.

Medical and Dental Care

All federal prisoners have access to medical and dental services. Learn the scope of care and how to seek help here. Understanding how to obtain medical care can significantly improve a prisoner’s life.

Medical Care Levels

The Federal Bureau of Prisons provisions medical care per five categories of care. Learn about each medical category of care here.

Psychology Services

Psychology Services provide a range of offerings to inmates. These include individual and group counseling and broader psychological programs for inmates. Learn about these treatment offerings here.

Practicing Religion

This page discusses how to practice religion in prison. We discuss the prison chapel, individual religious study, and other religious accommodations on this page.

Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program

The Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program (RDAP) is the Bureau’s nine-month, 500-hour drug treatment program. Upon completion, eligible inmates may receive a one-year time reduction. Learn more about RDAP here.

Life in Jail | Prison Life

Prison Activities

This grouping of pages explains the various activities in prison. You can learn about education, recreation, correspondence programs, MP3 players, and more here. Again, while this information is about federal prison life for inmates, it can also be helpful when contemplating life in jail.

Education in Prison

Prisoners are provided various avenues for furthering their education. This page discusses GED classes, Adult Continuing Education classes, and correspondence education programs. For many inmates, these educational programs add structure and purpose to their life in prison.

Correspondence Programs

Federal prisoners may further their education beyond the most basic levels by enrolling in correspondence education. This page explains correspondence education programs, enrolling in them, and the various options available to federal inmates.

Inmate Recreation

Every federal prison offers inmates various recreational opportunities. These often include indoor and outdoor options. This page explains the ins and outs of recreation within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. This is a high point of prisoner life for many inmates.

Radios & MP3 Players

Federal inmates have access to both AM/FM radios and MP3 players. This page discusses the different offerings, associated costs, and how to purchase songs for MP3 players.

Inmate Leisure Libraries

Libraries in prison contain many books, newspapers, and magazines. Additionally, this is a common area where inmates gather and congregate. Learn more about prison libraries on this page.

Inmate Law Libraries

All federal inmates have access to legal research materials. These materials are typically part of the Electronic Law Library which is located in the prison law library. This page explains this suite of research tools, how to use the computer database, and more.

Trouble in Prison

This grouping of pages explains the ins and outs of trouble in prison. Learn about the Administrative Remedy Program, discipline in federal prison, Special Housing Units, and prison vices.

Administrative Remedy Program

The Administrative Remedy Program allows federal inmates to grieve instances of prison life. This is how prisoners file complaints with prison staff. Learn about the Administrative Remedy Program and its moving parts here.

Inmate Discipline Program

Federal prisoners are required to follow conduct rules. If they violate these rules, they may be subject to inmate disciplinary proceedings. These are regular instances of prisoner life. Learn more about the Inmate Discipline Program here.

Special Housing Units

The Special Housing Unit (SHU) goes by many names. It is called the hole, the bucket, segregation, and solitary confinement. Learn about SHUs, what they are, and how they work here.

Prison Black Market

Every federal prison has a black market. While some inmates engage in more nefarious activities on this black market, such as buying alcohol or drugs, there are numerous regularly accepted areas of prison commerce (e.g., buying inmate-prepared food). This page discusses the ins and outs of the prison black market.

Alcohol & Drugs

Alcohol and drugs are a part of prison life. While many inmates don’t engage in these nefarious activities, some do. This page discusses drug and alcohol use in federal prisons. This is also a regular part of life in jail.

Smoking in Prison

All federal prisons have barred inmates from smoking. This page discusses the prohibition on smoking in federal prisons.

Violence & Sexual Assault

While the media regularly highlights violence and sexual assault in prison, this is not the reality for most federal inmates. This page discusses what you need to know about violence and sexual assault before serving time.

Help for Special Populations

This grouping of pages discusses topics of interest for special inmate populations. Learn about protective custody, surviving prison as a sex offender, female prisoners, and LGBT inmates.

Protective Custody

Inmates who request protection are often housed in protective custody. This page explains protective custody, its pitfalls, and what to do if threatened in prison.

Sex Offenders in Prison

Sex offenders tend to have a more challenging time in prison than other inmates. This page explains everything you need to know about being a sex offender in federal prison. This information will help you remain safe and better content with prisoner life.

LGBT Inmate Concerns

LGBT inmates often have unique concerns. This page explains what LGBT prisoners need to know about federal incarceration.

Female Prisoners

The female prison experience is different from the reality of male inmates. Learn more about female prison life and what to expect.

Other Prison Life Resources

This final grouping of pages discusses various other topics about prisoner life. Learn about the following:

  • Admission & Orientation Program
  • Legal Correspondence
  • What to Do When Questioned by Law Enforcement
  • Inmate Financial Responsibility Program
  • Federal Prison Policy
  • Special Prison Survival Tactics
  • Prison Terms Glossary

Admission & Orientation Program

The admissions and orientation program (A&O) is the process new arrivals undergo when they arrive in prison. This process includes meetings with prison staff and other presentations. Learn more about the A&O process here.

Federal prisoners are allowed to correspond with their attorney of record confidentially. This page discusses the procedures and protocols to communicate with a lawyer within the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

What to Do When Questions by Law Enforcement

Our law enforcement contact guide explains what to do if the police knock on your door. Many of our clients don’t have experience with the criminal justice system. This guide will help you understand how to manage these investigatory interactions. This information is also helpful for those contending with life in jail.

Inmate Financial Responsibility Program

The Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (IFRP) is the federal prison system’s fine and restitution collection mechanism. Learn how prison officials collect restitution from inmates here.

Federal Prison Policy

Federal Bureau of Prisons‘ operations is governed by various federal regulations and national policy statements. Learn about these program statements here.

Prison Terms Glossary

Prisons are unique ecosystems with their own terms and customs. Our prison terms glossary presents terms special to prison life.

International Prison er Transfer Treaty Program

The International Prisoner Transfer Treaty Program allows eligible inmates to seek transfer to their home countries. You should consider this program if you are a foreign national incarcerated in the United States or an American incarcerated abroad. It may allow you to transfer to your home country, be closer to family and friends, and even serve less time in custody.

Your Prison Life Experts

Please contact us at the Zoukis Consulting Group if you are facing federal criminal charges. Our team of expert prison consultants and partner federal criminal defense attorneys can help defend you and resolve issues as they arise.

Whether you want to know about life in jail, prison life, or how to prepare, our team stands ready to aid you. Book a one-hour initial consultation to speak with a federal prison expert today.