Federal Prison Handbook

Have you ever wondered what federal prison is like? How do you survive in prison? How do you prepare for this disruption in your life? The Federal Prison Handbook has the answers.

Christopher Zoukis created the quintessential guide to surviving, even thriving, in our prison system with his guide: The Federal Prisoner’s Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Mr. Zoukis speaks directly to everyone involved in the process, whether you or a family member, is facing a prison term in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. 

This guide is much more than an overview of prison practices. Mr. Zoukis speaks from an insider’s perspective from his personal federal prison experience.

Contact the Zoukis Consulting Group if you or a loved one faces incarceration in federal prison. Our team regularly assists clients with serving the least amount of time in the best federal prisons with the earliest opportunities for release.

Book a free initial consultation today to speak with one of our experienced prison consultants. Please note our firm bills hourly for time spent on client matters. The cost depends on the scope of service, with hourly rates ranging from $250 to $400 per hour depending on issue complexity and consultant experience.

“A true resource for anyone involved with the prison system.”Alan Ellis, Federal Criminal Defense Attorney and Author of the Federal Prison Guidebook

Federal Prison Handbook

“The Federal Prison Handbook is an excellent resource for individuals currently incarcerated or facing incarceration in a federal prison.”

Brandon Sample, Federal Criminal Defense Attorney and Author of The Habeas Citebook

What Will You Learn in the Federal Prison Handbook?

The Federal Prison Handbook is unlike other prison preparation and survival guide. The book is divided into ten thematic parts:

Overview of the Federal Bureau of Prisons

The book starts with a general overview of prison practices and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, including:

While an overview of the federal prison system, this part explains the difference amongst each security level, who makes up the prison staff, and who to go to when you have a question or a problem. 

Arrival and Orientation in Federal Prison

Part II starts by answering your most pressing questions about life in prison. In this section, you’ll learn:

  • What it’s like to enter the prison for the first time.
  • The different types of inmate housing.
  • The process of making telephone calls, sending emails, and taking showers.
  • How to wash your clothes in federal prison.
  • And a general overview of what life is like in prison.

This section teaches you what happens when placed into the federal government’s hands. It also further explores the different living situations you may encounter and how to address your personal day-to-day needs, such as food allergies, practicing religion, and Good Conduct Time.

Prison Life

Part III delves into work assignments, the inmate economy, and travel within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In this section, you will learn:

  • The various forms of travel, including travel via transfer bus and Con Air.
  • The Federal Transfer Center Oklahoma City experience and what it’s like to be a holdover inmate awaiting transfer.
  • The types of prison work assignments, including the positives and negatives of each.
  • How the inmate economy operates, including the prison’s commissary, underground prison stores, and how to protect your property.
  • How your family and friends can place money on your Inmate Trust Account.

Medical and Psychological Care in Prison

Part IV extensively covers federal prison health and dental care, including:

  • How to obtain physical health care and dental services.
  • Psychology treatment options and programs, including the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program.
  • Sex offender treatment programs, and whether you should participate.
  • Information for transgender inmates, including quality of life and governing Bureau policy regarding treatment and care.

Contact with the Outside World

This section discusses the rules and regulations when communicating with the outside world. For example:

Broadly, this section discusses contact with friends and family on the outside. This section teaches the rules, regulations, and practices surrounding communicating with your loved ones. This includes outbound telephone calls, emails through Corrlinks.com, letters sent through the U.S. Mail, and inmate visitation.

Personal Development in Federal Prison

Part VI outlines your opportunities for personal development in federal prison. This section contains chapters about:

The best way to think of this section is to view it as what you can do in prison to occupy your time. While many think of prison as a largely dreary and unpleasant experience, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Many federal prisoners find meaning in educational pursuits, intramural sports leagues, religious services, and various forms of entertainment. Learn about each here.

Inmate Discipline Program and Special Housing Unit

Prison discipline and segregation are an institutionalized part of prison life. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, most federal prisoners will be subjected to a prison disciplinary proceeding during their confinement.

This section explains the entire federal prison disciplinary process, including:

  • What happens when staff accuses an inmate of misconduct.
  • What to do if charged with a disciplinary infraction.
  • The various hearings and phases of the inmate disciplinary process.
  • The available sanctions for prisoner misconduct.
  • And how to defend against accusations of wrongdoing.

This section also provides a robust review of the Special Housing Unit (i.e., SHU and solitary confinement), including:

  • The experience in the Special Housing Unit (SHU).
  • Conditions of confinement in solitary confinement.
  • Contact with the outside world when in segregation.
  • The regulations, policies, and hearings inherent in Special Housing Unit placement.
  • Tips and tricks to surviving the SHU.

This section provides an overview of inmate legal activities and the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (IFRP). In these chapters, you’ll learn:

  • An overview of the law library, inmate typewriters, and other authorized legal work activities.
  • How prison staff attempt to collect fines, restitution, and other court-ordered payments.

Prison Culture

These chapters provide an overview of prison culture, safety concerns, and vices. In these chapters, you will learn:

  • What prison violence looks like, how to avoid it, and what to do if a fight can’t be avoided.
  • Prison gang culture, how to remain “independent,” and related concerns.
  • And an overview of sex and sexual assault in prison, including reporting unwanted sexual advances.

This section also extensively discusses the issues of prison vices, including:

  • Hard and soft contraband.
  • Alcohol and drugs in prison.
  • Tattoos
  • Pornography in prison.
  • Gambling
  • And how to mitigate the risks when engaging in a prison vice.

Critically, this section discusses what is considered contraband, what to do if assaulted, and many hard-earned tips and tricks. While many view prison vices as taboo, it’s essential to know the moving parts, risks, and how to mitigate against these risks.

For example, prisoners will get tattoos. It’s important to know how to protect your health and safety when receiving a prison tattoo. Likewise,  while many inmates gamble, this can be a hotbed of problems. Before deciding on gambling in prison, you should know the moving parts, the issues of prison loan sharking, and the issues that can arise as a result.

Preparing for Life Outside Prison

The Federal Prison Handbook closes with a chapter explaining how to prepare for leaving prison. When you leave custody, you should be ready to create a new, healthy life with your loved ones. That is the ultimate goal, and Mr. Zoukis makes sure that no stone is left unturned.

“[T]he go-to reference book for answering all those ‘good questions’ the incarcerated client asks but which the attorney doesn’t know the answer to because they never teach you in law school what everyday life in prison is really like. Family member, first-time inmate or experienced criminal litigator, this is a book you want in your library.”

Kent A. Russell, Habeas Attorney and author of the California Habeas Handbook
Federal Prison Handbook

The Need for The Federal Prison Handbook

Incarceration is a growing trend in American society. American prison populations have increased by over 700 percent in the last four decades.

This equates to nearly 1 in 100 American adults behind bars. One in 35 American adults are under some form of judicial supervision (i.e., prison, probation, and parole) at an exorbitant cost of $74 billion annually. This is a cost that exceeds the gross domestic product of over 130 nations.

Incarceration by the Numbers

Clearly, the American criminal justice system has gone awry. Christopher Zoukis’ research, presented in College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland and Company, 2014), shows 1.7 million current prisoners, 2.3 million confined in prisons and jails, and 5.6 million under some form of judicial supervision.

For nearly 1 out of every 100 Americans, incarceration will be a fact at some point in their lives. While more than 95 percent of prisoners will one day be released (around 650,000 each year), the majority will return to custody – they will recidivate – within five years of release.

Federal Criminal Sentencing

Federal sentencing data is just as alarming.

In 2013, only around 3 percent of federal criminal cases went to trial. Some (8 percent) were dismissed, but the vast majority were resolved through plea bargains.

Federal sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums mean that federal criminal defendants who plead guilty received significantly lower sentences than those who went take their case to trial.

Federal Prison System: By the Numbers

Once sentenced, inmates are housed in one of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ 125 stand-alone facilities, private contract facilities, or satellite prison camps. In 2014, federal prisons were on average 30 percent overcapacity. Individual facilities were more than 50 percent overcapacity.

With such large numbers of American citizens incarcerated, the need for the Federal Prison Handbook becomes evident. If you don’t know someone ensnared by the American criminal justice system, someone you know surely does. Someone connected to you or a close friend probably needs this book.

“The Federal Prison Handbook is one of my go-to guides for matters related to the federal prison system. It is an invaluable resource for attorneys like myself, prisoners, and their families.”

Jeremy Gordon, Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

Who Goes to Federal Prison?

No one type of person goes to prison. This is a common misconception. While it is easier to view crime through the lens of politics or socioeconomics, the truth is that people from all walks of life spend time in prison.

Federal Prison Demographics

When incarcerated, Christopher Zoukis would look around the dayroom of his medium-security federal prison. He saw white, black, Hispanic, Native American, and other inmates. He saw bank robbers, child pornographers, drug dealers, embezzlers, forgers, and those convicted of conspiracies of many different flavors.

There were young men in their late teens and old men in their late sixties. Likewise, fellow inmates were Protestants, Buddhists, Catholics, Muslims, Wiccans, and more. Surprising to some, he knew men who were former leaders of business and finance and those who didn’t even have a cardboard box to call home.

Providing Reliable, Authoritative Information

American corrections – incarceration in particular – touches every facet of our society. No one is immune to the criminal justice system, yet virtually everyone on their way to prison lacks accurate information about what to expect.

The Federal Prison Handbook seeks to remedy that. This book provides information for those new to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to make their stay a safe, somewhat manageable one. More than that, the text offers expert, researched advice, analysis, and information about all facets of prison life.

“I’ve never been inclined to recommend prison guidebooks, but Chris really nails this one. I’ve worked with federal inmates for over 30 years, both as a career Federal Bureau of Prisons employee and in private practice, and I can honestly say that the Federal Prison Handbook is a must-read. Chris covers all the bases and provides extensive details on the nuances of federal prison culture.”

Jack Donson, Former Federal Bureau of Prisons Official

How Can The Federal Prison Handbook Help New Arrivals and Old Hats?

This guide to surviving federal prison is a resource for new arrivals and those who have already served significant time. It is comprehensive, structured, and thoroughly researched.

Those who have served significant time understand what prison life is like. We have adapted to a world of confinement and near-constant conflict. The Federal Prison Handbook provides new arrivals with an understanding of this conflict and all other components of federal prison life. While others have attempted to do so with their prison survival guides, none have succeeded.

This handbook breaks new ground with its well-organized review of relevant policies, regulations, and case law. While prisoners can tell you what is wrong with the system, they generally have no idea where their rights end and the rights of the prison administration begin. The Federal Prison Handbook remedies this unfair situation. This can make all the difference for any period of incarceration.

Help for Those with No Prison Experience

The Federal Prison Handbook’s comprehensive, researched, and useful nature is revealed through examples of what the book does for the various groups in prison and those soon to arrive.

For the first-time prisoner, this text:

  • Explains what it is like to walk into a prison housing unit and greet one’s cellmates for the first time. It also describes what to do if everything goes wrong.
  • Discusses how to communicate with the outside world through the inmate telephone system, TRULINCS computers, and postal correspondence.
  • Explores what the commissary sells, the process of purchasing items, and how to safeguard them.
  • Suggests what to do if a fight seems imminent and explains how to protect oneself if it can’t be avoided.
  • Describes how to protect oneself from scams and other schemes.
  • Details how to locate a safe table in the chow hall and explains what makes it safe.
  • Advises what to do if you are sexually harassed or assaulted and illustrates the avenues for reporting the abuse.
  • Explains how the underground economy works and how to participate safely. For example, how to select, interact with, and pay a “store man.”
  • Notes the various methods for having funds deposited on an inmate commissary account via postal money orders, Western Union, and MoneyGram.
  • Points out the various players in the prison administration hierarchy, what they do, and when appropriate to speak with them.

Help for Those with Existing Prison Experience

For those who have served significant time in prison, the Federal Prison Handbook:

  • Provides detailed instructions on the disciplinary process, including how case law, federal regulations, and prison policies impact the process. Likewise, how to defend against an incident report throughout the issuing, investigating, hearing, and appeal stages.
  • Details the regulations, policies, and procedures of the Special Housing Unit. Additionally, it explains the privileges afforded to those locked in the SHU and how to enforce them if they are denied.
  • Explains the process of minimizing risks when locating a tattoo artist, obtaining the required equipment, and keeping oneself healthy and disease-free.
  • Suggests what to do if caught drinking or using drugs. Likewise, the book explains how to appeal an adverse disciplinary finding.
  • Illustrates the rights of incarcerated writers and those who would like to advocate from prison.
  • Lists various work assignments commonly available and the hidden benefits of each, including the benefits of access and skills offered on the black market.
  • Provides detailed information on the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ health services offerings, policies, and procedures. Furthermore, the book explains what to do if medical or dental care is denied or not commensurate with community treatment standards.
  • Presents available education services inside prison and via correspondence, including a list of top vocational, college, and legal program prisoners can enroll.
  • Explains how the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (IFRP) operates and how disagreeable contracts can be challenged.
  • Provides guidance on navigating gang and convict cultures, including how to remain independent of gang affiliation.

“This is the most informative . . . prison handbook that we’ve ever seen. . . . An absolute must.”

Mark A. Varca, J.D., Charman of FedCURE

Who Else Can Benefit from Reading this Book?

While a book about surviving federal prison is naturally helpful for current and soon-to-be federal prisoners, several other distinct groups will find the Federal Prison Handbook useful.

Families and Friends of the Incarcerated

Prison is a vastly different world with a completely alien culture to those who have never experienced it. This applies equally to first-time prisoners and their families and friends.

This book will help those who know prisoners better understand what their loved ones and friends are going through on the inside. It will add context to phone calls, letters, emails, and visits. Additionally, it helps to provide a sense of comfort through understanding.

As surprising as it might seem, many criminal defense attorneys know little about prisons. Their work tends to end after sentencing or, if it continues, is of a post-conviction variety. They don’t understand what their clients will go through or are going through in prison.

The Federal Prison Handbook helps legal professionals understand prison life. Importantly, it also allows them to strategically insert themselves into the mix when their incarcerated clients need them most.

Academics, Sociologists, and Criminal Justice Students

Prisons are known by many yet understood by few. Individuals in academia study corrections as if it is a social mechanism. But prison is also an unfortunate way of life and a state of being. It is more than a theory; it’s an existence.

The Federal Prison Handbook helps these groups understand the personal impact of corrections and recognize the ways correctional officials interact with prisoners. Equally important, the book injects a strong dose of truth into academia’s sanitized and well-scrubbed view of American corrections.

Corrections Professionals

This book can help corrections professionals understand incarceration from the other side of confinement. By hearing the narratives told by those who have served time, prison officials can improve their practices for the betterment of all.

“A highly informative and comprehensive overview of the federal prison system that will prove most valuable to anyone seeking to understand its hidden workings.”

David Skarbek, Author of The Social Order of the Underworld: How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System
Federal Prison Handbook

How the Federal Prison Handbook is Different from Other Books About Prison

The Federal Prison Handbook and Christopher Zoukis differ from many other prison survival guides and their authors. Most prison how-to books are authored by one of three groups:

  • Criminologists with little or no hands-on in-prison experience.
  • Former inmates who have spent very little time in prison, usually at the lowest security levels.
  • Hardened career criminals whose advice is not realistic or is only valuable for similar individuals.

Unlike these typical groups, Christopher Zoukis is a college-educated former federal prisoner who served significant time at the medium-security level in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He also served time at the medium- and low-security levels in the North Carolina Department of Corrections.

While Chris’s experience helped create this work, it is not solely based on his life behind bars. Instead, he approached this text as he did College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons.

He undertook extensive research through in-depth interviews with fellow inmates who have served decades. Much of this text was reviewed and critiqued by these individuals. Additionally, he engaged in a critical literature review of nearly 20 books about surviving prison, almost the entire range currently available. Therefore, the Federal Prison Handbook exceeds the scope and usefulness of leading texts in the field.

“An essential guide to surviving a world of ever-present danger – down to the minutest detail. Has the scope in the prison genre.”

Shaun Atwoood, Author of Hard Time and Prison Time

Why Trust Christopher Zoukis?

When considering a book about surviving federal prison, it is prudent to trust the author as your guide through this unfortunate and life-altering experience.

Christopher Zoukis’ Prison Experience

Mr. Zoukis has spent many years in federal prisons, where he learned the above information the hard way. He is a college-educated man who committed a crime in high school. Instead of giving up, he transformed his role of a prisoner into that of scholar, observer, and writer dedicated to fighting for defendants’ and prisoners’ rights.

His diverse experience includes surviving a “gladiator school” youth detention center in the North Carolina Department of Corrections. While incarcerated, he earned numerous academic, vocational, legal, and religious credentials despite the hardships inherent in growing up in prison and correspondence education study. He persevered in the face of administrative and cultural admonishment.

Chris has persevered and lived a life in prison based on service to others, not just to himself. He figured out who he was and his purpose during these experiences. The Federal Prison Handbook is intended to share this knowledge with you so that your time isn’t as difficult as it was for him.

Your life doesn’t have to stop while you are in prison. You can continue to grow despite everything and everyone that will be in your way. It’s all in your attitude.

Confidence is key, and entering federal prison with this information will give you the strength of mind you need to come out unscathed as possible. This essential and practical guide offers support, but it also instills hope. All is not lost, and you too can come out on top.

Chris’ Reentry Journey

Following his release from custody, Chris joined the Law Offices of Brandon Sample as the firm’s Marketing Director. Relying on the undergraduate and graduate degrees he earned in business while incarcerated, he helped the firm soar to new professional heights.

In 2019, he left the firm to attend the University of California, Davis School of Law. While in law school, Chris became an Articles Editor for the UC Davis Law Review, a board member of the Trial Practice Honors Board, and the vice president of Students Against Mass Incarceration and the Criminal Law Association.

While attending law school, Chris received numerous academic excellence awards, testified as a federal prison expert in U.S. and U.K. courts, and regularly contributed to national media outlets, including ABC News, CNN, Fox News, Time Magazine, Bloomberg Law, and other media agencies.

He will graduate from the UC Davis School of Law in May 2022, when the Zoukis Consulting Group will transition into a federal criminal defense law firm.

The Zoukis Consulting Group

Christopher Zoukis decided to found the Zoukis Consulting Group after being released from custody. The firm’s mission is simple: help clients serve the least amount of time in the best federal prisons with the earliest opportunities for release.

While a catchy tagline, the firm’s mission can be distilled down to helping those who need help. Our team is here for you when it feels as though the world is crashing down around you. We will help you prepare for prison, resolve issues while in custody, and help you reenter society at the end of your confinement.

While the Federal Prison Handbook is an excellent start to preparing for time in federal prison, nothing compares to having a team of experienced prison consultants on your side guiding you through every step of the process.

Please click the below link to schedule a free initial consultation today. Note that the firm bills hourly for all work on client matters. Fees range from $250 to $400 per hour, depending on the issue being addressed and the level of expertise required.