Sunday, August 21, 2016

What to expect when you're expecting a prison term

"On the path that American children travel to adulthood, two institutions oversee the journey. The first is the one we hear a lot about. College.

. . . [The second] institution is prison."

It’s back-to-school season, and we locals are feeling it here in Lawrence, Kansas. It’s generally a happy occasion for KU students, whether they’re freshmen excited about starting college, or return students reuniting with old friends and professors. Either way, they have little to fear. After all, KU offers a free, detailed orientation program.

These days, we’re not likely to send our kids off to college without orientation. And we shouldn't send our clients off to prison without it either.

U.S. Probation & Pretrial Services offers an orientation program four times a year to prepare clients in both Kansas and the Western District of Missouri to go to federal prison. The program is open to clients and their families (and other loved ones), as well as to lawyers. I attended the program this month, and I cannot stress enough how informative it is.

Among other things, you will learn (or be reminded of):
  • What personal business to take care of before going to prison (utility bills, child support, student loans, pending charges & detainers);
  • How to self surrender;
  • What to take (and what not to take) to prison;
  • What programs are available in prison (educational, vocational, religious, mental health, medical);
  • What to expect with respect to visitation, phone calls, email, etc.; and
  • How federal prisons help prepare clients for release.
At the program I attended, a young professional couple who met in a halfway house after each had spent many years in prison spoke about their experiences in an effort to allay the fears of incoming clients and their families. Their stories were encouraging, and their light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel message was puncutated by the fact that they were celebrating the recent purchase of their first home.

Mark your calendars: The next program will be held on Thursday, November 3, 2016, 3:00 p.m., at the Kansas City, Missouri, federal courthouse. If you and your client (or your client's family) cannot make it to Kansas City, you can participate via videolink from the federal courthouses in Wichita and Topeka.

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