BusinessMy boyfriend and I started a business out of his apartment with $2k in savings. 2 years later and we’ve quit our jobs, moved across the country, and grown the business to 7 figures. AMA!
Oct 9th 2016 by UniversalYums • 71 Questions • 3763 Points
J%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% New proof! More proof! Sorry :)
There is a post on my Google Plus account of me holding up my prison ID which has my picture and inmate number on it, there is another picture there with my face in it also. Then also got a piece of paper with my account name on it and the date.
Well, I was just in federal prison for importing chemicals from China. I had a website and was importing a particular chemical, MDMC. The chemical actually because Schedule I ten days AFTER I was indicted, I was indicted in 2011 with violating the "controlled substances analogues enforcement act of 1986", which actually charged me with importing MDMA.
I was sentenced to 92 months, which was dropped to 77 months thanks to "All Drugs Minus Two" legislation that was passed. Then I was immediate released less than a week ago pursuant to a motion the government filed on my behalf.
The security level prisons I were in were FCI (Medium) and USP (High). I was in the following prisons:
FCI Otisville (NY) FCI Fairton (NJ) USP McCreary (KY) FCI Jesup (GA) FCI Estill (SC)
I also was in the transfer center in Tallahassee, FL, as well as the new prison for the Virgin Islands, also located in FL. I went through another transfer center in Atlanta, GA; as well as in Brooklyn, NY (MDC), and the FTC (Federal Transfer Center) in Oklahoma.
The worst prison I was at was obviously the USP in Kentucky called McCreary. Lots of gangs and violence there, drugs, alcohol, etc.; but the rest of the federal prisons were very similar.
I'm also a nerd and happen to be a programmer (php/sql mostly, I've developed proprietary software for a few companies), and a long time music producer. Been heavy on the internet since the 1990s and I'm 29 now.
My proof is here:
I was inmate 56147018 if you want to search me. My real name is Timothy John Michael, and I am from Saint Petersburg, FL. My friends and family all call me Jack.
Updated proof with more pictures :)
Which country's box has been your favorite? What about your favorite snack (that came from a box)
No nipples? Not on my watch.
To whom do I make the cheque payable?
My favorite box was France, and my boyfriend's was South Korea.
My favorite snack was the Haitai Walnut Chewy Candies from South Korea, and my boyfriend's favorite was Lychee Hi-Chew from Taiwan/Japan (Japanese company, made in Taiwan).
We think it's a no brainer too. Unfortunately it's not yet the standard approach in the breast cancer industry. Make demands and put the word out, women!
Tell her that my mother-in-law had her breast cancer removed with no recurrence, had implants done at the same time, and is now so thrilled with her "Cadillac" breasts that she goes to nudist resorts all the time to show them off. And she's 70 now! What doctors can do today is even better!
My boyfriend was on reddit one night about 3 weeks after our website launched and posted on r/shutupandtakemymoney. We didn't think much about it and went to bed. When we woke up, we had 24 new orders. We freaked out. This was more orders than we had gotten since launching. That whole day, orders just kept pouring in. I think we got 200 or so just from Reddit. That day (specifically waking up that morning) was definitely the moment.
This is a very typical reaction, women double down and just want to get the cancer out, but then they end up with bad aesthetic results that affect them for life, as the majority (by far) of breast cancer are curable. First, unless she has cancer in her nipple, saving the nipple provides THE SAME CURE as cutting it off. Second, if she has a traditional tissue expander surgery, it is a minimum of two surgeries, where with the direct to implant technique we put it in immediately. Only 50% of women are given the option to talk to a plastic surgeon at all, much less about our technique, where we really consider both aesthetics and fast recovery. I beg her to get informed, or it will be extremely difficult for her to fix the problem later.
"Is it cause their SLA better then mine?"
In part... but mostly, YES!
What are your prices like compared to other doctors offering the same services? And have you had any plastic surgery done yourself?
We have a ton of traffic on our website right now, but not a lot of orders. I'm sure we'll get more as things die down and the website regains functionality.
I'm glad the idea is interesting to you! The Japanese candy ones are cool, but I'm glad that we get to do a different country each month. It keeps things fresh as we're always learning about new places and working with new people.
We are always looking to make great breast cancer care completely affordable. We now have providers that do Medicare, Aetna, and Blue Cross. We still don't take Medi-Cal.
Ha, I remember that post! Thanks for keeping my snack cabinet well stocked for the last two years. :)
I met you guys in Chicago! Love you guys so much. Who do you want to collaborate with the most?
Thank you for your business and helping us get our start! What country has been your favorite?
I had no idea that you guys were this small! I heard about you folks from TB's unboxing of your stuff and always thought this was a really neat business. How do you folks decide what to put in your boxes?
I loved your rendition of Trouble, which you sang on one of the nights (cant remember which one exactly). I was rooting for you all the way! Did you realize how tough and messed up the music industry would be once you got your foot in the door? Does it feel better now that you're independent?
what are your top 5 favorite snacks? i saw bissli. i love bissli!
I am LOVING every song on the new album. When will you be releasing your tour dates? I will see you Saturday in Costa Mesa.
What's your best advice for someone starting a new business , with very little cash, like yourselves?
how do you deal with people who pretend to be you? I'm pretty sure I've been catfished by you guys before but I was too gullible to realize it 😂
Holy shit you played DnD in prison? What in the fuck was your character and the characters of your mates? This is so so incredibly important for me to know
Learn how to do everything yourself, unless you absolutely cannot. We outsourced almost nothing, and in addition to saving us money it allowed us to make better decisions about how to outsource it later.
There was a thread on another subreddit (maybe /r/dnd) about playing RPGs in jail and the main thing I took away from that is how you would have to use improvised dice because real dice aren't allowed. What did you use for dice in there?
We didn't have strict times when we worked, but we did fall into a basic schedule. To be honest, at the beginning we worked every single day for at least 10 hours. We did not find that to be sustainable and have since cut back, but hard work is inevitable.
I really love you as musical duo, and have since your audition. You are so considerate to each other vocally, and that really is like a unicorn and almost impossible to find. What are some other vocal duos you think work together at a similar level of compatibility? Who's your inspiration?
Are there any prisoners that get special treatment, I'm thinking along the lines of goodfellas where they are eating sausages and drinking wine?
We've had some customers that have been with us since the very first box, and some that just sign up for one box and then cancel.
While I can't provide the exact number, I will say that most people either cancel within the first 1-2 months, or they stick around for at least a year. A lot of our customers try the snacks as an activity with other people (their family, their co-workers, their SO, etc.). So once you make it a routine/tradition, you stay subscribed for a while.
What were the biggest challenges in scaling from $10,xxx > $100,xxx > $1,xxx,xxx?
What do you anticipate biggest challenges being going forward?
What are you doing now?
We send our customers snacks and candies from a different country each month. The snacks come with a 12-page booklet that has a ton of cool stuff like trivia about the country, descriptions of the snacks and their history, interesting pieces of culture, and a riddle to the next featured country!
I write the card every month and it's one of my favorite parts of the job :)
My wife and I are agonizing on whether or not to start up our own business. It's scary as hell and I commend you both on going through with it. My question is at what time did you know it was right to leave your job to dedicate all of your time to your own business?
Edit: lots to consider here. Lots more than I had thought. I feel like this is something we'll still go through with but head into it with a much slower attitude. Thanks for the reply OP and thanks for the warnings and encouragement alike from the rest.
I for one am VERY glad you auditioned for Xfactor, other wise I am not sure when I would have discovered you both. I love your voices together pure magic.
It's a very difficult decision! While my boyfriend and I don't regret starting the business together, we both agree that we wouldn't want to start a business together again. It is very taxing on our relationship.
Our tipping point was when we were making enough money from the business to pay our bills. We focused on reducing our living expenses as much as possible. The business was growing so even though we were taking an initial pay cut, we were confident it would end up being a smart decision.
Congrats first of all!
These 7 digits are, I believe, the revenue. What about your net profit?
Are you planning on investing into the company or investing in assets?
Is prison rape as common or as big of an issue as people are led to believe?
Yes, the 7 digits is revenue. The business has been profitable since we started it. We are now able to take out enough money to live comfortably, and we invest everything back into the company.
In terms of investing in the company, this is a mix of infrastructure and advertising. Infrastructure being things like making our website better, buying equipment for our warehouse, etc. Advertising to grow our customer base.
Nah, but there is a lot of homosexual stuff always going on. It isn't like the 80s and 90s with the raped, but there are a lot of "sissys" and "punks" as they call them. You're much more likely to be propositioned for somebody to pay you to suck your dick than the other way around, don't ask me why, it seems like everybody in prison is a bottom, lol. I'm heterosexual for the most part, so I didn't mess with any of that, but it is not what it is portrayed like on tv or movies. There is also a big transgender fad in the prisons now and they let them buy bras and panties and perfume and stuff. X_X
How did you produce your first few boxes?
Apart from the sacrifice of time involved, what surprised you most about starting your business?
This is a pretty personal question so please tell me if it's something you wouldn't want to answer, but you said you're heterosexual "for the most part." Would you elaborate on that? Did you have the same preferences before being locked up?
For the first few boxes we worked with importers who had already brought the product into the US. We spent a lot of time on Google finding them, and then called them up to start doing business. We got their catalogs, then spent a lot of time researching all the products and getting samples. Then we decided what items to include.
When we ordered the products we had them delivered to the UPS store. We picked up all boxes of snacks after work and drove them to my boyfriend's apartment. Then we assembled everything from Friday after work until Sunday night. We stayed home from work the next day for the USPS package pickup.
In terms of what surprised me... I wasn't sure what to expect when working with international suppliers. Many of them have gone out of their way to help us by explaining parts of their country's culture and food. I didn't expect that in a business setting and have been pleasantly surprised!
I mean, I'm heterosexual, but I'm open to the idea that anybody could potentially be the right person for me, just so happens I've never met any guys or anything that interest me in that way, but I'm very open minded. Just so happens I almost always have a girlfriend, lol. I think everybody is somewhat bisexual, in a sense, I mean, everybody should find themselves attractive, and at the end of the day, isn't that kind of technically homosexual? I dunno, I might just think about it too technically in the syntax.
There's a good bit from Ron White about how everyone is at least a little gay...
Brother-In-Law: Gay people are an abomination! Him: Well, do you watch porn? Brother-In-Law: Hell yea I watch porn Him: Is it always two women? Brother-In-Law: No, I'll watch a man and a woman make love! Him: Well do you like the guy to have a limp, flaccid penis? Brother-In-Law: HELL NO I LIKE BIG HARD THROBBING CO.................... Him: There ya go
rofl I think this is the best comment in this thread wtf lol.
How much were you making at your corporate job? How much are you making now?
How did you learn the culture in prison and how it worked in there socially? Did you already know some stuff before entering, or you had to learn completely from scratch?
We were both making about $70k at our corporate jobs. We're making more now but we invest a lot of it back into the business.
Edit: To clarify, we are better off financially than we would have been staying at our corporate jobs. But if you factor in how much more work it is to run the business we're probably making less money per hour than we were at our corporate jobs.
Eh, I learned as I went for the most part. Socially it is a very different atmosphere, but just imagine the high school you went to, the locker room with all the jocks, except for they are all drug addicts and/or murders and there are no teachers around, and that is like the social situation for the most part. A lot of pranks and stuff and I talked to some military guys and you'd be surprised the parallels between the military and prison, socially.
What kind of contract did you and your boyfriend set up? Is it own 50/50 by you two? How has it affected your personal relationship with each other? What happens if you two want to take the company in very two different approaches? I'm asking because everything on reddit says not to mix personal and business together. So what's your secret to making it work?
How hard was it to get drugs? And what were the typical rates?
We both signed an operating agreement when we first started the business. It is owned 50 / 50 by me and my boyfriend.
There have been many, many times when we've disagreed on a business decision. The best way we've found to handle it is to explicitly separate what the other person "owns". As an example, my boyfriend handles all of our operations, so he gets to make the ultimate call on anything that's related to our operations.
After working together for two years, now I can definitely understand why it's discouraged to mix business and personal. However we also have shared a lot of great moments together and always have each other's back. He understands any sort of stress that I'm experiencing and overall, I would say it's made our relationship much stronger.
The main drugs in prison, illegal ones, are heroin, suboxone, "toonchie" (they spray synthetic canabinoids on paper and cards), spice, and then weed of course.
The rates vary depending on the prison, but a small little quarter inch by quarter inch square of toonchie is about $8 and you can get high twice.
Suboxone strips go from $40-$300, depending on where and how much you buy at once. Generally a 1/16 or a 1/8 goes for $8 and guys snort it with water into their nose.
Weed is like $4-$8 for a very small pinner joint.
I never really knew the prices on the other stuff like heroin or meth and stuff when that would come around. When I was in Jesup, GA, there was a ton of cell phones and they had spice there almost as cheap as on the streets.
How do you get the snacks/candies from various countries? I know most English stores I go to mark up like crazy, supposedly due to import costs, so how do you keep the cost down and affordable to make it profitable to send out all these snacks, especially when you first started?
How do they decide to drug test an inmate? Randomized or routine for all? What happens if you fail a drug test--and do the consequences vary depending on the drug (ie failing for heroin vs weed)?
Thanks, and good luck/best wishes with your life going forwards.
When the business first started, we paid a lot for the products, but our advantage was that we could keep our overhead super low. Our rent in our first office space was $300 / month and we weren't paying ourselves at first. A storefront will never be able to start off with such a low overhead.
As the business has grown, our overhead has grown, but we now often receive volume discounts on the products we purchase or we set up payment terms that allow us to receive a discount (ie. paying for the full order upfront).
They have two versions, "suspect", which is usually somebody told on them, or random. If you fail a drug test, you go on a hot list and get a random test once a month. If you fail a test for one thing it is just as bad as another and the same as a refusal. The disciplinary system is called a "shot", the most severe shot, 100 is killing another inmate. 203 is fighting. 300 series are for like, you were not were you were supposed to be and such. 100 series is very serious, and drug test failure/refusal, it doesn't matter if it is for heroin or weed or anything, even a medication not prescribed to you, it is a 110 I believe or a 113, one is a possession the other is failure of drug test. That gets you a lot of security points and stays with you for up to 10 years in the federal prison system. If you are in a camp, you'll go to a low, low to an FCI and from an FCI, most likely to a USP, those are the security levels.
So, to answer you question, like I said, the drug doesn't matter. If somebody says you are abusing a seizure medication like say, tegretol, which people get high on, they test your urine and if they find it, you get in the same trouble as if you had heroin in your system (unless it is a medication you are prescribed, then it is just a misuse of medication charge, with is a 300-series incident report, which has very minor consequences).
100 series incident report you can also lose good times, you're going to lose on average 48 days or more that you'll have to spend in prison and you'll also likely lose some privileges for 6 months, like your commissary or your phone or your email, or visitations.
Also, if you fail for multiple drugs, it is still the same thing, dirty urinalysis result, so that is why, a lot of guys doing drugs in prison, they are taking whatever and whenever, because the consequence is the same if you fail for weed, or fail for weed, heroin and cocaine (which you can't really find in prison, but just for example) at the same time.
How do you feel about this man eating your snacks and thousand watch him eat them?
Why is cocaine unavailable when all those other drugs are?
We are very appreciative of TB. They just started making those videos - we never even talked to them about it. It obviously brought in new customers for us, and we are very grateful. Also, I think the videos are pretty funny.
I think because the amount you have to do is larger and it is harder to get in through visitation and other methods. Heroin, people are addicts so they find a way to get it in and marijuana and stuff I often think comes from corrections officers.
Thank you for doing this. I am just starting out in ecommerce and am just finishing building my shopify site. My question to you is, what forms of marketing did you use other than reddit? Did you 2 learn to use facebook ads? SEO? What would you say was the best form of marketing regarding sales? Thanks a ton!
God I feel so old (mid 30's) because I don't even know what some of these drugs are....
Congratulations! We've had a lot of success marketing our product on YouTube by partnering with content creators that have a good number of subscribers. We send them the box, they try the snacks on camera, sometimes we give them compensation beyond the free snacks depending on how big they are.
We've experimented with FB Ads but haven't had a huge amount of success with it. SEO is important for every business, although we haven't spend a ton of time perfecting it (not a lot of people are searching for our product and stumble across it).
What kind of product(s) are you selling? I can recommend some advertising channels once I know!
Don't feel old, just some people are out there looking for that stuff, and it has been popular for about the last ten years, the synthetics, so if you were not really into that type stuff, the drugs don't just seek people out lol. I know many people older than you who know what they are and many more younger that don't.
Im selling fitness products aimed towards the more serious lifter. So weight lifting belts, straps, chalk, knee wraps etc. I know this is probably a little too niche, so I also decided to add athletic clothing, like muscle shirts, compression shirts, and yoga pants / workout tops for women. Do you think this is doable? Im quite new to this world, but was laid off from work due to the oil recession and really want to see if I can be successful and someday work for myself like you have done. Once again thank you kindly for the reply :)
What were some of the moments in prison that stuck out as a great display of humanity between people all stuck in a shitty situation? Were there any? Any other positive experiences you'd like to share from your time incarcerated?
My first suggestion would be to create your own brand and try to sell as many branded products as you can. This is very important in this day and age. Even if you can't afford to get your logo onto everything you're selling, start by using stickers.
In terms of advertising - you should teach yourself a lot about google adwords. People search for what you're selling, and if you can find the right terms you can make good money selling to them.
Also, to get started you'll want to find bloggers/YouTubers/Instagrammers/etc. in the fitness niche. Ask them to review your product in exchange for giving them the product for free. The smaller accounts will do it.
Oh yeah, there were tons, I mean, you really see people come together and look out for each other. A common practice at many prisons is, like, if you are from New York say, and you get somewhere, you get a care package, and it usually doesn't have to be paid back. Your other people from New York will make sure you have soap and a bowl and some food and all the other essential things you need.
I rarely seen people going hungry or anything or at a want for something, because there are always store men and stuff that will lend you out a line of credit to pay back in a week or a month or however long it would take. So when it comes to hospitality and things like that, prisoners are surprisingly more positive than you'd imagine towards one another.
There are a few instances that stick out in my mind, but the last place I was at, Estill FCI in SC, there was a lot of sex offenders and stuff there and those guys, some of them have a charge like they were 19 with a 17 year old girlfriend who sent them nude photos, so now they are in prison and most prisoners are not trying to look past what the charge was (possession of child pornography), but there was a real good group of guys where I was at who essentially took all the misfits and the geeks and the people who were weaker in the prison system into their fold and made sure to get time for them on the rec yard and in the library and other stuff and I ended up becoming good friends with some of the people who started their group, they even had commandeered a few tvs (precious commodities) and specific tables in the chow hall. A lot of people in that group didn't actually have messed up charges or anything, but they were people that would be overlooked or outcast as social pariahs by the other primary groups, but they had a home with those guys and it was one of the best things I seen, the friendships they had and the way they watched one another's backs and made sure to stick up for each other and make sure everybody always got gifts on their birthdays, etc.; which, in prison that can be a big thing.
Did we just crash your site? I was so excited to gift one. Should we check back tomorrow or have we taken all your nomnoms now?
What sort of presents would you get on your birthday?
Yes you did, haha. We're trying to get it back up now but if not then sure, please try again tomorrow.
Food stuffs mostly, cakes and stuff people would make, candy, maybe a book or magazine or two, people make you cards and stuff also.
Is prison anything like on TV/movies where you gotta show your "worth" as soon as you arrive so the other inmates wont treat you like garbage?
And would you say the American prison system helps at all at reeducating criminals or it's just a place where you send people to be punished and they usually come out worse than they entered?
Last question, how were the guards like? Professional, self righteous assholes or friendly?
Sorry for too many questions, always had these doubts.
Oh man, that's hard to remember. A lot of them were basic ideas - starting a store on Etsy, going to garage sales and reselling stuff on eBay.
I did have one idea that was similar to what we ended up doing... When I was in college, my friends and I would go to the grocery store and buy every brand of a product. Like, we would buy 8 brands of peanut butter. Then we would put them all in unmarked containers and do a taste test. We thought it was fun, and then we knew what to buy when we went to the store. I wanted to recreate this idea for people by sending them the samples in the mail in unmarked containers. We lost excitement for the idea when we realized that no one would pay for this - the real value was in getting the data back from people and selling it to stores or distributors or manufacturers. That just wasn't a route we were interested in pursuing.
First: in USP you have to show your paperwork, to prove you aren't a child molester or a snitch or a check in or a gang drop out. So, in a way, yeah, but people take you on your word in prison. Word is bond and that is all you got, so if you go around sputtering nonsense and not living up to what you say, then you wont last long.
The american prison system is garbage and it does not help you at all, most people leave much worse. There are not really any good programs for people trying to better themselves and they do try to make guys get a GED and stuff, but even guys fuck that off and there are loopholes around it.
The guards were much better than you'd imagine, you got a few bad apples, the higher security places, they leave you alone and treat you with a lot of respect. For the most part, all the prison staff know the places are fucked up and just do their best to try and make sure everybody survives from one day to the next.
What countries candy did you start with? How did you chose what country would be next months box?
Do you backlog previous boxes for new customers or does everyone get the current month?
How do you avoid sending repeat items to people?
Thanks for answering, very interesting. Some things I got right but didn't expect people in prison to behave under an honesty rule or guards to be friendly.
Guess it's better that way, without honesty everybody there would be at each others throats 100% of the time and asshole guards would be collectively hated, making everyone miserable.
Sucks to know about how much prisons suck, it's the same way in my country and then you get petty thieves coming out as blown out criminals. I don't see it changing anytime soon, between the people's mentality of "That guy broke the law and now he's gotta suffer!" instead of trying to make them better and the close to zero attention the government gives to the system (also the thing about private prisons) seems like it's gonna be this way for a long time.
But hey, here's hoping.
The first country we did was Germany.
We try to plan the countries so that we mix up regions of the world (e.g. An Asian country, then European, then South American, etc.). We also do more Asian and less European countries in the summer, because we can't ship chocolate.
Everyone gets the current month. We would like to eventually have all the boxes available all the time, but it really takes a lot of customers for this to work. You have to continuously source products from all over the world while keeping track of expiration dates so you don't send expired product. It's something to work toward, though!
So far we've sent out boxes from 22 different countries. We've only repeated one country (we did Brazil again for the olympics in August). Obviously, we will eventually have to repeat some countries. When we do this we'll look for different products so that even though the country is the same, the products are new.
Yeah they have two rules in USP, one is called "Hands Off Policy", that means, for the most part, only your own people can jump on you. So if you are a Florida guy and you run up a debt, they go to your people. Your people might pay it once, but then they jump you and "check you in", off the compound. Stuff like that, so you don't have to worry about rival gangs or anything too much.
They also have "hands laid, debts paid", which is where, if somebody owes you money and you fight them, the debt is considered null and void.
There is animosity between the guards and the inmates in the USP, but it is usually kept to a minimum. Even with the inmates, there is kind of unspoken rules and most of the time, if you give respect, you get it.
Long-term, do you believe your Yum boxes will be able to get you through to retirement? I love the idea of your product, but as with most things, it can be tough to see sustained sales/growth, soon guess, I'm mainly wondering if you have any thoughts you'd share about your "next steps"?
Are there any tiny rules or more things that are socially different in there? Such as not backing down, not making eye contact, not talking about other guys, rules for the prison market, managing how you were seen when interacting with other inmates, guards, social workers or just anything similar to those things?
I am not sure if we will work on this business all the way into retirement. One of the things I've enjoyed about leaving my corporate job to start this business is that I have control over my own destiny. Part of what's awesome about that control is that I can decide that I don't want to do this anymore. Of course, I'm not going to do that right now, but it's nice to know that I could.
In regards to the longevity / "next steps" of the business, we have a lot of ideas! Most notably, we'd like to begin selling the individual snacks that we featured in past boxes. We have a lot of customers who try the snacks and then want more, but can't find them anywhere (many are not sold online). We don't want to deprive them of that!
There are a few, but they are kind of arbitrary and vary from one person to the next and one yard to the next. In general, backing down can be seen as a smart thing or a cowardly thing, depending on who is judging you and what your reasons may have been.
What are some examples of business mistakes you and your boyfriend made these past two years and how did you learn from them?
What's (who's) a 'check in'?
Haha, so many...
We had a hard time transitioning from doing everything ourselves to outsourcing pieces of work. By extension, we also waited way too long to hire our first employee. We ended up feeling like were behind constantly because we didn't take anything off our plates.
A lot of mistakes came from us being totally new to the industry (eCommerce and imported food). We didn't know how to communicate with suppliers, how to negotiate terms in contracts, etc. Lots of small mistakes there.
Somebody who goes to the SHU (Secure Housing Unit / Special Housing Unit) that is essentially the hole, either because they don't want to pay a debt or are scared of somebody, or something like that. It is a bad reputation to have to do that, because federal prisoners do have email and communicate between prisoners, so whatever you do one place, always catches up with you eventually. Sorry for not clarifying.
Did you ever get into any fights or anyone ever try to attack you?
Yeah, well in the county jail you can fight all the time it is no big deal and I had to be there going to prison. Then in NY I fought my celly almost immediately because he dropped a kite/note on me and then tried to get me out of the cell and when they wouldn't move me, tried to put his shoes on (which indicates somebody wants to fight), so I fought him. The only other fight I really had was in the USP with one of my best friends, lol. for the most part, people left me alone, I'm like 6'3" and 220, at one point in prison I was like 250lbs and I'm very energetic guy and grew up a rough life and used to fight a lot. I only do it as a last resort. There really is no "winning" a fight in federal prison, you can get in a lot of trouble and it jacks your points for your security level way up.
Well, my best prison friend, lol. When you live around somebody essentially 24/7, I'm sure you can see how that leads to heated arguments and fights over dumb shit, it is the same on the streets if you hang around a best friend too much.
What did you miss the most while you were in prison? Also, did you gain any new hobbies to pass time?
Yeah I learned to bead lol but mostly I just typed for other inmates, legal work, grievances, and books that they'd write down. The typewriters are very shitty though, you can get paid about $1 per page to type.
I missed the internet the most, of course.
What, if you had one, was your scariest moment in McCreary?
Hmm, just about every day, you never know when people might jump on you, I would say I seen two gangs riot against each other in the main chow hall around December of last year though, two aryan gangs, ARM and AC, and it was literally a massive melee and the police couldn't even control it, they were screaming they needed more people and everything and started pepper spraying the entire chow hall and we were all trapped in there. Seen some people beat really bad. Besides that, another time I walked by a tv room type area and heard somebody getting killed in there and the sounds gave me chills for a long time, I didn't actually see it first hand because I minded my business and kept going, but it was one of those things, hearing someone choking to death isn't pleasant.
I'm sorry to hear that McCreary is so bad as have a former client there now. He's relatively young and I've been sending him some books here and there to keep him sane and give him a link to the outside world. Do you have any particular advice I can relay to him or any books or anything like that I can send him to help him get through it?
Just try and get him to get moved to the Yellow side. I was on the Blue side and it is a hell hole. The Yellow side has a medical unit, an old man unit, a recycling unit and a Challenge program, which is a load of trash but it can help him get out of that prison to a better location. Tell him to avoid fights, it adds too many points to your custody rating, you get 5 alone for the fight and another 2-3 for the incident report and other things that happen after to your living skills and programming.
Oh wow, and did you have anyone to talk to while you were there, inside or outside of the prison? I can't imagine having an experience like that and having to keep my thoughts to myself
Yeah we have an email system called trulincs to keep in contact with family and I used phone a lot and made a lot of prison friends.
Holy Shit. My dad worked at USP McCreary for years. Just retired about 4 months ago. Small small world.
Wow I might know him, did he used to be a compound lieutenant? I wont say his name, but kind of bigger older guy, really relaxed attitude, bit of a bear, but not really? I know there was a lieutenant there when I was there that was getting ready to retire.
1.Did you feel genuinely bad for anyone while you were in there? Did you believe any sob stories of "oh I didn't do it".
2.How would you improve incarceration? (left open ended on purpose)
3.How much money were you making before?
4.Say you did go back to selling drugs, would being a felon make it harder or not? Any street cred?
5.Spend any time in solitary? If so what did you do to pass the time?
6.What did you do to pass the time normally?
7.Make any friends?
8.Were you allowed to work? If so what did you do, what did you like, what did you hate? Any jobs they wouldn't let you do?
9.What was the worst story you heard in prison?
10.What story you heard made you the happiest?
1.) Yeah, there were a few people like that where I'd read their case work and be like omg this person really is innocent, lol.
2.) there are a ton of ways, but I think sentencing reform would go a long way. Inside, I'd say more programs would help.
3.) A lot. I'd buy a kilogram for $2000 and sell grams for $40-$120. Or the whole thing for $10-$20,000
4.) Yeah it would be easy because of the street cred, but dumb and stupid because of the risk.
5.) I did time in solitary when I got in trouble and all you can do is read books and listen to the radio. Ground Zero and Coast to Coast for the win!
6.) I typed a lot and listened to my mp3
7.) Yeah, a ton, all over.
8.) You can work, but like kitchen job, pick up trash, landscaping, I did all that type stuff, clean the unit, etc.; You can even be electician and plumber in there but they don't pay much, $50-$80 is considered a big amount.
9.) Hmm, I dunno, some of the things people did to get there. One guy had a picture on his wall of the skeleton they found in his murder case.
10.) Shit, the one where they told me I was getting immediate release lol :)
The feds feed you good except in a usp, you don't get a dinner meal they bring a styrofoam tray to the unit, baloney sandwich every other day. Most the FCI are good though, you got a hot bar and a cold bar most the time and can eat as much as you want. They call it FED for a reason. You also get canteen and can buy all kinds of crazy stuff and got microwaves in most the units where you live.
What are your current job prospects like? Are there programs to help reintegrate convicts into society, and if so how effective are they?
Well, you know they just refer you to the state programs and stuff, job core and work force and stuff. I'm trying to get back into programming and have contacted a few companies I used to work for. I know one of them still uses software I wrote as a teenager... so, pretty good I think lol
I don't quite understand the crime committed here. Were you importing a chemical you did not know was illegal? Or knew the implications of such an order considering you had a website for it.
It was not Schedule I until ten days after I was indicted, and the CSAEA for analogues used to be read in the conjunctive for the three prongs, like sold for human consumption AND has effect of Schedule I AND has structure of Schedule I (or II). Then they changed it and started reading it in the disjunctive, so they used OR instead of AND. A guy went to the Supreme Court over it last year, McFadden, and argued the mens rea of such a statute, but he really didn't even get relief because they just remanded for a lower court and slammed him on his other counts on his indictment. The thing is, the feds can indict a ham sandwich for conspiracy to have cheese and they'll win in court every time, there is no fighting them or beating them. So yeah I got fucked over, because I was under the assumption it was legal as long as it wasn't for human consumption and I had a pretty hefty disclaimer customers had to agree to that included indemnification, but it didn't help me out in court at all.
Yes, how do you address rumors that Magneto was secretly kept in a giant vault beneath your prison for killing JFK?
Did robot Clinton tell you this, or shape shifting interdimensional reptile Trump? Where are you getting this data?!
Did you happen to know my dad i never met? Mark Claborn. He was a DWB and went by the name "cravker". Tall white guy with a shaved head and a reddish blonde goatee and mustache. .. Just curious..
For some reason that does sound kind of familiar, where was he from?
You can use email via their proprietary system but it is very slow. No internet access.
What do you think is the biggest thing that needs to be changed about the prison system?
Hmm, that is a tough question. I think the prison system, as it stands, for shorter duration, would not be so catastrophic. I hope criminal justice reform really takes off after the election and that sentencing changes. That is really the corrupt and messed up part. There is just a million ways they can look at your case or your history and lock you up for 10, 20+ years and there isn't much you can do about it besides do the time. Federal prison is 85% with no parole. They are talking about adding more programs and helping people earn more good time credits and stuff to get out earlier, and that is really what they need to do. They have the capability and the scaffolding for proper classes and training and ACE (Adult Continuing Education), but from what I've seen, they don't utilize it properly and the prison budgets just seem to go to random things. The prisoners actually pay for more than you'd suspect, because all their money goes into a type of Trust Fund, so when they over pay for things (everything), that money is supposed to go back into their facilities, and it rarely seems to make it there.
So, yeah, the prison system, as messed up as it is, would be better if guys were not sitting in there so long. The prosecution and the way conspiracy laws work are atrocious. Essentially, if two people (even criminals looking for a time cut) say that you did something, you're guilty. In my case, it was just one other person who said I was doing something, and that was all the evidence they needed for a grand jury to indict me. That is what really needs to be changed.
When you were importing the chemicals, did you think about getting caught, or did you think you were pretty safe?
Also. How did you end up getting caught?
I thought it was not illegal if it was not for human consumption. One of my best friends came over my house to give me money personally for a kilgoram of MDMC, which I usually only take payments in other ways and not in cash, so it was odd, but he had a cell phone and I thought he was sending text messages, but I was on video. I didn't discuss the transaction, all I did was accept the money and not even count it. Usually I'd have a purchaser send the money via Western Union to either Nanjing or Shanghai in China, and then provide them a tracking number to their specific address. In this case, the guy was working with the DEA and the address he gave me was actually for the DEA, which at the time, the packages were still getting through customs because they were not illegal, so I ended up counting the money the next day and it was not all of the money so I only sent 850 grams to that location and then another 150 grams to another location from what I paid in the difference. They still tried to claim 1000 grams arrived at the location in Tampa, FL; and what they did (video tape me in my own office/house) is actually illegal under Florida law, but acceptable under Federal law is the person is working as a confidential informant for the government.
Then they said I was in "conspiracy" to import during that time frame and the person provided a statement that he was purchasing several kilograms from me every month, so they tried to estimate, after raiding my residence (*and not finding any drugs or anything else there, just some empty packages that used to contain synthetic marijuana, all labeled not for human consumption) that I had imported twenty kilograms. Eventually my lawyer and I fought down to four kilograms, as the person who set me up, they caught him with a kilogram and then said I sent them another kilogram, all of which they used against me, which btw, they got him by illegally towing his vehicle that was parked only for a few minutes in a private parking lot and then breaking into the locked trunk and then into a locked safe inside of that trunk (the case got a successful motion to suppress in the 11th Circuit, but then the court of appeals overturned it in the government's favor, saying the search and seizure was not illegal because the person mistakenly believed the police were pursuing him.).
Anyway, long story short, they did a bunch of dirty stuff and at the end of the day, even the person who set me up was not willing to testify against me, and I had him on video agreeing to my website's legal disclaimer, so they tried to arrest my girlfriend and two other females, my codefendant's ex girlfriend and his secretary, and then tried to charge me with a superseding indictment that said that the person I dealt with may have been armed when he did a transaction with me, so they were trying to charge me with that firearm, which is also illegal, and I signed a plea deal to get all of the females, their charges dropped, and to duck the superseding indictment, and to take only 4 kilograms, which was the same sentencing bracket as the 20 kilograms they originally wanted anyway.
At the end of the day, I ended up getting relief, but it took many years of sitting in federal prison.
Best friend set you up? That's fucked up. Bet they are watching their back now you are out.
Nah, lol they got like 20 years in prison they set me up for free on the house and then tried to run from the feds and didn't even get a time cut for it. So, karma is a bitch.
Assuming most people don't go their entire sentence without a wank, how and when did you do that?
You get cell time to your self, you're usually in a two man cell. Some people do it in the shower, they call it the abortion clinic, which btw, the showers are not like on tv, you get in there by your self and it is a one person shower, they got a ton of them and a gate closes in front of it and then you got privacy in there. Some guys "gun" or "snipe" and jerk off while talking to female officers and staff, which can get you into a lot of trouble and I'm not an animal like that, lol. There is some old porn magazines and stuff in there too and people trade pictures of girls, like pg13 stuff, they call it "fiend" or "flicks" and a picture of a hot chick a photo can go for like $1
Did you meet any people inside who legitimately shouldn't have been in there? Like say someone who beat up someone who molested their kid or killed someone in self defense? Basically someone you said "What are you doing in here?!".
Yeah lol a ton, that is a big part of the population, and guys who were innocent and guys conspire to get them indicted to get time cuts, there are tons of those.
How do drinking and drug use happen, like what do you do when you're drunk or high? Also, what's are some unwritten rules that most people outside of prison don't know?
Uh, I mentioned above the "hands off" policy and "hands laid, debts paid", besides that, you get drunk or high just like anywhere else, people smoke a lot of those synthetic canabinoids on paper, out of cans and pipes and stuff. Guys use a battery and strip off part near the negative terminal, then cut a small strip of foil from a candy bar wrapper usually or Goya seasoning, then connect it to itself on the negative and it flames up, which you use to light up a small piece of rolled toilet paper (a wick), then you can make a candle with vaseline and a cut up soda can... There is a way to "pop a socket" too, with two pieces of pencil lead stuck in each side and another piece of led dangled on a piece of toilet paper between them causes an arc to shoot sparks you can light an additional piece of toilet paper with.
I know you didn't ask how. The what people do is usually just listen to their mp3, watch tv, or sit in their cells and hang out. Some like to get high and go to the rec yard, etc. especially when they are drunk, but you run the risk of being breathalyzed by officers.
For the most part, people tend to stick with drugs that either don't show up on tests or are hard to test for, like suboxone and the synthetic canabinoids.
How was it coming back to Reddit after so long? What's the same and what's different?
Also, I'm glad you're out now. Good luck, and I wish you the best man.
Reddit is still the same. Digg changed a lot. I'm more comfortable back on reddit because it still looks and feels the same and the community here has always been superb.
What is the process for getting out? Do they assist you with housing, job, etc? If you don't have money/friends/family..what do you do the first day you are out?
shit, they gave me my money on a chase card and paid for me to take a Grey hound back to my city and i'm on my own from there, they try and help you locate a career and stuff through the probation officer, but that is about it. You get housing and stuff if you molest children, which I personally think is fucked up. The first day I was out I rode a grey hound bus that broke down on the side of the road so they ordered us all pizza, lol
How do you feel about all of the improved mobile phone tech?
Well, before I was locked up I had an early Android phone, a Kyocera Echo, and then I had a Toshiba thrive tablet, so I mean, I don't know how much they have improved, I've seen some and I've noticed they are more ubiquitous than before I went to prison, back when I bought that Toshiba Thrive, I was like the only one anywhere with a tablet, now everybody seems to have some kind of tablet or smart phone that is similarly capable. I've stayed up to date a lot of technology, and I plan to go try and get a Galaxy or something when I can afford it. Right now I'm just stuff with my laptop, which is only a year or two old I got from somebody and Google voice, lol.
1) Did you always have privacy for using a toilet or were they just open in a shared cell like sometimes seen in movies?
2) I get that it's not like the 80s or 90s and that the rape situation in prison has improved a lot and rape is rare, but does being ugly by female standards or being above a certain age seem to protect guys from getting raped?
3)Is it possible to kill yourself in prison and if so how do most guys do it? Is there some equivalent of suicide-by-cop where you say the wrong thing to the wrong guy and get stabbed 20 times? Are improvised weapons available or easily created in prison?
4) How were Jews treated in prison? Did you meet any? I guess the blacks and Mexicans would have no problem with it, but prison movies make it seem like all the white guys are white supremacists. Seems like being a small, shy, Jewish geek is about the worst thing you could be in prison (in terms of a type).
5) How were shy people treated in prison? In hyper-masculine cultures shyness is sometimes treated as a kind of femininity. Were shy guys victimized?
6) Do you think staying in your cell and not socializing much and just in general trying to stay as invisible and low profile as possible is a safer or more dangerous strategy for avoiding problems with other inmates like getting beaten, killed, or raped? I'm thinking that the fewer people you talk to and deal with the fewer people there are who might get angry with you for some reason.
7) Was it usually two men to a cell? Any prisons you were at that had 1 man cells and were those cells regarded as a good thing to have or a bad thing? Did any cells have open steel bars or were they all like steel doors with a small window or something like that.
8) Did they lock your cell at night after a certain time? If so did you feel claustrophobic about not being able to get out? The one time I spent in a jail cell I completely freaked from being in a cage where I couldn't leave no matter what and just paced back and forth for like 12 hours until I made bail. Did you ever have an experience like that?
Yes, you get privacy, you can put a shit sign up over your cell door. Yes .
3.) Yes, hanging by sheets mostly, and drug overdoses. Yes a lot of people make weapons.
4.) Good, they go to services and get matzoh and grape juice every friday, sometimes Challah and can make special orders for passover. Happy Rosh Hashana btw.
5.) Shy people are seen the way you described, some get victimized, but not always.
6.) Yeah, that is a good strategy, as discussed elsewhere
7.) Yes, two man cells were the best. No one man cells, you might get a cell to your self sometimes though out of luck or manipulation. All steel doors with a small food slot in case of lockdowns.
8.) Yes, you get locked down around 9:30-ish for a 10PM count and do not come back out until 6:30AM. I would get claustrophobic sometimes, but you learn to deal with it :)
What are your thoughts about how society and the media seem to trivialize rape in prison and even suggest it is an appropriate form of vigilante justice? What were the perceptions like on the inside and how prevalent are sexual assaults?
Well, there is something called PREA, the Prison Rape Elimination Act, so they try and do away with it. People think rape is more common in prison now, because it was before in the 80s and 90s, but there is a big push and a lot of programs to try and prevent and stop it, especially of staff on inmates. The perception on the inside is generally that you know, you do what you do to get by and some people, I honestly and I know this is going to cause me a lot of trouble, but one of my friends was like a rape magnet, he'd been raped before and was constantly getting sexually assaulted by people, and I think it had a lot to do with how he carried himself.
So, how much time did you actually serve? Why no camp status? Under 10 years and no violence usually means a camp. Why were you moved around so much? That is usually reserved as a punishment. Did you not qualify for the drug program reduction? How did they catch you, like their methods, or the usual "The ex girlfriend ratted or ex-friend got caught holding and ratted". Sorry if these questions are repeats.
Yeah how they caught me is kind of long and I answered it elsewhere, but I had a few criminal history points for probation violation in the state and misdemeanor marijuana possession and then some other stuff, which caused my custody score to go up. When I got to an FCI I also had a detainer from a state saying I had open/unresolved charges, so that added 7 to my points until I got it taken care of. Yeah, 2 of my moves were disciplinary transfer, one was custody level decrease and then the last was a type of adjustment transfer after I was under investigation and they couldn't find anything to give me an incident report for.