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Welcome to my blog. For those of you who do not know, I, Michael Szafranski, was recently released from the Federal Prison Camp in Miami, Florida where I spent 11 months. It took six years from the time that I knew I was under investigation to the day I reported to prison. In many ways those six years were worse than the 11 months I actually sat. This blog is going to deal with many of the issues facing people like myself who are just trying to navigate the legal system when they find out they are in trouble and are thrown into the crazy world that is our criminal justice system. My case was kind of high profile so I dealt with it all. I am sharing what I learned so that others will be a little more prepared as to how to deal with various situations and to hopefully shed a little bit of light on what really goes on in the system. Please email me with any questions and if you would like to utilize my consulting services. Appreciate any comments and critiques! Follow along as I publish my book at https://www.wattpad.com/user/whitecollarguru. Email me at mike@whitecollarguru.com with any questions.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Defendant Is Hereby Remanded To Custody- My First Day In Prison

The marshals will escort the defendant. Scarier words had never been spoke to me.
October 26, 2015. Exactly two years ago today I was sentenced to 30 months (later reduced to 20) in prison. As luck would have it, I was blessed with a judge who does not believe in voluntary surrender. In other words instead of arriving at a prison camp like 90% of those who plead guilty to a white collar felony, I was escorted by the US Marshals service from the courtroom in front of family and friends who had come to support me. Not exactly my finest moment.

In many ways it is a day that I will never forget yet, paradoxically, my memory of that day is more dream like as though I was watching a Broadway show as a member of the audience when in reality I was the star. Even now, two years later it seems as though my sentencing hearing was yesterday and not so long ago. Ultimately, I spent under 11 months in actual custody, 4 months in a halfway house and two months under home confinement. Obviously, in hindsight, the process of being remanded represented the finality of my case and the fear was clearly unjustified. However, I can unequivocally state, that at that moment I was more scared for myself than I had ever been in my life. Perhaps it was because I was initially heading off to a detention center with all types of felons or perhaps it was simply a fear of the unknown. Regardless of the genesis of my fear, as I lsaid goodbye to my family and left the courtroom I also experienced a sense of relief that after so much time, judgement day was finally in the past.

For any white collar defendant and really for any defendant, there are certain dates that hold special meaning. In chronological order they are:
1. Indictment
2. Arrest/Surrender
3. Change of plea/being found guilty
4. Sentancing
5. Remanded/Surrender to custody
6. Release from custody to the halfway house
7. End of sentence

Not everyone has all of the dates, and for many the dates are the same for multiple events. For example I  was sentenced and remanded on the same day. As far as which dates hold most significance, it depends on who is asked. However, the date a defendant reports to prison is definitely a pivotal date as long as the right attitude in maintained.

Now that I am out I get asked questions constantly  about what prison was like. Like I wrote earlier, there is no hiding from it so I do not shy away with these questions and I allow myself to be quite approachable. The truth of the matter is no matter how cushy of a camp is, no matter how much time is spent working out and no matter what steps someone takes to better himself while a guest of the federal government, prison still sucks. Again it is not, at least in a camp, the actual prison that sucks, it is the aspect of being removed from society that is most painful. I was lucky that I only spent 11 months in actual prison. If I went top trial and lost I would not be writing this today. For that I have to thank my lawyers.

On the other hand it is important, when starting a prison term, to understand what it represents. The wheels of justice in the US move very  slowly in the United States. For some defendants that is a blessing but for some it is merely a torturous crawl to the finish line. As it took six years from retaining my lawyers to get to  my incarceration date, I obviously fell into the later camp. In that scenario what the prison sentence represents is the realization that after so much time the ordeal is finally over. Yes, prison is hard and yes it is even harder on the family. However, once prison starts, planning can commence for when prison ends. That planning cannot begin until the element of uncertainty is removed. For that reason the day one reports to prison is closely linked to the day he leaves the prison. Yes, it was hard being incarcerated. It was very hard. However, the feeling of relief when the burden of uncertainty is lifted is also indescribable to anyone who has not had the misfortune of being caught of in a criminal case.

As I sit here two years later, I laugh at how the rest of the day went after I was removed from the courtroom. After  I removed my tie and belt and left them with my wife, I was taken out of the front of the courtroom. There I was cuffed and shackled and led up to the holding cell above the Broward Count Federal Courthouse. Most inmates (I was now an inmate) get stuck in the county jail which is a horrible place for a couple of days before moving to the less horrible Federal Detention Center (FDC) in Miami. I was lucky to have had anticipated this and was able to have others advocate for me to be transported to  FDC that day. When the officer who was fastening my shackles said to me another that I was not being booked into Broward, he turns to me and said "How did you manage that? What do you know the judge?" Of course, having nothing to lose I answered "If I knew the judge do you really think I would be standing here watching you cuff me?"

They then took me upstairs to wait for transport and were nice enough to remove the restraints. Once in the prison cell I decided to start working out in my clothes. It wasn't like I had anything else to do and I certainly was not going to need the suit pants any time soon! An hour later I was re-cuffed and shackled and taken down to a garage where two US marshals were going to drive me to Miami. I turned to them and said, "Do you want me to drive?" I guess these guys were caught off guard because they just started cracking up! Of course they said no and I was placed in the back seat. Once driving down 95 I asked where we were going for lunch!

Finally we made it down to Miami where I was once again put in a cell where I once again decided to to 100 sit ups simply because I had nothing better to do. I was then moved from the US Marshal Service cell to the BOP cell. Basically that means they walk you across an underground tunnel and hand you over from one government agency to another. You see the Marshals service is in charge of taking you to prison but the BOP is in charge of keeping you in prison. So now I was in my third jail cell for the day. Now these are real cells with actual bars. So as I sat in this new cell with my new friend Carlos, I decided to get back to my workout. Finally we were taken to what I refer to as check-in. We were brought to a room that looks like a hotel check in area and given a green jumpsuit and told to change....of course only after we were strip searched. Once I got out of my suit and put on my government issued clothing, I cam across my reflection and realized that I bore a strong resemblance to Gumby. Unfortunately I did not have my horse Pokey to ride out of this hell hole.

Finally the "bell hop" escorted me to my floor and as I got off the elevator I walked into a large room and saw around 100 faces staring at me. As I could tell, I was the only one on that floor who was not a shade of brown. In a bowl of chocolate and mocha ice cream, I was the lone vanilla chip. And as I stood there I was getting even paler! I turned to the guard and said, well this isn't so bad, we are here at night but during the day we get to move around the building right? He turns and me and gives me an evil smile that only a BOP officer can replicate and says, nope, this is it, there is no roaming around the building! Uh oh! He then tells me to go grab a mattress. I turn to him and say "by myself?" Clearly he was not going to be of assistance as I went into the mattress room and got myself a thin mattress that had an exterior of plastic and who knows how many venereal diseases. Visibly irritated, the officer told me to hurry up and was not happy when i asked him to hold on a second because I was looking for a good one! He then escorted me to my suite which was at the end of the hall. My room had a bunk bed, a toilet, a sink, a desk and two trunk like lockers. I was told to take the top bunk.

After he left me I decided to walk around the floor a little bit. Finally, a rather large African American approaches me and says in a rather loud voice "Hey" to which I responded as any other neanderthal would with "Hey!" He looks at me and says your my celly? I look at him and say "your what?" He says you know, My celly! I looked at him and as innocently as I could said "Um what's a celly?" Finally exasperated, he asks if I was staying in the room at the end of the hall. Once I told him yes, he told me that he was my celly. So lesson one for prison, a roommate is a celly.

That night he told me that he feels that the white man should agree to be enslaved for one week to the black man. He felt this is a reasonable request since the white man ensalved the balck man for 400 years in this country and he was only asking for a week. When I corrected him and told him that the US was only formed in 1776 and that slavery was abolished everywhere around 100 years later so his claim of 400 years was incorrect, he told me my numbers were wrong. Welcome to prison. Amazingly enough, I slept like a baby that night.

The point I am trying to make is that once the process of getting to prison is over, your mind can focus on other things. Even a hard day like the first day of prison can be laced with levity if the right attitude is maintained. In many ways freedom begins on the first day of prison.

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