How can I physically prepare?
If you have the means (i.e., health insurance or money), have a physical with a doctor. Tell them that you are about to go to prison and ask if there are any vaccines that they can give you to prevent you from contracting an infectious disease while incarcerated. If you take any prescribed medications, get a letter from your doctor, on letterhead, listing those current prescriptions to bring with you when you begin your sentence.
What do I do with my cell phone service and my phone itself?
This may depend on how long you think you will be in prison for. You will want a phone when you return home so if it is a short sentence, you may want to keep your service active and leave your phone with a trusted friend or relative (girlfriends/boyfriends are not necessarily the best option) for safekeeping. The downside of that is the monthly fee your service plan requires you to pay. Talk to your service carrier (Verizon, AT & T, Sprint, etc.) to see if they can put a temporary hold on your phone and your service to reduce or eliminate the cost without violating your contract or losing your phone number.
What do I tell my landlord? What do I do about my lease?
What you tell them may depend on the relationship you have with your landlord. If you are able to, add another adult to the lease that can cover payments during your absence. If you have the capacity and are facing a short sentence, you can ask your landlord if they will allow you to pay your rent in advance for the months that you expect to be incarcerated. If you do not have the ability to set-up payments in your absence and/or your sentence is not short, it is important to leave your rental agreement on good terms so you can get a recommendation from the landlord now that can help you to secure a new lease when you return.
What should I tell my employer? Especially if it’s a short sentence and I will be home soon?
What you tell your employer may depend on the relationship that you have with your them, the length of your employment, and anticipated length of your sentence. If you plan to leave with the hopes of returning to that job, discuss with your employer a short-term leave of absence. If you plan to leave without the expectation of returning to that position, you can resign from your job on good terms with the employer, so you can secure a letter of recommendation from your supervisor before your last day. This letter will be very helpful when seeking new employment upon your return.
What do I tell my family/friends/neighbors?
This is your decision. Your first reaction may be to protect your family and friends by not telling them, or others, the truth (or to tell them only part of the truth). But be aware that people can find out the truth because your conviction and incarceration are public record and can be found on the Internet at http://www.jud.ct.gov/crim.htm. People may also learn the truth from others – by overhearing a conversation or because someone else decides to tell them. Every family must decide for themselves what the best thing to do is, and this could depend on the relationships you have with those you are considering telling. You may want to consider the likelihood that they will find out on their own and the potential harm, or benefit, that may come from their knowing. The benefit that you and your family can receive through the support of others during your incarceration, and after your reentry to the community, can be what gets you and your family through this time. However, the treatment some families receive from people who negatively judge criminal justice involved people, and those that love them, can add stress to the already difficult time. Because of this, it is important for those with personal experience with incarceration to support others during their incarceration experience. It is a difficult decision to make. If you decide to tell family, friends and neighbors, your explanation could focus on strengths such as honesty, responsibility, and your desire/efforts for self-improvement.
What should I do with my vehicle and vehicle insurance?
This depends on the length of your sentence and your financial situation. You will likely want a vehicle when you return home so, if you are able to leave your car with a trusted friend or family member, that is best. You can also cancel your car insurance or ideally, reduce your insurance coverage to only include liability. This will significantly reduce the cost while still protecting your investment from unexpected damage. You may also want to consider selling your vehicle so you can use those funds for commissary, legal fees, or to pay other bills while you are away.
What should I do with my identification?
Identification such as driver’s license, non-driver ID, birth certificate and social security card can be left with trusted family members for safe-keeping. If this
is not an option or you come to the facility with your identifications on you, all official forms of identification will be logged in Property and kept in a secured location at the facility. If you transfer from one facility to another, the property (including identification) will be sent to the new facility. Upon discharge, the facility will return your identification items to you. If at discharge you do not receive the identification that you came in with, please contact Counselor Adam Mack at 860-692-7564 or Adam.Mack@ct.gov.
What should I do with my pets?
If you have a short sentence, make sure you have a plan for your pets. Animal neglect is a criminal offense, and your pets trust you to ensure that they are cared for. The best option for your pets is to leave them with trusted family or friends.
If you will want your pet upon your return make sure they understand your intent. If that is not an option, your local no-kill shelter will accept and try to place your pets in a loving adoptive home. For a listing of no-kill shelters in Connecticut go here: http://www.nokillnetwork.org/d/Connecticut/.
What do I do with mail that I receive at home?
Prior to beginning your sentence, watch the mail that comes for you. Anything that is unnecessary, you should cancel. Magazine and newspaper subscriptions can be redirected to you in prison, but the facility where you will be, as well as your prison number, will not be known in advance, so you cannot change the mailing address yet. However, if you have never been incarcerated before, your prison number will be the same as it was during your previous incarceration. Ask a trusted loved one to change the mailing address for each magazine and newspaper for you once your mailing information (inmate number and facility) has been determined. If you are financially able to maintain the subscription, you will be grateful to receive magazines and newspapers!
What should I do with the other bills that I pay – credit cards, student loans, vehicle payments, etc.?
This depends on your financial situation and expected length of your sentence. Ideally, you either pay bills in advance or leave money to a trusted friend or family member to pay those bills for you while you are away. If you have the financial means, you may be able to hire a conservator, or attorney, to pay your bills in your absence. Similar to your mail, review the bills you are responsible for before beginning your sentence. Consider canceling any unnecessary bills (gym membership, utilities for your home if you live alone, etc.). If you have student loan debt, contact your lender to ask if you qualify for deferment or forbearance during your incarceration. It is important, when able, to not default on payments of debts. If you are able
to avoid accruing additional debt, or default on repaying existing debt during your incarceration, your credit could actually improve while you are serving your sentence. While incarcerated, any bad credit reports will be moving further back in your history and, the longer you go without adding new debt the better your credit will be.
What happens to my benefits? (Disability, unemployment, food stamps, DSS benefits, Husky/Medicaid, subsidized housing, etc.)
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments generally are not payable for months that you are confined to a jail, prison or certain other public institutions for commission of a crime. You are also not automatically eligible for Social Security or SSI payments when you return. Additional information can be found at: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10133.pdf.
What happens to my child support order while I am in prison?
If you have a child support order and will be going to prison, you can apply to have your order changed due to your inability to pay while incarcerated. However, if you do nothing, you can end up owing a lot of money in unpaid child support. Call Connecticut Support Enforcement Services at 1-800-228-KIDS
to ask for Review and Adjustment services to start the process for modification
of your child support order amount. However, you should be aware that, in Connecticut, the court will not reduce a child support order for someone that is incarcerated for a crime against the child or the custodial parent. You are expected to pay your child support as soon as you begin earning money.
For more information, review this brochure from Connecticut Support Enforcement Services: http://www.ct.gov/doc/lib/doc/pdf/childsupportinfo.pdf
What can I bring in with me and what am I not allowed to bring in?
Money – Any cash will be taken from you and placed in your inmate account. It may then be used to purchase items from commissary. If you
are able to, you will want to bring money for commissary. You will likely need to purchase clothing that fits (undergarments, uniforms, and shoe laces for the shoes you come in with), items for writing letters (envelopes, paper, pencils and stamps), a radio to hear the TV in the common room, toiletry/hygiene items, as well as any pleasure items such as food, a personal TV, additional clothing, specialty cards to send loved ones, etc. It will take time for the facility to offer you the option of making a purchase through commissary and then additional time for you to receive your purchases. To prevent further delay, it will be helpful to have money in your account as soon as possible so that when the opportunity arises, you are able to submit your order.
- Clothing – The clothing you are wearing upon admission will be exchanged for a uniform. Underwear, bedding and towels will also be provided.
- Shoes – You may be able to keep the shoes you came in with if they are determined to be suitable. Sneakers or shoes must be black, white, or black and white. Shoes and boots can not contain any metal support structure. The laces of shoes will be taken by staff when you arrive so you will need to order laces from commissary once you are able to.
- Eyeglasses – You will be allowed to retain your eyeglasses if they meet safety and security requirements. People who wear contact lenses will be allowed to retain them until they can be seen by an Optometrist, who will determine if there is a medical need for the contacts, or if glasses can be ordered. Health services staff will provide cleaning/soaking solution and a container for prescribed contact lenses.
- Hygiene items – These will initially be provided for you and will continue to be provided if you are unable to purchase your own from commissary. Otherwise, you will be required to purchase them from commissary.
- Medication – Any medication in your possession will be taken upon your arrival. Upon admission, everyone receives a medical screening. Appropriate medication will then be provided. You may bring a letter from a doctor, on letterhead, listing any current prescriptions.
Please remember that all incoming property is subject to inspection and rejection. For more information, please review DOC Administrative Directive 10.6
Where am I going to go?
You will not know where you will be housed until you arrive and, even then, you can be moved to another facility at any time - usually without prior notice. You will be placed in a facility that is appropriate for the Security Level assigned to you by the DOC. The Security Level is determined through classification. Classification is a system to match the individual characteristics of a person that is incarcerated to the appropriate facility and programs, based on the person’s assessed risk and treatment requirements, to ensure their safety and the safety of the public. A classification determination involves a review of many factors, including your treatment needs, criminal history, length of sentence, history of violence, escape history, pending court cases and gang affiliation. Security Levels range from 1 to 5. The higher the number, the higher the Security Level. For example, Level 1 refers to community supervision (you might live at home, but under the supervision of a Parole Officer, or in a work release program – there are other forms of community supervision, too), Level 2 is minimum security while confined in a correctional facility, Level 3 is medium security, Level 4 is high security and Level 5 is maximum security. To see the security levels of different Connecticut facilities go to https://www.cga.ct.gov/pri/archives/2000fireportchap2.htm and http://www.ct.gov/doc/cwp/view.asp?a=1502&q=265422 and select the appropriate facility. Keep in mind, a facility may house people that share the Security Level of the facility as well as people assigned a Security Level lower than the one assigned to the facility. For example, you could be assigned a Security Level of 2, minimum security, and be placed at Brooklyn Correctional Institution, a level 3 facility. However, you could not be assigned a Security Level of 4 and be placed at Brooklyn. Over time, most incarcerated people have the opportunity to have their levels lowered based on good behavior. A level reduction is not a guarantee, though. An incarcerated person can be denied a level reduction due to poor behavior while incarcerated, gang affiliation, criminal history, or other issues. Those who are incarcerated meet regularly with their Classification Counselors and are given a date that they are eligible for a Security Level reduction. If you have displayed good behavior and engaged in suggested programming during your incarceration, then you may have a better chance for a level reduction. The lower the Security Level, the greater the privileges and opportunities for community release. Correctional staff cannot discuss an incarcerated person’s level. This information is confidential and private. You, however, can share this information if you choose to do so.