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Book Review: DownTime

It’s been a little while since I’ve read a non-technical book, so I thought I’d give this one a try. This full name of this book is DownTime – A Guide to Federal Incarceration, and that’s exactly what it is. It had an answer for pretty much anything I’d ever wondered about federal prison, and a lot of things I hadn’t even thought of.

It’s author is David Novak, who did time after pleading guilty to one count each of mail fraud and making a false distress signal. After his release he started a consulting business to help those facing federal incarceration, and writing DownTime was part of that. He has since retired, though he continues to update the book. Through internet searches I was also able to find out he was working on a documentary about life in federal prison, however he appears to have run into legal issues involving the financing.

DownTime CoverThis book was written with three audiences in mind: Lawyers whose clients are facing time in the hoosgow (as my grandmother called it), defendants, and their families. It goes through the entire process including the stages of the trial, the sentence, release, and what comes next.

Probably the biggest thing I took away from this book is that (surprise) prison stinks! Doing time there was never in my plans to begin with, but it most definitely is off the list now! All kinds of details of life in federal custody are covered. Here’s a few tidbits:

Phone Calls: Limited to 15 minutes each with a maximum of 300 minutes per month. When your call ends, go to the back of the line. If others are waiting and you dial again, you will be sorry.
Bacon: Occasionally available as a side dish.
Transport: Whether you’re serving time for jaywalking or murder, all inmates are transported as if they are in maximum security.
Conjugal Visits: There aren’t any.
Money: Inmates can spend up to $250 a month at the commissary provided they have the funds available in their account. Most prison jobs pay a few cents per hour, but your family can send you money via a lockbox facility in Iowa. This facility only accepts United States Postal Service Money Orders.
Prison Lingo: There’s a glossary of prison terms included so one can acclimate themselves quickly. More humorous entries include “Bitch Slap”, “Diesel Therapy”, and “Zoo-Zoos”.

My final thought: If you foresee federal prison in your future, I believe this book is full of useful information for both you and your family. If you’re like me and just plain curious, it’s very interesting and definitely worth your time.

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By Bob Pusateri

Bob Pusateri is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP, Microsoft Certified Master of SQL Server, speaker, blogger, volunteer, and author who loves finding new and exciting ways to break and fix things. He works as a consultant and architect, specializing in data, virtualization, and cloud technologies.

2 Comments

  • I’m doing my best to live a life where I won’t face time in the hoosgow.

    Of course my first thought was, “It sounds like there’s no Skype. Or Twitter.”

    Yeah, better stay out of the hoosgow.

    • Bob Pusateri

      LOL – very true! No internet access at all, but I was surprised to learn that some institutions do offer very limited inmate access to email.

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