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Keys to a Successful Incarceration

Program for Sentenced Defendants a Success 

by USPSO Camron Pitcher, CAC, Riverside

U.S. Pretrial Services in the Central District of California is committed to developing and providing new ways to assist and educate defendants under supervision. In 2002, our agency created The Self Surrender Information Center to help sentenced defendants and their families better understand the vast array of information concerning federal incarceration. The center offers newsletters and handouts regarding the Bureau of Prisons and its facilities.

In 2005 we developed “Keys to Successful Incarceration,” a training program for defendants that teaches them about federal incarceration and provides them with related materials.

Keys to Successful Incarceration is a dynamic two-hour program for defendants who have plead guilty or have been found guilty and are awaiting sentencing or self surrender. It gives defendants vital information regarding the next phase of their journey through the criminal justice system.

The program was created using a statement from Monograph 111: “Pretrial Services is the front door to the federal criminal justice system and has a unique opportunity to lay the foundation for each defendant’s success, not only during the period of Pretrial Services supervision, but even beyond that time.”

Prior to attending the Keys to Successful Incarceration session, defendants are given a locally produced Self-Surrender Information Newsletter. This newsletter gives them an overview of the BOP, including information on the types of facilities, the programs available, visiting, mail, and telephone restrictions, and health care and mental health services.

Keys to Successful Incarceration allows defendants to review and take notes from actual inmate handbooks from various BOP institutions. Defendants also are given a commissary list of the many items that can be purchased within the institutions.

During the program, the defendants and their family/friends are figuratively walked from the court room to the prison. The many topics discussed in detail are the designation process and the pros and cons of being able to self surrender; items they are allowed to bring, and must-bring items; the admissions and orientation process; the duties of the unit team; the layout of BOP dormitories; types of educational and vocational programs; employment opportunities; recreation; and most importantly, the three types of community contact: telephone, mail, visitation.

The most intriguing component of the program is that we invite former inmates, currently on supervised release, to attend the sessions and answer questions about their experience and to share inside knowledge about institutional life. At the conclusion, institution-specific handouts are available for defendants who have already been designated. These handouts list the address and directions to the institution, as well as information regarding items to bring and visiting and telephone information.

The Keys to Successful Incarceration program, developed and administered by Camron Pitcher, strives to prepare defendants for imprisonment with the hope that their contact with the criminal justice system will be their last. We hope to prevent the front door of the system from becoming a revolving door for many of our defendants.

If you would like more information about the program, please contact Camron Pitcher at 951-328-4497 or by email at