When I knew I would be heading to a federal prison camp, I began researching the internet on the closest Federal Prison Camps to Palm Springs (Lompoc and Taft). Unfortunately, TripAdvisor and Yelp do not have ratings for prison camps. Probably no way to monetize that. Anyway, I was surprised how little information there was out there on federal prison camps; both generally and specifically. As for how to handle being gay in prison camp, I found absolutely no information at all. I also had a sneaking suspicion that Oz and Orange Is The New Black probably did not provide accurate portrayals!
My prison consultant, Justin Paperny, was extremely helpful in educating me on what prison camp would be like and the plusses and minuses of Taft and Lompoc. He was not able to provide me with much in the way of advice though when it came to dealing with being gay. Justin was also the one who convinced me that I should start a blog to document this journey. He did caution me however that eventually inmates at Taft would become aware of my blog; either through friends and family or while searching for information prior to surrendering. I didn’t see the point of writing a blog if I was not going to be honest about my journey and clearly, a huge part of that was the impact of everything on my relationship with my husband Ken. So while I felt the upsides of writing a blog outweighed the downsides, doing it clearly increased my anxiety level as I began my stay at Taft and Xanax is NOT on the formulary!
So what is the bottom line? Being gay — at least in this prison camp — is no big deal. After almost 10 months here, as far as I know, I have not experienced a single negative consequence here as a result of my being gay. So if you are gay and heading to a federal prison camp, you can breathe a sigh of relief. On the other hand, this is not UC Berkeley or NYU so a little common sense is in order. For example, you should probably not throw a fit if they decide to watch Louisiana Swamp People instead of the Tony Awards or download the cast recording of Oklahoma on your JPay device and sing along as you walk the track. Just saying!
Seriously though, I think the best advice is to not advertise it but don’t lie about it. Although good advice in general, it’s especially important to be friendly but respectful — especially of others’ privacy — and to establish yourself as a stand up guy who can be trusted. Just like in the real world, find some people you can trust and can be honest with about who you are. They will be able to tell you how you are perceived. I was very fortunate in that there was already someone here at Taft when I surrendered whom I had met in Palm Springs before he surrendered and who was also gay. He helped me tremendously in navigating all the ins and outs and reducing my anxiety. In general, I advise being observant and taking it slow but if you choose to let people know you have a husband or partner, I think you will be pleasantly surprised regarding the reactions — and even the support — you will get.
It is widely known here that I am gay; exactly for the reasons that Justin relayed before I arrived. As far as I can tell, it’s no big deal. Inmates here are respectful of differences in general and are focused on doing their time and going home. On the other hand, I don’t see any upside in volunteering this information to staff.
If you are gay and are potentially facing time in a federal prison camp and you have questions, you can contact me via JPay.com (reg. # 63423-112) or you can write me at Taft Correctional Institute, 63423-112, PO Box 7001, Taft, CA 932