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I’m sentenced to prison. Now what?

Tomas Clarke was sentenced to two years in prison Tuesday, following Ernesto Lujan’s two-year sentence last Friday. Sentencing might seem like the last chapter of an FCPA enforcement action. For the defendant, however, what comes next is the toughest part of all.

First, Clarke and Lujan, along with family, friends and counsel, will now await “designation.” That means finding out where and when you report to prison.

During this wait, the defendants will probably be contacted by self-proclaimed “prison consultants.” They give assurances that they can help defendants be assigned to the best facility, which usually means the federal prison closest to home. If you’re a defense attorney, my advice is to help your client understand what a consultant can and cannot produce.

It is the Bureau of Prisons (BoP) that decides designation. Security classification, special health or religious needs, and most of all, bed availability closest to home — all are factors that go into the BoP’s decision on designation. My sentencing judge (Richard Leon) recommended the facility closest to my home, but I didn’t get that assignment. Bed space wins out, even over a judicial recommendation.

A better use of time is to prepare for the coming years, and for Clarke and Lujan, that will be less than two, if they accrue good time (a 15 percent reduction).

It is also the time to put your affairs in order. Think about finances, power of attorney, and who will be the head of household during your absence. You can’t run a family on 300 minutes of phone time a month and limited email access.

Think too about how to use your time during incarceration productively. I wanted to put my Masters Degree to work and teach. The Lewisburg Camp (where I spent my fourteen and a half months for FCPA-related offenses) had an outstanding education department. I self-surrendered on a Friday and had my work assignment the following week. It remains the lowest paying job for an inmate at Lewisburg (around 23 cents per hour) but among the most rewarding.

For lawyers, think about your client’s Pre-Sentence Report (PSR). That is the document the correctional officers will review during the intake process. If your client has any special requirements, and they are not in that report, they will not be addressed. It’s that simple.

I often wear hearing aids. They were referenced in my PSR, along with a letter from my audiologist, and I was allowed to bring them with me. The correctional officers removed the batteries and ordered replacements, which I had within days.

Properly prepared, the intake process can be surprisingly efficient. And we will talk about day one, and how to prepare for it, in another post.

It appears that Clark and Lujan have been allowed to self-surrender. That’s not a right, it’s a privilege, and it is up to the judge. It’s a lot easier focusing on all the above from your home, with family and friends, as opposed to a Metropolitan Detention Center.

Use your time and remaining liberty wisely. You will thank yourself “from the inside.”


Richard Bistrong is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog and CEO of Front-Line Anti-Bribery LLC. He consults, writes and speaks about compliance issues. He can be contacted here.

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  1. An informative article. The article gave practical advice on what to do upon being sentenced to prison. I never think of prison. And, I know little about it. So I found the article interesting.

  2. Best to avoid prison…

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