Adjusting to a whole new world while incarcerated: Not an easy feat.These former inmates share what they've learned.
It started rather simply: With a question from Redditor jojuinc90:
Former prisoners of Reddit: What is something nobody tells you about being incarcerated that you had to learn on your own?Once the proverbial ball started rolling, the answers proved insightful and fascinating. Read on. LESSONS WHILE INCARCERATED #1:
Your word is everything. Breaking your word puts you roughly on par with a sex offender. You give your word on something, it needs to be gospel. Someone gives you theirs, assume it is too. And be ready to go if it isn't. It's not just worth fighting over, it's essential that you do. Everything is for sale, or at least has a market value. Sustained eye contact means you're starting shit. Someone makes it with you, assume they're sizing you up. Don't do anything for free, unless it's for someone you know.LESSONS WHILE INCARCERATED #2:
The eye contact was pretty hard for me. I always hold eye contact when I'm speaking to someone, but I quickly noticed that no one would look back for more than 10 seconds or so at a time. I was called out on holding eye contact a couple of times, but it wasn't in a threatening way. Most of the time though, yeah. If someone is staring at you they are about to start some shit. Its completely normal, and even expected, for someone to look down and around when talking to you or anyone else.LESSONS WHILE INCARCERATED #3:
Suburban white kid here. Was in a Philly jail for a bit where 90% of the population was black / hispanic. Seriously, it's not that bad. For the most part people just want to do their time, and they will do anything to fight boredom. The second day there I was helping guys write letters to judges and parole boards by proofreading them. I was part of a group that worked out 3 times a day. These guys were fucking huge, like movie star muscles, and not once did I feel threatened or intimidated. I should also say that there was no cell system where I went, it was dorm style. So when you sleep it's in a room with ~45 other people who have access to you the entire time. I can't say it was fun but it definitely flew by and went a lot easier than I even thought it could. Don't walk around with your chest puffed out like you're king shit and people won't fuck with you. Also, do not touch anybody for any reason. I remember I was talking to this guy and I went to put my hand on his shoulder as like a friendly gesture. He immediately spun out of that and had his fists up in seriously less than 1/4 of a second.
LESSONS WHILE INCARCERATED #4:
Don't look in other inmate rooms or cells as you pass by. Can start some serious shit.LESSONS WHILE INCARCERATED #5:
For me, the loss of everything outside of my body was the biggest shock. You have nothing they don't want you to have when you first go in, so in a way it's like being born into a new world, but fully aware. It's a steep learning curve to be sure, but truthfully, it isn't always cutthroat with nobody to trust. Sure there are people to avoid, and if you have a decent celly, they'll point them out, somewhat like Shawshank. I was in medium security for 6 months on credit card fraud, so I wasn't near any expected dangerous people anyway, but there were still the territorial guys you just were better off avoiding.LESSONS WHILE INCARCERATED #6:
Been to a state prison in Ohio as a young skinny white dude...one of the most intimidating feelings I've ever felt walking into a large building with 3 wings each filled to the brim with some scary mother fuckers. Bunk beds, no cells I learned very quickly to keep to myself. As you can imagine there was always tension in the air, that imminent sense violence was hanging in the limbo. Grown men packed into a tight living quarters with only a couple things of commissary to your name breeds one hell of a hostile environment. I had a short stint but found myself constantly being aware of who and what was going on around me. There are as much drugs in prison as there are on the streets, but the price can be 10x as much. Tobacco wasn't allowed, but if you could get 1 pack of smokes in, it could be broken down into 3 roll ups from each cig, and each roll up sold for 5 bucks, meaning one pack could net you 300 bucks. There are gay men in prison who sell themselves for money or drugs, they would be very apparent as they would use certain things as blush or lip stick. Gambling is every where and I saw most dudes get in trouble because they would start incurring debt and couldn't pay it off, that's when they would heat up tomato soup in the microwave and throw boiling sticky soup on someone while they slept (saw it twice). Envelopes and soups (ramen packets) were currency and prison is strictly racially divided, if your there long enough you have to join. It was terrifying but at the same time I meet some really interesting people and faced one of my greatest fears in life and came out the other side all the while doing almost a social experiment as it unfolded. And the last thing I'll say is this; they say it's a "rehabilitation" center, that's complete bull shit. I went in for having a large amount of herb, but while in there I learned the best methods to cook crack, how to counterfeit money, how to B and E with out getting caught...our incarceration system desperately needs changed This was just my experience
LESSONS WHILE INCARCERATED #7:
I did 3 years in Texas state prison which if you've ever been there then you know what I'm talking about. Texas has one of the largest prison systems 2nd to only I think California. One of things I really learned in there is like it or not you are expected to stick with your race. During peaceful times everyone can be cool with each other. But when shit pops off you better stand with your people or you will get dealt with. Now there are some smaller units that this doesn't always apply like trustee camps or pre release units or medium security where you have skirmishes every now and then but mostly smaller units people just trying to do there time and go home. You got a problem handle it the corner and be done with it. But at most Texas prisons which are called "real units" or ID Units it can be pretty rough I've been through several riots been gassed all that good stuff it's rowdy. Lot of racial tension and I'm not really that kind of person but prison you have to stick with your color.LESSONS WHILE INCARCERATED #8:
Well, one my first night in prison, after lights out, one of the prisoners yelled "63!" The entire prison started laughing. I asked my cellmate what I was missing. He told me that they had all been in their so long that they had the same jokes. To save time, the just decided to number them. I asked if I could give it a whirl. I shouted "37!" The prison erupted into the most loud laughter I have ever heard. I ask my cellmate what joke I just told and he responded, "I don't know, I haven't heard that one before."LESSONS WHILE INCARCERATED #9:
If you are in a "tank", you will be separated into one of five groups. Wood Pile: White Black South Siders: Mexican, from gang banger to old low rider to grass cutting Mexican. Paisa: Mexican Cowboy (does not get along with South Siders and no clue why) Others: Asians, Islanders, other white who Hitler didn't like for example Jews, Pollock, etc. Each group has a leader. You fall under his authority and he will explain tank rules to you. You are "his fish". If you do wrong the other leaders will tell him to train his fish. He will threaten you and get you in line. Its best to show him respect and not get disciplined. I am well over 6' and over 300lbs and trained fighter. My boss was "other". He was an Islander that made me look like a midget. Show respect and it will be returned. Don't know what do do? Ask but remember your place on the ladder. Fights do happen. Rapes do happen. Murders do happen. Theft, bribing guards, paying for protection, paying for a better job & cell, special treatment, special foods all happen. Word travels fast! You lie, steal, cop a feel, etc. That is your rep for the remainder of your stay. Be fucking cool. Its for your own good. Need a haircut? Blowjob? Burger? Joint? Playboy mag? Line of coke? Yeah, they got that. Ranging from a few candy bars for a haircut, 5 commissary items for a BJ, to your mom paying his wife's car payment on the outside for drugs in prison. Anything can be bought and anything can happen.LESSONS WHILE INCARCERATED #10:
Try not to talk about your time or open up about how you are feeling about it. Let's say you are fighting a case, and that case has you doing 16 months. I understand that a lot of people would be stressed about it -- i get it, jail fucking sucks. That being said, try and keep that shit to yourself unless somebody you are cool with asks. Saw some kid that didn't really know how to handle himself in there, found a race card and was just chilling. On the back end he was fighting a case of involuntary manslaughter and thats already a red flag(killed somebody accidentally, crime was of stupidity). Kids family had money and a top lawyer so he was going to do 10 months in county. Not bad at all. He kept asking for advice from jailhouse lawyers(aka regular prisoners) and it started to get annoying. The rep in charge of the Peckerwoods could not take it(white, mid 40s, family man, going to do 10 years for assault) and organized the jumping of this kid. At night 2 men on both sides of the bed covered him in his sleep with a sheet while 2 other men beat the crap out of him... Moral of the story: There is always somebody who is going to do way more time than you and doesnt want to hear your shit.H/T: Ask Reddit