Prison is not a happy place, on the contrary, when you walk through the doors of your state penitentiary the first thing that will strike you is the smell. It is the smell of men, lots of them, in a relatively small space. In addition, there is the smell of fear. It’s hard to identify much less quantify, but it’s present, and it’s all around. It is a smell I will never forget.
I have spent a lot of time in both state and federal prisons, as well as county jails. The latter, however, does not compare with the former when it comes to the level of violence. Now before you get the wrong idea don’t assume I was an inmate, because that would be incorrect. I was there always on official law enforcement business, and I was there often.
I had many, many conversations, long ones, with inmates, and I learned a great deal about life in prison, including how to survive. These tips from might help you if you ever find yourself on the way to the big house:
Prison is something we all want to avoid, but the time may come when you have to spend some time there (whether or not you are guilty). This is a list of the top 10 things to remember if you find yourself in the big house. If you follow these rules, you should manage to make your stay tolerable. If you found this article through a search engine, I sincerely hope you are reading it out of curiosity and not necessity!
1. Do not get involved with punks
I am not talking about guys with spiked hair – I am talking about guys who become other guys’ “girlfriends” – usually for protection. While the short term benefits may be appealing (protection from other prisoners), you can become a virtual slave, to be gambled or sold to other inmates and you will definitely be used and abused.
This also includes being taken under someone’s wing – it will almost certainly lead to you being a victim of rape. People who offer this kind of help are either looking for a punk, or are looking for someone to pimp out. You should not associate with anyone involved with punks either. Jealousy in prison can lead to murder.
2. Do not discuss your crime
This rule applies especially in cases of sexual crimes. Prisoners doing time for these types of crimes are the biggest target for rape and brutality. In fact, it is virtually guaranteed if the crime involves children. If you are convicted of a child related crime, you should probably request protective custody from the outset – this will keep you out of the main body of the prison and will probably save your life.
3. Do not get involved in gambling
This is a sure way to end up dead. This is a no win situation; you either cannot afford to pay your gambling bills, or you win and make the wrong people very angry. Avoid gambling like the plague in prison. Prisoners will do anything to get what you owe them. Having said that, it is wise to learn a few card games before you enter so you can pass the time playing friendly games.
4. Do not collaborate with the guards against other prisoners
You should never tell on your fellow prisoners – if it is found out you can enter a whole new world of pain. Having said that, don’t be disrespectful to the guards – they can help to make your time go easier.
5. Do not become indebted to anyone
When you first arrive, other prisoners will offer to lend you things until you get on your feet – cigarettes for example. They will offer you a pack in exchange for two later. Absolutely do not accept this offer, it is a very common trick to get you indebted to someone. If you smoke – quit. You should wait until you have earnt your own money before buying things. Basically, the rule is: NEVER take anything from anyone in prison. This is going to get you killed or seriously hurt.
6. Don’t stare at another prisoner
Always walk with your head facing forwards. All it can take is a stare that lasts one second too long for you to become the target of violence. A guy might appear to be friendly or placid one minute, but the next he can be your worst enemy.
7. Do not use drugs
Drug use is a guaranteed road to trouble. You will become severely indebted if you become addicted and you run the risk of being caught by the guards. Drugs are readily accessible and while they may make your time seem less painful, they will almost certainly lead you into big trouble.
8. Work out
Working out not only helps to pass the time, it also helps to to bulk you up – making you less of a target. You should not appear weak – this means walking with your head up – do not look at your feet while you walk. Avoid the temptation to get a tattoo – they often lead to diseases like hepatitis. You will also regret it once you are out.
9. Keep your mouth shut
Do not tell other prisoners about your private life. Do not discuss your crimes and do not discuss politics or religion. Any type of discussion that can lead to an argument is a big no no. Don’t put your business out onto the street. At the same time, respect other prisoner’s privacy and don’t pry into their private lives.
10. Be respectful and polite
Always be polite and respectful to other prisoners. Respect is the only thing a prisoner has and taking that away can be disastrous. Remember, if you give others your respect, they will most likely return the favour. You do not want to make enemies in prison.
Finally, remember, being in prison is like being at war – so it is better not to commit a crime in the first place.
These ten tips were originally published here.