How to Deal with Being in Prison

Five Methods:Surviving Prison LifeMaintaining Your HealthStaying SaneLearning the CodeCommunicating With Your Family

Walking into prison for the first time, no matter who you are, is a frightening experience. The mixture of adrenaline, fear, anxiety, and confusion is deafening. After the cell doors are slammed shut behind you it is time to deal with your situation and begin planning your survival. Prison life is hard and scary, but if you live by their code and keep out of trouble, you might survive your time without much incidence.

Method 1
Surviving Prison Life

  1. 1
    Gain a new instinct for danger. You are now living in close quarters to thieves, rapists, murderers, and liars. It is best to trust your gut instinct rather than ignoring it.[1]
    • If you have a strong feeling that something bad is going to happen, don’t think about it, act immediately by finding a safe place. Try not to rationalize in an irrational place.
    • Trust your first impression if you feel something weird going on. Nothing is what it seems in prison.
    • If you do not have a sixth sense, it is best to gain one while in prison. Even the most subtle events or signs could bring danger to your immediate surroundings.
  2. 2
    Respect other inmates. Do to others as you would have them do to you is an excellent quote to live by while in prison. Avoid foul language, confrontational situations, and entering into someone’s personal boundaries.
    • Do not insult anybody’s manhood, otherwise you will be making a trip to the infirmary, solitary confinement, or the graveyard.
    • Don’t cut line at the cafeteria or you might be the one getting cut.
    • Stay out of other people’s cell unless you are invited in. You might want to decline any invitation.
    • Only fight when all other possibilities are exhausted. If you refuse to fight when somebody disrespects you, then you are a “punk,” or coward that will live in a deeper misery than you are already in.
    • Be aware of personal possessions and never take without asking.
  3. 3
    Avoid gangs, drugs, and gambling. A common myth is to join a gang as soon as you get inside prison walls for protection. But, to gain that protection you have to do unspeakable things. In reality, joining a gang, doing drugs, or participating in gambling are three of the easiest ways to get yourself murdered.
    • Most fatalities in prison are members of gangs. They also suffer the highest rate of stabbings, slashings, and fights.
    • If you are caught doing drugs in prison, you could get solitary confinement, more time added to your sentence, or moved to more dangerous prison.
    • Gambling is a contact sport in prison, especially if you incur a debt. Having money in prison provides access to goods and necessities. If you owe a debt, expect a visit from your gambling buddies.
  4. 4
    Steer clear of solitary confinement. Although solitary confinement might sound attractive when living among some of the world’s most heinous individuals, it has been linked to torture and mental disorders.[2]
    • Avoid behavior that draws attention to yourself and any violent activities. These two behaviors are the quickest ticket to solitary confinement. Studies show that any behavior that prison guards cannot understand leads to solitary confinement.[3]
    • Every prison has its own rules. Make sure you understand what these rules are as soon as possible because violating them will most likely land you in your solitary cell.
    • Oftentimes, solitary confinement is used as a tool to control gangs. Therefore, avoid joining gangs or hate groups because they are the most targeted for being placed in solitary confinement.
  5. 5
    Endure solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is generally a cell that gives you little room to move about, no contact with other humans, 23-hour a day lockout with minimal exercise, and will, most likely, cause some form of mental illness, even for the most hardy. If you get sent to this isolated hell you better have a plan in place to keep your sanity.[4]
    • Keep a daily mental schedule. We all have scheduled lives or nothing would get done. Do not change this routine while in solitary confinement. Wake up, eat breakfast, go to work, eat lunch, come home, eat dinner, watch television or some other activity, and then go to sleep – all in your mind.
    • Break processes down into their basic parts. This is an excellent mental exercise that will keep you challenged and thinking logically. If you like baseball or football, think about explaining these sports to an alien who has no concept. In this way, you have to describe and give examples of every small step. This should take you an entire day.
    • Build things or take them apart. Think about the items you need to buy a house and make a shopping list. Go to the store, buy the products, and take them to the site. After that, imagine building the house.

Method 2
Maintaining Your Health

  1. 1
    Eat healthy. Although the taxpayer is providing your meals for you dinner is certainly not from McCormick and Schmick’s Steakhouse. In fact, most prison food is bland and high in calories.[5]
    • Prison food can be supplemented with food from the commissary or canteen to improve your diet.
    • Many commissaries sale products rich in vitamins and minerals. Try to replace a meal or two per week with these alternative choices.
    • Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.
  2. 2
    Exercise regularly. Stretching, resistance training, and aerobic exercises are three exercises that can be easily conducted on prison grounds. This will give you strength while keeping your waistline slim.[6]
    • Exercising will make the time go by faster
    • Prison is a stressful place and exercise provides a better outlet than fighting to relieve your stress.
    • Physically fit people are less likely to be targeted as victims for strong-arm tactics since you will be better prepared to defend yourself.
  3. 3
    Keep busy with activities. There is a lot of time to do something in prison. Instead of lying around your cell all day participate in a sport, non-lethal card game, or join a club.[7]
    • Idleness in prison only results in trouble. Participating in positive activities will take you mind off the time and situation.
    • Activities are stimulating and social. They take a little fear out of being there, even if temporary.
    • Play basketball, lift weights, play pinochle, or join a walking club.
  4. 4
    Deal with an illness. All prisons are different in how they treat inmates who are sick, but health care in prison is always delivered in the most cost-effective and efficient manner that can be achieved with safety and appropriate care. Most prisons offer infirmary and hospital care either in the prison or at a community hospital depending on the severity of illness and treatment required.[8]
    • If you need medical care in a prison, a written request must be submitted. Once it is received, it will be screened and prioritized for an appointment.
    • Emergency services are available as necessary.
    • Drugs, surgery, prenatal, and hospice care are provided if necessary.

Method 3
Staying Sane

  1. 1
    Read to empower your mind. Newspapers, magazines, and books are all available on current affairs, general knowledge, and education. Reading allows you to enter a fantasy world and escape prison life.[9]
    • A knowledgeable brain will help you deal with difficult circumstance while in prison.
    • Once you gain freedom, you will be able to put some of that knowledge to use.
  2. 2
    Gain an education. Most prisons offer GED classes or community college classes for prisoners to gain an education. There is plenty of time to go to class and study, so you might as well get an education.[10]
    • An education will better prepare you for the outside world.
    • As with any employer, they will want to some engagement with learning, so earning a degree or certificate while in prison gives you the evidence you need to get a job in the free world.
  3. 3
    Deal with depression. Prison is certainly not the ideal place for anybody and having to spend any part of your life there is depressing. Moreover, most prisons are overcrowded, full of boredom and disappointment, and sexual predators providing an environment conducive to depression. In prison, you may or may not have access to a doctor, counselor, and drugs.[11]
    • If you do not have access to mental health care, try to find another prisoner willing to listen. Odds are there are many other prisoners like you suffering from a depressed mind.
    • Try to focus on stressing your body through exercise rather than on your mind. Exercise releases hormones that help fight stress and depression.
    • Stay away from drugs and alcohol since they will only make depression worse.
    • Concentrate on eating more fruits and vegetables while limiting caffeine and sugar.
    • Make a few acquaintances so that you do not spend too much time alone. Maybe your prison mates will be able to give you positive encouragement and lift your spirits.
  4. 4
    Manage your anger. Going to prison will make the best of us angry. Anger is common in prison because there always seems to be more frustration than solutions. Thus, when the anger becomes too much and you explode, that is when major problems occur.[12]
    • Be careful not to assume. Making assumptions in prison can be a dangerous road to go down. Never try to be a mind reader. Instead, make sure you know the reason why somebody bumped into you or passed you in line. A mistake could be fatal.
    • Do not impose your own rules on other inmates without their knowledge. This is usually manifests itself in statements that start like this: “He should have…”
    • Many prisoners claim personal rights that must be respected by others. If you violate their imaginary rights, then you must be prepared to defend yourself.
    • The more you “overgeneralize” something the angrier you will become. For example, if you catch yourself constantly complaining that you are “always” singled out or “never” taken seriously, you will likely become angrier.
    • Try not to think about everything as either black or white. In prison, you will survive longer if you understand that there are shades of grey. Not all people are only good or bad.

Method 4
Learning the Code

  1. 1
    Do not trust anybody. This pretty much applies to everybody including inmates, guards, and any other prison staff. Remember, nothing in prison is free.
    • Be skeptical of why anybody is being nice to you. Ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” Since most inmates are aware of the “don’t trust anybody rule,” there is probably some ulterior motive for them approaching you.
    • It is okay to talk to prison guards and staff, but be careful what you say because anything and everything you say, no matter how insignificant you think it is, can be used for or against you.
    • Prison guards will not protect you and even if they did, you still have to go back to your cell where everybody knows you live. It is better just to keep your mouth shut regarding any information you have on another prisoner.
    • Most important is to trust yourself. After all, you are the only one you can trust in prison.
  2. 2
    Hide your emotions. Easier said than done, but try not to show fear, anger, happiness, or pain. Other prisoners will prey on your emotions. Simply put emotions are your biggest enemy because it reveals weakness, which both inmates and guards will use against you.
    • Since most prisoners are bored, they have plenty of time to practice their manipulative skills against you. They will provoke your anger and destroy your happiness.
    • It is important to remember that the prison guards and staff are always right and they are never on your side. In other words, treat them nicely and with respect to keep them out of your hair.
    • Avoid challenging or intimidating inmates, guards, and staff as well. No matter if you are right or wrong, you will be the one to suffer.
  3. 3
    Do not stare. Staring is rude no matter where you are, but it usually won’t get you into too much trouble unless you are in prison. As you walk through the prison, keep your eyes forward and don’t stare or it could be misinterpreted.
    • You should not stare, but neither should you walk around staring at the ground or might run into somebody, causing a whole new set of problems.
    • In general, staring usually means two things, either sexual interest or hostility. As you can imagine, neither is what you want to happen in prison.
  4. 4
    Do not snitch. If you enjoy being completely miserable, then tell a guard something about another inmate’s transgressions. This will surely earn you several near death beatings. It is best to see and hear everything, but to say nothing.
    • If you are ever questioned about an incident by prison guards, make an excuse and never answer the question.
    • Be careful where and how you talk to guards. If you are hidden or seem too friendly, this will most likely be interpreted as snitching. In this case, it is best to avoid talking to any prison staff.
    • Not only do other prisoners hate snitches, so do prison guards. If you ever upset a prison guard, your name will emerge as a snitch to your enemies regardless if it is true or not.
  5. 5
    Be respectful to the guards. There is simply no other way to deal with prison guards and staff other than with respect and deference. They control everything and they are the final word. If you get on the wrong side of a guard, they could potentially be your worst enemy in prison.
    • The prison runs on its own economic system. This system includes prison guards who will not hesitate to use you as collateral.
    • Choose who you talk to and what you say very carefully. Anything you say or tell the guards can be used to hurt, manipulate, or betray you no matter how innocent you think it is.
    • Avoid discussing religion, politics, race, and personal feelings. These are topics that will easily get you into hot water if you take the conversation in the wrong direction.

Method 5
Communicating With Your Family

  1. 1
    Write letters and make phone calls. These are the two most important modes of communication into and out of prison. This will be the vital bridge between you and your family.[13]
    • Maintaining contact with family and friends will give you something to look forward to and keep some sense of normalcy during your incarceration.
    • Learning about friends and family on the outside will motivate you to do everything you can to see them once again.
  2. 2
    Do not abandon your role. If you are father, husband, mother, or wife, do your best to maintain that role with your family while in prison.[14]
    • Try to make it easy for your spouse and children to speak to you and talk about family life as much as possible during phone conversations and in letters.
    • Trust your family. Do not let the failures of all those around you influence how you feel or treat your family members.
    • Overlook the little things and focus on the bigger picture. If you get upset and give your spouse the “silent treatment,” it could last forever.
    • Let your children, if you have any, unite your family not divide it. Don’t let them take sides and make sure you are doing whatever you can to encourage and support their goals.
    • Be polite and don’t be afraid to apologize when you are wrong. The odds are already against by going to prison.
  3. 3
    Make the most of visits. Visits from families can either be a great time to reconnect and talk about daily happenings or they can be completely disappointing if you let little things get in the way.[15]
    • Keep in mind that your family is making significant sacrifices while you are in prison. In the case that your prison is not located near your home, family will have to travel, stay overnight, and buy food just to come and see you.
    • Your family must also go through the hassle of security checks, long waits, degrading treatment by prison staff, and other embarrassing procedures. Make sure you show them a lot of appreciation for their efforts.
    • Although you are suffering tremendously in prison, understand that your family is also going through turmoil and probably they don’t need to hear you whine about your problems. Keep your focus on the family and family issues during their visit.
    • Stay connected to your children. They grow fast, their interests change, and they face the stresses of having a parent in prison. Do your best to find common interests and stay connected to them.
    • Stay on top of your children’s activities and give them advice, ask for pictures, and share their triumphs and failures. Just like a normal parent would.

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