Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

How To Survive Inside Prison

How To Survive Inside Prison - The first thing you might think when you ask yourself how you might survive prison is what prison are we talking about. Not all prisons are made equal, and you could say there’s a big difference from life in Thailand’s infamous Bang Kwang Central Prison, aka “The Bangkok Hilton”, and a progressive place of containment in the country of Sweden.

We might also note Dostoyevsky’s famous line: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons”. We’ve all likely watched TV episodes featuring the world’s worst lockups, but of course we can’t do a show on how to survive in all the various types of prisons in the world. Today, we’ll talk mostly about U.S. prisons, the good, the bad, and the very ugly.

How to survive in prison? So, you’ve been handed a prison sentence and have survived jail. It’s your first time inside, and you are no doubt worried about how you’ll get along. You’ve watched the movies depicting daily violence and a hierarchy of men living out a dog-eat-dog lifestyle. You are far from being a hardened criminal.

Let’s say you’re in a large joint such as California’s San Quentin Prison, a place you’ve likely seen on TV at some point. On your first day, you’ll be booked in, and you’ll go through what is called an admission and orientation interview. This will decide what part of the prison you’ll be housed in and if you have any special medical needs.

You’ll also be given clothes and other stuff like hygiene items. Yep, you’ll have to strip and do that bending forward and coughing motion so that guards know you’re not hiding things in your posterior crevice. You’ll just have to get used to this, so accept everything you’re asked to do.

how to survive prison

Survival tip number one, which should be obvious, is do what you are told and don’t make a fuss – obviously if you’re being abused it’s a different matter. As we said, you’re no gang-banger, and you’re not a former cop, sex offender, or police informant. You don’t need to be kept away from certain people.

You’re now in your new home, or “housing unit”. How are you feeling? Well, the question was asked on Quora about first day prison experiences, and the top post on one thread started with one word: “Terrifying”. The person added, “I’ve never felt so alone in my life. My first week in jail I had done in total solitary confinement. This was like the opposite of that and yet I still felt more alone”.

Before we get to the matter of survival relating to violence, you have to figure out how to accept you’ll be spending the next few years in this place or another similar place and how to keep yourself from not going crazy.

Believe it or not, a lot of people will tell you that meditation is one thing that can help get you through prison. After all, close your eyes and be in the present with only your breathing to concentrate on and, in some respects, you could be anywhere; for a few minutes or more, you are not really in prison.

In some places, you can actually join a “prison contemplative program”, and if that’s available, we advise you to join it. If you read about these programs, you’ll find those who joined them are less likely to be harmed, inflict self-harm, take drugs, and have more balanced emotions and even a heightened self-awareness. We can’t express enough how much meditation will help you get through your sentence.

Reuters wrote about such a program in one U.S. prison: “Men in the meditation group reported significantly larger reductions in perceived stress, anxiety, depression, dissociation and sleep disturbances than the inmates who didn’t participate in this program”. And yep, even the tough guys sometimes learn that shutting down your busy mind a couple of times a day will keep the demons away.

Okay, you are going in the right direction, but meditating won’t keep bullies away. If you’ve ever spoken to someone who has done a lot of time, they will likely tell you that to stay out of trouble DO NOT act like a tough guy right from the start. You see, even if you are tough, there will no doubt be someone tougher than you.

If not, you can’t always fight with 4 strangers or someone who has come at you from behind on the prison yard with a “shiv” in hand. If you want to stay safe, keep your head down. That’s not always easy because prison can be a hostile place. One person explained his first walk to his cell with other new inmates in San Quentin: “Arms are hanging out the cells, holding mirrors, middle fingers from others. Trash is flying down from the upper tiers. Yelling and screaming the most horrible things”.

It’s not exactly welcoming. He said he heard shouts directed at him, with the words, “Fudge you”, “I’m going to fudging stab you”, “Let me see your butt holes”, “You guys are going to die”. We have of course used fudge to replace a harsher-sounding expletive.

Prisoners are not generally averse to breaching strictures of formal, polite speech. You are rightly fudging terrified as a newbie walking down that busy floor to your cell, but just keep your head down and try to look calm. Look as though this scene means absolutely nothing to you.

Don’t try to laugh to look cool as that is only inviting trouble. Even do a bit of meditative walking. Now, you have arrived at your cell. You might be sharing the cell with someone, and it is of the utmost importance that you two get along. Remember he was there before you, and you should respect his space and help clean the place.

As one British guy who wrote a book on prison survival advises, having a sense of humor goes a long way in prison. Your life will be so much easier if you can help the other guy in the cell and others in the prison have better lives by occasionally making them laugh. Now you are there and settled.

We’ve already told you not to break prison rules, but there are also unofficial inmate rules. One former U.S. prisoner writes that it’s not a good thing to get too friendly with the prison guards at the start as people might think you’re a snitch. Snitching in prison is a huge NO-NO, and you must remember that some prisoners are waiting for any excuse to beat the hell out of someone.

Don’t give anyone that excuse. If you get labelled a snitch, your life will be hell, and you might have to get moved to protective custody. So, from the start, don’t act tough, have a sense of humor if possible, and be polite to other prisoners. There are some other things you should be careful about. Some folks might be looking to take advantage of you.

If at all possible, try not borrow stuff in prison. If you have cash, don’t tell people about it. Don’t start asking people why they are in prison. Try to stay away from drugs. Heroin might ease the day, but heroin quickly takes back everything it gives. Getting caught with drugs will get you more time, and borrowing drugs can lead to a life of pain.

Despite what you might have seen on TV, one former prisoner writes, “Avoid clicking up. For the most part, the only way out of the gang is dying”. One way to help with this is by joining a program. If you can study, study. If you can get books from the prison library, then when will you ever have a better chance to educate yourself? Read and return to society a learned man.

Another former prisoner on the same forum writes that one word should be remembered in prison, and that is the word “respect”. That goes for doing things like changing the channel on the TV or even picking up a pair of dumbbells. If in doubt, ask those around you if they are okay with you doing something. You don’t have to sound weak, just polite.

Talking about dumbbells, now is your chance to get in shape. Have a regular workout routine, and with your reading, programs, mediation, and working out, you’ll leave prison a better person in some ways. All seems to be going well. You have a decent “roomy”, and you are getting clever and fit. But as philosopher John Paul Sartre once said, “Hell is other people”.

You’ve tried to be respectful, but as one former prisoner put it, “The occasional bully will try to push you out of your comfort zone. It’s just like high school. Mistakes are a trifle more painful”. What should you do in prison if someone steals from you, disrespects you, and tries to physically hurt you?

You will have heard on countless TV shows that if you don’t attempt to fight back in some situations that person or other persons might try to hurt you or take advantage of you again. Hell, it’s not so bad getting a black eye or a busted lip. You might not win, but fight back. Don’t ever go looking for trouble, but if you can’t get away from it, don’t tell the guards and don’t just lie down.

After one fight, it’s usually easier to defend yourself in other fights. This doesn’t mean you have to get into fights. Many prisoners serve their sentence without having to scrap. Okay, you are getting continual grief from one person or several people. Do you really have to join a gang? Well, you saw how that turned out for Edward Norton in the movie American History X.

The website Inmate Survival writes, “Fitting in with society is hard but to be accepted by your prison mates is even harder”. Ouch. The website tells us that of course you’ll be identified by your race, whether you are Asian, African American, Spanish, Native American or Caucasian.

Now, as we said, all prisons are different, but even if you’re in a place like San Quentin,which is infamous for gangs, you don’t necessarily have to join one. On the downside, if you are continually extorted by one, things can get hard for you. How can you avoid not joining a gang if this happens?

One former convict with a YouTube channel called Prison Talk explains how this can be done. The host, who spent 10 years in federal prison in the U.S., tells us, “I did my whole bid,I never joined a gang”. However, he adds that just to make doing his time better he did hang out with a certain group he got along with.

Prison life can be lonely and scary, so it might be better to join what we might call an unofficial gang. You might just call them friends. He explains that if things turned ugly, he would indeed help those friends and in turn they would help him. If you roll with certain people, you will just have to help them if things take a turn for the worse.

This doesn’t mean looking for trouble. It’s just self-preservation. Prison Talk tell us, “You do to an extent have to get involved even if you don’t wanna get involved, it’s inevitable”. In conclusion, get some friends, but know those friends might one day need your help. This is life on the streets, in school, and even in the office.

But you certainly don’t need to join an official gang. Another thing we might add is that before you make friends know who they are. Find out if they are gang members or even if they are perhaps sketchy. Be smart and take your time when latching on to people. Your reading and the self-awareness you gained from meditation can help with making you be a better judge of people.

Unfortunately, as many former prisoners will tell you, like life outside of prison, life inside can just be unfair. Yes, you can have a hellish time even if you have done as we said in this show. A researcher at Harvard University tells us prison is a sexual jungle, and there are many predators looking for weak prey.

The group Stop Prisoner Rape says around 200,000 men each year worldwide are raped while doing time. Often men are treated like animals, and they become animals. Others are mean to the core. It’s also hard to get help because being a snitch gets you in more trouble. What can you do? Well, sometimes you might not have a choice but to ask to be moved.

The Marshall Project even says a good amount of sexual assaults are committed by the guards,so unfortunately there is no easy way out. One inmate interviewed while in prison said, “If you appear to be weak and they think they can take advantage of you, that’s where things start to go wrong”.

Another inmate said, “Don’t shower naked, wear your underwear”. Another said, “Staying safe is not snitching”. However, if you really have no way out, you just might have to tell. Sometimes you just can’t fight five men at once, never mind how tough you are. Sometimes you gotta get away.

That said, with friends and a healthy lifestyle and doing all the things we’ve told you to do, it’s unlikely you’ll be in this position. Don’t think rape is just an everyday thing, and you’ll become someone’s “punk” or “bitch”. Okay, we hope some of you guys can add to this. How was your time in prison and can you give our viewers any tips? Please share in the comments.