Ex-Convict Reveals The Do’s And Don’ts Of Surviving In Prison

By Lauren Mccluskey 1 year ago

1. DO: have a plan for re-entry into society

Image Source: ZocaloPublicSquare
When you are in prison, it can be really easy to just slip into a routine that is so far from the real world that lots of prisoners really struggle to reenter society.  And despite there being schemes in place (albeit very limited) to help ex-prisoners with normal life after prison, it can be really difficult to come back into the world. So it's useful to have a plan of how you will live after prison and it will also give you something to focus on.

2. DON'T: get into debt

Image Source: Reddit.com
Believe it or not, in prison, it is really easy to actually get into quite a lot of debt. You not only need to think about your affairs outside of prison but there are also lots of temptations inside as well, including getting into gambling debt and even in debt with other inmates.

3. DO: develop coping mechanisms

Image Source: TulsaWorld
However long you are facing in prison, whether it's 1 month or a life sentence, life inside has the potential to really take its toll on your well-being and mental health. So many inmates develop coping mechanisms to help them to endure their time inside whilst staying as positive as they can.

4. DON'T: lose contact with loved ones

Image Source: NYTimes
It is obvious that when you are in prison, you are, in fact, away from your loved ones. And because of the distance and time between you, as well as completely different ways of life now, it is so easy to lose touch with them. But try not to and try to at least speak to them on a regular basis.

5. DO: follow the rules

Image Source: Corrections1
It is also important to make sure you follow the rules. The thing is, if you don't, this can lead to various punishments, withdrawal of any privileges, or solitary confinement in extreme cases. And you can even have time added to your sentence depending on the rules you're breaking and it is just not worth it.

6. DON'T: make a mess

Image Source: BBC
Don't make a mess. The thing is, you have got to live with other people, and these will most likely be people you have never lived with or even met before. You don't want to make the environment even worse than it already is so it's important to try and keep at least your own area clean.

7. DO: stay mentally and emotionally strong

Image Source: Wikipedia
You need to make sure you stay emotionally and mentally strong and try to not let prison life or your situation at the moment get to you too much. It can be super difficult and each day comes with its own set of challenges so your coping mechanisms can really help here.

8. DON'T: use drugs or alcohol

Image Source: NYTimes
Despite drugs and alcohol being prohibited for use or distribution in prison, it still makes their way in through various illegal means. Drugs are smuggled in and alcohol is brewed secretly on-site using anything that can be fermented.  So it is available and problems with them are rife.  They are definitely best avoided.

9. DO: respect others

Image Source: BrightVibes
In order to get along in prison, you have to make sure you show respect to others the best way you can. Prison can be really volatile and people around you are unpredictable, this includes both the inmates and the guards. And respect can mean different things to different people so it's important to know that it can be really difficult to gauge.

10. DON'T: become idle

Image Source: SanFranciscoChronicle
One of the worst things you can do (after the obvious things of course!) is to become completely idle and still. If you don't move your body, keep your mind active, take care of yourself, don't interact with others or stop cleaning and tidying, you can make yourself spiral into depression and it's really difficult to build yourself back up.

11. DO: develop positive relationships

Image Source: VERA.org
If you are in prison for any amount of time, you are going to be in contact with and live very closely with lots of people that you didn't have any interaction with before. So whilst you are there, it's best to try to make the best of it and try to make some positive relationships with those around you, even if you're not BFFs by the end of it, at least you had some mutual respect, and someone to talk to!

12. DON'T: draw attention to yourself

Image Source: CenterForAmericanProgress
From the very beginning when you enter the prison, you know that you will be under scrutiny by everyone around you. So it is best to not draw any attention to yourself, good or bad, because you never know who might be ready to take advantage of your good nature or have a problem with you because of your behavior.

13. DO: keep a low profile

Image Source: BusinessInsider
So it is really important that you keep a low profile - as low a profile as you possibly can. You really do not want people to take too much notice of you and the thing many inmates realize is that being well-known and making a
for yourself in prison is not always too beneficial. You have to be smart and make some really important decisions about how much attention you want to draw to yourself.

14. DON'T: Gossip or cause drama

Image Source: TheChicagoReporter
Prison can often be a really volatile environment and you never know what is about to kick off. So adding more tension to the mix with any gossiping or stirring any drama can be really dangerous. Even if you want to be liked by someone, gossiping is not the way to go about it.

15. DO: stay in good shape

Image Source: TheSocietyPages
Being in prison can really make a person let themselves go but many people work really hard to stay in good shape and become physically fit and strong. You never know whether you are going to need to use your physical strength for any reason so it is good to at least have it. And besides, when you get out, at least you've kept in shape.

16. DON'T: be a snitch

Image Source: Vox
Being a snitch is considered to be the absolute lowest of the low in prison.  How do you think a lot of people get locked up in the first place? If you are considered a rat, your life in prison is going to be made an absolute misery and you'll be tagged with that label forever.

17. DO: keep good personal hygiene

Image Source: Reddit.com
You want to make sure you are keeping some level of normality in your life, despite this chapter of your life probably being far from normal. So don't be lazy with your personal hygiene, and be sure to keep yourself and your own space clean and tidy.

18. DON'T: join gangs

Image Source: TheTorontoStar
People tend to believe that joining a gang in prison will help you to survive.  And it's understandable that people believe this because inmates are stripped of their identity at the door so to be affiliated with a gang or import your gang identity from the streets feels like the safe route for some. But the reality is, most prisoners do not end up in prison gangs.

19. DO: be aware of your surroundings

Image Source: PBS
You should make sure you know your way around the prison and that you are always aware of your surroundings both in your cell and out in the communal areas. Inmates tend to keep themselves alert about what is going on around them, including potential dangers and threats.

20. DON'T: lose touch with reality

Image Source: HoustonChronicle
When you're in prison, it is so easy to completely lose touch with reality.  When you enter prison to start your sentence, your world gets a million times smaller and becomes filled with the politics of the prison. And the longer you're there, the easier it is to forget the reality of the outside world and who you were there.

21. DO: find a hobby

Image Source: The Church Times
You are going to have a lot of time to kill so it's important that you try to use this time wisely. Finding a hobby or two that you can do whilst in prison can help to pass the time, teach you a new skill, get physically fitter or even take care of your wellbeing and mental health.

22. DON'T: fight

Image Source: EncyclopediaBritannica 
This goes without saying but if you can avoid a fight in prison, you definitely should. How do you think you'd survive it almost unscathed if you are always fighting? Not only could it be fatal or cause serious damage to you, you could also be punished for this behavior.

23. DO: keep a positive attitude

Image Source: WUNC
As difficult as it sounds, it's important that if you are going to survive in prison you keep a positive attitude. It's understandable that you can't be completely positive all the time and negative thoughts do seep in but try to focus on the end goal of getting out and back to your life. And take any opportunities that you can along the way, like learning things.

24. DON'T: gamble

Image Source: YouTube
It is true that most of the time, prison life is boring and you find yourself just hanging around with not a lot to occupy you. And you need money and other supplies which might be getting harder to come by. Many inmates start gambling but this is a really slippery slope and can lead you to become in more debt or with an addiction problem.

25. DO: develop problem-solving skills

Image Source: KMPH
You might already have decent problem-solving skills but prison is definitely the perfect place to hone these and learn more and more. You never know when these skills might come in useful, for example, when diffusing disagreements or if you have a legal issue you need to solve.

26. DON'T: join cliques

Image Source: BBC
In prison, it is also best to avoid cliques. You just end up taking part and being influenced by the behavior of others and you could also get into more fights and disagreements with other cliques. It's definitely better to be your own person so you're not influenced or coerced into certain behaviors.

27. DO: stay informed about policies and procedures

Image Source: WIRED
You should also make sure you are staying informed about the prison's policies and procedures and keep your knowledge up to date. You can certainly request access to these documents but remember that they are regularly updated so you should refresh your knowledge regularly so you can understand your rights better.

28. DON'T: post on social media

Image Source: Reddit.com
Obviously, you are not going to have the same access to social media as you once did on the outside. But it is still possible to access your accounts from prison through various unlawful means. So if you manage to get to your profile, don't be posting about prison life or anything else for that matter - you will get caught.

29. DO: seek legal advice

Image Source: ScienceCouncil
You do really need to make sure you seek legal advice. This could be at the start of our sentence, particularly if you believe that your sentence was unjust or you maintain your innocence for a crime you were convicted of. There may also be other instances where you'll need to seek legal council too.

30. DON'T: get involved with contraband

Image Source: MetroUK
Contraband in prison is anything that is not allowed inside and is usually illegally traded underground. These can include phones, weapons, drugs, and so on, and are usually traded or sold inside prison. But don't get involved, if you are in prison, know what you are allowed to possess and what you are not allowed to possess.  It's not worth getting caught.

What To Read Next

Load More