Note from Editor: The facility names have been changed to generic names.
I am an Old Guy (OG). Actually I’m an old white (WOG?) who recently completed his first bid up-state in Prison#1 and had to learn prison survival. My stamp? DUI, interfering, resisting, FTA, and a little bit of weed. While my attorney haggled over these charges with the prosecutor I languished in Prison#1 for four months. Upon receiving my sentence I was sent “up the way” to the eponymous Prison#2 for an additional five months. As I explained to my shorty (wife?), if at first I had been sent to Prison#2 after my arraignment, I know I would have been more than just upset. But I wasn’t. Instead, after my arraignment I was immediately placed into manacles and leg irons, packed into the back of an armored car us criminals call The Ice Cream Truck, and then transported directly to Prison#1. I was definitely NOT straight! I was totally distraught, wracked with anxiety, and completely beside myself because I was totally dumbfounded as to how everything could have gone so far south so fast. Once I arrived at Prison#1 I was admitted, processed, then thrown into the gym and made to sleep on the floor in some something called a “boat”. Here I was surrounded by a bunch of menacing career criminals who seemed totally at ease with this arrangement, whereas my only companions were misery and despair. To say that for the next four months I suffered both emotionally and physically would be a gross understatement. Aside from being under the extreme duress of being incarcerated inside a level 4 maximum security prison can do to a free-spirited individual such as myself, I was also in constant fear for my safety and well-being as certain “undesirable elements” took exception to my being so perspicacious. In other words, they thought that I thought that “my shit didn’t stink”. But heck, here I had landed myself in prison, and the entire situation reeked of injustice and indignities. It was a nightmare! Given that harsh perspective please excuse me when I say that upon my arrival at Prison#2 it was as if I had almost landed on a small slice of heaven – well, almost!
You see, I had gone from being confined to my bunk for 16 hours a day inside of a dorm with 60 other hardened criminals with absolutely no privacy and being able to go outside for all of two hours per week onto some incredibly congested microscopic patch of dirt, to being able to enjoy the freedom of going outside into Prison#2 vaunted BIG yard for a veritable athletic jamboree on a daily basis – well, almost daily! For it was soon made very apparent that while they prominently posted a recreation schedule for daily outside activity, that schedule was subject to change – a lot of change. I found I wasn’t going to get out to the BIG yard if I was forced to attend a class, program, or perform a job, or if I was called to medical for some inane reason, or if they were mowing the lawn, or if there was the slightest hint of rain, or if there was some morning dew, or if there was a heat advisory, or if there was a code (all too often), or a lockdown, or if it was any Wednesday (all day lockdown), or simply if the Corrections Officers (CO’s) simply didn’t feel like it. But still, it was a heck of a lot better than Prison#1, because I could go to the gym which didn’t double as a dorm, a library that didn’t double as a gym, sometimes the meals were actually hot, and they actually allowed dogs on campus! How cool is that? Well, I discovered that it was not cool at all! In fact the novelty wore off real fast. I quickly learned that there was absolutely nothing cool about the place at all. In fact, getting out into the BIG yard was to be the least of my worries. First, Prison#2 was an expert at inflicting a full day of punishment each and every day. But then I also came to realize that Prison#2’s other forte was to employ duplicitous tactics in a game of psychological warfare. At least at Prison#1 I knew what to expect, but at Prison#2 I didn’t know what to expect, except to expect the frustration of constant disappointment which culminated into an acute sense of rage. How ironic for a place that forces many inmates to take anger management classes. Then again, irony is so ironic. At you get ready and dress for rec, stand by the door in eager anticipation, only to have to go back to your bunk. At Prison#2 they list a monthly menu that features veal, fresh fruits, and whole wheat rolls, when the only meats are either chicken or turkey, period. There is absolutely no red meat. You’re lucky to get a banana once a week, and forget about any rolls, whole wheat or otherwise. At Prison#2 you can count your lucky stars if indeed they deliver your mail. And at Prison#2 they will tell you to submit your request by placing it into one of the ubiquitous mailboxes so they can absolve themselves and do absolutely nothing…..except maybe snicker at your hubris. At Prison#2 you get approved for TS (?), only to be told you must remain incarcerated for your own good. Look, I get it. I got the memo. I wasn’t supposed to like it there. In fact, their job is to make me hate it there, and they are extremely good at that job. But then they work overtime!
Their job of dishing out a full day of punishment begins with the control of one’s daily routine, and it never seems to end. Every day is made to seem as the day before, doing the same mundane stuff at the same stupid times, day after day after day. An inexorable march to absolutely nowhere. It were as though one was stuck in Groundhog Day, only in reverse. Instead of being able to shape events towards a storybook conclusion like Bill Murray, one is forced to repeat the nightmare over and over again. You wake up in the same wrought iron bunk, with the same C.O. yelling “DIABETICS!” You put on the same white t-shirt, and go take a piss in the same foul smelling toilet while the same inmates make the same disgusting guttural noises at the same ridiculously loud levels. Then you all leave together at the same time for the same oatmeal breakfast in the same cafeteria with those same inmates who were making those vomiting impressions……and then my day just gets worse! With all due respect to Mr. Einstein, how am I expected to do these same things over and over again without quite literally going insane? And if I’m here just attempting to bide my time for a matter of months, how in the heck are inmates who are doing serious time expected to survive? You feel me? (Note to PREA* – please do not actually feel me.) And if losing one’s freedom, and losing one’s control of their daily “life” isn’t enough, Prison#2 starts snatching away what little sanctuaries you try to acquire and rely upon, and quashing what few hopes you dare to dream.
Biding My Time in Prison
I was just a few days into my bid, and already it was time for a reality check, for it was quite apparent my slice of heaven was quickly deteriorating into my small world. The stark reality (duh) was that first and foremost, and dogs on campus notwithstanding, I had been confined to a genuine, bona-fide, A-1 prison…….a veritable penitentiary whose purpose was to excommunicate its inhabitants from society and punish them for their transgressions. That it tore them from the very fabric of their daily lives with their loved ones, and exposed them to the loss of all their possessions that may have taken a lifetime to build and acquire was simply a bonus the Department of Corrections would consider an added misery. Make no mistake, Prison#2 is not a summer camp for adult misfits that simply has a few more rules and regulations along with counselors in uniform with too much attitude. No, it is a fully secured facility manned by way too many officers, outfitted with more than enough cameras to spy on your every move, and surrounded by an impenetrable fence laced with enough razor wire to fortify Normandy Beach and slice its 1300 inmates into absolute ribbons. It is a very bleak and nondescript Spartan fortress devoid of any character, sequestered in the middle of the woods in nowhere, Prison#2, and whose only neighbor just so happens to be another prison. While Prison#2 was built to insulate and punish its inmates, the administration will claim they offer rehabilitation in the form of classes, pro-grams and various meetings. I disagree! I came to know firsthand that Prison#2 is all about raising false hopes, crushing a man’s spirit, and stripping away his dignity. They force inmates to live in deplorable conditions, restrict them to a monotonous routine, subject them to lockdowns for no apparent reason, dangle possible opportunities for freedom by approving them for parole to halfway houses or under “transitional supervision”, only to give them eligibility dates that are months, and sometimes even years, in the future. They treat inmates like animals, then are somehow surprised they act like ones when their chains are removed and they are finally released back onto the streets with less to their names than when they came in. No wonder the rate of recidivism is so high.
A Few More Days Into My Bid
After a few more days into my bid I was lying on my bunk (us inmates are forced to do that A LOT!) in building #5 along with 119 other “newcomers”, some of whom had been in the dorm for close to a year. The room is about the size of my house, but the walls kept closing in. Some of the younger fellas were bouncing around like it was Christmas and they’re on holiday. While I could appreciate their exuberance, it could be a double-edged sword for the likes of myself.
What I desperately needed was some peace and quiet so I could ruminate on my dire situation. So, silly me, I head over to the rec room. I first have to pass by the absolutely disgusting bathroom with its overflowing toilets and inmates packed in so close together that one might misconstrue it to be the most friendly place this side of Secaucus. Let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing friendly about seeing someone in the shower while you yourself sit prone on the toilet. Or is it worse to be the one in the shower? That said, I quickly open the door to the rec room when “it” hits me – this cacophonous din that is reverberating of the walls as though I were in an echo chamber meant to blow out my eardrums. These lads are literally screaming at one another though they are only inches apart. Apparently they need to be heard over the roar of the TV because no one has the sense to turn it down even though they’re all wearing headphones that are synched to the TV’s volume. Go figure. So, I’m standing there dumbfounded, my efforts to seek some quiet and ruminate on my dilemma more than merely thwarted, because everywhere I turn I am faced with lunacy meets insanity compounded by punishment. Then, surprise surprise, one word manages to eclipse all of this racket and hullabaloo –
“CHOW” rings over the loudspeaker. Ya’erd? Yes, I heard, and so did everyone else. The entire building turns into a disorganized fire drill as everyone rushes to dump out and proceed en masse to the chow hall, which is in fact an absolute mess hall. This poor excuse for a cafeteria is way too crowded, much too loud, is an affront to one’s olfactory senses. And to say the clientele leaves a little to be desired would be a most generous appraisal. If variety is the spice of life, and it is, than it is no coincidence that Prison#2’s kitchen basically serves you what amounts to two varieties of the house specialty – slop and more slop. Quite simply the most horrible dining experience imaginable. You gotta literally take your lumps and eat them. Which is exactly what us inmates do…..shoveling gruel by the sporkful at warp speed. But that doesn’t stop the C.O.’s from incessantly yelling at us to finish up and get out, lest they have to endure being there any more than we have to. “Gee Mr. C.O. Can’t I please just sit here a little longer to soak up this marvelous ambience before you make me skulk over to the scullery to scrape off my putrid pile of compost? Word?” Alas, thank goodness there will be no malingering in the mess.
Back to the Bunk
Instead it’s time to rejoin the herd and head back to the bunk. But we do this at a veritable molluskian pace so we can enjoy the fresh air if only to stave off returning to our bunks for a few extra moments. (This pace is NOT to be confused with the Olympic stride that is employed when advancing on the weight room. A veritable race for the head case!) So, I’m meandering on home, trying to get a grip on my plight, wondering what I can do to survive, while at the same time navigating past a gauntlet of blue fingered fiends intent on separating me from a measly piece of bread I was hope to eat later that evening. And as fate would have it, just as my bread was being thrown to the birds, a very OG (a VOG? – Not to be confused with the likes of myself – a white OG = a WOG!) informs me that I should request a transfer into the Old Folks Home housed in building 8 next to the medical center. Hmmmm. I’d seen these older gents trudging along in the chow line, looking kind of old and tired, as though they had grown surly and crotchety from doing serious time. I guess, and I assure you it’s a good guess, that for the most part because they were in fact old and tired from doing some serious time. But hey – I’m old, and I could certainly enjoy any privileges they might be afforded. I understood they enjoyed more peace and quiet, more privacy, and most importantly, more rec. How was I supposed to effect a transfer when all of my previous requests had simply fallen on deaf ears? Which then begs the question: What about the much ballyhooed outside clearance? Or for that matter, when will I be eligible for TS? When is my EOS? Why do I have to take Tier II when my OAP is level 2 while others have to take their TIME. And what is it with all these acronyms at this place? Indeed, how does anyone get anything accomplished around here? Surely you don’t just “drop a slip”. That certainly hadn’t worked to date. I mean if this place is going to make me suffer by making me lie awake all night on an iron bunk with a uncomfortable mattress, make me eat bad food, constantly wreck my rec, place us on simulated lockdown for days, throw my Bunkie into seg for whispering during count because that is considered a security risk, control your daily routine, make you suffer a full day of punishment every day in specific, and generally just succeed in making everyone’s life miserable, why on earth would they do anything to make my life easier? The result is a cruel and heartless pattern of raising expectations only to have them summarily and thoroughly crushed.
Hurry Up and Wait
Care to transfer? Sign up and wait! Want to join a rec class? Sign up and wait a lot! How about your counselor Miss Worthless? Get in line and watch her leave when you finally make it to the front of the line. Dental appointment? How nice. You’ll get the call just about when your teeth have fully rotted; that way he can just rip ‘em right out like everyone else’s. Hey, at least you’ll be in good company. Inmates without teeth rank in numbers just behind tattoos and just in front of bald heads. Prison#2 is the land of The Hurry Up & WAIT!
Transition to Parole
Let’s suppose, like a buddy of mine, you are finally approaching your parole eligibility date and you long to transition to a halfway house. Well guess what? You’re in luck. They’ve actually streamlined the process. The first thing you do is to sign up to wait in line for Miss Good-For-Nothing so she can confirm what you already knew – that you are eligible. Once you finally sit down with her you must work together to put your “package” together. And if you think your recent conduct and suitability have anything to do with getting placed, think again. Instead it all about a numbers game of waiting your turn at the end of a very long line, while your package is more concerned with your sordid past that led to your incarceration in the first place. In other words, they look for reasons to disqualify you. Your package will therefore include your criminal history and other nefarious activities, your substance abuse history, any transgressions you may have committed while incarcerated, and the fact you have been unemployed (duh), but will nonetheless require you to list your anticipated employer, as well as a sponsor that will presumably be responsible for you anticipated erratic behavior……the fall guy. This process will likely take a few weeks when you could have easily completed it yourself in a couple of hours, and with a more positive outlook. When she is satisfied your package is up to snuff she sends it up the line – and what a line it still is! First it goes to your counselor supervisor for review, whereupon they can decide to either forward it up the line to the deputy warden, or kick it back because it is deemed as incomplete/not up to snuff. After it sits on the deputy warden’s desk for a couple of weeks it no longer has to go to the warden (yippie), but instead goes to the designated district you selected. Your package kicks around the district’s desk looking for someone who will approve your package (you see, by now your package has taken on a life of its own as your life becomes inconsequential – you are just a number in line) for placement. Once it is approved, you are finally well on your way to being placed at the halfway house of your choice – well, almost halfway. You see, there is still a lot more to it than that, and oddly enough the house you so specifically designated as your house of choice because you thought it would make a great fit is deemed as irrelevant. You’ll take what is offered and be glad you get the opportunity……and of course you will. So, your package is sent to a house or two in the district, whereupon the manager of that house eventually gets around to checking it out, and scrutinizes it more carefully than anyone else earlier in line because he certainly doesn’t want any riff raff contaminating his domain, let alone breaking the rules. And if he finally gets around to giving “you” the green light, you must still wait for a bed to become available. But the DOC is loath to let most anyone be released from their clutches, least of all the nefarious convicts that have been placed into these homes, so you wait some more…….but at last you can just taste that little bit of freedom. And that’s when the hammer strikes, for the DOC, in their infinite wisdom, decides that you are now so close to your actual parole that it is in your best interests (and that of the community) that they shall maintain their absolute control and that instead you will have you serve out the remainder of your sentence behind their prison walls. So, the joke’s on you, only you’re not laughing!
Prison Survival Plan
In this “essay” I have attempted to clarify just some of the problems with which I was faced soon after my arrival at Prison#2. Spoiler alert: I had been remanded to a bonafide prison whose purpose was to remove me from society (and therefore my loved ones), and be punished daily by being subjected to rigorous control all day long, while being fed a constant diet of lies meant to raise my expectations so that instead I could suffer still more ignominy. Essentially, the DOC wanted to strip me of my dignity, bore me to death, and ultimately crush any hopes and dreams I might otherwise harbor in an effort to maintain my sanity. Forget about being forced to live 24 hours of every day with the same bunch of idiots, imbeciles, and lunatics that comprise my own little insane asylum. Instead please try and entertain the realization that Prison#2 is a veritable juggernaut that constantly dispensed torture and punishment, along with a strong dose of mind control. To survive takes more than just patience and perseverance. And it takes more than just keeping a low profile and being a model inmate, lest you find yourself whiling away your days in Seg. It requires a battle plan. While inmates invariably face similar problems in general, we differ on the specifics of various solutions. Likewise, it would be way too presumptuous of me to claim that my problems are the same as others’ problems, or that my solution is the panacea. That said, I will herein nonetheless provide my plan of action that I successfully employed to combat Prison#2’s plan of punishment. What I did was write this plan down for others to entertain them a little and perhaps even incorporate into their daily routines, but more so for my own edification. I needed to own my plan. Regardless, please accept this battle plan in the spirit in which it was written. Straight?
My master plan of action was really two plans: Plan A was how to survive in prison. Plan B is a roadmap for prosperity once one exits prison and is at last back on the brick. Much of plan A prepared me for the execution of plan B, while both plans are defined by a specific rubric that I steadfastly followed, and continue to incorporate into my daily life. In a nutshell, plan A had me filling my days with as many productive activities as possible, given the myriad of constraints with which I was encumbered. Idle hands being the Devil’s workshop and all, I realized it was incumbent upon me to do just the opposite and prepare my mind, body, heart and soul for that occasion when I was to be a free man. So, herein be plan A:
Plan A: Survival in Prison
1- I will lower my expectations. Given that I will be constantly disappointed, to say the least, it is only common sense that if I lower my expectations I will be disappointed less, and just maybe I will be happily surprised on a few rare occasions. It is a matter of practicality so I won’t go practically insane.
2- Likewise, I understand that at all times I have no rights whatsoever, and furthermore most CO’s like to impose their authority.
3- I will take advantage of every single recreational opportunity that is made available, as one never knows when indeed that opportunity will arise. And if it were to arise four times every day (not even close), then I would partake four times every day. Why? Because some good old fashioned exercise keeps me physically fit and mentally sharp. It can also provide for some good camaraderie, and is just plain fun! Seg bad. Rec is good.
3a – The BIG yard offers softball, basketball, volleyball, handball, paddleball, volleyball, bocce ball (that’s allota ball), as well as soccer, horseshoes, a pro Maxima workout station, and a track that is just a shade over a ¼ mile. Be wary of “Cracker Beach”. Otherwise, the vast expanse of the big yard is just about the most freedom one can experience inside the prison walls, and is not to be taken for granted. Being out in the BIG yard is the maximum amount of freedom one can experience within the prison walls. Take advantage of it at every opportunity!
3b – The Cage is exactly that…….about a ½ acre of blacktop surrounded by an imposing 10 foot steel fence topped with a generous amount of razor wire, therefore – cage. Very high security stuff. But why? For if in fact one decided to scale the fence they would find that they had indeed escaped INTO prison? How stupid is that? Well, not so oddly, it is wholly consistent with the general idiocy that is prevalent thanks again to the DOC. Nonetheless, the cage is most excellent for some lively full court prison hoop, some pull-ups at the two workout stations, and mostly just for getting outside – again.
3c – The Gym offers basketball, handball, paddleball, and is basically your basic gym. Get used to it, for if one is intent on going to rec, and one should be, it is all too often the only alternative the CO’s make available because it is easiest for them.
3d – And what prison would be complete without its very own weight room? The (blanked out) weight room offers the standard fare of free weights complimented by a little Universal action, and provides ample opportunity for anyone to exit this facility even more menacing in appearance then when they entered. However, getting in there is more than half the battle as there is all too often a wait for the weights. It can take months…..
4- I will sign up for the full magilla of extra-recreational activities, to include soccer, paddleball, circuit training (whatever that is), the weight room, and even volleyball. I also just might sign up for photography just so (again) I can get outside. Please note that the wait list for these activities can be EXTREMELY lengthy. Which begs the question: Why on earth if there is indeed such a demand for these activities wouldn’t Prison#2 and the “Rec” Department respond by increasing the supply? Answer: Just to mess with you. Nothing more.
5- I will go to as many meals as I can stomach. Lucky for me I can stomach A LOT! As mentioned, the Chow Hall is incredibly unappealing in general. It is offensively disgusting in most every respect. It is a horribly smelling room with masticated bits of food liberally spread all over the place, and its inhabitants resemble Neanderthals without teeth, but with tattoos. And the grub is extremely unappetizing in specific. It is a veritable hodge podge pile of mish-mashed glop that is served with all of 8 ounces of 1% “milk”. I mean, we’re supposed to wash down this gruel with all of a spittoon’s worth of water that has just enough milk content to make it appear white? What’s up with that? Or how about the overcooked but cold cheeseburgers that you need to heat up by placing them on your pile of imitation corn? Yow mean? The absolutely only good thing about the “food” is that it’s free, AND it gets you outside. That’s right, you heard right, whether day or night, every meal equates to two walks outside per meal, times three meals/day = nine walks/activities every day. Does it get any better than that? God, I hope so!
6- I will read a voracious amount. I will get my hands on a number of classics from the masters, as well as some Jack Reacher trash. I will read my USA cover-to-cover, and then I will read it some more. I will read in my spare time, and I will read to make the time pass that time much of the time. I will absorb new knowledge, and I will also keep a dictionary handy in order to maintain a comprehensive lexicon of words I would otherwise not use unless I am inclined to perplex one with a prolific preponderance of pedantic polysyllabic gibberish so I can seem like more of a pontificating asshole than I already am.
7- I will endeavor to write a prodigious amount. If you want to receive mail, you need to write letters. If you want to improve your communicative skills you ought practice them.
8- I will play more chess and solve more crosswords. I will hone my mental acuity at every turn.
9- I will carve out time on a daily basis for reflection, introspection, meditation, and quite simply a piece of mind. Amidst all this pressure, persecution, subjugation, and nonsense I require a reprieve and welcome the calming influence, and resolve it provides. Some peace and quiet ain’t so bad either.
10- I will do my best to prepare and get a good night’s sleep. This can be tough for all sorts of reasons, and I will name only three: 1- I am not alone in that I have to climb down from (and back up) my upper bunk a couple of times each night to take a piss. 2- Demons seem to creep into the brain and wreck ten times as much havoc in the middle of the night than during the daytime. All of my problems become magnified tenfold and seem much more drastic than when I am busy surviving the daylight hours. 3- The absolute loudest snoring I have ever had to suffer through in all my born days. Sometimes it is so loud it pulls me out of a deep sleep, slowly at first. Then I’m made to lay awake suffering along with others while the only one oblivious is the snorer himself. How ironic. But if I can expect to get through the night fairly unabated when my head touches the pillow, then it becomes a fait accompli that I have logged another 24 hours into the books, and another day in prison hell has passed. Which begs another question: If sleeping is an effective way to pass the time during one’s bid, would you – my dear incarcerated friend – upon your admittance to Prison#2 at the AP room, opt to be cryogenically frozen till your EOS if indeed that same amount of time would be subtracted from your life? In other words, you would have the choice to “lose” x number of years of your life to be spent in jail, or lose those years while asleep? Personally, I would have to sleep on that!
Plan B: Survival After Prison
The above is how I bided my bid. The below is how I did not nor would not.
1- I will not get depressed. Ok, I will try not to get too depressed too often. Ok, let me try that again. I will try not to get too depressed so often that my resulting anger will get the better of me. Ok, last chance saloon……When my anger invariably gets the best of me, I will not let THEM see that they are getting the better of me. Do not, under any circumstances, let them see that they may be winning. This isn’t just fake it till you make it. You gotta believe, and you gotta believe in yourself…….and all of this will come to pass…….eventually.
2- I will not eat after 7 pm, or at the very least I will most certainly not eat very much after 7. I will definitely not partake in the late night prison ritual of eating troughfuls of rice topped with re-fried beans, pepperoni, sausage, still more rice, some squeeze cheese and some sort of nondescript gelatinous sludge all wrapped up in this potato chip burrito concoction. Tasty stuff compared to the slop served at chow, and it does count as two activities (preparation & devouring), but on the whole it is just downright stupid to eat so much so soon before bed since one goal is to become more physically fit.
3- Talk about stupid…..I will not watch a lot of TV. There is a reason Mom called it the idiot box. And there is a reason that the guy in charge of the TV is an idiot! You feel me? When I do watch I will make sure to keep it to a relatively high standard given that there is no CNN, ESPN, TBS, TNT, BBC, CSPAN, CNBC, NBCSN, HBO, SHO, MAX, STARZ, TMC, ETC. This means I will occupy myself with a crossword instead of watching Let’s make a Deal. That also means I will not have to subject myself to one more Price is Right, or even have to sit through another show of Jerry Springer, unless of course there is an all-out stripper babe brawl. And thankfully it also means that I will not watch even one more of those incredibly lame court TV shows. (Irony USA & what is symptomatic of how Hollywood warps susceptible values of the mass idiocy: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsberg makes $180,000 while Judge Judy hauls in $40 million/yr!) So, when the yabow in charge of the clicker will not relent from watching Paternity Court AGAIN, who cares? Sometimes being a bit cavalier in jail is a good thing.
4- Above all, I will definitely not place an idiot box at the foot of my bunk lest I give in to temptation, for I am admittedly weak and must deliver myself from evil. I fear I would find myself spending way too many hours subject to a brain drain and not honing my wits. If I were meant to veg-out all day like some apoplectic zombie I might as well go back to County, where one is more than welcome to just lie in bed all day.
Some quick Survival Tips:
– Remember at all times that CO’s are the police, and not to be fraternized nor trifled with.
– Respect other inmates’ conversations and their space.
– Do not get involved in others’ arguments. Just don’t butt in….
– Do not speak disparagingly of others. There are no secrets in jail!
– Keep a low profile and remain a model inmate.
– On the other hand, do not back down. You can’t be a total puss and lose cred. However you can take comfort in the fact that he probably won’t hit you because then he will go to Seg and lose privileges. Take more comfort if you are an OG because then he will do double time.
– Do not share your commissary liberally lest you be perceived as an easy mark. Word – Don’t be overly generous.
– I shall not covet rec room table space, lest everyone else think I am a selfish asshole.
– I shall not get caught……doing just about anything.
– When I am caught I will deny.
– When in doubt, keep mouth shut.
– Keep one’s perspective and remember that EVERYTHING is relative.
– Lastly, this nightmare is only temporary.
In summary, my imprisonment was one of the most difficult times I have ever had to face – no surprise there. I was violently thrown into a miasma of deep despair, and my survival dependent upon a plan of action that required both a lot of common sense as well as a herculean amount of patience. I was forcibly removed from all that I loved and enjoyed, ostracized from everything and everyone I knew and I both cherished and taken for granted, and on top of that I was meant to be penalized in a veritable myriad of ways and manners. Prison#2’s job was to make me hate Prison#2, and Prison#2 is extremely good at his job. But presumably I was also supposed to be rehabilitated so when I eventually left I would be a new and improved me. On that account Prison#2 fails miserably. Better stick to his day job handing out penance while boring me to death. Yow mean? In any event my survival rate and preparation for success was dependent on 3 basic premises:
- Stay out of trouble.
- Combat boredom. And,
- Be productive.
Well, it would seem that if I kept a low profile, did not agitate either the CO’s (follow orders), let alone my fellow inmates. (Easier said then done…..it’s tough to ignore others in such close quarters when you’re not to back down either.) So, I came to the conclusion that I simply needed to occupy myself with productive activities. And that exactly became the nexus of plan A. To arm myself for battle against the specter of evil that is Prison#2, and to avoid that listless state of ennui (that’s near Wyoming), I would crush as many productive activities into every single day as the chains that bound me would allow. Why would I do that? Because every rec would bring me closer to my next meal, and every meal is followed by a leisurely stroll home, whereupon I will recount my totally awesome daily odyssey in a letter to my wife, after which I will read a letter from a friend, then I’ll take the time for repose and perhaps revise Plan B, and then just maybe I’ll catch a little Walking Dead before I pass out on my bunk with a good book and call it a day… What this means to me is another day in the books. What this really means to me is one more day closer to leaving this hell hole, and one day closer to home! In the meantime what I was able to do was a lot more than just biding my time.
* The aforementioned is merely an assimilation of actual events and possible activities that may or may have not transpired at some fictitious incarceration facility somewhere. Any similarities or otherwise uncanny representations may or may not be exactly that. Had they been a true and sincere recounting of various sordid occurrences under otherwise inauspicious circumstances you would have been instructed to proceed to the nearest hash den and emporium for a more lucid contemplation of these analogous hyperboles. Ya Heard?!!
*PREA – Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) – U.S federal law dealing with the sexual assault of prisoners
EDITOR’S NOTE: The above essay does not necessarily reflect the beliefs of the PTHS editors, however it is a first account story so enjoy and feel free to comment.