Prison survival guide
February 5, 2002 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Prison survival guide NEVER invoke debts you cannot repay. It is best not to invoke any debts period. When you first enter any institution, you will be approaced with 241 offers. Meaning that the person will front you 1 item (pack of cigs, commisary food, whatever) but you will have to repay them two. This is a classic trap for unexperienced inmates. If you smoke, quit. If you want items from the commisary, etc. wait until you have money on your books, or your in a position with your prison job that you can run your own hustle, and have items to barter with. The basic rule, is to NEVER take ANYTHING on credit. This will get you killed or seriously injured or TURNED OUT and pimped to pay your bill real fast.
posted by keithl (51 comments total)
"Entering prison for the first time can be a frightening experienced The noise level is what strikes you and it is unlike any noise that you have ever heard before. It's human noise and clamor."
posted by keithl at 11:11 AM on February 5, 2002

Someone should forward this to Ken Lay. With his love of pyramid schemes he'd be well advised to read up.
posted by mikemonteiro at 11:21 AM on February 5, 2002

Oh the tragedy of linking a geocities site. It's been MeFi'd in full effect!
posted by almostcool at 11:24 AM on February 5, 2002

Looks like the site is getting creamed, at least by Geocities' count. "Temporarily unavailable."
posted by Skot at 11:24 AM on February 5, 2002

Too bad the site is on Geocities, as it was MeFi'ed, and is now inaccessible. Damnit!
posted by Dark Messiah at 11:24 AM on February 5, 2002

Google to the rescue!
posted by dhacker at 11:27 AM on February 5, 2002

The same advice could be applied universally to new college students with minor modifications, like so:

"Just because Citibank offers you a free t-shirt in the quad does NOT mean they like you or want to "help" you. Never take on college credit card debt that you'll be repaying the rest of your working life"


"Sallie Mae sure sounds like a nice girl you can trust, but let me tell you, she's the devil's hellcat! You'll spend the next *ten years* paying for that one night she coaxed you into signing loan papers!"
posted by mathowie at 11:27 AM on February 5, 2002

it was very interesting. worth returning to see if it is back.
posted by o2b at 11:27 AM on February 5, 2002

It was interesting until he started talking about the guards being Masons. Then I just laughed my way through the rest of the article.

Heh. Masons.
posted by billybunny at 11:29 AM on February 5, 2002

Insightful article. Who's the author?
posted by tdismukes at 11:30 AM on February 5, 2002

Exactly, mathowie, I'm reading it and thinking it's all good advice for life in general. i.e., some people ARE just downright funky.

Does anyone else have a recurring daymare that they will be falsely accused and convicted of something, and have to go to prison? It's my #1 anxiety.

And yet I'm still thinking about splitting my Comcast internet cable line to see if there's any TV signal in there.
posted by luser at 11:31 AM on February 5, 2002

It seems that the article was written for skinheads by a skinhead:

We are skinheads, and we are revolutionaries.

I think that explains the comments abouts Masons and the comment "they are usually Black people" (with capital B) to describe the guards.

That's the closest I hope to ever get to prison. And to skinheads like that. Whew.
posted by dammitjim at 11:40 AM on February 5, 2002

Sallie Mae is a Ho. We are reconsolidating our loans through the gov. program where payback is based on income. Ugh.
posted by mecran01 at 11:42 AM on February 5, 2002

You mean prisoners aren't a mostly white, eclectic, and generally likeble bunch like I saw in 'Shawshenk Redemption'?
posted by plaino at 11:43 AM on February 5, 2002

Replace a few phrases here and there, and this article's title can be renamed "Survival Guide to Life". I think perhaps it was such a guide to begin with and the author simply changed a few things to fit a prison scenario. Many points are worth remembering, such as time management and how "Worry is the most senseless use of mental energy". Life can destroy you if you allow it to.
posted by dai at 11:45 AM on February 5, 2002

It's my #1 anxiety.

Relax, that's Lifetime channel crap. Unless you have a long and distinguished history of acting like a dickhead (probably you don't) and as long as you understand the value of a competent attorney and of cooperating with police in your defense (probably you do) the chances of you going to prison even if you do commit a crime are often very small. Unless your first crime is a violent felony, you'll probably get probation - lots of it, maybe, but probation.
posted by UncleFes at 11:45 AM on February 5, 2002

I have a misguided brother who, by virtue of three DUIs, is most likely going to spend some time in the Wayne County jail located in lovely Detroit, Michigan. Since his arrest on 12/24, he's gone through in-patient alcohol rehab and is doing very well.

Reading this article makes me shudder. He's ill-equipped for this environment. He smokes and gambles, and would be totally incapable of defending himself against anyone intent on doing him great bodily harm. Feel free to say "well, he should have thought of that before he got behind the wheel." I agree in principle, but I don't think being subjected to the subhuman ragings of some fellow felon is necessary for him to pay his debt to society.

I wish I hadn't read this article.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:47 AM on February 5, 2002

For a more graphic, but more realistic practical advice on surviving in prison, you could check out the Stop Prisoner Rape site or the Black Prisoner's Survival Guide or If I Get Out Alive which is a radio documentary about children in adult prisons.

And Uncle Fes, understanding the value of a competent attorney is different than being able to afford one. "If recent incarceration rates remain unchanged, an estimated 1 of every 20 persons (5.1%) will serve time in a prison during their lifetime" This spikes to probabilities of one in four if you're black and, while they didn't collect statistics on this, probably equally high if you're poor.
posted by jessamyn at 12:00 PM on February 5, 2002

Wayne County jail located in lovely Detroit,

Remember, even though both absolutely suck (not that I would...know...), jail != prison. Jail is usually filled with people who can't make bail or who are serving very light sentences. They both suck, but the are a little different.

Thanks for making me miss Detroit a little less!
posted by adampsyche at 12:04 PM on February 5, 2002

Thanks for the link jessamyn. I recall reading about this not long ago, pretty sick how the prison admin overlooks rape.

In Canada, being Native increases your odds considerably of doing time. My nephew did a year in min security for dealing crack. Got along with the native gangs, saved his ass. Literally from what I understand.
posted by Mondo at 12:06 PM on February 5, 2002

There is no harm in recreation, but when entire days are spent playing board games, cards, basketball, and watching television, then priorities have to be questioned. Well for Gods sake, how about giving these folk eight hours a day online? Think how they could improve themselves!
posted by Mack Twain at 12:07 PM on February 5, 2002

People should know county jail and state prison are worlds apart... as a former police reporter, I've toured both. County jail is really more like a dorm, and the people are held there for times from 24 hours up to a year. And yes, it sucks -- but it's honestly mostly staying out of people's way. The state prison? That's where you go if you get sentenced to more than a year in the clink. That scared the hell out of me. Ten stories of cells in one of the areas... workshops, gymnasiums, etc.... "here's where we strip search the inmates..." ... and I walked into the cafeteria as 10,000 residents sat down for lunch. I saw about 100 guards... not an encouraging ratio. One friendly individual chucked me on the shoulder and said, 'I saw you drive up!' Gulp.
posted by krewson at 12:07 PM on February 5, 2002

If I was in a real jam, even if I was poor (and I'm not wealthy now) I would sacrifice quite a bit to obtain the best quality attorney I could find. But point taken. The horrible part about that 1 in 20? Mostly made up of people who didn't commit a violent crime:

"Among the State prison inmates in 1991:
-- fewer than half were sentenced for a violent crime
-- a fourth were sentenced for a property crime
-- about a fifth were sentenced for a drug crime"

Sure, you implement more alternative sentencing, but hell, what else do you do? Is it a matter of all of us sacrificing a little (living in an environment where drunk drivers and property crimes are common) or what? I don't want my family to live that way. Don't we have a primary obligation to those that don't commit crimes to protect them as best we can from those who do? How do we keep gangs and rapists from running prisons?
posted by UncleFes at 12:16 PM on February 5, 2002

this american life offers this:

Lock-up Act Three. Who's Your Daddy? A reading of a pamphlet written by ex-con Stephen Donaldson for heterosexual men who are about to enter prison, about how to "hook up" with a stronger man -- a "daddy" or "jocker" - who'll provide protection in return for sex. He explains the rules and mores that govern this part of American prison culture.

the text of the pamphlet "Hooking Up: Protective Pairing For Punks" used to be on the spr website, but now appears to be unavaliable
posted by palegirl at 12:21 PM on February 5, 2002

The INS has been storing refugees in federal prisons for years, and many more asylum-seekers have been caught up in Ashcroft's post 9/11 dragnet. Here's a letter of protest from Human Rights Watch.
posted by Ty Webb at 12:31 PM on February 5, 2002

If you actually *are* going to be incarcerated for a while, Jim Hogshire's classic You Are Going to Prison is supposed to be the definitive guide. Or so I've heard.
posted by emptyage at 12:37 PM on February 5, 2002

Google cached version
posted by bitdamaged at 12:49 PM on February 5, 2002

Curiously, the Black Prisoner's Survival Guide is composed largely of the exact same document as the alleged 'skinhead' survival guide. Hmmm... Who cribbed from whom, I wonder? Or did Stephen Ambrose write one of them?

Someone's gonna get shanked when this gets out...
posted by umberto at 12:50 PM on February 5, 2002

umberto beat me to pointing out that these documents are pretty much identical (including the mentions of Blacks-with-a-cap-B and masonic rituals), but I also wanted to point out that the link in the OP is to a *nonracist* skinhead site. Which makes the element of plagiarism not quite as ironic as I would have liked.

Incidentally, Stop Prison Rape's redesign looks really, really good.
posted by cowboy_sally at 1:02 PM on February 5, 2002

I don't understand the mason thing. I know a couple of Sherrif's deputies and 2 correctional officers, all who work as guards, all who are Masons. None are evangelical (ie, I've never been approached and invited to a meeting or anything) and all area reasonably normal human beings, except for the cop/power/gun thing, which they seem aware of. What's the deal with masons and cops/guards anyway?
posted by luriete at 1:18 PM on February 5, 2002

A reading of a pamphlet written by ex-con Stephen Donaldson for heterosexual men
The late Donny the Punk is about the last guy I would go looking for tips on how to avoid jail rape.
posted by thirteen at 1:18 PM on February 5, 2002

There's also avoiding breaking the law in the first place.

I just thought I would put that one out there -- sort of a trial balloon.
posted by dhartung at 1:23 PM on February 5, 2002

When I was at NC State, for extra spending money I used to write an occasional article for the student paper(yep, they paid...this was late seventies). The sociology club was going to tour Central Prison and I got to tag along to write a feature article.

The place reeked of pot. They took us on a cellblock where two inmates were housed in a cell that would have barely been big enough to house one german shepherd humanely-bunk beds took up over half the width of the cell at least if I recall correctly. Overcrowding meant the floor of the cell block also had stacks of bunk beds as well.

The next day an inmate was stabbed to death in an exercise yard.

I will never forget walking past one of those exercise yards....the inmates stood still, like a herd of cattle, following us with their was eerie.

the whole group of us was so relieved when we left....
posted by bunnyfire at 1:33 PM on February 5, 2002

There's also avoiding breaking the law in the first place.

That's right. The law IS the law, after all - and we're bound to obey it no matter what.

Good advice like that woulda kept Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Jesus Christ on the straight and narrow and outa the slam. Sheesh. What were jailbait like that thinking ?
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:44 PM on February 5, 2002

How about So You're Going to Be Put to Death in Texas? (which should be on Amazon's best seller list given the number of folks who's lives end in Texas State Prison these days.) One word of advice, ask for the Dr. Pepper with ice.
posted by m@ at 1:45 PM on February 5, 2002

From what I saw on the site, the group in question seems to be a self-styled leftist anti-capitalism revolutionary movement. The graphic on one of their pages showed somebody standing over the fallen body of a nazi.

They may be racists too, but I don't see a lot of evidence for it. A lot of people mistakenly capitalize the first letter of racial groups. Asians. Whites. Blacks.
posted by Hildago at 2:23 PM on February 5, 2002

This spikes to probabilities of one in four if you're black and, while they didn't collect statistics on this, probably equally high if you're poor.

I'm taking Sociology right now, and the current figure is now 1 in 3.
posted by Mach3avelli at 2:33 PM on February 5, 2002

Regular jails in some places can be just as bad, Memphis for example.
posted by gimonca at 2:51 PM on February 5, 2002

Hey M. that Texas list of final meals is pretty fascinating and disturbing. I'm wondering what possible motive Texas has in publishing these on the web? Someone could write a book based on the entry for Delbert Teague Jr.- executed on 9/9/98; "None. Last minute he decided to eat a hamburger at his Mother's request"
posted by jeremias at 2:59 PM on February 5, 2002

Uh, Jesus went lots of places, but jail wasn't one of them.
I think you meant his cousin, John the Baptist.
(I'm not being snarky; they really are cousins.)
posted by bunnyfire at 3:22 PM on February 5, 2002

ted conover wrote a book about being a prison guard at sing sing:

Newjack is my new book about prison; the word is slang for "rookie guard." I spent almost a year as an officer to experience what prison is really like, how it changes everybody, from staff to inmates.
posted by kliuless at 3:32 PM on February 5, 2002

Another article. this one from the point of view of a hacker.
posted by davidgentle at 4:47 PM on February 5, 2002

Human Rights Watch has a very thorough report on the issue of male prisoner rape in the United States.
posted by Zurishaddai at 5:44 PM on February 5, 2002

Kliuless - kudos for mentioning my man Ted Conover, one of the best non-fiction authors of last 10 years.
As to prison, from everything I've been told by people who've been there, no book or movie or anything can prepare you for the hell that awaits. The most good these books can do is to perhaps provide a "scared straight" type of experience to potential miscreants.
As to the non-violent to violent prisoner ratio and related issues, this quote(sorry for lack of attribution) says it all:

"Half the people in prison should not be there at all, the other half should never be let out."
posted by jonmc at 7:51 PM on February 5, 2002


I actually know the author of this site. I used to live with his roomate, I traveled with him and his now ex girlfriend, and he used to set up shows for the punk band I was in. He is not a racist, but a S.H.A.R.P (skin heads against racial prejudice) and the member of an organization R.A.S.H (red and anarchist skinheads). He is anti-capitalist, anti-facist, and anti-racist, but not racist.

The original skinheads in England in the 1960's weren't racist. Racism in the skinhead culture didn't begin until the 1970's with a movement called the National Front, which moved itself to the United States in the late 70's/early 80's. PLEASE DO NOT ASSUME THAT ALL SKINHEADS ARE RACIST - IT JUST SIMPLY ISN'T TRUE

While the author (who I knew personally) is indeed not a racist skinhead, he is a compulsive liar who has lied on numerous occasions about his past, including (but not limited to) spending time in prison, among many many other things. He even lied about 'dying', which we actually beleived was true. He actually left the city I live in due in part to the multitude of burned bridges he created by lying compulsively. He lies about everything, including being in prison, killing someone, dying of a disease, robbing banks, traveling the world, etc, etc. He was more than likeley never in prison as he never did any of the other things that he said he supposedly did. Trust me...this guy needs help. This is just another one of his fabricated bullshit story telling sessions that he cooks up to coax his inferiority complex. Seriously people, this guy is a compulsive liar, and has mental problems.

His real name is Jon. However, everyone calls him 'Bishop'. Funny, he actually lied to us and told us that Bishop was his real birthname.

Just thought you guys should know.
posted by tiger yang at 8:14 PM on February 5, 2002

His real name is Jon

not this jon I swear!
posted by jonmc at 8:35 PM on February 5, 2002

How do you know that he didn't lie about not being a racist? (I'm just sayin'...)
posted by Optamystic at 9:03 PM on February 5, 2002

I have always been attracted to reading about prison and incarceration. Nice to see there are others. Do you think these rules would apply in here? I got this exerpt at Amazon from a book I read a while back called '4000 days'. A quick, morbid read.
posted by kremb at 9:22 PM on February 5, 2002

tiger yang, that's really interesting.
posted by palegirl at 9:41 PM on February 5, 2002

Yeah, I think it's interesting. You're telling log onto you your favorite website (metafilter, of course) to check out what's going on, and there's a link to a website owned by a guy that you used to be really close friends with...unitl he rips you off and lies to you, as he did to everyone in the city where I live. Ironic is more like it. This guy is a real piece of work. He's become infamous in antifacist/grassroots circles in the midwest. He pulled the same shit repeatedly in Chicago, Indianapolis, and my city.

Optamystic, I understand the paradigm you've outlined, and you've got a great point. However, I know personally that Bishop was not a nazi or a racist skinhead of any kind. The problem with Bishop was that he was a bad liar. He did it compulsively and thoughlessly, regardless of the consequences or the severity of his claims. In other words, it was pretty easy to see what was the truth and what wasn't. I hung out with this guy for more than 2 years...we protested Klan rallies together, did demonstrations against the bombing of Iraq (the one where Albright got told-off live on CNN...yeah I was there too). He did go to jail for beating up a nazi at rally...that was verifiable only becasue I saw it. In other words, I knew the thin veil that was his compulsive lying, and being anti-racist was no cover-up. When you get to know someone's track record for lying so much, you begin to see the developing patterns that emerge when they make their false claims. Bishop being an antifacist never made it into that category for me when I reflect on his attitudes and actions when he was participating in the movement. Saddly enough, it's the only redeemable quality the guy has.

It just goes to show you that you can't trust everything you read online.
posted by tiger yang at 10:13 PM on February 5, 2002

Did anyone notice mr Barnes request (no 209) on that Final Meal list?

Justice, Equality, World Peace

What IS the use of publishing this information?
posted by sans at 7:42 AM on February 6, 2002

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