Before the judge pounds the gavel and sends you off to live in a cage, there are a few things you ought to know. Depending on your cage, it could save your life.
Take heed because this information will make your life easier no matter where your cage is. From Leavenworth, Kansas to San Quentin, California from Walpole, Massachusetts to Rockingham County Jail in New Hampshire.
First, before the court session even begins if it is at all possible, give your people the hugs and kisses you or they might want. Once that gavel wraps there will be no more bouts of human kindness. Your mom, wife, and kids may cry, but you will not be allowed to say goodbye, except over your shoulder as you’re dragged away.
Also, money is important. It’s always a good idea to have as much as you can stash away. A TV goes for a couple of hundred dollars, shoes and some clothes will be another few hundred. Some prisons have video game systems. These are $300 and up, plus games. The canteen, the place we buy our soup, stamps, and coffee, will cost. If you live modestly, roughly 10 bucks a week.
Try to arrange to have someone send you in money regularly. Try not to depend on friends and family, if possible. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind,” will smash you flat. Of course, if you stay in their lives, your phone calls, mail, and visits, you will be better off.
Some banks will work out an arrangement, but many do not like to work with prisoners. There are some agencies that could also be helpful, R3 Contingencies being one that I know of, in coordinating your finances. Most prisons have a limit of how much you can have in your account at any given time, so going to court with $5,000 may not work out. They will either steal it or make you send it out.
Another critical thing to remember is that there is no real privacy in prison. Often your calls have a toilet in them. If you have a cellmate guess what that means. The cell door has a window in it or is a sliding wall of bars anyone can look in. Showers are not always gang style meaning one large room with multiple shower heads like you see in the movies, but they are always situated where you can be seen easily by security and therefore anyone else as well.
Having a bad day? Have fun finding a safe place to shed a tear (try the shower) without being seen. Creating privacy is key. Don’t window-shop or look in people’s cells. Learn to not see things. Learn how to live your life privately as well. Don’t be seen crying. Weakness can equal trouble. It is like living with a pack of wild dogs. It is a very dysfunctional society.
The “Society” has completely corrupted common values and morals. Fighting to resolve our differences, not using medical services for fear of being labeled a snitch. Vilifying the victim, while elevating the offender to hero status. These are just some of the ways in which prison can erode your morality and ethics. If you are not careful, you will come out worse than you came in.
The revolving door. Prison is America’s fastest-growing business. Everything about the system is designed to create the cycle of recidivism. The name Department of Corrections is misleading. There is no correcting going on. Don’t expect the state to help fix your problems. Every course that’s offered, mental health, education, vocational, is designed to process as many people as possible. Whether you have grasped the lesson, whether you have understood what it was being taught is irrelevant. Keep moving, please.
So, before you enter into the circus, you need to have a firm idea in your mind of how you want to do your time. You can fit in, ensuring your return or refuse to conform to prison’s dysfunctional ethics and be proactive in your own rehabilitation. As long as you respect individual privacy you’ll be fine with either choice.
Don’t go gossiping or babbling what you have seen or worse, tell the guards. Remember to respect people’s privacy, but do not get involved in the games. Don’t borrow because owing money is the absolute worst position to be in. Even if you can pay it back, by borrowing, you can make yourself a target period.
When I first went to prison I learned the Rule of 3. Don’t mess around with gambling, gangs, or drugs. Avoid them and 95% of all the trouble in prison will pass you by.
So to summarize the 9 things to know about prison even before you get there or these:
1. Say goodbye to your loved ones before you go to court, if possible.
2. To arrange to have money sent in regularly.
3. Respect privacy. Don’t snoop, gossip, or snitch.
4. Do your own time.
5. Don’t expect help from the state;
6. Don’t be influenced by others.
7. Don’t borrow and avoid death.
8. Stay involved in your people’s lives.
9. And the Rule of 3: avoid gambling, gangs, and drugs.