“What’s it like in prison?” I’ve been asked this question many times. Well imagine someone grabbing you by your face and throwing on another planet and you’ve got 5 minutes to learn the rules or you’re going to die. That’s what going to prison for the first time is like but I had learned the rules at an early age. Having come from a dysfunctional household half my family did time at one point or another.
You always hear the joke, first rule of prison is don’t drop the soap. Funny, I never once saw anyone get raped after dropping the soap, because if you do drop it on the shower floor in prison that’s where it stays. Nobody picks it up for one reason: there are probably 6 diseases from 5 different countries on that shower floor.
My rules for prison were somewhat different. My first rule was D.T.A. Don’t. Trust. Anyone… ever. I learned that lesson the hard way, putting faith in my prison family to help me left me bleeding on the day room floor, which about a year later lead me to solidifying my place in the prison pecking order.
My second rule was always take one leg out of my pants when sitting on the toilet, you only have to see the end result of that mistake one time. It’s common practice to put something over the window or across the bars when you’re sitting on the toilet it also puts a flag up to your enemy’s that your sitting there vulnerable with your legs shackled by your pants, and as I said you only have to see someone who got caught like that once to realize that should be your # 1 rule.
Things that might get you beat up in jail, will probably get you killed in prison. Stealing in prison will get you killed, owing money in jail will get you beat up, in prison you might die. I’ve seen guys get their throats cut over 2 dollars, because in prison it’s about respect, it’s principle, it doesn’t matter how much money it was, it’s about you thinking you don’t have to pay. Two of your biggest assets in prison are your eyes and your ears, your greatest risk is your own mouth.
Here are a couple of more things about prison and some of the myths that people believe. People have a big misconception that the person who murdered their father, or raped their sister, or molested their child is upstate getting what they deserved. I’m sorry but they’re not. They’re not getting beat up, or raped, or robbed. I laugh when people say: “oh, when he goes to prison he’ll get what he deserves”. Well, the person who did these things is living pretty well as far as prison goes.
They get their own block to be around other child molesters and rapists, they get special yard time, they’re playing chess and cards and laughing, joking, and even sharing whatever child porn they can find. They sit around talking about the victims like talking about last night’s game, so don’t believe the myth that they’re being raped, or killed, or both. There used to be a time when that could happen, but not anymore. I mean it happens, but it’s rare.
Don’t believe everything you see on TV when it comes to prison either. Whether it’s a drama or it’s a documentary, the prisons are only going to let you see what it wants you to see, and you’re only getting an hour of a lifetime spent there. You see the people they want you to see.
Even when you see inmates in the hole, well there are guys in the way, way, back that you’re never going to see. Isolation has left them too far gone, and they’re not coming back. That is the truth, I spent numerous times in the hole, sometimes on purpose, and I’ve watched guys lose it and just not make it back out. They just get stuck in a certain part of their brain, I guess. I would get lost in my head and I would go so deep that when I would pull myself back I’d be scared. It was one of the things that made me realize I’d better change my way because I know it would be real easy to just stay in that place in my head.
So, next time you watch one of these documentaries remember, for you it’s an hour, for them it’s everyday 24/7, lights on day in day out, year after year.
Author: Howard Heathcote
Howard Heathcote grew up in a house of addicts. Out of 2 parents and 9 children, only one, an older sister of Howard’s, miraculously avoided drugs and alcohol completely. Aside from that miraculous exception, fate was all but sealed for the rest of the family.
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