There is a public misconception that everyone going to jail or prison is guilty of some horrible offense, but this is not true. They may be a parent that did not pay child support or someone who cannot afford bail while their case is pending.
The news always displays the worst of prison life, including uprisings, neglect, and poor living conditions. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 US 337 (1981) that all state and federal prison systems must provide a minimum of life’s necessities. Very basic supplies are provided to an inmate free of charge and additional items may be purchased by the prisoner from the commissary.
Basic necessities do not ensure safety. To remain safe during incarceration you need to know what to do and not do for your own protection.
Be Careful Who You Befriend
Whether you are going to jail or going to prison will have an impact on the environment. Jail is for periods of twelve months or less. When you receive a sentence in excess of twelve months you will be sent to prison.
Many assume your county jail is safer than state prison, but that is not necessarily true. Jail inmates live with people who are there for short periods of time and are not committed to a long time behind bars. Their focus is on getting out.
Prison inmates know they are serving a minimum of twelve months up to life. They are more adjusted to life under the constant control of others. They are often easier to be around because they do not want their “home life” disrupted by conflict.
Be friendly and respectful, but don’t rush to join a group or become buddies with anyone. At the same time do not act afraid of people or the environment. If you don’t assert yourself others will consider you easy to bully and not worthy of support.
Do not refer to other inmates in conversations with the guards or other prisoners. This can be interpreted as being a snitch, making you unpopular and unsafe.
Do Not Touch
Be careful not to touch anyone. If you bump into someone apologize. If they take offense, walk away and keep an eye out for possible retaliation.
Do not touch anyone’s belongings or touch their bunk without asking first. Inmates have very little freedom or possessions, and they take offense to anyone who invades their personal space.
Learn the Rules
You may receive a book of policies when you enter the system. The other unspoken rules of the incarcerated are equally important.
This includes things like never reaching over another inmate’s tray of food in the cafeteria. Learn the process for using the telephone or changing TV channels. Do not borrow money, gamble, or accept gifts from other inmates that may leave you with an unspoken obligation.
If you find yourself in a situation where your personal life is in danger, prison officials are obligated under the Eighth Amendment to protect you. Report the situation immediately to a staff member. They will likely take steps to 1) protect your safety, 2) confirm your story, 3) take steps up to and including transfer to another facility to ensure your safety.
View here for more information on being an inmate. Learn how to send mail to an inmate, post bail, receive telephone calls, visit an inmate, and more.
I’m Going to Jail
I’m going to jail is a scary thought for you and your loved ones. The unknown atmosphere of a jail or prison combined with the inability to know what is really going on inside those walls and razor wire boundaries is intimidating to everyone. If you know an inmate who went to jail or prison without being able to review this guide, follow the inmate procedures to mail them a copy of this article.
For more information on a variety of subjects, check out our other blogs. You are sure to find something of interest.
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