About 5 years ago I went to jail. Not Prison, just jail. What is the difference? Jail is where you go before being sentenced. Prison is where you go after you've been sentenced. Prison is much tougher than jail. But to survive in prison, you need to learn how to survive in jail first.
You should keep in mind that I am a tall, young, skinny, white male. I was 22 when I went to jail, but I probably looked like I was 16. By all means, I should have been made someone's bitch within the first few hours. But, with some street smarts, a bit of acting, and some common sense, I made it out of jail with a tight butt-hole, and I even made some "friends." Keep reading to find out how to survive in jail...
First things first; I was dating a girl(this is how most con stories start). I found out on Facebook that the whore was cheating on me. I called her to tell her what a dirty tramp I thought she was, and how my friends thought she was a fat bitch. This went on for a few hours. Then she told me to come by and pick up my stuff.
When I showed up to her shitty apartment, there was a police cruiser in the driveway. The police informed me that my ex had taken out a "temporary restraining order." If I wanted my stuff back, I would have to appeal the restraining order in court the next day. I was also told 1,000 times, do NOT contact her. No texts, no phone calls, nothing. So of course, the next morning I was in court.... With my cellphone... And I sent a text. It read, "we dont have to be here." I was arrested on the spot, and placed in my first jail cell.
You will never forget your first cell. Mine looked like the one from the movie Saw. You know the white room that they're in at the beginning of the movie? Yeah, it looked like that. There was blood all over everything. It looked like someone's head was chopped off in the middle of the room. My public defense lawyer came to me in this room and asked, "Do you want to share a room like this with 50 spics?" Fucking asshole lawyer. I obviously said "no, I want to go home and stay there with my Mommy." So I was given 1 year of probation and 1 year of anger management classes.
Probation was nothing. It just meant "Go to anger management." That was all I had to do. Anger management was held once a week, and it cost $20. Fucking rip-off, I know. That's why I decided NOT to attend anger management. Around that time, I also decided I didn't need car insurance. I was pulled over, arrested, and sent to the judge. My probation officer told the judge how terrible I had been for not attending anger management. I was surely a menace to the community. The judge was nice. She told me I had one more chance to comply. She told me I had better start going to anger management.
So, of course, I started skipping anger management again. I also decided that insurance was uncool, and so was renewing your drivers licence. I was pulled over, and arrested again. I went to court and the judge said, "Fuck this kid. Jail for 10 days. Come back for sentencing." Fuck. I was on my way to jail.
Part 1: Intake
The scariest and most uncertain part of jail is arrival. My arrival was terrifying.
I had established a good repertoire with my arresting officers, and I planned on doing the same with the Correctional Officers(CO for short). I was convincing myself that there was a section of the jail for reasonable people. You know, where they send all of the good people to be away from the real criminals. There was no way that they could look at me, hear me speak, and put me in with these animals.
As we entered intake, the first thing I could see along the far wall--about 20 feet in front of me--was a large and long window. The window was about 5 feet high and 15 feet long. It was a large holding cell. Inside the cell was a large--and I mean fucking HUGE--biker-looking dude. He looked to be 7 feet tall, with long hair, a mean fucking face, and a bright orange jumpsuit. From the looks of him, his soul purpose was to rape/kill/eat whatever entered that cell.
So as I was being fingerprinted, pictured, my tattoos cataloged, etc, I was being as polite as possible to the CO who was handling me. There was no possible way that she could put me in the same cell as this lunatic who would surely rip my arms clean off my body in a heartbeat. I was stripped naked, and given an orange jumpsuit. Then, she brought me to my cell.
She opened the door where the caged beast was pacing. I stepped in... And just like that, all of my fears about jail were washed away.
Part 2: Making Friends ...And Enemies
My eyes could no longer deceive me. When I entered the cell I could see that this big bad man was really just a sad dude in an orange jumpsuit, just like me. He asked me what I was in for. I told him. Then I asked what he did. He told me(I forget), and then we sat there in relative silence. This made me realize that as long as I played it cool, everything would be fine.
Within a few hours I was moved to a large dorm room. The dorm was like a huge locker room with bunk beds. There was a separate area with tables and a TV. This is where I would live. The jail was severely over crowded so myself and about 10 other inmates were given large plastic "boats" that we slept in on the floor. So there I was. New man in the dorm, sitting in my plastic boat, with nothing but my jumpsuit and a bag full of t-shirts, towels, and a single-use toothbrush.
I later found that this stage--the new man stage--was the biggest predictor of an inmate's future success. Luckily my boat was right next to someone my age, and build(tall, white, and skinny). We even hung out at some of the same spots. We hit it off immediately. His name was Scott, and he was in for beating up his Dad for the millionth time. He had been in and out of jail since he was a kid, and when he wasn't locked up he would live at the YMCA. He bragged that his life was like jail even when he was free. He would go to a local discount store to buy Ramen noodles, and other foods served in jail. He also took meds everyday because he could see his dead grandfather.
Also in a boat near me was a peculiar little man that we all called Joe Dirt. Joe was a nasty little redneck with meth teeth. He was in for something to do with drugs. He was 35, and was finishing a 2 and a half year sentence. He was about to be free when the judge sent him to our jail to do 30 days for something trivial. The prison he came from was a horror show.
Attached to Joe Dirt at all times was a guy that we called Diesel. We called him Diesel because he looked like Diesel from WWF. The man was fucking enormous and he looked scary as shit. He was the biggest fucking pussy that I encountered my whole time in jail. Little Joe Dirt had to make him stop crying a few times. But we all liked having him around because nobody would dare fuck with any of us. We were the only ones who knew he was a pussy.
Last but not least, there was Mike. Mike was a fucking dirt bag. He bragged about hitting his girlfriend. He bragged about hiding drugs in his mother's walls. He bragged about the police harassing him. He even bragged about stealing an iPod from a 13 year old kid. This dude was a dirtbag. But we got along. We all got along. In fact, the only reason that I survived jail is because of these friends; Scott, Joe Dirt, Diesel, and Mike.
I'd say the number one rule for surviving jail is to make friends. But you need to know which friends are worth making. For example, I was approached very early on by a skinhead who offered me shower shoes. "Hey man, if you need some shower shoes just let me know. You can use mine." I wasn't exactly raised in the street, but I have street smarts enough to know not to accept a gift from anyone. Nowhere is this rule more true than in jail. You must NEVER accept anything from ANYONE. You will be expected to pay back whatever you borrowed and then some. Usually that leads to sucking someone's dick.
About 3 days into my time I was put to the test. I was walking across the dorm when one of the skinheads called me over. He was clearly the leader because he was the scariest looking one. He asked me to sit down, so I did. I was now sitting on a bunk, surrounded on all sides by skinheads. This was an interview.
He asked me where I was from and why people from my city hadn't furnished me with sweats, shoes, or headphones. My reply was simple, "There is nobody here from my city that I know." "Who do you know from your city?" he asked. I started naming all of the shadiest people I could think of. He knew some of them! I told him that we went way back. He asked me if I knew a Joe Ja-something. I caught his trick and replied "Yeah, that's you." The skinheads laughed. I was free to go. Joe said one last thing before I left: "We like you and your friends. We like when white guys stick together."
Now that I had a crew of friends, and the approval of the skinheads, I felt like this was going to be a very smooth ride. 10 days until freedom I thought. Not so fast.
After 10 days I was to go back to court where I was positive the judge would let me go for time served. I told my friends goodbye. As a precaution, I packed up my belongings and made Joe Dirt pledge to hold them until 6pm, just in case I had to come back.
At the courthouse I met my public defense lawyer again. Because I was so skinny, and because of the high amount of drug offenses in my area, my lawyer wouldn't believe that I wasn't on drugs. He would only believe me after most of my family showed up to the courtroom and reassured him that I was clean.
I expected the judge to say I had served my time, and I could go home. Instead, she sentenced me to 1 year in prison, and 6 years of probation with anger management. Fuck. I sat down in my chair. The judge screamed at me to stand up. I was frozen. Then my lawyer snapped into action and requested another trial date. He claimed that he wasn't unprepared. He pleaded and became very animated. The judge decided to give me a new date in two weeks. This is where I learned a valuable lesson about public defenders: If they like you, and think you are a good person, they will fight for you. If a public defender fights for his client, the judge knows that the client is worth speaking up for, and will likely go easier.
So now I had to go back to jail and wait two more weeks to go back to trial. The boys were going to rag on me for this, I knew it. But I was more worried about how I would get my boat back. The last thing I wanted was to be separated from my friends. When I returned to the jail, I was happy to find that they had saved all of my stuff. There was only one problem. Someone had taken my plastic boat. "Who?" I asked. "Him," said Joe Dirt, pointing across the dorm.
The guy who took my boat was the biggest, baddest black dude in the place. He was in the black section of the dorm, in the middle of about 20 people. I had no choice. I walked straight across the dorm--I could feel a crowd form behind me--and I politely told the big scary man that I was taking my boat back. For a moment he looked like he was going to destroy me. It felt as though a race riot was about to break out. But it didn't.
I still can't figure out why he didn't kill me right on the spot. Maybe I had a really big crowd behind me. Maybe he was in disbelief that I would tell him explicitly, "Come get your stuff, because I'm taking my boat back." Whatever the reason was, I don't care. It is one of the proudest and ballsiest moments of my life, and I came out unscathed.
The rest of my time in the dorm was really simple. In all honesty, it was like being at a summer camp. We sat around and talked about stupid shit all day long. We played chess and checkers. At night time we would throw shit at each other and giggle like little kids. We combined Ramen noodles and cheese, with other mysterious ingredients in a large trash bag. We poured in boiling water, and everyone would line up with a bowl. It was kind of fun at times.
I was locked up for a big portion of the Patriots 2007 perfect regular season. We watched the games on Sunday and the whole dorm would go nuts. The most fun that I had was during the MLB playoffs. We watched the Sox beat the Angels, and before the home games, the fighter jets that buzzed Fenway Park flew right past the jail. The jail was located on the 17th floor of a building across the water from Boston. At night time we would play basketball--on the roof!
There was some fun, but there were also times of anxiety. Every now and then the walls would feel like they were closing in. And waking up was the worst. You think you're in your bed at home. You imagine what you'll do when you wake up; Get on the net, call your friends, watch some TV, grab a beer... Then you wake to find that you're in a large locker room with 70 other men.
When I had finally served about 27 days I was brought back to court. I was hopeful that I would not serve a 1 year sentence. Thankfully the judge was lenient and sentenced me to 3 more days. I was sent to the "new man unit" of a nearby prison. I spent my final 3 days locked in a cell with one other guy. He was the leader of the Latin Kings in my area. He was feared and respected in the unit. He was one of the nicest people I met while I was in jail.
Part 3: Conclusion
I have seen a million jail/prison movies. I always wondered how I would stand up to the test of being incarcerated. I am happy to report that I passed the experience with flying colors. Not only was I not victimized, but I also had some good laughs while I was there!
The key to my survival was having friends. The word "friend" in jail can mean many things. In this case, I luckily found some guys that were willing to stick together. I would bet that they are all still in jail or prison right now, and I wish them all the luck in the world.
As for me, I have not been back to jail since being freed. As part of serving 30 days, my probation was ended and I no longer had to attend anger management. I paid all of my fines, cleaned up my remaining court dates, and now I am totally free. Not only that, but due to the laws in my state, I do not have a criminal record.
Going to jail sucks big time. But if you play your cards right, you can make it out in one piece. In my case, it was an experience that I am happy to have gone through. I will never forget it.