posted on Oct, 6 2009 @ 06:18 PM
I once found myself in Jail (not Prison) for letting someone use my telephone that I shouldn't have out of sympathy (long story, but it was a
violation of the letter of the law, although not the spirit of the law and I was found Not Guilty). However, for one reason or another, despite being
a model citizen, the guards decided to throw me in the "Gladiator Room" which is where all the 18-24 Hispanic Gang-bangers were kept (so called
because of all the fighting between rival Gang members). Of course, I was a 30 year old Caucasian who neither speaks Spanish, nor have ever belonged
to a Gang.
I quickly found that the advice my Grandmother gave me towards proper etiquette pertain in Jail as it does at the dinner table.
Do not speak unless spoken to.
Do not stare or point.
Mind your own business.
Be respectful and courteous.
Always help others who ask for it.
I really thought I was going to be a goner, and apparently that was the plan of the Guards. Thankfully, it had a happy ending.
First off, I went to make my phone call but the phone was broken. When I went to use it one Gang started laughing at me and told me that it hadn't
worked since someone got angry at their family for not bailing them out and broke it. I shrugged my shoulders and disassembled the phone and repaired
it. After I was done using the phone everyone ran into a line to use it as it had been out of commission for 6 weeks apparently. If you show yourself
to be useful, no one will mess with you unless you have it coming.
Case in point, I used to work with the Sheriff's department when I was an Explorer Scout. So, I long ago learned the codes that dispatch uses. While
I was biding my time in Jail I would make a point to listen to the scuttlebutt that happened on the radios of the Guards that walked by. When I
overheard one of the Gang-bangers getting nervous and upset, wondering why his lawyer hadn't come to see him I asked if his name was Alverez. He told
me, "Yeah, how did you know?" I told him that his lawyer just passed Administration and was in the elevator on the way up to see him. When word got
around that I could make sense of what was being said on the Guards radios, no one gave me any trouble.
Jail food is disgusting. It's meant to be. The longer you've been in, the hungrier you get. Find the biggest, baddest guy in Jail and sit near them
when your meal comes. Eat what you are willing to risk your life eating and then offer the rest to the biggest, baddest guy. He might look at you with
a skeptical eye or ask if you spit in it, but he'll take it, and you've made a friend for your stay.
Don't ever ask what anyone is in for. Not only is it against Jailhouse/Prison rules, but in the process you end up unintentionally treating people
like criminals. Assume everyone who is in Jail with you is Innocent and don't worry what they are in for. If you ask, it's tantamount to asking
someone "So, when did you get Herpes?" Just don't go there.
Lastly, don't feel that you have to prove anything. There are those who will feel the need to be Alpha Dog of the block. Let them be Alpha Dog if
it's so important to them. Don't dispute it if they get in your face. Just acknowledge their dominance, show them you aren't a threat to their
dominance, and move on. If you contest them then you are going to be considered a potential threat and they are going to try to prove their
superiority in ways you don't want to experience. Just acknowledge, accept and move on.
If you are in for the long haul, always order a Pack of Cigarettes with your allowance even if you don't smoke. Giving a Cigarette to someone wanting
to bum one is a great way to make yourself appreciated by your fellow inmates.
Jail doesn't have to be horrible experience to survive. Take the opportunity to catch up on your reading, and always remember there are far worse
situations to be in.