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"How to Handle Yourself"


Chapter 32


There are numerous ways to navigate through the strange world of federal prison. Fitting in, standing above it all, playing it low-key – all are options. Much of how we suggest you handle yourself will be determined once we have met and conversed. Your physical stature and mannerisms are important; however, more than anything else, it is how you are perceived to handle things: that is the key. This perception is the most important element in this unorthodox world you will be entering.

Inmates talk and watch and talk some more. Being in prison can be like attending a very diverse high school for children with special needs. Everyone there has an issue or several of them. Getting through this time in your life can be described by these words: watch, listen and be selective – use your discretion. Be respectful, but don’t be a pushover. What it all comes down to is gaining respect and giving respect. You may have never spent time with people of certain races, colors, cultures, and religions, but you will be living with them all while incarcerated.

You may be prejudiced, angry, or even hold racist beliefs. Keep it all to yourself. If you find you don’t like a certain person or group, stay away from them. If they bother you, simply walk away. If their annoying behavior continues, sometimes just taking the measure of not backing down from that challenge or challenging said inmate when you feel you have had enough will be sufficient, and the harassment will end right there.

Many of these characters are just full of bluster without much actual toughness to back it up. If this pattern persists and you have to deal with it physically, take it into a private place, like a cell or bathroom. You may end up fighting, but once out of the public eye, where impressions are everything, talking it out may become an option.

If the conflict does escalate to blows (we will show you some techniques to defend yourself), you will either win or lose, but if you do lose, you will do so standing up for yourself. As a result of this, all other inmates will now respect you.

If you do get into a physical altercation, so be it; just don’t tell the guards. Doing so will cause you to be thrown in the hole and be labeled a rat. If you do get locked up in the SHU (Special Housing Unit aka the hole/the bucket), do not tell on the other inmate(s). It will go much worse for you if you do.

Word travels surprisingly quickly and you will emerge with a huge level of respect if you take the punishment without ratting anyone out. In higher security institutions, rats are required to PC (protective custody or check-in) themselves and that is not a place you want to find yourself.

If you follow these guidelines, you should have few issues while in custody. You will find others that you can get along and socialize with, eat meals and exercise with, etc. Be selective with whom you spend time while being open to saying ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ to all.

You will be surprised at how being a decent person to a kitchen worker will bring you perks, like an extra helping of food. But the only people you should ever truly let your guard down with are your visitors. Always remember that no matter how comfortable you may get, you are still in prison. Believe us, hanging out, playing softball, taking naps, talking and laughing with those you are living with will make you forget sometimes. Do not allow this to happen.

Always be aware, always keep your guard up, and keep your emotional life in check. It does become tiring, but this is the smartest course of action. Take care of yourself physically and mentally and always remember that other inmates are watching all the time. Be conscious of all that you do and the way you come across to others. Be aware.

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