Before we can discuss what jail is like, you need to understand the differences between a state prison and a jail. Most people on the outside do not understand that a state prison is different from a jail or county prison. It is true that all of these institutions incarcerate men and women. Jails and county prisons hold those who are waiting for trial or inmates who are imprisoned for short sentences. The actual prison time determines whether you serve your time in a jail, county prison, or a state prison. In many states, if your sentence is more than twelve or eighteen months, depending upon the state, you will do your time in the state prison system.
Inmates in Federal prisons are incarcerated for violating Federal Laws and are usually serving time anywhere from one year to life.
A local lock up, jail or county prison, is a strange, dangerous, and bizarre world. First time offenders are easily identified by their dazed and confused looks. Most attorneys do not prepare their clients for imprisonment.
Jails and county prisons have their own unique culture. If you violate the taboos of this culture, then you will face retaliation from your fellow inmates. You cannot depend on any one including most sheriffs or correctional officers for help. To understand what jail is like, you need to understand immediately that you are on your own. The lucky first time offender will meet a few inmates with jail or prison experience who will share with you what jail is like and what you need to do to survive your incarceration. If, you are going to jail or county prison, you need to prepare yourself for what jail is really like. For example, the following are two basic rules of survival:
DO NOT DISCUSS YOUR CASE WITH OTHER INMATES — All inmates have their own agenda. In jail, almost all of the inmates are facing trial. An inmate can twist what you tell him into a story that he can negotiate with the prosecutor for an easier sentence. You will find your jail buddy testifying against you at trial. It is best to remember an old World War II expression, “Loose lips sink ships.”
RESPECT – It is crucial to respect the space, the past, the house (cell) and the food of other inmates. Do not crowd another inmate’s space while talking to him. It is best not to crowd another inmate during any discussion. It is considered disrespectful to question another inmate about his past or his crime. Do not look into other inmates’ cells and never even joke about touching another inmate’s food. If you are disrespectful to another inmate, you will face retribution.
The above listed rules are part of my 25 basic rules, “How to survive jail.” You can obtain a free copy of the 25 rules by clicking the navigation bar for the 25 rules on our home page. You can contact us at [email protected]
By Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com