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What Is Prison Really Like?




Before we can discuss what prison is like, you need to understand the difference between a state prison, county prison, and a jail. Most people on the outside do not understand that a state prison is different from a jail. It is true that all three institutions incarcerate men and women. Jails hold those who are waiting for trial or inmates who are imprisoned for short sentences usually resulting from misdemeanor convictions. County prisons also hold individuals waiting for trial and inmates serving short sentences (less than eighteen months.) The actual incarcerated sentence determines whether you serve your time in a county prison, a jail, or a state prison. In many states, if your sentence is more than eighteen months, you will do your time in the state prison system.

What is State Prison Really Like?

A state prison is a strange, dangerous, and bizarre world. First time offenders are easily identified by their dazed and confused looks as they start their  prison path. Most attorneys do not prepare their clients for prison. The attorney will prepare his client for trial, sentencing, but in all likelihood will never discuss what prison is like. After sentencing, my attorney prepared me with two words, “Good Luck.” Needless to say, this did not prepare me for prison.

State prisons have a unique culture. If you violate the taboos of this culture,  you will probably face retaliation from your fellow inmates. You cannot depend on any one including most correctional officers for help. To understand what prison is like, you need to understand immediately that you are on your own. The lucky first time offender will meet a few inmates with prison experience who will share with him what prison is like and what he needs to do to survive prison. If you are going to prison, you need to prepare yourself for what prison is really like. For example, one basic rule of survival:

  1. DO NOT SNITCH—when, you were in school, no one liked the kid who told on the other kids. In prison, the snitch is likewise looked upon with disgust and unbridled hatred. Whatever short term gain you may obtain by snitching from the correctional officers or other inmates; shall be outweighed by the fact that you will have incurred the threat of physical harm and/or death. I knew one inmate who gave information on a regular basis to the correctional guards. He never went out to yard or gym due to his well-founded concerns over retaliation from other inmates. He was even looked down upon by the correctional guards. One officer even asked for information from him in front of other inmates. I was told by another inmate of many years of experience that in all probability he would be shanked [knifed], before he was released.

It is best to prepare yourself for prison. There are books and articles on this subject. The above  rule is one of my 25 rules “How to survive prison”. You can order  the complete list of rules on In addition, we provide consultations regarding how to survive prison. You can contact us at [email protected] for more information.

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[…] by the families about each Prison and Jail in the United States. There are also articles about what is prison like written by the founder who spent time in a medium security state prison. September articles will […]

HB Fields

Two quick observations, both which lead me to deduce the authorship of this article or book…. The comment regarding the trustworthiness of correction officers is inaccurate and reflects an obvious bias. While there is no doubt that there are officers who will not care and may even resort to cruelty or deception, the overwhelming percentage of officers are just honest men and women trying to earn a living. They understand what their duties are are, while they may not go out of their way in some cases, they will make an honest effort to ensure the safety and well being… Read more »


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[…] discussed previously “What is Prison Really Like”. The posting offered a brief snapshot of a Maryland state prison. Another article discussed prison […]