Even in prison, there are bills to pay.
Prison living has been far from easy for me. The probabilities of making it out alive are close to none, and yet all I try to do is to survive one day at a time so that I may one day die a better person than I was before I came to prison.
Most people don’t understand what prisoners go through while paying their debt to society behind bars. They think inmates have it easy, that they don’t have to worry about paying bills, and that inmates don’t spend enough time in prison. There are many things that free people don’t take into account. The only way they could understand it would be if they would step into a prisoner’s shoes and live for some time under locked key. However, I advise you to avoid at all costs living this experience. Getting in is very easy, getting out is another thing. It’s not easy to live in a bad neighborhood. Imagine living your life in the worse neighborhood of your city, not knowing if one day you’ll get robbed, beat down, raped, or killed. Even worse, that you were forced to live in a small house with strangers. That feeling is always present when you’re behind bars.
If you continue a life of crime, you may blend in with others just like you (for some time). However, you will have to keep up appearances, and maintain your guard up at all times. You do that by selling drugs, carrying a “shank” (prison made weapon), working out every day to be ready to fight. All of that just to impress your peers. But you must know that if you go this route, sooner or later you’ll end up in the “hole” (a jail for misbehaving prisoners), where you’ll have to encounter a higher level of criminals, one worse than the next.
Prison living is not easy. Even in prison, there are bills to pay. Maybe not as high as a mortgage, or a car payment, but remember that salaries in prison are basically non-existent. So, unless you’re selling drugs and risking more problems, or a loved one is sending you a monthly allowance, you’ll need to find a way to provide for yourself, especially if you’re picky in what you like to eat, wear, or watch.
In prison you won’t starve to death, but the food here is not that good, so you’ll have to get used to eating the same food week after week, or buy your own food from the store, (mostly junk food), which can get expensive.
You’ll also need to buy soap and shampoo to shower; toothpaste, toothbrush, and deodorant, (which aren’t issued by the prison). You’ll need detergent to wash your clothes, unless you want to wear dirty clothes for three days in a row; you’ll need writing paper, pens, and stamps to write to your loved ones; you’ll need to buy a T.V. if you like to watch sports or want to keep up with the Kardasians. Sometimes you may even have to pay a Porter for an extra roll of the cheap state issued toilet paper, since you’re only issued one roll each week. Realize that in prison you don’t get napkins, so your toilet paper is a multipurpose hygiene product.
Prison jobs don’t pay enough (if they pay at all), to support you. If you get a paying job, you’ll usually make $20 to $36 dollars per month, minus 55% if you owe restitution. I still owe close to $9,000.00.
Now, if you’re a model prisoner who wants to do his time and get out, and think you could just kick back during your stay in prison, think again. If you’re in a minimum security prison, early in the morning you’ll have to get up and get in line to brush your teeth. Six sinks for 90 inmates. After a few inmates, the sinks are clogged and full of spit. You’ll be lucky if there’s enough space under the faucet for you to get clean water to wash your face.
Then, you’ll have to get in line to use one of the six toilets, which are side by side, and have no divisions between them. As you sit down on a dirty stinky toilet right after another inmate got up, you’ll pray you don’t get an infection. On your right and left sides, others will be wiping or dropping while a line of about twenty or thirty individuals will be impatiently staring at you wondering why you’re taking so long.
Later, you’ll get in line for one of the six showers. You’ll start by applying shampoo then rapidly soaping your whole body minus your feet which are submerged in filthy water, (you’ll wash your feet later in the mop room), you’ll want to rinse and get out before the homosexuals get in there to play.
At night it’ll be better, you’ll only have to deal with snores and farts from your immediate neighbors all around and above you, and with the occasional fight which hopefully won’t be close enough to get you splashed with blood. The next day you’ll start all over again.
Prison living in a cell is a whole different animal. In there you could live with a psychopath, a drug dealer, or a drug addict who wants to sleep all day and talk all night, among other things.
Some cell mates are clean freaks who won’t let you use “their” sink so it won’t get water spots on it, others like to laugh and speak loud with their televisions, ignoring the fact that you live there too and are trying to read or write, and then complain saying you make too much noise when flipping the page of your book. Then, you get those cellmates who want to fight over anything. They lose a pen, you stole it. You clean the cell, you didn’t clean it right. When they get up in the morning you must also get up, and when he goes to sleep it’s the time to go to bed. They do everything perfect, you don’t know how to do anything. Do it his way or fight, which brings other consequences (hole).
For those who think prisoners have it too easy, I understand them. They probably haven’t live in prison. Good for them. I hope neither they, nor their loved ones ever come here. But one thing I do know, that the first time you walk into a dark cell in a maximum security prison, and the automatic power door locks behind you, and you turn around and see a big guy in front of you holding a shank in his hand ready to attack you for no apparent reason, then you’ll understand that prison living is not easy.
It’s not about you being in a cage, it’s not about you having a T. V. , food, or a roof over your head, and no bills. It’s about one person having to survive among violent criminals and having to choose between joining the crowd to blend in around dark souls, or having the courage to stand out in the light. Either way you’ll encounter many perils, only your weapons will change.
Written by anonymous while doing time in California.