Being locked up in a small, cramped room full of strangers is not a very ideal situation. However, it must be a lot better than having to stay for an entire week in a jail cell. Films and TV shows, though it may seem realistic, cannot prepare a person for the actual thing. In reality, jail can be a cold, musty, dark, and damp place that holds any kind of individual who has broken the law. So if a person finds himself in one of those cells, there’s only one thing to think about: surviving the next 168 hours or so.
In the first few moments of the stay, most first-time inmates would probably feel terrified. This is actually a normal reaction, given that every piece of physical comfort one can cling on to is stripped away. Freedom to move about and to speak is severely limited – every word or action can be used against you. But the two most terrifying aspects of imprisonment are: you have little or no contact with family and friends, and you are in the midst of a potentially volatile atmosphere, rubbing elbows with an unpredictable crowd of fellow inmates.
But when everything else sinks in, and there’s nothing else to do but stare at the blank walls, boredom will kick in. Socializing with the other inmates may be appealing so as to pass time, but there are a few things one must remember upon making ‘acquaintances’.
Respect is at the top of this list. Respect other inmates and be polite to the warden or chief, and the prison guards. Many first time offenders disregard this rule, thinking that the faster they can establish their “tough guy/girl” persona, the faster other inmates and prison personnel will “respect” them.
This is the farthest thing from the truth. With all likelihood, this will only attract unwanted attention, and even hatred from more hardened criminals or long-term denizens of the prison system. These are people who have a lot of time on their hands. Some may never leave jail, or bored out of their wits, or looking for ways to vent their bottled anger and/or frustration. Some will not hesitate to “teach” neophytes a few “lessons” in prison/inmate hierarchy.
Worse, this offensive attitude will make prison guards ignore you, and leave you completely to your own devices. This increases the possibility of a physical attack from almost anyone in the prison system.
You have to remember that most prison guards have seen and dealt with this kind of nonsense, day in and day out. Often, they are overworked, underpaid, and have lost almost all sympathy or empathy for troublemakers behind bars, especially first-time offenders. They will not be impressed with false posturing, or threats, or basically, anything else you throw at them.
It is essential to show deference to prison guards, especially if you are incarcerated in a prison known to house violent offenders, or a system infamous for inmate fighting or attacks.
Prison guards are not only there to keep the peace and enforce order. They are also there to protect inmates from each other in worst case scenarios. Although you are incarcerated, you would still need to ask prison guards for assistance or help in dire circumstances.
The best thing to do is to keep your head down, and stay out of trouble for the whole time. Follow set rules and regulations (e.g. prison dress code, when/how to use available amenities, conduct code towards other people, etc.) Stick to the recommended schedule for inmates (e.g. meal times, lights out, morning exercises, etc.)
If prison personnel assigns you to do tasks (e.g. you are assigned to scrub bathrooms, or you are part of the cleaning crew in the dining hall, or they simply ask you to leave your cell during certain times of the day,) do so without back talk, complaint, or resistance. Any small deed you do in the prison system adds up to your “good behaviour score card,” which should work well to your advantage, especially if you want to be released from jail earlier than your original sentence.
This also helps lessen your visibility among other inmates who are (unfortunately) looking for potential victims.
Again, there is a wide variety of people staying there, so one can bet that even the slightest attitude can cause a fight. Seven to ten days is not that long, but a week with an enemy in close quarters is frightening, and potentially life-threatening.
It must also be remembered that in jail, reputations are important. An inmate who is identified as a debtor is in the mercy of the one he owes. Avoid owing anyone anything and stand firm if worse comes to worst. Being weak may be inevitable but do not appear so as much as possible. Most probably, it will end up everybody ignoring each other.
The best bet to dowse boredom is to have something to read. This is a great way to kill hours besides sleeping. Reading will also prevent wandering thoughts and make the hands of the clock move a little faster. It doesn’t even have to be a book. Even descriptions on boxes or insignificant advertisements can help fill those afternoons. Some prison systems allow inmates access to in-house library books, or encourage people to join programs that will allow them to reintegrate successfully back into society.
However, these amenities or luxuries are highly subjective to the person’s conduct towards fellow inmates and prison personnel. (Think: how many points do you have on your good behaviour score card?)
Besides surviving having to be with strangers, there is another thing to watch out for: the food. Jail is not a friendly place to those who are picky. In able to survive that week, it is best to accept whatever food there is that is offered. According to most people who have experienced jail time, the food there is may not the best. The most one can do is tolerate it. However, complaining is out of the question. So is refusing to eat. Meals often come in a schedule so there’d be no asking for snacks whenever one feels hungry. If the food is really unappealing, the trick is to swallow everything fast and wash it down with the water.
Those long hours will certainly not be easy. But surviving a week in jail is just all about having a commendable attitude towards the people around you, and instilling discipline in yourself. There would be no one there to respond to demands and whines. So one would just have to toughen it up and swallow this earned punishment. Jail time can be suffocating and a little demeaning but tolerate everything and soon it will be over in no time.