Prison is not a place for the soft-hearted or for the pampered. People sometimes make mistakes and these mistakes may include crimes that may have been committed out of impulse, self-defense, or maybe out of desperation. Whatever the cause may be, every action has an outcome that may affect not only you but the people around you as well — and getting out of prison alive and sane may be the main objective of someone who needs to do time.
Going to jail is a story that involves you and your new environment, a classic adjustment situation. In order to survive, each and every species in our world needs to adapt to change. This is what has been taught in school just like the bamboo that swings with the wind in order for them not to break because if they go against the wind they will surely lose. This is also the reason why there are no more mammoths and cavemen today, because they weren’t able to adapt to change and so they became extinct. This is also what could possibly happen to you inside prison. You can become extinct if you don’t become flexible and if don’t go with the flow.
Fitting in with society is hard but to be accepted by your prison mates is even harder. The million dollar question is, “Do you have to join a gang in prison in order to survive?” The answer will always depend on the prisoner himself. We have all heard stories about how people are forced to join gangs when serving time and how people inside are identified based on their race and the gangs they are involved in. A prisoner is automatically identified according to their race, if they are Asian, Spanish, Native American, Caucasian, etc. However, this isn’t always the case.
Other than prisoners that build their gang depending on their race, every other individual in prison survive by different means. They may seek others with the same traits and goals as theirs, and thus a unity or gangs are formed — this may be the group of bullies or the group of oldies or maybe even a group where they all did the same crime. With being flexible and able to adapt, it is safe to say that one should know themselves and their place. To have adequate knowledge of the people around them will provide really good chances of going through prison alive.
Each gang has their own unique and notable features. Some demonstrate their superiority in sheer strength and brutality — they rule the prison, everyone is afraid of them, and no one dares to even touch them. Their specialties are threats, extortion, and dominance through physical violence.
Others thrive by being more cunning by blackmailing, having street smarts, applying use of their outside connections, and bribery of inmates and/or prison officials. These are people who look innocent on the outside but are really tough and intelligent — suffice to say that they go through life inside prison easily.
A gang may not always be a group of people who do bad things, given that they are already inside prison. Not everyone there is violent and evil. Some are just there because they were convicted of crimes they possibly didn’t do or because they were in a desperate situation that they had to do something that was against the law. A gang may be a group of prisoners who just enjoy each other’s company, who are just friends, and who don’t have any motive of ruling the prison cells. They just want to belong to a group, so they may not be the outcast because being alone may be one of the reasons a prey like you can stand out and be noticed by predators. Everyone has the innate need for security and belongingness, to be identified as one of their own and to be accepted by people around them.
People have different personalities that will result in different needs. Some may need the company of another being while others need some alone time so being a part of a group or a gang is decided by the individual himself. But desperate times may need desperate measures, as they say. You cannot predict what might happen — a gang may take notice of you and you can become their target. And for some, to be able to avoid it, you need security and protection from other prison mates which can result to being a part of a gang and this is out of the need for safety.
Some prison officials are usually rumored to be associated with gangs themselves, marshals included. There are plenty of reasons for that, such as: It benefits them personally since they get to have extra income (doing jobs and favors, thus profiting from wealthy gangs with outside connections), or for their own entertainment (to make everyday living in prison more interesting for themselves). In the end, it would not be recommended for any fresh prisoner to rely on any assistance from any officer due to this possible rumor.
Regular Joes who don’t have any special traits isolate themselves by playing it safe. They are like chameleons, always changing colors so they would not be noticed by predators waiting to eat them alive. But unlike for chameleons, it does not usually go well for them because it results to making themselves easier targets of harassment and bullying, mainly because it’s either they don’t fit in or that they stand out the most. Other Joes try their best to make friends with few selected inmates just to have a feeling of security.
The answer to the question, “Do you have to join a gang in prison in order to survive?” all depends on the prisoner and his capabilities, if they can live individually or with just a few friends or they cannot and may need to have the emotional security that can be brought about by being identified as a gang or group member. They may or may not join a gang in order to survive. Luck also plays a part in this, as they may either fail or succeed. There may be strength in unity, but are the risks worth it? Only time and the individual himself can tell.