Anyone who has been sentenced to federal or state prison in the USA becomes the property of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). If you are given a federal sentence, then it simply means that you will spend a couple of years behind bars. The big question is, “How to survive in federal or state prison in the USA?” Here are tips that can answer that question – “How to survive in federal or state prison in the USA?”
1. Stock up on your readings. Most federal prisons allow publishers or retailers to directly send books and magazines to prisoners. It would be best to consider registering for subscriptions of magazines, or ordering books from online retailers like Amazon before you self-surrender. You can also request your family and friends to send you books and magazines regularly. If you’re lucky, you might be incarcerated in one of the few prisons that have their own collection of books, which inmates can borrow (just like in public libraries).
2. Learn and get used to the rules and regulations. It is vital that you familiarize yourself with how the system works to avoid breaking rules. Since you will be spending several years behind bars, you need to understand that rules from the outside world do not simply apply in federal or state prisons. It would also be good to learn the silent or unofficial rules which prisoners adhere to. They may not be included in the manuals given to new prison entrants but these ‘rules’ exist. It is up to you to learn and abide by them if you don’t want to get in trouble or make your stay in prison more miserable than it need be.
3. Control, or better yet hide, your emotions. It is important that you do not look like you can be a possible threat or prey. You should not show fear, pain, anger, or even happiness. Better still, it would work to your advantage if you can learn to control your emotions. It is easier to control your feelings at the outset before they can actually erupt than to hide them, unless you’re a born actor.
4. Socialize with your cellmates, but you need to avoid being overly friendly with them. For you to know more relevant information about the prison, you need to ask your cellmates, but you need to be extra cautious in determining whether the information being given to you is factual or misleading. Some people will feed you false information just for the fun of it or for other personal motives, hence the need to sift carefully through these given info.
5. Never trust anyone. Some inmates tend to manipulate other prisoners, so you need to avoid trusting anyone – including prison guards and prison employees. You need to always think that these people might have hidden motives. Besides, you are living amongst convicts who are serving sentence for misdeeds. Although there is a rare chance that you might meet someone whom you can trust with your life, you just cannot take any chance when your own survival is at stake. You cannot expect them to trust you either. If someone is seemingly giving you their trust and confidence for no apparent reason, it’s either they have some personal motive or they simply fancy you as their confidante.
6. Be careful with your words and actions. Do not call fellow inmates by any names (such as ‘punk’), which might be translated as outright insult or call for aggression. Avoid discussing dangerous topics when making conversations as this might put you in hot water. You can never know who is listening and who might report you for talking about such things, so better keep quiet if you have no worthy topic to discuss. You also need to avoid staring at other prisoners for this might be misinterpreted as showing sexual interest, intense hostility, or even disapproval.
7. Show politeness and respect to prison guards and prison employees. Always remember not to give them any reason to hate you as this will only make your life inside prison harder. Nevertheless, never give them reason to take your politeness as a sign of weakness.
8. Do not engage in conversations with prison guards and prison employees, unless necessary; this action might be misinterpreted by other prisoners as a form of “snitching.” In other words, other prisoners might think that you are reporting someone or something to the guards. Prisoners have very low regards for snitchers. They are actually treated with the likes of gays and minorities.
9. Never join any prison gang. Gangs will only put you in hot water just like in the real world. Even if you don’t like fighting, you will be drawn to the fights and to trouble if you belong to any prison gangs. Joining any gang is just like signing in for trouble, all your prison days. It can even spill out to beyond the outside world, once you get out. The gangs have their own connections outside and if someone from the rival gang wants to cross you, they can get to you for sure.
10. Respect other prisoners’ personal spaces while you do not let them invade yours. Every possession or space of each prisoner should not be touched or bothered without any permission. Stealing is the greatest form of disrespect, amongst prisoners. Each prison deals with prison theft in diverse ways. One thing is sure though, their disciplinary measures ensure that the person who steals from fellow inmates will never repeat the same mistake again. It is also worthwhile to mention that more than anywhere else, cutting in line should be avoided. When you cut in line, you are actually telling the guy you are cutting off that he’s no good and you are far better than him.
Hopefully, these pieces of information have helped you answer the question, “How to survive in federal or state prison in the USA?” Remember that these will help you survive in your new environment.