Questions about Prison

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Answers

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Is life behind bars clean all over the cells? - Clark

It depends on who's cleaning. Me, I try to keep my bed area clean but the dirt builds up every day. In the dayroom, they've got porters that clean. It's like a job. So I can't really talk for everyone and other persons. What is your definition of clean?

Ricky
California

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Where you sleep?

We sleep in single bunks. They're made of steel and we get a very thin mattress.

Respectfully - Oscar
California


Where do we sleep? Well, the cells are like a small room. It's not too bad, you just gotta make the best of it.

Sincerely - R.S.
California

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What kind of food do they give you? Do they let you work?

Hugo

The food is not good and I do work in here. I make 15Ę an hour and a save my money to buy food.

Mike D.
California


No job. I go to school.

Tommy
California


The food is nothing to brag about; seems like everything is a patty.

Respectfully - Oscar
California


As for the food we eat, well, the food is like food outside, just that it's nasty flavored.

Sincerely - R.S.
California

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Is it true that they can tear apart your cell if they think you have something hidden there without even apologizing?

If they think you have something in your room, yes they will and they'll be talking to you while they're doing it. That's why I don't really get too attached to the materials in my locker.

Angel
California


When a person loses his/her liberty and is sent to prison he/she also loses many other rights - including the right to privacy and to be free from search and seizure. So, yes, if for whatever reason, staff wants to conduct a search of a prisoner's person (body), his/her personal property, and/or the cell he/she occupies, they (staff) has the authority and support to do so. This of course meaning they're able to do so even if force - "within strict guidelines" - is necessary.

Certainly if a search is done and it turns out staff was mistaken about what he thought the prisoner possessed then the decent thing to do would be to apologize. However, through my experience I've learned there are many in today's society who feel a prisoner is less human and therefore undeserving of things such as common decency, courtesy, respect, etc... sad, but true.

Tomas
California

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What do you do in prison?

Enrique

Dear Enrique,

Hi. You asked what I do in prison. Well during the week, Monday through Friday, I go to work at the Prison Industry Authority (PIA). We make Cal Trans vests, boxer shorts, orange suits, etc. I get out at 2:30 and I go back to my cell to rest and relax. Sometimes I listen to the radio or watch TV. [Prisoners or their families may purchase a TV or radio. They are not provided by the prison.] At 3:30, they lock everyone up for the count to make sure everyone is here. Then, about 5:00 we go to dinner. The food is not so good sometimes but it's decent. At about 6:30 we get released to yard. If I go out, it's to play soccer or maybe basketball. If not, we can stay in the dayroom area and talk to the others or play card or board games. There's an "unlock" at 7:45 which means you can go back to your cell or back out. At 9:00 we get shut down till the next day and it's all over again! Have a nice day.

Your friend, - Jesse G.
California

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My name is Lori and I just wanted to know what kind of schedules you have in prison. I would like 7 days a week (Sun-Sat). Thank you.

Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay
(Prison Gang Members and Associates Housed There Permanently
Those Who Break Prison Rules Housed There from 6 Months to 3 Years.)

The majority of people are housed on single-cell status. which means everything you do, you do alone - isolation at its best. May I point out that this institution is windowless. If you do have a cellie, you and your cellie do everything alone.

Yard Program seven days a week. Every day the correctional officer (C.O.) asks if you wish to go to the yard 1 1/2 hours. The yards here are small, 25 feet by 12 to 15 feet with 20 foot walls. There is a video camera to keep a tight eye on us. They don't provide handballs, basketball, or any other sport or exercise activity. The only thing you can do is walk around in circles, 24 steps to a circle.

Showers three times a week, 10 minutes max. A disposable razor will be checked out to you on shower days. You have to shave in the shower.

There is no smoking, no use of the telephones, no church (only available on an individual basis), no school and no jobs. You are allowed two reading books per month.

Visiting is limited to 2 1/2 hours, one visit per day on Saturday and Sunday through a window. An appointment must be made at least 24 hours in advance. This prison is located 1000 miles, a 14 hour drive, from my home-town. No one comes to visit me.

Escort Procedures. Every time you leave the pod, you must submit to an unclothed body search, and be placed in handcuffs or in waist chains at all times while under escort by two C.Os. You will be run through a metal detector.

Sincerely, Juan
California


Level IV Prison in California
(Levels Range From I to IV With IV Being the Most Secure and Restricted.)

Monday through Friday I get up at 6:30 a.m. and go to eat chow. Then after the CO's (cops) lock everyone in their assigned cells. After every door is secure, then they let out the porters about 7:30 a.m. to clean the unit. I'm a pay number porter. I get paid for my job. I start at 7:30 a.m. and I'm off work at 2:00 p.m. seven days a week. At 2:00 p.m., I go out to the yard to play handball or soccer till yard recall at 3:45. As soon as you come home from yard all sweaty you have to "bird bath" in your cell before they call your assigned units for to go eat. Sometimes I don't walk to chow so that I can shower at home. I eat my homemade soup with a lot of stuff beef jerky, cheese, ham, onion chips and you know. Count's at 6 p.m. so between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. I kick it in the cell and watch TV or listen to the radio [families - not the prison may provide a small TV or radio]. There goes my day. It ain't much of a routine but it keeps me out of trouble. I have lots of friends - nice people. I talk with them at times. Level IV is not so bad but you have to expect lock down once or twice a month.

For inmates who are not at work or at school - on even days only, bottom tier goes to the yard in the morning 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon. On odd number days they go from 1:30 till 3:45 p.m. and the top tier goes in the morning. While one tier is at the yard, the CO's run showers for the people in the other tier four cells at a time. And also phones for that tier only. At noon, the cops call yard recall and everyone who is not in school goes back to their housing unit and their assigned cells for closed custody count.

Chow starts at 4 p.m. The CO's are trying to hurry everyone up at the chow hall so that every housing unit eats before the p.m. count. At 7:30, the CO's run dayroom for closed custody B and medium A's (lower security level inmates) so that they can get their shower or use the phone or watch TV and chat with friends. At 9:00 p.m., every inmate in the level IV prison is in their assigned cells for count and a good night sleep till the next day.

Fridays at 1:30 p.m. visiting starts. It terminates for closed custody inmates at 3:30 p.m. but medium custody inmates can stay out in the visiting room till 8 p.m.

Saturday's and Sunday's program is the day off for every inmate that goes to school and works at vocational trades (auto repair and so on). Visiting is 9:00 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. for everyone.

de Jesus, Jr.
California



Level III Prison in California

3:30 a.m. - The morning starts by me getting woken up by a flashlight in my face and a C.O. calling, "Are you going to work today"?
4:00 a.m. - I walk into an institutional "Dennys" - the kitchen - to see the same faces and the same food day after day.
6:30 a.m. - Inmates are walking into the chow hall like cattle.
8:30 a.m. - Work is done and I'm headed to the bars to work out.
10:00 a.m. - I'm back in the building taking a shower.
11:00 a.m. - I'm eating lunch and then taking a nap.
1:30 p.m. - I'm waking up to work on college courses.
5:00 p.m. - It's dinner time.
5:30 p.m. - It's back to college work.
9:30 p.m. - I call it a night, say my prayers and go to sleep.

The days vary if it's the weekend or on a lock-down situation

Desi
California

[Webmasters note: Desi was selected as one of a handful of prisoners to be given the opportunity to take correspondence college courses.]



Level II Prison in California

I get up at 7:00 a.m. to go eat (chow). Then the yard opens from 9:00 a.m. till 4:00 p.m. I play basketball or work out on the bars.

At 4:45 is recall. You stay in your bunks for count. Then it's chow at 5:30 p.m.

The yard opens at 7:00 p.m. Then yard recall is at 9:00 p.m. The dayroom recall is at 9:30 p.m. for count. Then the dayroom opens again at 10:30p.m. until 11:45p.m.

Then you start all over again. It may differ with smog or on 1st watch status when their ain't no movement.

Ricky
California

[Webmasters note: A schedule like this with no work or school will not allow a prisoner to earn days off for good behavior. There is often a waiting list for jobs and school.]



Level I Prison in California

I get up at 6:00 a.m. and go to eat breakfast.

Around 7:00 a.m. I go to work. (I am a porter in the program office.) So I just go to the program office here and clean up, which usually only takes me like 15 to 30 minutes, and then I come back to the bunk area, clean it up and the just kick it - read, draw or write.

Around 11:00 a.m. I go out to the yard to work out or sometimes to play handball. I come back in around 2:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.mm and take a shower.

By 4:00 p.m., I'm already cleaned up and socializing with the fellas here.

At 6:00 p.m., it's dinner time and until 11:00 p.m. you could do pretty much whatever you choose to do.

That's pretty much my schedule here right now. Yard is open from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on a regular pasis. Phones are from 8:00 a.m. to 8:45.

They don't have no kind of education programs or trades here in this yard.

Javier
California



Youthful Offenders Program
(Youth under 18 in Adult Prison)

Administrative Segregation Program
(Punishment for Infractions within the Prison)

At 6:30 a.m., I wake up to breakfast served in my room.
Monday through Friday, after breakfast, I hit the yard with two other homies for two hours.
After yard, I come back and ďbird bathĒ since here we only shower three times a week.

Besides these yard hours, there is no other time out of your room, so you are stuck the other 158 hours a week, you in your room.
Whatever you do in your room, you do a lot of. If you draw, you do a lot of that. If you read, you do a lot of that, etc.
Now visiting is one hour a week, Saturday or Sunday, through the glass.
Shaving, you shave in the shower which is locked. The showers are 15 minutes at the most.
One last thing, you never ever leave your room without being handcuffed first.

Enrique
California

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Is the schedule from juvenile hall different from the prison schedule?

- Erika

Juvenile Hall Schedule - Monday through Friday

6:00 - Wake up, sweep our rooms, and use the bathroom if we want to
6:30 - Breakfast
7:00 - Go down to our rooms
7:15 - 7:45 - Hygiene - brush our teeth and use the bathroom (During hygiene, all minors are in their rooms. They get popped out 4 at a time).
8:00 - 9:30 - School
9:35 - 9:45 - Go back to unit for a break (use the bathroom)
9:50 - 11:20 - School
11:25 - Go back to the unit for lunch
11:30 - 12:00 - Lunch
12:05 - 12:30 - Hygiene - brush teeth, use bathroom
12:37 - 2:10 - School
2:15 - Go back to the unit and go straight down to our rooms
2:40 - 3:40 - Large muscle exercise (LME)
3:45 - 4:20 - Showers (All minors are in their rooms. They get popped out 5 at a time for showers)
4:30 - 5:00 - Dinner
5:15 - 5:45 - Hygiene - brush teeth, use bathroom
6:00 - 6:30 - No one comes out because staff are taking their break
6:35 - 7:30 - Come out to watch a program
7:30 - 9:00 - Free time
9:00 - Go down to rooms
9:05 - 9:30 - "Cart" minors come out for late night (clean the unit)
9:45 - Last head calls (Use the bathroom if you want to)
9:55 - Lights out (go to bed)

Ben S.
California


Juvenile Hall Maximum Security Unit

This unit house people accused of murderer, rape, and other serious crimes. Inmates in this unit wake up at 6:30 for breakfast. It depends what group you're in to eat out of your cell for each meal because we have a different schedule for every group. There's four groups. When you first arrive, you head straight to group 4. Group 4 eats out only 4 meals a week.

Every group comes out once a day for one hour of large muscle exercise. That's the only time we have to see the sun. You get it from in the morning sometime between 7 and 12 noon. And as for school, we all receive 45 minutes of school. After school, we head down to our cell and kick back until showers which are 5 minutes. After showers, we head back until dinner, and after dinner we go for our social time. Basically, groups 4 & 3 have the same program. They get 45 minutes of social time. At that time you can use the phone, get books, watch TV and get your supplies that you need. Group 2 receives one full hour of social time. Group one is the "cart" people. They set up our clothes and food and they clean up the whole unit. Basically, they're out or their room most of the time and as a reward for cleaning and being on their best behavior, they get treats.

There's a toilet in the cell and four walls around us and a steel door and two beds. They house two inmates in each room unless you're a sex-offender. To pass the time in our two-man cell, we work out or we talk through the vent that all the rooms have. We use it to talk to other inmates. That's all we do in our cell. As the day ends and just wait for the next day.

Since me and my cellmate have been here, we seen other inmates come and go. Fifteen year old inmates sometimes get life without parole. Just to let you know, we are both youngsters, so if you're a youngster and want to live the life of a gang member, this is where you're going to end up. I'm not telling you to change your life because I will be a hypocrite. I'm just saying there's better things in life than to be something that you're not. This ain't the way to go. May God bless you all because we've been blessed.

Benjamin G. and Randy A.
California

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Hi - I would like a response from a person with information about how prison really is and if it's as bad as it sounds or if its as scary. I would just like to know the facts. Thank you.

In response to how prison really is, it all depends where you're at and how the tensions are between races. Some prisons are really violent and others are to a minimum. Like the prisons that are up North [in California] are always feuding on who's controlling the yards. So prison can be a very scary place, especially when you got one or two guys coming at you with weapons in hand to harm you cause you don't want to participate in their "politics." Or you can also be a victim by being pressured out of things, being picked on, or even raped.

Sincerely, Jesse G.
California


Hello whoever you are,

You asked if prison is real bad. Well, the truth, it depends on how you carry yourself and what prison you're at, cause all these prisons ain't the same and there's different people all the time. In my eyes, I don't see prison scary but there is a lot of bad stuff that goes on around here.

Jaime
California


If anyone wants to "beat" any system, they need to do it using the system's own laws, rules, etc. Fight fire with fire I guess, but don't ever put yourself in the hands of the system (penal or otherwise) if you're smart and value freedom. Freedom is a great weapon, and I don't mean like a gun or knife. I see freedom as giving you the ability to use knowledge (taken from school, libraries, etc.) and to change things around without somebody telling you "recall and lock-up for count." If I want a specific book or magazine, I can't go to the store or library and get it. Nor can I eat the foods I really like or wear nice clothes. Those are things freedom is about and I'll never have them again.

Robert
California

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Is prison horrible or not? I mean thatís what goes around. I mean I seen blood in blood out is coo but that bad.

Prison can be very traumatic if you don't have the mind capacity to deal with the violent way of life in here. It's worse than in the movies.

Respectfully, Oscar
California


Prison is not the place to be. Just picture yourself as an animal thatís locked up in the cage... can you picture that? Then that should answer your question. Prison is just like the streets but youíre just inside the walls. Basically, what happens in the streets happens in prison. Prison movies just hype things up, but itís similar.

Edwin T.
New Jersey


Is prison horrible? Of course it is. Think of a place where you are denied basic human rights and dignity and you have this place. Around here, prison guards and administrators tell you when to eat, to shower, and how you should act. You almost become a puppet, forced to do the same thing day in day out until your time is done. Imagine a strain worse than being locked in a box and this is what this place would give you.

What hurts the most is not these walls but being ripped away from your family and loved ones, being denied the ability to be with those you love. That is the torture, and trust me, you will not know how much it hurts till itís gone. Then comes the missing of the outside world. Prison is not about walls but more about mental breakdowns. It becomes a war of will and of minds. Believe you will hurt!!

If I were to say a few short words on how bad this place is, then itís the terrible food, health-care, living conditions, and place to think a person has dignity. It is a violent place where you have to keep an eye on prisoners and guards alike.

Eric N.
New Jersey


There are a lot of prisons that are horrible and some of them that are not, but the only thing that all of these prisons have is that we lost our freedom and thatís one of the worst things. In this prison that I live in, most of the guys go to school and some of them try to get their G.E.D.

Donít ever think that the movies will tell you how prison is because they wonít tell you the truth.

Hector S.
New Jersey


I am in a ďMax AĒ prison. Every state has at least one. That is the place where they send the badest of the bad. Horrible is too light a word to describe this place - a place made of concrete and steel; a place that is always cold and damp, that even when it is over one hundred degrees in you cell, you still feel the chill in your bones; a place that you can feel and smell death every day. At 5:30 a.m. the police come to do a live count. They bang on your cell door so you can move, then they shine the flashlight on your face so you can respond. They want to make sure that you didnít die in your sleep. At about 6 to 6:30 a.m., they call breakfast. You stand on life for about 10 to 20 minutes with people screaming, talking with breath so bad it turns your stomach. You have thirty minutes to eat your food - not from when you grab your tray, but from when they open your cell door. This and your day has just started. The noise levels are so high that at times you canít even hear yourself think. People are talking about nothing. You know why they scream instead of talking normally? They are screaming from the mental pain they are going through and they donít even know it.

Otto S.
New Jersey

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What is the truth about prison?
Is it too easy?
If we made it harder, would people be more likely to change?

"It is the mental stress and violence in here that wear you down. You become something as hard and cold as cement and you grow used to it, and even if you stay out of trouble, they throw you in with idiots, gangbangers, dope-fiends, and trouble-makers. There is no incentive to be anything more than a murderous, depressed, angry man. But there is good security. Humans check in but they don't check out."

"If you do a crime and get caught, depending on what you do, you may end up in prison or jail, but breaking the law doesn't mean that you should lose your status as a HUMAN."

"Tougher prisons don't deter crime either. They only force you to grow accustomed to a harsh environment, one that you come back to because the free world seems out of step with you. It's not fun inside here unless you are as insane as your captors which some of us are. You're either predator or prey here. There's no medium point in it because what you have to do to survive or become somebody's punk. You can project yourself as one of those guys who doesn't care about anything including yourself, but people can tell if you're faking it. It's madness in here, but you find the strength to live in it and function, or you lose your mind completely and your history."

Robert - California




"If prisons were made harder, society would be receiving harder and tougher ex-convicts. Prisons need more recreational programs. Prisoners need more variety of education. College courses need to be made available to prisoners."

"The title 'Correctional Facility' seems like a joke because a lot of people come in here and instead of getting rehabilitated, it turns them into madmen. A lot of prisoners that are doing hard time are going to be released some day. Some will go out with big hopes but without an education and a proper vocation. What kind of person will they turn out to be? It's hard enough having a record. Society turns its back on ex-cons and, in doing so, it destroys itself."

Alex - California



The question of prison being too easy comes from television and ex-convict idiots who glamorize the experience in a shallow attempt to appear tough. Tomorrow I may have to fight for my life; is that easy? If I catch cold do to poor heating, I have to pay for medical treatment. Maybe some officers will decide to use my head for a softball, then a soccer ball.

People that believe prison is easy have either never been here or watch too much television. I know plenty of people who thought that until someone they loved became a number. Oh, I can't forget the politicians who will tell you that in order to pocket your tax dollars for prison projects. It is essential to the financial future of many that society believes prisoners have it too easy. Don't ask if I'm being punished enough; ask if our children are learning enough!

If we made prison harder, would people be more likely to change? Before I answer, I am curious as to who "we" is. Instead if concentrating on making prison harder, the focus should be on preventing individuals from coming. Take a good look at the urban communities in America. Ask why life for the kids there is so hard because that is your future prison population.

Making it harder on prisoners only makes it harder on society. Why release an angry man who was treated like an animal as opposed to releasing a carpenter or an electrician? After all, these men you want to punish more will be rejoining you in society. I can't even use a bathroom in private; what do you propose, painting the windows black? I don't know who "we" is, but you all need to ask your government why there is no emphasis on education and reform.

They tell you they need to be tougher on us, but the truth is that it's all about money. They don't educate or reform us because they EXPECT us to commit more crime; they're praying for it! Look into how big prison building and maintenance has become in the business world. Our government facilitates innocent members of society becoming victims of crime, mostly violent crime! Think about what would happen if you locked a dog in a cage, fed him scraps and poked him with a stick for a few years. Would you want to be the first person he encounters when he gets out? The bottom line is, You'd have to be really creative to make this place harder!

Sincerely,
Eugene T. - New Jersey State Prison

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I believe prison is far too easy. Fair enough you loose your freedom but donít you think about that before you commit the crime? Knowing prisons have access to TVís, radios, gym's etc makes me feel sick to the stomach. Did you receive more privileges than you expected?

You believe prison is far too easy? Well, I believe everything is far too easy. Life itself is too easy. Many kids believe and think that committing crime is easy, which in reality it is! Most of us started breaking the law at an early age, and as we grow older, unfortunately it becomes the only thing we ever learned to doÖ Then, everything else appears too complicated, society, marriage, work, etcÖ etc. Juvenile halls, county jails and prison systems create their own environment. Weíre surrounded with different conditions and circumstances, which are ďtotally differentĒ from society! History shows that human beings adapted themselves to several environments throughout the world, but it took time.

How can you manifest your feelings against prisoners and criminals when the disintegration of societyís moral code comes from the inner circle of society? You see it daily on the news, in newspapers, etc., that kids ages 11. 12. 13 and up or down are constantly committing crime after crime. Then they come into these systems which donít do anything to educate them or prepare them to reenter society. If the government doesnít change their infrastructure, which has failed to apply educational programs and after school programs for all these low-income families, this problem will only grow indefinitely. They should build a strong foundation which coordinates an educational system relevant to this preventable problem. Our prison population is way too high for a super-power nation.

Privileges? Inside this prison we donít have gyms, radios, contact visits, family visits, schools, church, phones, nor sunlight Ö isolation at itís finest. They call it Pelican Bay SHU. I call it the concrete box. I should parole in about eight months. In reality, I donít think any person who paroles from here is properly prepared for society.

TVís, radios, gyms, etc. make you feel sick to the stomach? Fair enough. But if you treasure freedom as an equal value with a television or radio, your head must be ill, disgusted, sick!

Prisoners donít need privileges. We need educational programs. Society needs to assist those kids growing up in poor neighborhoods.

Juan
California

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Hello,

Can you tell us something about how do you arrive to prison?

Thank you - Tury (This letter is from Spain)

Dear Tury,

There are many ways a person can go to prison. For here in California these are some of the major things that can get you a lot of time in prison: murder, attempted murder, kidnap, rape, robbery, assaults, selling drugs, making drugs

At this present time, I am in a youth prison serving a one-year term for a parole violation. Before this, I did two years and eight months for "assault with a deadly weapon." I got four years but I was released early for good behavior. When I was released, there were some conditions that I had to follow, but since I didn't I was sent back to jail. The laws over here are getting stricter and some kids are being sent to the big prisons. So now any little crime will get you to do some time in jail. I don't know if they have gangs in Spain, but if they do, stay away from them because gangs only ruin people's lives.

Take care.

Respectfully, - Sal
California


Dear Tury,

Hello, my name is Jesse. I will try to answer your question the best I can because I don't know if you mean, "how do we get shipped to prison" or "how did I end up going to prison." Anyway, I can answer you in Spanish whenever you have any questions.

Tury, I got to prison because I shot a man during a fight and he died. But the way we arrive to prison is after our trial is over and we have received our sentence, we wait for about two months before the Correctional Department of California (CDC) picks us up. We are taken to another prison, which they call a "Reception Center." From there they decide where they will ship us. But sometimes we get sent far from our families. I hope I have been of some help.

Tu servidor, - Jesse G.
California

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What is the worst that happens on a daily basis?

Where I am at, on a daily basis people are stabbed with steel nails, hard plastic or whatever kind be made into a weapon. You get stabbed for a number of reasons which I am not going to say.

Respectfully - Albert
California

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I am a student, and for my project I'm doing research about the conditions in prisons in China and USA. It would be great if you can let me know, how do you feel about the way of care about you in prison. For example, how is the food? Do you have easy access to TV and Internet? How are you treated by guards, etc.?
With best regards - Monika

A few years back, I believe it was in 1996, I read a National Geographic Magazine. These people wrote a good article. You should get it. Well, in this article, the story was about a man who was sentenced to five years in prison for stealing and because he had done this before, the sent him to do his time with a board around his neck which also holds his hands (In the picture the National Geographic showed of him this man was dirty, and skinny. It was ugly!). Anyhow, I've been incarcerated since 1995. The story about this Chinese man has stayed in my mind since I read it. Since then I've been asking people and homies who are doing life sentences (25 to life, or 15 to life, which doesn't matter. Not one person with a life top has been released since California was Mexico). My question to them is, "Which sentence do you prefer to do, five years with a wood board around your neck in China or 25 to life in California." You should know that under the new three strikes law of California people get 25 to life for stealing a slice of pizza. Well, to get back to thier response to my question, everyone said that they prefer the five years with a board around their necks in China! As you can imagine, any human being will take the challenge to live for five years with a board around their necks with a good percentage of surviving to regain their freedom than to live a long life inside this hole.

As for the Internet, their isn't such a thing inside this box - neither school, church, phone, contact visits, or sun light. We do have a T.V. with no speakers, only headphones.

Food, the food here is kind of all right but after a six year stretch of eating the same stuff week after week, it starts to taste like sh.

As for how we're treated by the guards, the majority of people in this prison believe in respect and on the way you treat people, that's the way you want to be treated. If the cops don't respect that... well, that's why we are men but since I've been in here I have not seen a disrespectful cop yet!

I guess the conditions of any prison in this world won't matter when there is no hope of freedom.

Good luck! - Juan
California

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Hello My Name is Andrea. Do any of the officers ever treat you guys nice or are they always mean?

Some of the officers in here treat me like a human being but most of them will treat you like a criminal.

Tuan
California


As for the CO's, some of them are cool and some of them are real assholes. If they don't like you, you're pretty much stuck. I think it differs on all the levels cause right here they try to harass you a lot. But back in the level 3 yard they were pretty much laid back. I don't know. It's way out.

Ricky M.
California

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Do the police even care if you get beat up?

Melecio

Man I was beaten up by fifteen deputies; they hurt me bad. Thatís what I get for being a tough guy.

Mike D.
California


I was in a riot with the deputies, and I was beaten up and maced.

Tommy
California

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Do people get killed there? I am only fifteen and I live in a ghetto city. There is shootings almost every day. Does it get hard there when people tell you to do something there? I am a curious kid because I myself am in a gang. Well please tell me if I should get out or stay in thanks for your time.

Carmen

Carmen,

Whatís up Carmí howíve have you been? Hopefully you have been doing good and your loved ones are in the best of spiritual, mental, and physical health.

My name is Luis and Iíve been locked up since I was 16; I am now 25. Thereís a good chance that I will never see the light of day and will be damned to perish in this unnatural world. Thatís what prison feels like to me, unnatural. A lot of days are forced, and so are many relationships. People you wouldnít even look at on the outside you have to speak with because they may work in the law library or something to that aspect. Iím not by nature an exclusionary person; I donít like to deny a person the opportunity to participate in something Iím doing, since itís positive, right, but I do sometimes have to in here. It almost seems insane to keep on going when there is no hope of ever getting out. Still, everything that I do is positive and it is driven by the fact that my family serves this time as well (they have to write me, pay for collect calls, deal with the fact that they have no influence in a loved oneís life anymore, etc.). Thereís no way that I could put them through more pain.

People have been killed here in the past and it has been over the most stupid things like a basketball game. Thereís violence, but not to the magnitude that certain groups would have society believe. The potential for violence is great due to prison conditions and the conditions a prisoner entered the prison system with, like low education or psychological problems. Basically, the same reasons that landed them in prison in the first place keep them acting the way they have. This is another world but you may still react to things in the same manner unless you look at yourself thoroughly and change things.

It does get hard when people tell you when to eat, wake up, sleep, etc. Donít you get mad when your mom and dad tell you to do things sometimes? Now thatís your flesh and blood; imagine some stranger whoís younger than you giving you orders under threat that if you donít follow the rules youíll get taken to the hole. The logic is crazy to me. Most guys here in prison have been punished their whole lives before coming to prison and they are still here. Why continue this system if it obviously doesnít work. Education would do a lot more and of better quality. You got guys here who can take a lot of punishment but what have they learned? Itís about control; treat the symptoms not the cause - endless circle.

When one comes to prison you get both people who welcome you and educate you on the things to do and not to do in prison and let you know of the programs that a prison may provide so you could better yourself. In the event that there are no programs, prisoners create their own and take the initiative to better themselves and others. I belong to such a program ďHispanic Americans for Progress, Inc.Ē You also have those who have not awakened to reality or deny it and still run like they ran in the streets. However, itís been my experience that simply saying ďnoĒ is all it takes not to join a gang.

I would tell to you get the hell out of the gang life period, not just the gang, if at all possible. Anyone who cares for you will not tell you to stay in the gang, so I wonít. Now whatís that say about those who keep you banginí when I, a stranger, show more concern for it your well being than they do? Think about it; then think about how much love you have for yourself and if itís not enough, start loving yourself more, because you are important and worthy of that love especially. Everything you say, think, or do, is from you and is a reflection of the person you think yourself to be. So if you think highly of yourself, youíll do good things.

Anyway, I hope that I help to quell your curiosity and maybe even gave you a little more than that.

With love and respect - Luis B.
New Jersey


Carmen:

The last part of your question, ďin or out of the gangĒ, I honestly feel you know the answer to: OUT! Inner city living is an educational experience in itself. Imagine now if there were only women there, no men at all except for ďcopsĒ. Imagine there is brick and barbed wire everywhere. The cops in your city feed, clothe, allow you to shower and/or leave your home only when they decide they want you to. Prison! The system is designed not to allow things as basic as individuality. There does in fact exist within the many social circles a small panel of ďbig-dogsĒ or ďmain headsĒ. This is mostly an underground type of leadership more often than not based on the greed or ignorance of a few, more or less charismatic in the own way, people.

Michael D.
New Jersey


Carmen:

By asking advice if you should get out of a gang, I have to think you really donít know what good being in one is doing for you. I think to answer the question you have to ask yourself if your life has gotten better or worse since you got into a gang. You must have figured out on your own that, if you are in a gang long enough, there is a good chance you are going to jail. You also said there are shootings almost every day where you live. The other future with gangs is getting shot. The luckiest of those shot are probably the ones who are killed instantly. The unlucky ones might be in a wheelchair, a bed, or unable to talk for the rest of their life, and might suffer like that and live to be one hundred.

Jail is not a good future to look forward to. Being in one puts you in the middle of other problems. There is a rule here that gangs are not allowed. If the guards find any kind of letters about gangs, see you using gang signs, or changing your clothing to put on a gang symbol, you get taken right to lock-up. The only way to get out of lock-up is to state you will not participate in any more gang activity. If you do not do that you will stay in lock-up until you get out of jail, and a record is kept of prisoners who stay in lock-up their whole time for not agreeing to get out of a gang. If someone like that comes back to jail, they go right back to lock-up. The other bad part is if you come to jail and say you are not going to be in a gang any more and get out of lock-up, some prisoners might look at you as being a rat, and anything could happen to you.

You must see for yourself already the bad side of being in gang when you are not in jail, since you took the time to write a letter and ask if you should get out. I can tell you myself that people who are in gangs and wind up here instead of dead, in a bed or a wheelchair only have more problems. To me, adding up all of the good and all of the bad involved with being in a gang either in jail or out, leads to a result that people in gangs have more problems and worse lives in the long run. When you are not in a gang you do what you believe is right and you have the ability to make changes to do things better. The best reward of not being in a gang is that anything good you accomplish was done by yourself, at the direction of people concerned for you like parents, teachers and counselors, not people who use you for their reasons. Knowing right from wrong and always keeping in mind you are doing what is right gives you a peace of mind that you can really enjoy. In my opinion that is the best reward for anyoneís actions.

Al R.
New Jersey


Dear Carmen:

My name is Maurice, and I promise to answer your question the best way I can.

Do people get killed in here? Yes, they do. Death can happen anytime and anywhere and prisons are of no exception. There are unfortunate circumstances where some people feel that the smallest wrong done to them is justification for their actions. Sometimes those actions can lead to serious injury or death. Donít think for one second that these violent confrontations are over something so serious that death becomes the result. Also, never think or feel that there are justifications for murder. To give you an example of this kind of nonsense, I once saw a man murdered in the yard because he made the wrong call in a basketball game.

Is it hard when people tell us what to do? It is very hard. We are in an environment where we must submit to authority and walk away with our tails between our legs so to speak. This is a situation many of us brought upon ourselves. There are rules here that must be complied with and there are people whose job is to enforce those rules. Of course we all have our own choices to make. Some choose to do as theyíre told while others choose to defy verbal commands regardless of the consequences.

Youíre only fifteen years old, Carmen. Believe it or not, I was just fifteen when I was taken off the streets. Iím thirty-two now, and I have yet to see the street again. You have your whole life ahead of you and you should be thankful for that. It is my honest opinion that you should get out of your gang. I donít know what response or repercussions youíll receive by getting out of your gang because I donít know anything about them. I do know that they are not good for you. Especially in the future. A future in gangs is very bleak and grim. There are no happy endings when it comes to being in a gang. All you can look forward to is prison and/or death. Youíre young; you still have a chance to be successful in life. You donít need that kind of family to make you feel a sense of belonging or that you are in need of them. One day youíll build your own family and they will need you just as much as youíll need them. Until then you are able to have that family or your own; stay in school and get your education. Trust me, a good education is a positive step towards a prosperous and happy future. Just imagine the many doors that will open themselves to you.

I chose not to take my own advice. Look at what it has cost me. Consider yourself lucky because you can avoid that which I couldnít. Ultimately, it is a choice you will have to make. You must choose whatís best for Carmen. Not whatís best for your friends or your gang. Since it is my opinion that you seek, I strongly suggest and advise you to drop out of the gang. The world is so much bigger than that and you deserve the opportunity to explore it. So many successes have come out of the ghetto despite the everyday ills of it. I truly believe you have what it takes to become a great success.

Thank you for allowing me to answer your questions. It gives me great pleasure to have had the opportunity to share something positive. Live a good life and remember that there is a big world out there and it is just waiting for you to make an impression on it. Donít let anyone or anything kill your hopes and dreams.

A friend - Maurice R
New Jersey

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Is it very dangerous in prison when you go to the yard? ...when you are in your cell? My brother is in prison and we are all frightened for his safety. We donít know anything about prisons? Do you have access to the Internet in prison?

Is it dangerous when we are out on the patio or yard? Well it depends if your son or boyfriend or brother is into politics. If he is, then he sure of is looking for trouble. If he is just minding his own business by staying away from what we call the sharks then he ainít got nothing to worry about. Your program is based on how you want it to be; you control it. OK being in the cell is one of the most safest and relaxing places to put your mind at ease from whatís going on around you. If you have a good cellmate then time becomes much better for you. You see, it all depends on what prisons one is housed in. I can answer for those in level 4 housing: no one gets picked on for no reason but you are sure are judged on how you act.

I can assure you that your brother is in no harms way has long as in his just doing his time not getting involved in any politics asking for trouble or being a stubborn person. We as inmates have rules to abide by. As long as you honor them, then there shouldnít be a reason to feel unsafe. There are a lot of great people in prison; a itís just that they made a mistake in life. Not everyone is bad around here. Iím sure they just need a great friend by their side to always put positive things in their head, to soften that bad-thinking image. As long as the communication is there, then the family shouldnít feel scared for their loved oneís welfare. I hope that I answered the questions. Just to the tip; itís true!

Felipe
California

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How is it like to be in Prison... are you ever afraid that some shit is going to go down and youíll get caught up in the middle of it? Have you ever seen anyone get shanked and if you did, did they die? Have you ever actually seen a riot go down and how long have you been in jail/prison?

Luis

Well Luis, being in prison is not fun. Itís a very dangerous place because about 98% are stressing so bad that they might cause physical harm to someone. I seen plenty of fights that someone got hurt badly and of course it was with a weapon. No! I wonít be afraid if something jumps off and no I havenít seen a riot. Iíve been locked up for 8 years now and so far itís been the worst years of my life. Stay out of trouble.

Edwin T.
New Jersey

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Why are there so many fights in the prison? I am not saying you all should just get along but you are in there for a reason because you either killed someone or raped, etc. My point is you are in there with so many people that are there for the same reason you are. Its not like you are better than others. My brother is an inmate and I hate to visit him because of what I see. It is disgusting to go through all these channels just to see your loved one. I know that this is not suppose to be a party for the inmates but why treat each other like animals. Instead you should stick together to make being in there easier. I know that the correction officers are no better. They think that because they have a badge and they have to be there that they have the right to treat people as animals. I guess I was just raised praying that people could really love one another when I know the truth that there is violence, rapes, murders. etc out there.

Lydia

Lydia,

There is no real answer to your question about why there are so many fights in prison. Every situation is different as are the individuals who are locked up in them. Just like society, we have our own rules and codes of conduct, and enforcing them can account for a small portion of the violence that occurs, but it is usually focused and understood by all and it is not because anyone feels any better than the next guy. It's just business and nothing personal.

A lot of the fights can be attributed to being locked up with so many people and having no way to avoid the ones you don't like, not to mention that there are no ways to constructively burn off our anger such as sports and so forth.

It's wrong to think that we are all in here for the same reasons. Again not that anyone thinks they're better than others, but some crimes that society finds despicable are also thought of the same way in here. A man who rapes a woman or molests a child is scum and dealt with as such. Ideally, all of us would get along and help make each other's time go by easier, but much like society and the real world, we have our problems, and being outcasts, we don't do any better of a job of getting along than people do on the streets! I'm sorry I haven't been able to successfully answer your question, but I don't really believe there is a simple solution to this problem.

Sincerely - Juan
California

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I wonder how it is to be in jail. Is it true that a lot of murders happen in jail and simple things and cigarettes are worth a lot of money? Do the prisoners fight with you?

Lilia, Jose & Gabriel

Itís so messed up in here. You are far away from your family, and, if you had a girlfriend, she wonít be there. Every day is like a cycle same thing day in and day out. Yes a lot of murders happened in jail and cigarettes are like money. Prisoners fight all the time. But usually they use weapons such as knives, batteries, razor blades, etc.

Mike D.
California


Itís all f---ed up. I donít get no visit, no package, and hardly any mail. I feel like no one cares. My mom is 69 years old and she canít take care of herself and so I donít ask for much.

Tommy
California


Itís hard to be in jail. Imagine that youíre a shark in a fish tank and every other fish in the tank is a shark too. You wonder how it feels to be in prison - lock yourself in your room for a week, never leaving it. You can get a quick feel idea there of how it feels. I hate being here and not with my family.

Manuel
California


You wonder how it is to be in jail. Well let me tell you itís not all that. You will find trouble in any corner in jail.

Rafa
California


Things in here are pretty bad. There is almost no privacy. It feels like everyone around you knows what youíre doing. Food could be worse, but itís not about any of that; itís about the fact that I feel part of myself died when I first came in, and thatís the part I want to revive. Many people in here donít know anything else but this life. Itís sad, but it is a cruel reality.

Everything you know as normal doesnít exist inside these walls. If you want to be tough, well the system has places that are way more secure than the mainline (regular prison) where you donít get to come out but once a day for about one and a half hours, and you never get to touch your family or any person that wants to come and visit. The reason is because there is a glass that divides you from your visitors.

Some men have been living this way for more than ten or fifteen years. Just imagine being inside your room with all the windows closed and you donít even have control the lights in there (for ten years). Some of them might even spend the rest of their life in that kind of place.

Iím not in that situation myself, but like Iíve said you donít have to be locked up 24/7 to feel that the better part of you is dieing.

G. Alvarado
California

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When you get to jail or prison do people welcome you or do they mad dog you or tell you to join their gang?

Well Carmen,

No there arenít any main heads here as far as a prisoner, but you have your daily bullies. Prison is always hard because youíll have some prisoners and officers that will try to make your time harder. Those are your knuckleheads that think that bothering others and doing negative things is a right thing to do. When someone enters a prison, you will have someone or some that will approach you but not to welcome you, but those who approach you, 70% of them are negative and they try their best to convince you to be down with them. You will have some that will tell you to join their gang and youíll have some that will dog you, but it all depends how you carry yourself. If they think that they could get over on you, then they will. You know what Iím saying. Listen Carmen, youíre a young woman and I hope youíre getting your education but for you to be in a gang is not for you. Yes, I believe you should get out of that gang and never join one again. Being in a gang is never an answer; remember that. I hope I answered your question and gave you good advice.

Edwin T.
New Jersey


Hi Carmen,

Well, I know it is hard, you living there but you are strong and you know what you want. Thatís what I like about you, so I hope I could help you. Listen now that you donít wanna bang anymore, the best thing you should do is write a story about what goes on around you and maybe we could learn from that.

Yes people get killed in this place. YES sometimes people tell you what to do or how to do it. When I came to prison, the first thing they do is tell you to join a gang, and for some reason, a lot of people donít join a gang because they know what would happen to them. I wish I could do more for you because, in my heart you shouldnít be in a gang. Carmen, I want you to think and watch yourself at all times and if you write about what goes on around you, believe me you will learn more than you think about being in a gang. I want you to remember this that you are beautiful and are strong and the future is you. God be with you always.

Your friend now and always - Hector S.
New Jersey


Carmen,

After reading your brief notation, I found myself trying to visualize your particular problem, but considering that we dwell in different areas I shall attempt to answer some of your questions.

You ask do people get killed in here. Well I guess people probably get killed in every prison for various reasons, but in here itís rarely done unless someone has no other recourse or that their friends tend to boost them to do it.

Carmen, inmates donít mad dog you in here but they do tend to want you to join a group or gang so that you can feel that you belong to something. But that only happens with individuals who are themselves weak and incapable of standing on their own. You stated that you are a very curious individual and that you belong to a gang. Well there really isnít anything wrong with being curious, so long as you donít allow your curiosity to head you down a path from which you canít return. Carmen, Iíve seen many individuals join groups or gangs and, in doing so, they didnít realize that they had given up their right to be an individual, because when you join a group or gang, someone else is in control of how you think and act.

You are made to do as the group or gang decides - what it wants you to do. And most times you donít have any say in the discussion, but rather, if they choose a course of action, they expect everyone to follow that course of action whether itís right or wrong. Carmen, I truly think that what you really need to do is rethink what it really is you want most out of life. And then consider whether or not the gang you are running with can give you what you really desire. Carmen, every choice that to you make at this juncture in your life will ultimately be judged by those you will meet as you go further down the road of life. And should you make the wrong choices now and if you want to have a viable future and your present decision has been made in haste, then you need to depart from that path and return to the only path that will keep you out of the graveyard and prisons.

Carmen, youíre the only one who can decide which path you want to. But you need to decide for your own self-worth. Because you can find friends everywhere you go all you have to do is recognize them.

Your friend - Pablo M.
New Jersey


Dear Carmen:

We have negative groups as well as positive groups. Negative groups are for those who seek strength in numbers. They feel that if they are part of a large group their voices would be heard an all would respect them. Positive groups are for those of us who would rather see our fellow prisoners progress and become better people, not to see them digress and become a detriment to themselves and others. There are leaders in positive groups but their roles as leaders are very positive.

When we come to prison do people welcome or mad dogg us and tell us to join their gangs? No one welcomes you when you come to prison. One may run into his childhood friend yet they wonít be happy to see each other behind bars. The only ones who welcome you to prison are the ones whose job it is to keep you in here. There are no bullies in real prisons. At least not here there arenít. The only mad dogginí I know of are the prisoners who call themselves ďMad DoggĒ. Everyone is basically left to defend themselves and there are no persons here who can force you to do anything you donít want to. If some choose to be influenced or told what to do by those in the same predicament as they are; what does that really say about them?

A friend - Maurice R
New Jersey

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Do you guys have a main head in jail?

Carmen

No we do not have a main head in prison; thatís just lies Hollywood pitches as reality since most people canít tell the difference. Donít believe most of whatís in movies! There are too many tough guys in here that they cancel each other out, meaning that guys from the smallest to the biggest would get down and dirty in a heartbeat; and thatís just the knuckleheads. Then youíve got people who have come to their senses through religion, self- and cultural awareness, or/and good olí contemplation of their past mistakes in life. So the chaos that prisons are known for donít normally fit reality. You also got to take into account all the things the administration does to keep guys down and controlled.

With love and respect - Luis B.
New Jersey


Carmen, if you mean ďmain headĒ to imply do we have a warden then your answer is yes and if it is intended to mean something else then I donít know your meaning so I canít exactly say. Carmen there is no one inmate who is running the prison.

Your friend - Pablo M.
New Jersey


Do we have a ďmain headĒ in prison? There are a lot of people in this prison, and there are some who break off into groups. Iím sure there may be leaders to some of these groups, however there is no one person who considers himself the ďmain headĒ. Itís not like television in here. You donít have to join a gang or group upon entering prison. Itís basically oneís choice of whether or not he wants to join or become a part of some specific group.

A friend - Maurice R
New Jersey


No there arenít any main heads here as far as a prisoner, but you have your daily bullies.

Edwin T.
New Jersey

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My name is Ruben and I just wanted to know if there's any chance for an inmate in prison if he does not either kill or join a gang for protection? Your answer would be valuable to me as would your thoughts on life thank you very much

Ruben, I do hope you are not asking this question because you might become or are in danger of becoming an inmate any time soon or in the future. Going to prison is to be avoided at all cost. As for your question, whether you are in prison or anywhere in the community, people will more often than not treat you depending on how you come across, or how you present yourself to them. You do not have to kill anyone or join a gang in order to be able to make it in prison. The prison environment is very volatile, so one cannot walk around here as if one was home or on the outside. However, this does not mean that as a prisoner I have to totally forget or leave behind who I am and what I have to do in order to prepare for my eventual release. I have been in prison now for 16 years and I have not had to kill anyone or join a gang in order to survive. But entering the system I did have to prove myself to other prisoners who thought that because I was on my own I would be easy prey. During my earlier years there were plenty of fights, too many fights. There were some I won, but there were others where I got my butt whipped bad. But even during those I lost the message was sent. Even when a prisoner is out-numbered and being tested, you have to fight or be a victim during your entire prison stay. Some gangs tried to recruit me, as many others I knew, and when being turned down, gang members tend to get upset at that. A prisoner does not have to join a gang for protection; he or she just has to stand by their principles no matter what the consequences are. As with most things, in time he or she will get respect for being his or her own person.

Ruben, whether in prison or out there where you are, you have to decide who you are and what you stand for. Sit down and decide what you want out of life. Set yourself some short and long term goals and work towards making those goals come true. You know your own capacity and your limitations, so be realistic when setting your goals. Just do not put yourself in a situation that could land you in prison or worse when making those goals a reality. It will not be easy, but take it from me, it will be easier than being here. Should you need any further information, please continue to write.

Sincerely - Luis
New Jersey

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In the Prisons are gangs still an important part of daily survival?
Summer

In women's prison there aren't really gangs. You do have some small groups who go around making trouble for each other and other people. One can survive in prisons such as this without joining a gang. Those girls who hang together too much and for a long time, they get moved around by the administration, so they do not become too familiar with each other. Many of the women do become lesbians because they feel that is the way to survive.

Judith V.
New Jersey

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How is it really in there? I wonder about that a lot for my son is in there till he dies. How are the gangs in there and why would one rather be there than with family? May you be safe.

Dee

Hi Dee,

Peer pressure plays a large role in most of those who bring life sentences to prison. That same pressure continues in here until enough becomes enough and independence is born. Rules of thumb are:

  1. Using dope, gambling, and getting into debt will only bring a lot of trouble to him.
  2. Mouth closed, eyes and ears open.
As a youngster, he knows little of the inner workings of prison life, and acting like he does, when he does, will only put a target on his back.

Youngsters who will listen to reason are generally looked out for by those independents mentioned earlier. If your little one knows how much you love him and are worrying about him, he may start having second thoughts about digging himself a hole. Are there any others in his life who he can accept these rules of thumb from?

With care - Brian
California

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Is there a lot of gangs and stuff?

Yes, there's a lot of gangs--stay out of them.

Respectfully, Oscar
California


Are there a lot of gangs here? Almost half the population and as more young guys come in, the more it grows.

Eric N.
New Jersey


Yes there are a lot of gangs in this place but they donít think because when they all get together itís like being on the street; they do stupid things.

Hector S.
New Jersey

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I was wondering if girl gangs are sent into jail as much as male gangs?

No, not a lot of females get sent to jail. Thereís more correctional facilities for males than females. Most females are interested in getting their education or having families.

Marisol
California

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What are some of the racial conflicts in prison and their effects?

Racial conflicts occur due to misunderstandings, drugs and dislikes for another race just because it has gone on that way for years. So it's basically a pattern. It's effects involve lots of innocent people, like one's loved ones when their family member is hurt.

Jesse G.
California

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What is it like to be in jail, do you miss your family and freedom, what did you do to be in there?

Gilbert

Gilbert:

Hi. My name is Michael. Sadly I am in prison for the theft of a fatherís pride and the stealing away of a motherís heart. I took a manís life. Please do not be disillusioned about prison. Prisoners find it near impossible to live. Most of us merely exist. We are literally behind the looking glass. The bare necessities are indeed provided, but the value of living is in the life experience with your loved ones. That is what prison denies you. You are no longer free to touch or be touched unless it is the result of the manhandling duty-bound officer. No man or woman can be told/ordered what to think no man or woman should have to be told what/when/how to act, behave, or conduct oneself. There is an ultimate and final shame in being chained and lead around, as well as having door by door, in front and behind locked as you proceed. Yes, dear friend, my family and freedom are all that I miss.

Michael
New Jersey


Well Gilbert,

Being in jail is the worst place that anyone could be in. Itís a place designed to take you away from your family and your freedom. Jail is a dangerous place and itís very hard on you and your family. I made a mistake in my life to be involved in a crime. Even though itís my first time being in jail, but thatís what it takesÖ one mistake. Always think before you react. Donít put yourself and your family in so much pain. Stay out of trouble.

Edwin T.
New Jersey

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Hi, my name is Nancy. I was wondering. I have members in my family the are former gang members, some doing time, but when I ask them how was it like they never want to talk about it and I wonder why but if I have the chance to ask some one else howís it really like I would so thatís why Iím asking you.

Dear Nancy,

I donít like talking to my mom or family about prison life. The reason, I know how much it would hurt her. Prison, it can at times break a manís spirit. To tell my family about this place, will only hurt them more.

If you are not strong mentally and spiritually, you can lose your mind in this place. Believe me, I have seen many man lose their minds and live their lives within a prison depending on medication. Yeah, thatís how prisons take care of a person who can no longer do for themselves.

Not being with family is always a heart breaker. I personally may never have the chance to have a family of my own, no one to carry my name when I die. And I am not the only one who thinks this way; many others in prison have admitted to the same thing.

For those that do have a wife and children, it is a burden and they carry with them every minute of their stay in prison. I can just imagine their wives struggling by themselves to take care and financially support the children and take care of all sorts of bills. Fathers in here see their children grow up without them, missing out on birthdays, holidays and graduations. These are several of the burdens of husband and father carries while in prison. I am sure there are many, many more.

Prison it is a place with much suffering; there is violence almost every day. It is a negative environment and you must be alert at all times or you can easily fall victim to the negative. You see many come out of prison with a so-called tough attitude, but what you do not see is the many nights he or she cried himself to sleep because the pain was too unbearable. You no longer have freedom. It is when you realize that the small things such as the raindrop, as snow flake, a flower, or just a simple walk to store means the world to you, but youíre not able to appreciate them anymore.

Maybe the reason some of your family members do not talk like to talk about prison is because of the pain and suffering they had to endure. It is something not easy to talk about. Prison is not the place to be!

Sincerely - William G.
New Jersey

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How is prison life? Do you ever consider the people in there "like family"?

Elena

Dear Elena,

Prison is hell on earth. It is designed to destroy any family structure or outside relationships that may exist. The staff is trained to render punishment in the form of mental antagonism and psychological degradation. It promotes division of the races and instigates unrest within and without the races. I think most incarcerated individuals will agree upon these facts, but may not agree with most of what Iíve got to say. For me itís not important how prison is; whatís important is how I am. ďYea though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death I will fear no evil.Ē Iím not a Christian, but I know this to be true because Iím living it. A virtuous person can live virtuously in hell on earth. Iím involved in something called ďThe Menís Support GroupĒ and yes, many of the men of this group I trust and love as members of my chosen family.

Respectfully - Ken T.
California


Elena,

It can take years and may situations before it happens, but to answer your question, Yes, like-minded people do seek each other out.

Brian
California


Elena,

First of all, Iím going to try to give you a clear but kind of short answer because I think I can write a whole book on that. All of us in here are different, from different backgrounds. As for me, no I donít consider people in here as family, only maybe a handful of people. You see loyalty in this place is a rare jewel. Some people you think are your homies will stab you without hesitation - pressured by others of course. Almost everyone hides their feelings and their selves. Thereís always a tough guy role to be played. If you want to be an individual, most likely people wonít want to hang out with you - only a select few like yourself.

Racism is so thick in the air. Even if you're not a racist, others around will preach it to you. Sometimes time goes by so slow, especially when thereís a lock-down, and it doesnít matter you didnít do anything. We are locked as a group brown, black, white, whatever you are. So this is pretty much the life in a maximum security prison. It could get worse than that though. There are other people that are more deep in prison. They only get to come out for an hour and a half; the rest of their time is spent in their cells.

I hope this gives you an idea why it is better to get a grip on our own life before we throw away. Iíve been locked up for ten years now so take it from me.

G. Alvarado
California

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What is like in the jail do you have friends?

There ain't too many friends to be made in prison, but there are some who become real good acquaintances.

Respectfully - Oscar
California


Well, no. These ain't friends. A lot of people turn on their closest friends in jail.

Sincerely - R.S.
California

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How do people treat you in jail?

Virdiana

People treat us with respect and we have to do the same or else we could get hurt.

Mike D.
California


Well, what happens when you get to prison, is you get processed to where you need to go - other prisons, P.C., etc. and you get treated the way you treat others. Sometimes it gets out of hand when you donít stick to who you are. Basically mind your own and itís all good.

Tony N.
California

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What do you do in jail in your free time?

Jose

I work out five days a week and I like to write stories and poems. I also like to read.

Mike D.
California


I also like to exercise and watch TV.

Tommy
California


In here arenít many programs or courses. We have to make our own program and study whatever subject we want. Books for me have been like a friend. I also love to write and read poetry which is my favorite pastime.

G. Alvarado
California

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I was wonderin if they had church services in prison. If so, do they have many different denominations or just one?

Yes they have them - mostly Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Christian. In this prison Saturday are Christian/Protestant and Sunday is Catholic services. Muslim's do their own thing.

Ricky
California

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Is art compulsory in your prison? How often do you get to do it and what are the resources like? Are you told what to paint in structured classes or is it up to you?

Dear Joe,

There is not much to our work. I mean all we have to work with is a pen and paper. The rest is simply imagination. We're not told wht to draw. We just draw what we like and feel. As far as how often - well we're in a cell twenty-three ours a day, so basically you can draw all day if one wishes to.

Joaquin
California

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Just wanted to know, if thereís is always an option in getting into groups, whether it be religious or community service, what not. I have a man that is currently locked up, Going to be about 1 yr. already and a couple of months more. I just want to make sure that he goes into some groups to better himself. I know it's his choice but how can I tell him without pressuring him or at least him thinking that I am.

Thanks - Cecilia

Cecilia, I am a Christian who participates in many group activities here in prison. Typically it is always an option for one to get into group therapy or programs oriented towards positive change. There is an exception to this; if one is in disciplinary lock-up situation then movement around the prison is out of the question. My suggestion would be to open the doors of conversation by asking him what the prison provides as far as programming. Then maybe, depending on his answer, you could encourage him to get into some type of program. If you really have his best interests at heart then telling him what he needs to hear even if you think it would challenge him or may not be what he wants to hear would be a little tough LOVE and probably the best thing you could do for him.

Eric D.
New Jersey

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How do you get the power to go on with your life, not to give up when you are in prison (after all the stuff you have already been through)? How do you find your mental peace?

Un cordial saludo. Stephanie

Stephanie,

Hi. Un cordial saludo para ti tambien. Well, I must tell you that I have never thought about your question in the way that you put it. I donít know what you have read about people like myself, but yeah things get crazy every now and then. But we all have a choice so we play at our own risk. For example, Iíve paroled from this prison once before. Itís called Pelican Bay State Prison. To us, itís the hole - no sun, windows or contact visits. To the psychiatrist community itís a state of the art complex to isolate human-beings. Studies by Berkeley, Stanford and UC Irvine, theyíve concluded that this concrete box is uninhabitable for mankind! Knowing that, I came back. Anyhow, I believe that there is nothing a human hand can build to destroy a human mind. --- Humanís willpower is endless. Myself, I find my mental strength in my integrity, honor and respect for myself or persona. I donít want my kids, family or whatever to say that I chose to be a gang member or criminal and I couldnít do that right either. I believe in change or second chances, but you must do it in the free world Ö not because you couldnít take the pressure this prison system brings on you.

Glad to help; good luck.

Juan
California

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Do you have access to the internet?

No, not that Iíve heard; no prisons in California have access to the internet. I wish I would be on it myself.

Felipe
California

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Is the DOC just another business with its main focus on money, not rehabilitation?

Cristian

A pretty deep question, but I see it like this. The institution ain't gonna make help you change. They got programs, but they don't help. Since I've been here, rehabilitation - I had none. It's more like the inmates get institutionalized. The change really comes within, but even that's hard cause there's a lot of factors that effect your decisions that you do in here. Counselors in here are supposed to help but mostly they give you the run-around. This may vary with different races but, as for the group I'm in, some fools just give up and go with the program, no preparation to the streets, just going out the way they come in. It's common to see fools come back. I see it as just a place to waste your time, and if you're one of the unlucky ones, you'll just die in here. As for making money, I'm pretty sure they do. On how much, I don't know. You just got to do your own investigation.

Ricky
California


Unless you have money for a good attorney, you're through once the system gets its claws in you. You might be innocent and set up by some rookie wanting to make a name for himself. And in turn, it doesn't matter to the D.A. if you're innocent or not. Once you get into the court, he'll be making you look guilty, and if that doesn't work they use so-called jailhouse snitches. They're basically on retainer by the D.A., so what happens is they get into court and lie their a.. off and so on. The "System" keeps grinding on the bones of those it keeps down.

Robert
California

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When you get sentenced to jail, do you have to pay for the facilities you use? I have seen poems and art pictures from prisoners. Who pays for those supplies? What about other things such as food, books and movies?

I am incarcerated in the State of New Jersey. Any art work or hobby projects prisoners in this state do is at their own cost. The prison allows us to purchase from outside stores art supplies and books. There are also reading libraries where prisoners are permitted to borrow books to read, but those books must be returned, if not the prisoner has to pay for it. The prison system does show movies, whether through a self-purchased television or the prison auditorium, but the movies shown are also paid for by the prisoners. We are also allowed to have what are called ďInmate AccountsĒ for money. The money being kept in those accounts, although in the bank used by the prison, draws interest. That interest is not passed on to each individual inmate; instead it is deposited into an ďInmate Welfare Account.Ē The money in this account is to be used for items and things which benefit the entire prison population. But most of the time the prisoners have no or little control of how that money is spent. As for the food, the prison provides each prisoner with three square meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, we are also permitted to purchase additional items of food. But that is purchased with the money we have in our own accounts. If a prisoner has no money in his account, then he must eat whatever food is given by the prison. Certain County Jails in this state do charge living fees. So people that are arrested and held in those County Jails do have to pay rent.

Sincerely - Luis D.
New Jersey

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