Prison 101:3

STOP! This material is NOT edited for content. It is not fiction. It contains explicit language and descriptions of real situations. It is not suitable for minors, and may not be suitable for people who easily disturbed…


(This is from my journals and from conversations with friends. It is also prompted by questionnaires given to me by counselors of various groups I was in.

You can do your time in prison without attending these groups, they are voluntary, and with tax cuts they are becoming very hard to get. I had to fight for a few of the ones I did get.

In any case, once you are accepted into a program you have agreed to many things that you must stick to. You have to agree to be completely honest. You have to agree that everything you hear in group stays in group. You have to agree to discuss things, not refuse, lose your temper, get in arguments or fights with other group members. And believe me there are times you would like to just explode. And there are times when you are tempted to lie, just because you can’t face the truth. But your councilor has everything about you in a folder they bring with them, and they have no problem pulling it out to set the record straight.

I have seen men restrained by C.O.’s and taken to the box because they didn’t realize that telling the truth meant telling the truth, not sticking to the lie you told in court. And calling the counselor a cunt, or a bitch, or any other number of names is definitely going to get you a one way ticket to the box and at least thirty days there to think about your stupidity; and you won’t be coming back to group. No second chances.

It’s all worth it, because you are learning that you do have control over yourself. You are learning that the things in your life that are true are part of you. They are not going to change, and it’s better to talk them out, deal with them, and move past them to a different you.)


It took me going through waking up in county jail and realizing how badly things had gone, not because I knew it, but because a cop that I had been in grade school with told me what happened. I don’t know why, but every drunk or addict I have ever met or done time in AA with, or prison, has had to learn the hard way. That is how I knew that there had been women in my life that I actually had loved and who had tried really hard to work things out with me and I had just fucked it up, because it was my nature to fuck things up, to be irresponsible, to drop the ball. So I knew I had screwed things up. I knew I did not want to be that way any longer, and that was my wall I hit. Others hit a wall like that and get up and keep on fucking up. Fucking up their lives, their relationships, lovers, friends, children, everything until nothing is left. And that is why it matters who you are with, because it may be one of those people who will use you up. If you stop and tell yourself you are worthwhile, you don’t need this fucker and the bullshit they have bought into your life, you can be okay. Be able to walk away.

A friend I grew up with ended up in county jail while I was there. He had been arrested for selling methamphetamine, but the cops didn’t have enough to get him really good. They charged him, but his lawyer said they would probably drop the charges eventually. Just stay cool, don’t talk to anyone, and he would work on bail.

So they held him for a few months trying to gather more evidence. County jail is a perfect place for that. Guys will start talking about almost anything. Sometimes because they are bored, others because they are convinced they got away with whatever they did so they just have to brag about it.

So in county this kid gets friendly with my friend. I mean everything he does, the kid is right there. The kid is also in a shit load of trouble for heroin sales. Caught red handed with the product, witnesses, all of it.. He is looking at years in prison and he doesn’t want to do that kind of time. I know that because he tries to get next to me while I’m working out. He tells me that, and he asks questions about the other guys on our block, like he’s shopping for an out.

Next thing I knew he was hanging out with my friend all the time. We have recreation time, an hour a day in the gym. We have night rec., which consists of two hours out to watch TV in the common area outside of the cells. We had yard rec., which was a joke, there was no yard, so we were really in a common outside area shared by all the blocks. Asphalt, the size of a basketball court, goals on each end. An hour twice a week. Day room rec, three hours from breakfast to lunch, most days, and another three hours from after the lunch count to shift change around 4:00 pm. Where ever we were the kid was there, sliding right up next to my friend, asking questions like, “So, how do you make methamphetamine? How much does it cost to make? What do you need to make it?”

I said to my friend, I think that kid is a plant. He’s trying to get information from you that can be used against you in court. He told me I was paranoid. That couldn’t be the case. The kid just wanted to know how to make methamphetamine. He could teach him and he would make some money from the deal too. I doubted it. My argument was, how will he ever be out to do that? He’s looking at a sentence with life on the end of it, three to life, maybe five to life, or something like that. My friend says, no, he told me that his lawyer is working out bail. The case might fall apart. It’s not as solid as they said, so he needs to know how to make methamphetamine to pay the lawyer to get him off at a trial. It sounded like bullshit to me.

Sure enough, a few days later they released the kid on bail. A few days after that my friend suddenly got bail, and he went right back to manufacturing methamphetamine, the kid with him. The kid was a plant. They arrested my friend a short time later, and charged him with King Pin status so the Feds would take the case.

My friend came back a few days after the arrest, I think they had him in solitary for those first few days, and he told me the whole story. He spent the next several months trying to fight the federal charges. The Feds don’t bargain, they just tell you how much time you are going to do. He is still in Federal prison. Almost all the men I met back then are in prison. The Feds moved in on every case and took them over.

In county jail I turned to Bible Studies and God. I don’t know many men that don’t. In fact I don’t believe there were any atheists or non-believers of any kind there. Everyone believed in God, everyone, because they still believed that God would get them out of the situation they were in. I held bible studies. I got the job because both of my brother in laws and my brother were ministers. So it appeared that I must have an in with God. I got the job.

Twice a week we held studies in the small day room mess area that the cells opened onto. Steel tables, open shower stalls. Two hours a night out of the cells and that was considered recreation, whether you were watching TV or having a group bible study. The C.O.’s would watch us hard. It isn’t often when the whole block area becomes quiet, but they let us be. We were out of their hair and we were quiet.

I was in jail waiting to go to prison. There was not going to be any last minute reprieve, or some surprise witness, because I was one of the few guilty guys in the jail. I had spoken to my lawyer, spoken to my family. There was a court date several months off, but it was set. Waiting for me to do the right thing and I intended to do it. Being sober and in my right mind, I was a lifetime alcoholic, helped immensely.

Being sober was new for me. It’s not like you can’t get booze in jail, or prison, or even in a psychiatric center. You can, I know, I have been to all three places and had it offered or handed to me. I remember an AA meeting, years ago, before trouble had come around and I had chased it down. The speaker said, “Your addiction will lead you to Jails, Prisons, and even mental institutions.” I thought, bullshit. He was right though, it had simply taken a few years for me to get to all of those places.

I had been running the bible study for a few months at that point. Just a few of the guys on the block. Yes, men who have sold drugs, flesh, murdered, all take a very keen interest in religion once they’re inside. Some of it is fake, some of it isn’t. I’m no mind reader. I could never tell the fakes from the real ones. I knew that for me it was real, on my terms though. Not beating someone over the head with the bible or telling others they’ll go to Hell if they don’t get Jesus. Just a simple belief in God. There is a God. I am in trouble. I need help. So I started the Bible study and a half dozen guys came by every day while we were unlocked.

The thing about jail is there are so many kinds of people. Thieves. Killers. Rapists. Drunk drivers, parole violators, guys behind on child support. You name it. They like the public to believe that the harder types are kept away from the drunks and shoplifters. Not so. There is isolation. There is P.C. (Protective Custody). But those units are small and expensive to run. They can’t put everyone there, so they save it for the ones who are absolutely not equipped to make it. The ones that will get eaten alive in pop (General Population).

I tended to take the guys in my study under my wing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a tough guy. I don’t look for trouble, but I grew up on the streets. I lived, slept, did drugs, drank, took rides, on the streets. It was home. There was nothing else.

I had gone from the projects after my drug overdose that was nothing more than a failed suicide attempt, to live with relatives in the mountains. I loved it. I went from the mountains to the city and right to the streets, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and all the other stuff that goes with living on the streets at a young age. So jail, or even prison, tough guys, killers, it’s not something that can scare me. The place. The men. I have seen men murdered right in front of me. How can a guy in jail scare me?

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