What was jail like?

Imagine racism, every different race, gangsters, police officers, lack of technology, women, and nothing but concrete for weeks, months, and even years. People with no educational background, corrupt technological geniuses, pimps, drug dealers, drug addicts, murderers, thieves, people who steal bikes from toddlers to sell on ebay, big shot drug lords arrested with millions of dollars now facing 25 years, aluminum sink/toilets, bunk bed living, cads, chess, the occasional group of people trying to better their lives with religion, an environment of non stop cursing, yelling, ghetto remarks, boastings of past crimes and criminal association, stories, rapping, beats on chests and tables, people working out with push ups, squats, dips, either individually or in guarded racial groups.

Pointless fights over nothing, disrespect, food, a television shared by 100 people, the shower, an insult. Police keys always jingling, constant clunking of huge metal doors slamming and locking. The radio chatter of police radio or announcements to inmates for chow time, count time, lock down time, or pill call time. The uniform color of orange jail clothes with county and “Prisoner” in large bold letters on your pants and shirt. Occasional fights, outbursts of anger, punches and blood, and when seen results in dozens of cops rushing in shouting with anti-riot weapons and tasers, the occasional periods of peace, jokes, mocking, stories and laughter.

The non-changing weekly breakfasts, soup lunches and decent dinners all eaten in a short time period. The tensions of going to court, the reckless screaming and yelling of men on the phone to their families, friends, hoes or homies. The tension of commissary (paid food), and the watch for jailhouse thieves, the tensions among races in simple things such as playing cards or sharing a snack. The constant police crackdown on jail possession of drugs, porn, knives, pruno (jail-made alcohol), entire pod raids to demonstrate and remind of the police force, power and control, the recycled blankets we sleep with, the green thin dirty mattresses we sleep on, the creative crafts of making rings, necklaces, bracelets out of plastic bags and broken down color pencil powder, the starting of fires using remote batteries, the  constant wearing of plastic wristbands with your jail info and mugshot.

Drying bread in bags to make croutons, ripping cards in half for poker chips, or using board game pieces for larger value chips, arguments over game results. Separation between certain races due to “politics” and their rules, a topic that can be it’s own book. Making of spreads, combination of bought foods mixed together to make a complete “cooked” meal. Chips, soups, etc. Having to press 21 buttons to make a phone call, the occasional walk through of a female police officer that gets people staring and flirting at a fine, lined risk. The high demand for soap and toilet paper, which seems to disappear a roll a day due to excessive pooping because the food quality is so low, the nonstop flushing of toilets when pooping or farting to suck away the smell.

The high demand of coffee and using $1 soups as a balance for currency, 1 cigarette going for 7 items, (7 $7 soups), depending on supply/demand. The endless graffiti of gangs and their members, revealing female pictures from magazines all over walls, removed by cops only to be replaced the next day. The “special” inmates, or trustees/housemen workers entrusted by police to serve food or control the pod. The various class/events offered in jail such as anger management, parenting, bible study. The kites of illegal secret information passed between inmates and pods through small pieces of paper, the constant rumors and hopeful discussions on new policies or laws, the occasional visits behind bulletproof glass and telephones with people who care, the checking of pills at pill call and selling of it, the “removals” and “beatings” of people unwanted in pods so as to encourage them to push the “emergency button” to leave.

The cameras constantly watching from all corners of the rooms, recording every action you take, the one way view glass of police control rooms as they watch you like zoo animals, unseen by you, the fights over what to watch on TV, sports or women, or shows of comedy and action, asshole cops and nice cops and the arranging of daily routines to match the shifts, the sneaking of extra clothing and then getting caught and “written up” for it. The fights over neighborhoods, gang hand signs, and territories. The defending of reputation through fights, to not be  classified as a “bitch”. The market like trading of foods, for example 2 soups for a Honey Bun, some people come and learn their lesson, and some come for shelter or drug connections.

People coming in with drugs stuffed up their anus, to be pooped out and plucked in the restroom to sell, the 2.5 inch long pencils, the making of pencil holders out of playing cards to lengthen it, the 2.5 inch long tooth brushes, the anticipation of emails printed on paper or letters from outside. Getting randomly pulled out by new cops who need to practise patting inmates down and searching cells under sergeant supervision. Having to bend over naked, spread the legs and coughing on first entering the jail to show you’re not carrying drugs in your prison pocket.” Coming to full alert at the jingling sound of handcuffs, locking or opening. Or having handcuffs on you so tight your hand loses all feeling and goes numb with bruised wrists.

The stink of dirtbags who don’t shower, the anger at a bad fart, the entertainment at the occasional crazy guy. The countless run down novels spread through the pod, and high demand from certain authors, the receiving of new books from outside, the endless stupid questions from people new to jail, the snitches who get a bloody beat down and moving to protective custody, the “Hole” for people who were violent or get caught breaking a heavy rule, the scarcity of times to clip nails or shave, the efforts or lack of from everyone to keep the place sanitary. The genius chess players or those just learning, the artists who deserve world recognition, the wasted talent of a genius due to one idiotic decision that ruined his life forever.

The kind people who turn dark and moody on certain days due to sudden situations. The shock collars (leaders) of each race and having to make tough peaceful or violent decisions, the fake smiles that cover up the depressing and longing to be home with family, and the wicked smiles of those who purposely ruined theirs. Watching friends or inmates getting slammed onto concrete for a poor decision, or getting slammed yourself. The days that feel like weeks and the weeks that feel like months. The constant replaying of a movie or TV show, the 24 hours in a day of nothing to ponder about and remember your life. The man under his blanket shaking silently, and then coming out with eyes red with tears, people trying to masturbate in showers with “shower shots”, female pictures in plastic bags.

The officer who had a bad day and beats up an inmate for it. The gossiping of officers and inmates to harass due to past history, taking them to cameraless places to intimidate, threaten or beat, smashing his possessions to make a point. The insulting to officers behind glass and the sudden hush when they walk in. The pointless made up rules by certain officers and their violent desperation to enforce them. The inmate who wants to catch a fade “fight” over nothing just to prove himself. The 5vs1 jumpings in cells and near deaths of inmates between inmates for gang reasons or any kind of drama, the stompings, grunts, screams of fear and dull thumps from punches, and the victim claiming he “fell from the top bunk” to explain it to police.

The inmates going to pill call just to see a woman’s face and chat for 5 seconds, the shortest speed dating time in the world. Calling trustees to deliver hot water to your cell, through a small crack using a chip bag with a hole to deliver like a funnel. Checking people’s paperwork to make sure they’re not sex offenders, then beating them up if they are. Making a strong bond with a new friend only to have them disappear mysteriously the next day (removed, etc.). Finding out who your true friends or loved ones are by who actually writes/visits you, and spending long thoughtful hours to ponder what to write back, some with tears, some with giggles, and some with muttering curses or poorly concealed smiles. Sharpening pencils with finished toilet paper rolls, making knives out of glasses, spoons, toothbrushes, even dried newspaper covered in dried soap. People of all languages and many who can’t speak english.

Having a disrespectful, loud, smelly bunky with too many “visitors,” allowing absolutely no sleep at nights. Talking to females on different floors through toilets, and sharing wrapped pictures and food through “fishing,” sending it through pipes of poop and piss using strings with spoons attached, banging on the toilets with coded beats to call them on. Using toilet paper wraps to wrap blunts to smoke. The people with 3 month sentences crying, and those looking at life telling them to stfu. People getting body infections just by touching a blanket, shoe, shower nozzle or whatever, and waiting days to see a nurse. Long wait times for a cop to unlock a door so you can move to another secured area when traveling through a jail. Sitting in cold, blanketless holding tanks for hours alone as punishment for small offenses. Hearing of an event outside and going into 24 hour daydream mode. Always wearing shoes in case of a sudden fight, no flip flops, seeing people who will never go home again, making strings from twisted toilet paper, using orange peel stickers as tape.


Imagine that life for weeks, months, even years. If I sat long enough, I could write so many more pages, but I think I got the basics. Basically, jai is degrading and makes people do things they’d never do outside, like fight over toilet paper. So please don’t come to jail, there’s nothing uplifting or proud about this life. Any OG (old gangster) would tell you it’s not worth it. Your family and life outside are too precious. And you don’t want to come in here and find out when it’s too late. Don’t join the system, that will ruin your life forever. Believe it from a man who’s lived it for just 2.5 years. Every man that comes in here is just one more child without a father, one more wife without a husband, and one more parent without a son. Please remember that, and teach it to the ones you love.


Famous jail sayings: If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime

If you don’t like it, then don’t come to jail.

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[Image above attributed to: https://c1.staticflickr.com/4/3438/3218952881_5d8e4bc55a_b.jpg Derek Key]