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Former prisoners open up on 15 things nobody tells you about being incarcerated

Rules in prisons varied from states and countries but most former prisoners said life in there was nothing like the movies.

Former prisoners open up on 15 things nobody tells you about being incarcerated
Image source: Grill closeup - stock photo/Getty Images

The images of prison, for a lot of us, are ones from movies and books. Life in prison is quite different in real life and many prisoners and loved ones of prisoners opened up about life in prison in a Reddit thread. The eye-opening thread sheds light on many things including the food, having access to amenities including the internet, among other things. The life of prisoners varied in different states and countries, which also highlighted which countries treated prisoners with respect. "Former prisoners of Reddit, what is something nobody tells you about being incarcerated that you had to learn on your own?" asked u/jojuinc90, and many obliged. Here are some of the top comments we came across:

Interior views of traditional prison - stock illustration/Getty Images


1. Your word is everything

Your word is everything. Breaking your word puts you roughly on par with a sex offender. You give your word on something, it needs to be gospel. Someone gives you theirs, assume it is too. And be ready to go if it isn't. It's not just worth fighting over, it's essential that you do. Everything is for sale, or at least has a market value. Sustained eye contact means you're starting sh*t. Someone makes it with you, assume they're sizing you up. Don't do anything for free, unless it's for someone you know. u/Cerinthus

2. The food in jail... is not bad?

Because of Hollywood I thought that prison had sh*t food and that guys just worked out all the time because they had nothing to do. But then my uncle got locked up for 6 years and gained 50lbs and got diabetes. Reddit

3. Lot of time to read

It's a steep learning curve to be sure, but truthfully, it isn't always cutthroat with nobody to trust. Sure there are people to avoid, and if you have a decent celly, they'll point them out, somewhat like Shawshank. I was in medium-security for 6 months on credit card fraud, so I wasn't near any expected dangerous people anyway, but there were still the territorial guys you just were better off avoiding. Other than that...a LOT of reading for me, learning some basic card tricks from my celly....stuff like that. Not at all a desirable place to be IMO. u/ripplecutbuddha2

4. Internet and Playstation

A friend of mine did some time. He had internet, PlayStation and a chef made him breakfast and dinner every day. They had to make lunch themselves with access to a full complimentary kitchen. Knives, cutlery, and so on were freely available. They often went outside to shop for groceries and some even went to work. Basically, the only thing was to stay away from the sex offenders. This was a medium-security correctional facility in Norway. u/Sensur10

5. Guards spend all day watching YouTube

The guards just sat and watched YouTube all day and night. Seems like a dream job if you've got no soul. u/DrMeowbutuSeseSeko 

6. Money is power

Current prisoner here, in The Philippines. Anything can be smuggled in if you pay the right guards...even prostitutes. Money = power. You can get away with almost anything if you have enough money. u/TotallyDepraved

The Cellular Jail, also known as Kala Pani, was a colonial prison in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India/Getty Images


7. Access to books and clothes 

My sister has been in and out of jail and prison for the past 10 years. In jail, (depending on the one you're at) they have books for you. They're usually donated, old, tattered up Nora Roberts-type books. But, we could also order her books right from Amazon if they weren't on the prohibited list. As for money, I and other family members would have to physically go to jail to add money to her commissary. From there, she could order things like toiletries and clothes. Also, some jails offer a care package system where you can pay a third party and they'll put together a basket of snacks. u/Jerrrdin

8. Prison is not a rehabilitation center

They say it's a "rehabilitation" center, that's complete bullsh*t. I went in for having a large amount of herb, but while in there I learned the best methods to cook crack, how to counterfeit money, how to B and E without getting caught... our incarceration system desperately needs changing. u/Reddit

9. Racial divide 

One of the things I really learned in there is like it or not you are expected to stick with your race. During peaceful times everyone can be cool with each other. But when shit pops off you better stand with your people or you will get dealt with. A lot of racial tension and I'm not really that kind of person but in prison you have to stick with your color u/Txdirtymax91

10. Sex is consensual

Unlike TV and Movies, rapes don't happen as much as the jokes have you believe. Lots of gay stuff goes on but is usually consensual. Reddit

11. Playing dominoes all night

The people who play dominoes all night long are the worst. For some reason, if you play dominoes, you can't just put the domino on the table, you have to f*cking slam it on the God damn metal table at three in the morning. No, no one is trying to sleep, keep slamming those dominoes, no one cares. u/Glittahsparkles

12. Your jokes are numbered

Well, on my first night in prison, after lights out, one of the prisoners yelled "63!" The entire prison started laughing. I asked my cellmate what I was missing. He told me that they had all been in there so long that they had the same jokes. To save time, they just decided to number them. I asked if I could give it a whirl. I shouted "37!" The prison erupted into the loudest laughter I have ever heard. I ask my cellmate what joke I just told and he responded, "I don't know, I haven't heard that one before." u/mmtintstitute

13.  Boring as hell

Just how f*cking boring it is. Sure, shit goes down here and there, but unless you're in one of the small amount of truly terrible prisons in the country, day-to-day life is just boring.
There's a 99.99% chance you will not be raped nor will have to beat/shank someone to prove you're not a punk or whatever. Prison rape does happen, but there are enough people that are willing participants that in most prisons it's a non-issue. u/dunegrassrecon

14. Lots of gambling

How much everyone gambles... Sometimes you will enter a unit and everything people gamble on. You wanna play chess? you need to gamble to play. dominoes? gamble to play. basketball? gamble. I remember we watched the Bachelor and all had money on what girl the guy would kick off the show. Meanwhile, the guard is confused on why 30 people are all watching the Bachelor Rose ceremony. u/61pm61

15. Food is currency

Food is currency. If someone asks you for some food do not give it to them because they will keep coming back to you. Quid pro quo. u/Racooon_expert69 

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