Questions And Answers About Prison

August 7, 2018 | No Comments » | Topics: Answers

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Can you get drugs in jail/prison?

You bet your fucking ass you can. It’s all there. Marijuana, Cocaine, Ecstacy, Meth, Heroin, PCP, etc. You name it, you can get it. I’ve even seen hypodermic syringes smuggled from the medical ward for people to use to shoot up. A metal ballpoint pen? Crackpipe. They would strip and ball up copper wire from headphones, set it on fire (to take some sort of coating off the copper), bunch it up inside the metal base of the pen and voila! Crackpipe!

How is it brought in and how much does it cost?

A gram of heroin in Los Angeles is currently running at about $80 and the price of a gram of heroin in prison is $400. Heroin makes its way within the prison walls in three ways: contact visits, mail scams, and guards smuggling it in.

Every prison has a weakness; it’s just a matter of finding it and exposing it. I knew a dealer that was bringing 9 grams of heroin in a week. His girlfriend brought the dope in by stuffing a tampon and taping it under the visitation room seat. Then an inmate assigned to cleaning the visit room would recover the stuffed tampon and take a spilt for helping to smuggle it in. I knew a Mafia guy that used to bribe the guards at Rikers Island. It would involve a simple payoff on the outside by the Mafia guy’s associates and the hack would bring in heroin, weed, Vodka, razors, cigarettes, and even Chinese food, whatever he wanted. One of my friends filled tennis balls up with black tar heroin and threw them over the walls of the prison to me in the exercise yard. Prisoners also smuggle packages in through Food Service in frozen food or other boxed items that come in through the warehouse. I’ve even seen dudes get stuff in through religious services from Chaplains. But the big thing nowadays is drones. A drone will drop a package on the recreation yard; an inmate wearing a hoodie grabs it and blends into a group of convicts right before a recall for count when everyone is going back to their cells.


How much can you make dealing drugs in prison?

In federal prison, I was making as much as $5k per month. I dealt off and on for years. It’s pure profit in there. I used to get a gram of good Mexican tar for $50-60 bucks. I would get 12 to 15 papers out of that and each paper would sell for $50 a pop. I had a lot of customers at every prison I was at. A prison without drugs is a deserted and dry place. I turned every prison I was at into a big party and fun place. Later in my bid tobacco became a big money-generating business too. In non-smoking jails I had tons of customers, everybody smokes, and I could sell one Newport cigarette for $25.


Are you required to have a job in prison?

Every inmate in required to have a job. When you first arrive to whatever state prison you’ve been classified to, you’re required to take what’s known as a TABE test. (Test of Adult Basic Education) Should you find yourself incarcerated, take this test seriously. It could make the difference between sitting behind a computer all day in air conditioned classrooms as a Teacher’s Aid, or outside in the scorching heat pushing lawnmowers. The TABE test is a piece of cake ScanTron type standardized test that anyone with a High School Diploma should have no problem passing.

Once you take your test, you will be assigned to a job based on your test score. I landed a job making $3.75/day as a ‘teacher’s aide.’ Other jobs on the compound included Grounds Duty (Mowing grass all over the compund), Unit ParaPros (Keeping the Unit clean, sweeping/mopping, cleaning the showers, etc.), Mower Shop (making sure the lawnmowers were kept in working order), Rec Aid (Keeping the weights in the Rec yard organized, setting out basketballs and other outside equipment), Kitchen Duty (preparing meals, and distributing food to the Units on carts), Plumbing/Maintenance, and others that I can’t really remember right now.

All jobs were paid on a ‘per-day’ basis. The minimum wage was $1.30/day, and the maximum was $4.75

If you didn’t have family on the outside to send you money-orders to put on your account, this was how you made your money and provided for yourself. State pay goes out once a month.

Do you have to stick with your own race while in prison?

First of all, just like you see in the movies, Blacks stick with the Blacks, Whites stick with the Whites, Latinos with Latinos, and I honestly only saw TWO Asians while I was down, and they stuck with the Latinos. It didn’t really seem like it was a ‘rule’ that the races stuck together, but let’s face it, your natural tendency would be to gravitate towards those most like yourself. People you have things in common with. Also, if shit were to hit the fan and all of a sudden you found yourself forced to choose sides…..Well? Who are you going to side with? As as white guy, I always hung out with a small circle of white guys. We would work out together, play cards/dominos together, talk, teach each other, help one another, watch each other’s backs, etc. On the rare occasion that a new white guy would be assigned to our unit, one of us would be designated to approach him, welcome him to the unit and provide anything he might need. If he was new to the compund and didn’t have anything, we would all chip-in from our own supplies and made sure he had enough until he could buy his own commissary. Need cigarettes? Soap? Toothpaste? Deodorant? Stamps? We’ve got your back. You aren’t in “debt.”

We weren’t a gang. We were just a group of guys that had stuff in common. Most of us were from the suburbs, got into drugs for one reason or another, and found ourselves locked-up. We dealt with it by coming together and tried to make prison life a bit less hellish.

You’d think that the black and Latino gangs would try to take advantage of us and steal our shit and whatnot, but that was never a problem. We showed them respect, and in turn got respect. This is one aspect of prison life that I actually wish carried on into the outside world. People respect each other. In that environment, you HAVE to respect one another. Are you going to intentionally disrespect someone, know you might very well get stabbed for doing so? No.


What is the inmate pecking order in prison?

Jail and prison populations involve people living in very close proximity to one another (in some housing situations, the toilet seat might be only a few inches from your face when you’re lying in bed), so it is natural to expect that a culture and social structure will emerge.

At the top of the heap would be high-ranking members of crime organizations. Old-style Mafia first come to mind. These guys are still powerful, but maybe not as much as they used to be. More likely you’ll find people in what are usually called “gangs,” e.g. Crips, Bloods, Black Guerrilla Family, Latin Kings, MS-13, etc. There are also gangs that operate mainly within prisons, such as the Mexican Mafia, Aryan Brotherhood, United Blood Nation, etc. Most established prison gangs have alliances with “free world” gangs. 

Members of these gangs, the “soldiers,” are the next level down. They are protected by other gang members, as an insult or assault on any gang member is viewed as an act against the entire gang. The origin of prison gangs was for mutual protection, usually against other ethnic/racial factions. Prison and street crime gangs don’t have much of an equal opportunity program.

Below this level are run-of-the-mill prisoners who have no gang alliance. This is the largest group of prisoners. They do their best to stay out of gang politics and disputes. Barring some complications where one runs afoul of a gang member, it’s easily possible for an inmate to quietly do their time. Prison etiquette must be observed, e.g. don’t disrespect others, don’t help the staff with investigations, remain in your own area, etc., but most will not be pressured to join a gang. 

Some prisoners are called out for their lack of confidence and backbone, and made “wives” of other inmates. Some of their duties are housekeeping and other menial chores, and some are sexual in nature. Assuming this role means you have a protector, so you’re safe from other inmates (as long as your “owner” remains powerful, anyway), but you’re essentially the slave of the inmate who co-opts you. This happens, but not as often as prison movies might have you believe. 

Below this are inmates who are incarcerated for crimes even other inmates find reprehensible. Crimes where the victims could be another inmate’s loved ones are targeted. These include rape and sexual offenses against children. Inmates will victimize these people just to act out rage gathered from other sources, because they have no relevant social status. They are throw-away people. Ironically, these inmates can be the easiest ones for the staff to manage. They are often more intelligent and well-educated than the average inmate, and they don’t want to make enemies among the staff. They might get prison jobs where their intellect is useful, like clerking or assisting with educational programs. 

At the bottom of the stack, lower than low, are informants, or “snitches.” You don’t have to participate in another inmate’s rule-breaking or crime, but you never tell staff what another inmate is up to. Doing so often means a semi-permanent assignment to administrative segregation, where you spend most of your time in your cell and have few privileges or diversions. Even if the inmate you informed on is released, goes to another institution, or dies, he likely still has friends on the inside who will waste no time in reminding you that you violated the inmate code of conduct.


How are “snitches” treated in prison?

In 1990 when I first began serving my prison sentence, “snitches” had a rough time in prison. I began my prison sentence at the maximum security level 4 prison called Old Folsom. In those days, when a prisoner was found or said to have given the officers information or testified against someone, it wouldn’t take long before someone would stab the individual on the yard, in their cell or on the tier.

Most of the time, the word was spread to stay away from certain areas or people or races that day. Some snitches back in those days were robbed of their canteen and then stabbed. The stabbing was meant to not only remove the “snitch” from the population but to send a message to other prisoners to keep your mouth closed. If groups would weed out the weak prisoners who would “snitch” than other rival groups wouldn’t dare cross their paths. The atmosphere was crazy because if you saw someone getting stabbed you better look the other way so no one could say you told them if they were caught.

Normally “snitches” were stabbed in the neck and vital organs if they were trying to kill them. Some were slashed crossed the face to be marked for life as a “snitch”. The word would some how make its way around to other prisoners that, so and so group were cleaning up their back yard. That a prison term that is commonly used to justify their actions.

Now in 2014 they are not called “snitches.” They were calling them SNY’s or PC’s, meaning “sensitive needs” or “protective custody.” Now they are called special program. They are escorted by officers everywhere they go. Special Program inmates can be individuals who have committed a crime against children, women, dropped out of a gang, gave up information on someone or their crime partner. Now that I’m at San Quentin Prison on the level two facilities which is actually a level one filled with older lifers. No stabbing thank God but prisoners do get rolled-up are punched on, are told to roll it up off the yard before something happens to them for “snitching.”


Should I fight back in prison?

One of my best friends spent most of his teens and early twenties in prison for numerous thefts and burglaries.

His advice is that yes, it is absolutely critical you fight as hard and viciously as you can the first time you get into a confrontation. It is prison.

When you begin your sentence, unless you are known by someone inside, you are a blank slate. People want to know what kind of person you are. There are to types of people in prison: wolves and sheep. The strong and the weak.

Wolves don’t often attack other wolves, but will target sheep every waking hour if they can.

At some point after you start your sentence you will find yourself in a situation where someone takes advantage of you, or where you are challenged outright. It is vital that you defend yourself physically. You do not have to win the fight, but you must fight.

In fact my friend suggests you should actually try to be the aggressor once you realise the situation you are in. Even before the other party has physically attacked you. He suggested you say something like “look I’m not going to fight you” as you take a half step back to adjust your footing and drop your shoulder. With a bit of luck the attacker will momentarily turn either to make a comment about you to others present or to check whether anyone is watching. Then you lay your best haymaker squarely on his jaw and you continue to hit him with everything you have until the alarms go off or he is obviously finished with the fight.

Odds are it won’t turn out quite as well as that if you haven’t had a fight since junior school. But you will get an opportunity to defend yourself. It isn’t a beat down, or you would not see it coming. The idea is to see whether you will fight back!

So show them that you will kneel to no one and you are not afraid to fight (even though you probably are) and you will be elevated to the position of a wolf instantly.

The predators will have no shortage of people who couldn’t or wouldn’t fight, to turn their attention to in future. This is a sad truth of how things work in prison.

You do not have to become a predator, but you must be willing to to fight to avoid becoming prey.


What kinds of criminals become “wives/punks” in prison

There are four major categories:

  1. Ones that want to be. Most punks are in that position because they like it. They are generally gay/bi and just like it. For a lot of them I observed prison is actually a wonderful place because they are able to be extremely deviant and fought over by men.
  2. People who are weak. Not necessarily even physically weak, but mentally. The more impressionable someone is and easy to take advantage of, the more likely they are to be turned out.
  3. People without financial support and/or who get in debt. Some inmates have no outside support. Others get into debt. Getting turned out may provide a solution to this problem.
  4. Inmates who require protection. Inmates who have unfavorable charges such as sex offenses or who are ex-cops and that sort of thing may need protection if they are to stay in population and that comes at a cost. Sometimes its monetary, other times it’s sexual. Eventually, they may be totally turned into a punk.


How Do You Earn Respect in Prison?

In prison, there are two ways to earn (more) respect. First, you can conform to prison politics and the gang mentality and earn respect by “putting in work.” Putting in work means fights, stabbings, murders, etc. This type of respect is based in fear and comes with many pitfalls due to its deviant nature. Despite the negativity, this type of respect does have longevity although it is very tumultuous.

On the other hand, you can earn respect through self-respect, and instead of “putting in work” to harm other people, you can put in work in the classroom or in self-help groups. Doing the right thing isn’t always the popular choice, but it is a highly respectable one. Yes, even in prison! Unlike the first course of respect, this one is more serene. Similarly, it also has longevity.

Ultimately, the course of earning (more) respect is entirely up to the individual and their preference of method. The truth is that some people are simply good at being bad and doing good requires hard work. Throwing your hands up in the air and saying “I give up” is much easier than resisting negativity and continuing down a more positive path.