Surviving Prison: Tips for Business Professionals

Understanding Prison Culture

prison culture

Going to prison is one of the most traumatizing experiences anyone can have. It’s a life-changing experience that can destroy one’s confidence, mental wellness, and freedom. Prisons are hard environments where one may feel unsafe, vulnerable, and unprepared. Understanding prison culture is, therefore, an essential skill that anyone who wants to survive in prison must have.

Firstly, you must realize that prison culture is different from the outside world. In some ways, it can be far more brutal, but in others, it can be surprisingly more caring. This culture revolves around a complex set of values and expectations that people inside prison put in place. Some of these values include respect, loyalty, and solidarity among inmates.

Respect is an important value in prison culture. Inmates respect other inmates who follow the rules of the prison system. They also respect those who stand up for themselves and do not allow others to bully them. However, they also respect individuals who show empathy, kindness, and a willingness to help others. Conversely, those who show disrespect or behave dishonestly face consequences like beatings, verbal abuse, isolation, or being shunned by other inmates.

Loyalty is another vital component of prison culture. Inmates show loyalty by sticking together in times of trouble and helping others when they need it. They create a sense of mutual obligation through shared values and norms. It’s important to show loyalty to your friends and disrupt any secrecy or informants.

Solidarity means that inmates are united against a common enemy, against a system that they perceive as unfair and oppressive. They create a collective identity that cuts across traditional divides such as race, class, or gender. Solidarity is particularly crucial among inmates when they face external threats such as gang violence, mistreatment by prison staff, or public stigmatization.

Another crucial aspect of understanding prison culture is learning to recognize the power dynamics that exist within it. Prison is a place where the strong dictate, and the weak obey. The strong are often those who have been in prison for many years or who have connections with the powerful gangs. The weak are those who are new to prison, without support or protection, or who are perceived as easy targets.

It’s important to notice and understand these dynamics so you can navigate them without fear. You must be careful and observe who to trust and who not to trust, and identify the allies who will help you get by. Knowing how to make allies without making enemies is essential in prison.

Finally, learning prison culture involves being aware of what to do and what not to do in prison. It’s important to know the rules and regulations for your own safety and protection. It’s also crucial that you follow them to the best of your ability. Know what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are not. Do not gossip or talk too much; do not get too involved in other inmates’ business, and do not cross personal boundaries. Respect the culture and community around you, and you will likely survive prison successfully.

In conclusion, understanding prison culture is an essential skill for anyone who wants to survive incarceration. It’s crucial to respect the values that dictate prison behavior, show loyalty and solidarity to gain respect, and be aware of power dynamics within the facility. Learning what to do and what not to do in prison is also fundamental to your protection and survival. With this knowledge, you can navigate the brutal prison environment and ensure that your time in prison is as safe and successful as possible.

Establishing a Routine

Prison Routine

Establishing a routine is crucial to surviving prison. Prison life is structured, monotonous and mundane, which can cause extreme emotional distress. Therefore, creating a sense of familiarity and predictability can ease the psychological burden of incarceration.

Prisoners are generally woken up early in the morning and go to bed early at night. The first step to creating a routine is to align your sleep schedule with these norms. Getting enough sleep is vital to mental and physical health. A consistent sleep schedule can also help to establish some sense of control over the prison environment.

After waking up, many prisoners will do some form of exercise. Whether it’s lifting weights or yoga, exercise can relieve stress and provide a sense of accomplishment. A few sit-ups or push-ups in your cell could be enough, but if you have access to a gym, take full advantage.

Engaging in productive activities is another integral part of prison routine. Prisoners can participate in programs that help with rehabilitation, e.g. education classes and vocational training, or engage in hobbies such as writing or drawing. Staying busy is important because the lack of stimulation can worsen mental health. Furthermore, participating in activities that will benefit your future employability can give you hope and focus on something beyond your sentence.

Lastly, socializing is critical to surviving prison. It has been said that ‘the doors will literally close on your mental health’ if you do not have any human interaction. Whether it’s playing cards or having a conversation in the yard, interacting with other inmates can help to bear the hardships of incarceration.

Although the prison environment can be harsh and overwhelming, having a routine can provide a sense of structure and purpose. By incorporating exercise, productive activities, and socializing into daily life, prisoners can maintain some level of normalcy and build their resilience. In summary, establishing a routine is a valuable survival tool in prison.

Building Relationships with Inmates and Staff

Prison Relationships

If you find yourself serving time in prison, one of the most crucial things you can do is to build relationships with fellow inmates and prison staff. These can help you make your prison stay easier, safer, and more bearable. Building these relationships requires trust, patience, and proper communication.

Building Relationships with Inmates

When building relationships with fellow inmates, it’s essential to respect their boundaries and cultures. Try to keep an open mind and learn from them. You can start by introducing yourself and asking for their name; this can lead to a conversation about their background and interests. Be respectful and don’t discuss sensitive topics such as politics or religion unless you know where they stand.

Building relationships with inmates in prison can also help protect you from potential harm, especially when you’re new or vulnerable. Seek out groups or cliques that share your interests or values and offer to contribute to the group. This can help you gain their trust and support in return. Remember that these relationships are still rooted in prison culture, and you must remain aware of unwritten rules and potential dangers.

Also, avoid getting involved in activities or behaviors that could harm another person or lead to disciplinary action. Being kind, considerate, and helpful towards others can gain you respect and trust while also making your time in prison more manageable.

Building Relationships with Staff

Building relationships with prison staff can help improve your life inside the facility. These relationships can lead to additional privileges, better treatment, and better job opportunities. They can also help you become better informed about prison happenings and allow you to give feedback or make suggestions that can improve life behind bars.

Start by making it a priority to know their names. Show respect for their position and authority. Be cooperative with their requests, follow the facility’s rules, and try your best to stay out of trouble. These actions can help you gain their trust and respect.

Try to find common interests and engage in small talk when possible. You can also ask about their experiences and their job duties inside the prison; this can help you gain a better understanding of their day-to-day routine. Furthermore, you can offer your help with tasks or activities related to their work. For example, you can volunteer to assist with paperwork, cleaning, or other responsibilities.

Remember that building relationships with staff is not about getting special favors or breaking the rules. Instead, it is about building a professional rapport based on mutual respect, trust, and communication.


In conclusion, building relationships with fellow inmates and prison staff requires patience, respect, and proper communication. These relationships can help you make your prison stay more bearable and safer. When building relationships with inmates, respect their boundaries and cultures and seek out groups that share your interests or values. Building relationships with prison staff requires following the rules, showing respect for their position and authority, and finding common interests. In the end, the relationships you build in prison can help you make it through your sentence, and potentially make a positive impact on the people around you.

Staying Mentally and Emotionally Strong

Prison Mental Health

Going to prison can be traumatic for any person. It can potentially trigger painful emotions such as grief, anxiety, depression, and fear. During incarceration, some inmates may find it difficult to cope with the intense emotions. Mental and emotional fortitude are essential for any inmate to survive prison life. Here are some ways you can maintain your mental and emotional strength while doing time behind bars:

1. Seek Support

Prison Support

Having an emotional support system is critical to your mental and emotional well-being while in prison. You may find it helpful to join support groups offered in prison or find a mentor to provide guidance, advice, and wisdom. It’s crucial to establish positive relationships with other inmates who share your values and principles. Socializing with people who raise your morale is vital, and they can help you maintain a positive attitude in a challenging environment.

2. Keep Busy

Prison Activities

Boredom can cause overwhelming and crippling emotions for inmates, leading to feelings of anger and despair. Keep your mind active and engaged in positive activities. You can read books, learn a new language, or take courses. You may also participate in recreational activities such as sports, art classes, or prison choir. It will help keep your mind engaged and build new skills, and it’s an excellent stress-reliever.

3. Practice Self-Care

Prison Self-Care

It’s essential to take care of yourself in prison to enhance your mental and emotional well-being. You can do this by eating healthy food and exercising regularly to boost your physical and mental health. Get enough restful sleep and avoid any form of substance abuse. Practicing meditation, deep breathing, or journaling can also help calm your mind and emotions. Taking care of your hygiene and appearance can also enhance your self-esteem and boost mood and confidence.

4. Find Purpose

Prison Purpose

Many people who have been to prison before recommend the importance of finding a sense of purpose for yourself during the incarceration period. It can be meaningful and fulfilling to set personal goals for yourself in prison and work towards achieving them. You can focus on personal development, career advancement, or even giving back to society. Engaging in volunteer work or writing letters to troubled youth in the outside world can give you a sense of purpose. Whatever goal you decide, ensure it is achievable, and it gives you a sense of purpose.

Staying mentally and emotionally strong is critical to surviving and thriving in prison. Implementing these practices requires effort and patience, but the benefits are worth it. You reduce the likelihood of getting involved in fights, protect yourself from mental illness, and boost morale for a successful transition back to the outside world.

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