Prison Life

Spending any amount of time in prison is miserable, no one is having a good time while incarcerated. Although there is a huge difference between being locked up for a short sentence of only a few months or even a year or two, compared to a stay of five years plus for instance. Most who experience a long prison term will agree around the five-year mark seems to be the point when the sentence really starts to bite.

For me it was around the 4–5-year mark, when I really started feeling the pinch of the day-to-day monotony. The feeling at that point is one of just being completely over it. I was over the routine, the guards, having no privacy, hearing the same bullshit talk from other inmates, over missing home, my family, the shit food, getting nowhere in life etc. completely and utterly over absolutely fucking everything. All of these factors aren’t at all enjoyable at any time during our sentence but that feeling of being over it all in this way hits new highs after a long period of enduring it all. Someone who only serves a short sentence will not know this extreme loathing of it all, as those of us who get slugged with big numbers do.

It's common for inmates who do serve these big numbers to take a view that unless you’ve done 5-years or more, you really haven’t done any time at all. It wouldn’t be wise for these short stay inmates to complain about their sentence in the presence of a long termer, often they find themselves on the receiving end of an attitude adjustment. The mentality being that, they really have no good reason to whinge so they will be given something worth whinging about.

A part of the reason things start to wear thin around this time is that with these longer sentences, more time will be spent in the maximum-security system. The shorter sentences that come with less serious offending will usually find the offender spending a much larger portion of their sentence in the minimum-security system. After a short stay in the remand system while going through the court process, they will quickly move on to the lower security classification prisons. The conditions in the minimum-security system are much better than the maximum system. With more freedom, less time locked in cell, better work opportunities within the prison and even outside of the centre for those whose release date is approaching. Many of these centres are farm style prisons with animals and large open spaces, which is a pleasant change from the concrete jungle that many maximum centres resemble. The minimum system is largely less violent and less stressful, with inmates focused on behaving to be better positioned when fronting the parole board.

The long-term inmates serving the majority of their sentence in the maximum system, enjoy none of the above-mentioned freedoms. They spend their sentence enduring the stress and violence, the strict routine and ugly conditions. There is no reprieve, no break from it all or any hope of it ending anytime soon. It just rolls on and on, day after day, year after year.

Day to day life prison life is largely just a battle against boredom and the monotony of the routine. It’s the same shit over and over again. The highlight of the day might be a 6-minute phone call home, winning a game of cards or watching a fight in the yard providing some momentary excitement. To kill the boredom a lot of inmates turn to drugs, giving them something to feel good about for a little while.

Witnessing inmates shooting up in the yard when I was new to the prison system was a big shock to me. Often several inmates would pass the same needle around, but like most things that the average person would find shocking, after a while it just became the norm. Extreme violence is a regular occurrence that we become desensitised to, simply seeing it as another day at the office.

Stress and an underlying sense of tension is a constant while spending time in the maximum-security system. A state of vigilance is the mindset for most of the day, with lock in at the end of the day being the only time you can finally switch off from it all and relax. Things can kick off at any time while in the yard and everyone is constantly in a heightened state of alertness, ready for things to explode.

We become very perceptive to body language in prison, for the long-term inmates the ability to read the room so to speak is a real advantage. It pays to be on the ball, if something is brewing it could well be you that is about to be targeted. To be in tune in this way may well be the thing that saves you from an unexpected ambush.

To stay on top of this stress and boredom, physical exercise is a common and effective tool we use to pass our time. Being fit, strong and hard as a result of hard physical training is both a welcome stress relief and an effective deterrent to anyone who might be looking to target you. The threat of a capable and tough opponent may well be enough to make a potential attacker or attackers think twice. Being physically fit and strong will also obviously be a big advantage should things turn violent.

To sum up prison life, it’s boring, it’s a shit way to spend any portion of your life in a stressful, dirty, uncomfortable and depressing environment. You will enjoy no satisfaction in your day, doing nothing constructive and feeling as though you’re getting nowhere, you’ll experience frustration and disappointment daily. You will miss home every day, miss children, partners, family and friends. You will experience regret and self-loathing knowing how hard your loved ones are doing it on the outside without you. You will cause stress, hardship and pain to the people you love the most. All of which is on your mind regularly.

Welcome to a day in prison, much the same as yesterday and more of the same tomorrow.

 

“Instead of fighting the world, kill your ego”.
-Rumi

 

Blog by

Scott T.K Keighran

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