Prison culture

Solitary Confinement: Wasteful, Useless

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F is Still For Failure

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Last week I spoke with Bam, a prisoner and former gang member serving time at Taft Camp. Bam’s been incarcerated for six years, though his initial prison adjustment led to problems with prison officials and transfers to higher security prisons. Bam has listened to a number of my presentations at Taft Camp–I often speak to groups of […]

Prison Culture: Are You a Convict or an Inmate?

In the prison system, a difference exists between a convict and an inmate. Each word has its own connotation in prison culture. The words describe the manner in which a prisoner adjusts within the system of confinement. In minimum-security camps the terms don’t carry much weight. Yet in higher-security prisons, where the stricter boundaries prevail […]

Does the Corrections System Care About Inmates?

I can relate to the feelings of tax payers who want vengeance from those who have broken society’s laws. Prisoners have been convicted of crimes, and many of you want them to pay. Yet prisoners eventually pay that debt and return to society. Although punishment should represent one component of society’s response to crime, an enlightened […]

Does Writing Influence My Status in Prison?

I’ve never fit the profile of a long-term prisoner. Rather than adjusting in ways that would bring me power through violence, I focused on educating myself. Instead of thinking about living in prison, my total commitment was in preparing for the life I wanted to lead upon release. That strategy required me to suspend my […]

Does Prolonged Prison Exposure Leave a Negative Influence?

People who meet me for the first time have a hard time believing that I have been in prison since 1987. When I tell them that I served more than 16 years in higher security prisons before administrators transferred me to minimum-security camp, they think that I’m exaggerating. Yet it is true. Almost all of […]

Who Protects the Female Prison Guards?

In the prison system, every staff member is considered a prison guard first. It doesn’t matter whether the individual works as a secretary, a receptionist, a nurse, or any other position. If the individual works for the prison system, that individual has an obligation to work toward preserving the security of the institution. When I […]

How I Avoided Prison Subcultures

Prisons are like mini communities, totally separated from the wider society. Those who live inside find cultures that differ in remarkable ways from the America that most citizens know and love. In what I call the real world, citizens strive to reach their highest potential. People earn respect by working to educate themselves, by contributing […]

Seeking Protection in Prison

Protective custody, known as PC in prison parlance, is a choice that can have severe consequences for any prisoner. In minimum-security camps, it is not a valid concern as these types of institutions are no more volatile than a corporate office park. Yet in higher security prisons, where there are gang influences and threatening prisoners, […]

Who initiates Sex between Prisoners and Guards?

Some of my published writings about prison describe sexual relationships between prisoners and guards. One reader wrote me to ask who makes the first move, the prisoner or the guard in such relationships. Generally, I would have to say, prisoners make the first move. Yet during the more than 21 years that I have served, […]

What Prisoners Miss Most

Prisoners miss what they cannot have. Those who serve time in supermax prisons, like the ADX in Florence, Colorado, live in sterile cells. They are deprived of nearly all human contact. Their mattress is thrown on a concrete slab. They can hardly move beyond the small space allotted to them. They cannot use the telephone […]

Prison culture encourages prison rape

In higher security prisons, where prisoners serve lengthy sentences and have histories of violence, prison inmates pursue power on a primal level. Criminals that are more sophisticated may have political skills, though many equate power with instilling fear in other men. Some predators rape weaker inmates in an effort to create illusions or reputations of […]

High-security Prisons Create Vicious Cycles

Since 2003, I have been confined in minimum-security prison camps. I share living space with many offenders who serve time for white collar crimes. In this environment, most of the prisoners behave well. They are educated and focus on preparing for the lives they want to lead upon release. In higher security prisons, where I […]

Inappropriate Sexual Relationships in Prison

A criminal justice student who had read my book Inside:Life Behind Bars in America, asked me how often sexual contact occurred between officers and prisoners. She wanted to know how such behavior could escape notice from other authorities inside prisons. An Internet search on the subject would yield disturbing results. Around the same time that […]