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Prison Conditions. What Is Prison Life Like?
This is an Inactive Session within the Topic Prisons And Prisoners
Session Type: What is the truth or nature of the topic?
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Other Resource: Text: What is prison like?
What is prison like?

Juliana Linn, had an extended stay in CCWF, May 11, 2016
Originally Answered: What is jail/prison really like?

Have you ever seen the movie "American Me"?
It's a lot like that. A lot of people I've seen answer questions on here went to federal prison; I didn't. I went to state prison. The difference is that the state has a lot less money.
When you're first arrested you're brought "downtown" which is where they book you. This is also where you go to court, and where the drunk tank is.
It smells really bad. Downtown was probably built in the 50's. There's bars for doors just like the movies.
You get a foam mat that's about two inches thick to sleep on. No pillow. Two sheets, and a blanket that is made out of recycled tires. 
Breakfast and lunch were combined into one sack lunch. A little bag with cereal, milk, sugar free/taste free cookies, an apple, some carrots, a juice, drink mix package, four pieces of bread and four pieces of meat. Dinner is a tray of only-god-knows-what and beans.
Jail was pretty boring compared to prison. You didn't have to do anything but exist. At first it's really hard to get a phone call (besides your one free call when you get there) after your first court date until they sent you to a bigger jail to await your next court dates.
The bus is built like a regular bus with cages around every seat, the seats are plastic.
Jail was dirty; there were nice people and people that came off the streets who didn't shower. Crazy people, the majority of them. Their minds fried off drugs. The only chance they had for real help would be to go to prison where they take mental health seriously.
There's a place called suicide watch where they put you in paper clothes until you decide you're not suicidal anymore. 
After you've been sentenced you give away all your stuff to the other inmates and go in a van to prison, you wait from like 1am to 4am in a holding tank to go with how many other people you go with.
I was sent to CCWF. It's where every female goes on their first step in prison. You can get transferred to other prisons as well. 

CCWF is a level four prison, meaning that it's for the toughest criminals. Some people request to stay there if their families live near by or if they have someone they know in that prison the want to be around while they do their time. Usually girlfriends or wives.
I wish I knew what you specifically wanted to know.
Prison was a big step over my county jail, which was horrible. The girl I went upstate with was joking that it felt like we were in a health spa or something. After being in the county jail anything would've seemed luxurious to us.
When you get there you have to put on a muumuu, it's blue with polka dots. All you have on underneath is the underwear that they give you. 
They give you a basic fish kit. It's called that because when you get there you're wearing orange. "New fish" and gold fish are orange looking.
 with shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, and razors. Stuff like that. You're also given a lock for your locker, a cup, fork, and spoon. You have to bring the fork and spoon to chow with you if you don't want to eat with your hands.
In CCWF you're put in a room with seven other people. Four bunk beds. Everyone has a cleaning day or does chores.
In my experience the people were horrible and cruel. (See my answer to "how did jail affect you" for THAT story)

I think that had things been different, they would have been nice to me and helped me out. I did have some friends from my county that helped me out because I helped them out in the past, but I didn't want them getting more time over me so I told them not to fight the people harassing me. They ended up doing something anyway though because when I got over the wall (when you get there you're on A yard which is receiving) one of those girls was in my room and was trying to say I snitched and I called her out on her bull shit. I didn't snitch; my friends ran up in the room and took my stuff back that they stole. Not the cops. I'm not that stupid.
When you're on A yard you have to get blood work, a papsmear, a vision test, a dental check, and see mental health. After all that's finished you see your counselor who tells you your actual release date and what prison you're going to be in. 
You go over the wall two weeks later and it's a whole new world. People have radios and TVs. When you get over there the biggest concern is getting into a good room. That's not an easy thing to do because everyone wants to be in a good room, so they're usually full. 
The first one I was put in was good, then out of the blue I was put into "Money's" room. They say she targets people that she can overpower and requests them to be put in her room. I was in there an hour and refused to lock back down. This woman was there over 33 years. She's on Scared Straight and she threw boiling cleaner on someone; she is absolutely out of this world. She deals drugs so she wants her room to be "inspection ready" at all times. When you go to the bathroom you have to continually flush until you're finished. Spray toilet paper with disinfectant and clean the entire toilet. When you take a shower you have to scrub the entire thing down. Every time you walk into the room, you have to shower for at least fifteen minutes. You can't make any sounds. You can't wear shoes. I wish I could go more into detail because this is seriously under exaggerating. 

I'm pretty sure that she's in the bottom row of this picture, graduating college or something. The fifth person from the right. Before the ones in the baseball shirts. I swear she's evil incarnate. She pled guilty to beating her baby nephew to death with a baseball bat because he was crying.  
It was bad, very very bad. 
If you ask me to answer a question about prison horror stories I would no problem because I saw some things, and I didn't even do that much time.
Anyway, once you get into a good room and you're established, you have to work. We call it "Programming" ever wonder where "get with the program!" Came from? I think it was prison. 
This picture is of a PIA employee making an American flag, would you have guessed they make them? PIA also makes soap, shoes, clothing, dentures, lots of stuff! 
The whole point of the place is rehabilitation. They put you in a job, vocational study, school, or drug program. Some people work 8 hours a day in the kitchen, others making dentures. The only way to get out of working is to have a "lay in" and that means that you can't go outside or anything because you're basically on bed rest. 
Okay, so... questions? 
Normally when I answer a question like this I get a lot of questions. No problem! Ask away! Or ask a specific question the Quora way (not in a comment) and ask me to answer it. That way more people can benefit from the answer and not have to dig into the comments to see it.

Caleb Hunter, Technologist, nerd, entrepreneur, urban citizen
Answered Dec 8, 2013
Originally Answered: What is life like in prison?
If you're in general population in a California state prison, daily life is much like Groundhog’s day.  During the week, you wake up, have breakfast at dark o'clock and go to your work or school assignment shortly thereafter.  Once you return, you have your free time to do what you like: read, watch TV, go to  the recreation yard, or participate in other activities.

After the institutional count clears, dinner is soon served around 5PM - 5:30PM.  After dinner, other group or education opportunities may be available, depending on what institution you're at.  Otherwise, it's free time and prepare to do it all over again the next day.

On weekends, fewer jobs and no compulsory education are running, so it's a lot more free time.  In addition, inmates may have their visits during this time.  

That's the basic template.  Each individual’s schedule varies.  Whether or not you're affiliated with certain groups also plays a role.  Christians may have activities with the church to attend to, while certain gang groups may not allow their members to participate in certain activities.  But for the most part, the days are all mostly the same.  Other than institutional lock downs, the most annoying thing about the schedule that I can recall off the top of my head were the state holidays (non-federal) which meant no mail delivery.

Eric "Phil" Phillips, inmate San Quentin
Answered Dec 30, 2013
Well, there is the physical prison, of which I am incarcerated.  But really, who is free?  Only those at peace spiritually are free.  But are you really completely free?  Many are in prison in their minds. There's the prison  of drug and alcohol addiction, of course.  But that ain't all!  There's so many big & little "prisons". The prison of food addiction, porn addiction, addiction to money.  What about addiction to material things, addiction to power, addiction to one's looks?  Those are "prisons'', too.  

How about the "Designer Clothes Department of Corrections" or the "Fast Food State Penitentiary?"  "Television State Prison?" "The Sports Correctional Facility?"  There are so many things (and people) _we're imprisoned to, even religion, "The Religion Reformatory."  So even if one is free in Jesus Christ, Islam, Buddhism, etc., there's still a part of that individual that's still chained to something.  

Can one be addicted to asceticism?  Yes! So check and see what prisons you're really in, because in reality, if what you can't live without is not necessary for your survival, then it might be your prison. Not to say that all things one's tied to is inherently bad, but we must recognize that those things (or people) are not going to destroy us if they're not there.  Of course, someone dying is always tragic, regardless of the circumstances, and I would rather everyone could live forever in utopia, so I would not diminish personal loss ever. 

Other than that, we must recognize that life must go on, as painful as the relinquishing of these things are, and cherish what we do have.  That's why suicide is especially tragic, because that person didn't take the time to think about what he or she still had, or could have had.  Now that's terrible. 

So let's all get out of prison today!  That's the ultimate goal.

All communications between inmates and external channels are facilitated by approved volunteers since inmates do not have access to the internet. This program with Quora is part of The Last Mile San Quentin. Twitter: @TLM

Kuldeep Kumar, Software Consultant, FitnessGuru, Traveler, Struggling Actor
Answered May 12, 2016
I can't say about the prison around the world since never got this opportunity: (not lucky enough, eh?) but I've been to the one in India and that was some experience. Let's not talk about why I was there, that'll be a different story wink .
It was actually quite an appalling sight to see very poor, scrawny, weak looking, middle aged people inside those jails (prison). Looking at those I asked the jailer, “Sir, they don't look like criminals, why're they here?” The jailer kindly smiled at me first and said, “that's the dilemma of this country, if they looked dangerous, well off, criminals kind, they wouldn't be here.”
Now let me some more interesting facts of this third world’s prison, which I believe is unique and probably would blow your mind away.
There's a central jail(prison) in New Delhi called Tihar Jail(prison).
1. There're products made by the inmates has its own brand which is quite a hit brand of India. Brand TJ a hit! Products made by inmates of Tihar Jail gain popularity, brand's sales increase manifold
2. It offers degrees to the inmates based of inmates area of interest and education background. Not just that companies come in to hire these inmates for the job. Delhi: Tihar Jail Inmate Offered Rs 35,000 Per Month as 66 Get Job Offers
3. It offers music therapy to inmates and regular concerts are scheduled. It's considered correctional institution than a prison.
4. There's a prison industry within the walls of the prison manned by the inmates.
5. They've their own radio station run by the inmates.
6. You can visit the website to explore more about this south Asia’s biggest prison.
Also, let's talk about another prison of another state of India. The inmate of this prison designed the prison management software and is run by the inmates. Haryana prisons go digital, get cashless canteens and biometric machines

Tara Wildes, 30+ years in jail
Originally Answered: What is jail/prison really like?
Seeing the same people at the same time everyday.  Rarely being able to make your own decisions. A schedule outside of your control.
Often not knowing what the weather is like.  On the other hand, it's likely you enjoy a climate controlled environment. 
Not being able to choose your meal beyond what's on your tray.  Unless you are fortunate enough to have funds from family or friends to buy snacks off the commissary, or are a really good card player.  But paying up losses can cost more than snacks.
Waiting to see medical for minor ailments you could get over the counter remedies for in the free world. 
Wondering why you did the things you did to get here.  Feeling sympathy or anger towards the victims of your crime - if your crime created a victim.  
Putting up with others who blame you or anyone other than themselves for being locked up with you. 
Not being able to undo the past and understanding no matter how you change your ways, your future is not going to be better.  Probably.  But you won't get caught next time.
2.5k Views · 9 Upvotes · View Timeline

Kevin Hewett, imprisoned 3 times, jailed 23
Answered Mar 19, 2015
Originally Answered: What is it like in prison?
I've only been to prisons in America. So, as to prisons generally, I suppose conditions in American joints are better than the prisons in a lot of other countries. Also, the differences between low, medium and high security facilities can be dramatic. *I have been in low security state jail, medium security prison, and two maximum security federal pre-trial detention centers.

Prison conditions vary widely, but the variation is not random. Prisoners are housed by categories.  When you enter the prison facility, you will be classified according to the nature of your crime, your size and physical condition, any gang affiliation, and  a variety of other factors.

So, while yes, prisons are dangerous, you will be in prison with other people like yourself. So, if you are a dangerous individual or if there is reason to believe you are dangerous, you will be housed among other dangerous criminals. However, if you are not very dangerous, the prison officials will determine this, and house you among less dangerous individuals.

For the most part, prison is merely boring. There are few times when it is actively violent. When there is violence, the violence is targeted by the individual committing the violence. So, if you have not committed any offense, it is unlikely you will be assaulted.

Men in prison are incredibly homophobic. They are also very scared of HIV and AIDS. For these reasons, sexual assault is not as common as people outside prisons imagine it to be. Most sexual contact in prison is consensual.

Ex-convicts prefer to maintain the illusion that prison is a really terrible and dangerous place. That makes other people think that ex-convicts are tough. Unfortunately, prison is mainly just boring--plenty of time for reading.

Vaqueno Heztrong, The Prison Industrial Complex in America is it's main business.
Answered Jun 16, 2014
Originally Answered: What is life like in prison?
In Ohio, Missouri, and the Island of Puerto Rico it starts around 5:30am when the first count and shift change occurs. Breakfast follows after the kitchen workers and others are released from the units and by 8am breakfast is over and the yard opens as long as the Shift Captain is satisfied that all the C/O's are at their respective posts. If you are not a kitchen worker then you either go to school, work some institution job like dorm porter, or library aide, and if you do not have and assignment you lounge in your dorm, or walk the yard, or goto the library, or sleep in.

Next count starts at 10:45am and ends about 11:15am or so. The kitchen workers for the lunch service go out - some were on what is called "OUT-Count" which means they were at work during count and the C/O's are responsible for making sure that this is taken into account before count can clear. Lunch is 11:30am to about 1pm - it lasts longer because more people go to it and it usually has more food. 

Shortly after 1pm the yard opens again and until 3:30pm there is more school, work, or chess, dominos, working out, watching soap operas, working on crafts, playing cards, or "Magic - The Gathering" or Dungeons and Dragons...ETC. Shift change for the guards is at 2:30 and the mail comes in with second shift.

4pm is the Main institutional count and it almost always lasts an hour. Mail is passed out around this time. Mail is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT in prison. 5pm to about 6pm is dinner and then 6 to 8 or 9pm is evening recreation. This is when most of the inmates are out and that is when most of the underground business of the prison occurs. 

There is another count before 10pm and then there is what is called late night. There may be some opportunity to fix a late night meal or conduct a last bit of business before final lockdown at 11:45. Depending on your privilege level and the dorm you are in late night can extend until 2am, but this is limited to weekends and minimum security camps. 

This overview does not do the day justice and completely ignores the harsh reality that the rules - written and unwritten - impose upon ones circumstances in the joint. "Bitting" doing your bit in the pen is by know means as easy as I made it sound. However, I would not wish prison time on my worst enemy and I can only say so much about that time of my life.

Lee Bone, Well read and fitted 3 lives into one by my 40s as suffer from CMT and assumed id be wheelchair bound (forg...
Answered May 10, 2016
1st I would like to say that in the UK guilt is not the main concern of the police or criminal justice system. Ease of blaming you is far more important, the other main reason for incarceration is what your QC, Judge and Crown prosecution work out between them on the golf course or in Judges Chambers. 
The police officer in charge of my case and I became friendly and he(a flying squad inspector) told me he knew I was innocent but as 'the Crown' had a witness who was happy to lie, the prosecution team decided they had enough to charge me, guilty or innocent. 
At the start of my 3rd trial, the 1st and 2nd being hung juries in my favour, my QC(barrister) told me that while at lunch in Judges Chambers, the judge advised him if I changed my plea to guilty he would charge me for possession (heroin equalling £20 & approx 2g cannabis, both crimes usually processed in a police station if you have no previous drug offences) but if I continued with a not guilty plea, he would sentence me to 14yrs,the maximum allowed. 
I obviously changed my plea through fear & cajoling despite my innocence (in that charge anyway) 
I have spent more than 3 years in British prisons, the last time a decade ago as I went through my early 30s.
General population is pretty hectic with drugs which are often easier to get than a cup of coffee. Anyone with half a brain can discover who the dealers are within 5 minutes just by leaning quietly against a staircase. You see 'runners' who are generally young addicts, running in and out of cells but on canteen day, when you get your tobacco and treats, you see bags and bags of stuff going into dealers cells. 
I had cleaned myself up and it was harder to stay off drugs inside than it was when free. At one point I had dealers above, below & either side of my cell and had to request a move because my cellmate was using!! 
If you are determined to behave and sort your life out you might be lucky enough or be 'connected' to a senior officer and therefore get a single cell on an enhanced wing. You also get 11 tv channels as opposed to 5 on general wings. One mistake and you go back to general and start again. Normally taking 6 months of being spotless to get enhanced status. 
Child molesters and rapists get their own wing which is exactly the same as enhanced but they don't have to behave to get their own cell. Because I worked in the building most of the 'wronguns' as sex pests & perverts are known (as are 'grasses')  
Most prisons insist you work or go to education and other than having money sent in this is the only way to get money to buy 'luxury items' (tobacco, coffee etc) so most prisoners DO work or go to education. In theory you can get a degree but after 2yrs trying,  the system had lost all 8 of my applications, something I discussed with the main Governor & hope I made it easier for those who followed. 
The enhanced wing is far more relaxed and other than wearing your own clothes you also get a key so you can lock your own door while working or in friends cells, after all there are some right light - fingers buggers about, a lot of thieves are in prison you know! 
Once you have behaved for the main part of your sentence you might be eligible for 'D-cat' or open prison as it's known. 
In open prison in England you still have to work (I went from print shop manager to a glorified type-setter doing paperwork for the government, not just prison papers. Laughably I had to design paperwork outlining what staff earned, from officer all the way up to prison group manager. Obviously this found its way around the prison and staff caused more problems over it than prisoners. The top man didn't hide his 1/2 million plus wage and drove a Bentley most days which I imagine upset the guards who were the ones getting their hands dirty & risking their health when mentally disturbed prisoners with hepatitis or HIV spat at them or cut themselves to get blood on the guards. 
At a B-cat prison I was made to share a cell with another convict who was HIV positive, the officers didn't appear to think I needed to know, leading to HIV tests further into the sentence. 
Many officers are 'bent' and for the right money will smuggle just about anything into the prison. I imagine this is extremely frustrating for the honest officers along with the fact the dishonest ones generally get promoted faster. 
The closest analogy I've found to describe prison is that it's just like cub/scout camp. Men who have the IQ and social abilities of a 12 year old run things and everything is a game of 'what can I get away with today' or 'how can I settle that score'. 
It's a bunch of childish men trying to beat another bunch of childish men. 
The stakes are obviously higher for the prisoners than guards but the rewards are also greater. 
Many people go to prison for honest mistakes then end up heroin addicts who will be in and out of the system for life. 
Incidentally I have NEVER been to prison for something I've done. Each of the 4 sentences I served were because of fabricated evidence or people telling lies. 
I HAVE done far worse and not been caught so it all kind of evened out in the end. Having stopped drug use a decade ago I have not been involved in criminal activity. I was only on grubs because I have a muscle wasting disease and used drugs as a painkiller as another great institution, the NHS, flatly refused to help me. I now pay private and have had the 1st of 2 ops to allow me to walk unaided. I'm also half way through my doctorate. 
I believe I'm part of a tiny, lucky minority and I intend to work as a psychologist for inmates. I had planned to work with disabled kids but you will earn approximately half of the money paid to criminal psychologists. I believe this shows a lot about how 'the system' is set up. The more worthy your cause, the less money you earn and the more difficulties put in your way. 
In short, if you are likely to be going to prison, you're far better of being a child molester than someone defending their wife's honour. 
It makes you wonder what the Lords and MP's are up to don't you think?
I spent time with some of the most intelligent, talented and eloquent people while in prison and only one of the many was a prison employee(governor of Stanford Hill), the many being serving prisoners. These are the people to seek out who will advise you how best to 'do your time'.

Nikki Griffiths, works at Prisons and Prison Life
Answered Feb 3, 2016
Originally Answered: What is jail/prison really like?
You've already had a great answer to this and I can only talk from my experience from the outside, so to speak, but I'll tell you what I observe. I work at a maximum security male prison in Australia.
Prison is extremely complicated, firstly you have to learn the rules of the prison from the officers, then you have to learn the rules of the prison from other prisoners.
I will start with the officers. They treat you like crap, they are trained not to trust you or engage with prisoners in any way, due to the risk of being groomed by them. Groomed is the term used to explain how prisoners carefully and over time get to know the officer with the purpose of getting something from them. This could be as small as being given a pen to write a letter. The prison moves officers around to limit exposure and reduce grooming behavior. So the officers treat you like you're not even human (generally).
If you want to work then you can. In Australia you can earn up to $60 per week for level 1 prisoners (trusted positions), however most jobs offer around $30 per week. Considering that a pouch of tobacco is about $34, this doesn't even cover your smokes. Jobs range from woodwork, metalwork, construction, cooking, unit cleaning, education etc
Prisoners are always escorted by officers when leaving your unit, including exercise time. They are advised not to look or speak to other members of staff, such as admin, teachers Etc unless they are in class.
The other prisoners are another thing to be aware of. Prisoners cannot be trusted and you need to learn very quickly who you can and can't talk to. Drugs are very prevalent, so often people are experiencing the effects of drugs. Also there is a lot of violence. I have known prisoners who were killed and that have suffered severe issues- wheelchair bound, as a result of a beating.
I am always amazed when I hear how lucky prisoners are because they are allowed an X box or a CD player. Lucky? They eat moldy food, get treated inhumanely, are told when to eat, when to shower, walk and poop and spend hours upon hours locked up with violent people.
Every time I leave work I am thankful that I go home to my family, my freedom and are surrounded by people I trust.
Obviously America has a much higher rate of people in prison 1 in 10 I believe, whereas we are 1 in 200. I have read a lot of articles about the penal system in the US and my understanding is that because of the sheer higher numbers of prisoners, there is likely to be a more diverse range of prisoners. There would be more non violent prisoners, more white collar crime Etc. In Australia most of our prisoners (80%) are Aboriginal, most have drug and alcohol problems and most are violent, so you can see how the environments would be very different. Oh, and it's also stinking hot here all the time smile
I would question rehabilitation and suggest that it's mainly remand instead.

Answered Mar 2
Originally Answered: What do prisons look like?
If you want to know what a maximum security prison in Australia looks like, go into your kitchen and empty out one of the cupboards.
Once it's empty, climb on in. Then close the door once your inside. Stay in there for several months. Maybe you'd like to take a couple of books with you in there. Make sure they are not very good books.
There, now you have an accurate view of what it looks like in an Australian Max security jail, from the perspective of a prisoner.

Updated Feb 24, 2016
Prison is a universe within a universe.  Prison is living  hell on earth.  Prison is the act of being buried alive.  Prison is a university--to this day some of the most intelligent, intellectual, and skilled men I have met, I met while imprisoned.  Prisoners talents ranged from being prolific criminals to expert published writers.   Prison is intimidating, frightening, a jungle where the weak are preyed upon, taken advantage of (sexually, financially, and spiritually) in any and every possible way.   If it isn't the prisoner you are in conflict with, an altercation with a Department of Corrections guard is as frustrating and intimidating as a riff with angry, miserable, "waiting-to-explode" prisoner.   In fact, altercations with guards are and can be far more dangerous--corrupt/criminal guards will pay "cash money or drugs" to a prison dog/killer (inmate), to hurt or silence the prisoner causing trouble.  Prison is a microcosm of the "freeworld."  It can be a very bad place to live or if you choose you can make it your university for self-improvement, and self-empowerment.  Simply put, being imprisoned is a very serious matter--at times tension is so thick you can feel it and in a bad way cut it with a knife.  For survival, and living within the environment, be prepared to see the ugly.  Remember, hate, misery, and "tartness of being" are the full time activity of the prisoners mind (most prisoners---otherwise, after adjusting to being imprisoned, the stage of "cooling out" comes into play, then the prisoner begins to change the perception of the prison environment).  Respect and love for humanity are held in abbeyance until "life, and knowledge and experience gives the prisoner a normal and pure aspect of life.  Compulsively, no matter what, day to day, the mind is never quiet because prison life is chaos and catastrophic.  Prison, is a distraction, you identify with so many things that you are not, and with this, the consequence is there.  Yet, in stark contrast, with help of a higher power, fundamentally prisoners can free himself from the crude identity of prison life.

Answered Feb 6
In my opinion ever one has a different experience when it comes to doing time in prison. It depends on the security level of the prison you're in. Prison is pretty monotonous once you get used to everything that goes on in there. It can be fun, boring, violent, and everything in between. You can better yourself by going to school. You can get healthier by lifting weights and running around the track. And you can take programs that will help you get parole. You can also get a prison “job” that will help pass the time and you also get paid a tiny wage per day. When it's all said and done prison isn't a place where you want to be. It's a lonely, restrictive, disgusting place. It's not comparable to any place out in the free world. In a nutshell prison SUCKS. There's no Internet. No freedom. And you're around a lot of people you really don't like. So avoid prison if at all possible.

Answered May 13, 2016
It’s nowhere near, in general, as bad as people imagine. Conditions vary enormously, but, as a guest of the California penal system, I found it to be tolerable and devoid of the usual terrors as depicted in popular media.
If you are mature enough to have mastered the basic rules of social interaction, are reasonably socially adept and self-confident and - above all - are not yourself possessed of a combative or unpleasant personality, odds are good you won’t encounter anything you can’t handle. It is a steep learning curve, but a huge number of people (America is the land of the incarcerated, with millions either in lockup or veterans of the system) enter and exit without significant problems.
I “attended” prison during the Great American lockup, when the USA was literally shoveling people into prisons in vast numbers on the slightest pretext. It’s a hot political and historical potato which I won’t enlarge on here, but the sheer scope of the Mass Incarceration during the 1990s easily matched or exceeded that of many of the great repression regimes.
As mentioned by other, prison is actually a lot more “free” than jail, offering more variety, options and mobility than small city or county facilities for lesser crimes. There are jobs and educational opportunities, libraries, recreational facilities, etc. Food is far better, as are visitation privileges for the general population. As a classroom assistant, I worked hard to improve the reading skills and thus future hopes of dozens of people - arguably the best thing I have done for society in my life!
Ironically, I found prison to be very relaxing a great deal of the time. As they point out, you get three squares, your mail delivered, no rent and you don’t have to go to work in the morning (in the usual sense). I think I laughed more behind bars than I ever did outside. You do make friends and socialize a lot, and you can get as much exercise as you want.
Its important to respect your fellow inmates and get a sense of their mindset and attitudes to avoid problems. Like it or not, this is your society while you’re there, so you play by those rules.
Most prisons are not the violent hellholes portrayed in popular media. People generally go to extravagant lengths to avoid a confrontation. Violence is usually highly targeted and planned out, a quick ambush executed in a matter of seconds and confined to a specific target. As long as you are not an exceptionally passive or submissive person or overtly homosexual, the prospect of sexual assault is not high. Again, learn to be an expert on human behavior and monitoring your environment - two skills every adult should possess anyway - and, unless you’re very unlucky, you’ll be fine.
A quick word on job prospects for felons and the newly-released once you’re sprung. Do NOT believe the falsehood that you are now forever shunned by society and will be nothing more than a janitor for the rest of your life. Attitudes and laws have changed, and you’ll be surprised how many people are intrigued rather than alarmed by the fact that you went to the joint. I got my share of free drinks for years after my release by regaling the curious with my accounts of inside life. You CAN find work, even if it at first you have to start at the bottom (most likely, this is not the case). Many states pay corporations to rehabilitate offenders, and, after seven years you record vanishes from most searches. So, unless you’re a repeat offender or someone who simply can’t get along with society, you will re-integrate successfully.
Conditions do vary according to locale, and I have heard California ranks above average in terms of physical environment: on the other hand, the system is full of very sophisticated gangs and the games they play (don’t join a gang, btw), which could create a tense dynamic. Genuine hellish conditions rarely prevail any more, unless you’re locked up overseas (another situation to assiduously avoid).
In terms of psychological ambience, prison is a paradise compared to many toxic, white-collar office environments and other other situation and it’s not uncommon for inmates to express relief at having been delivered from the circumstances they were trapped inside before being incarcerated!
Life is complex!

Answered Feb 9
Prison needs not involve harassment and rape by guards or inmates, shitty food, or a severe restriction of mobility.
Prison can be in your own comfortable private setting. It may even allow you to get out in the day and earn decent money. In the evening, you return to your private settings and you can do what you want.
But the prison within can still severely restrict you on what you can, or want to do. I haven’t reached that stage yet (and hope I never will), but this personal prison may even keep you from working one day.
My personal prison (thus anonymous)…

Answered May 8, 2016
I can only speak about the two prisons I was in, both of which were privately run Colorado state medium security prisons. Each state has its own system, its own rules, its own system of classifying inmates, so there are many variations.
Monotonous like the movie 'Groundhog Day': Like the movie, each day is more or less the same. Prison has a very distinct rhythm. The cell doors start opening at about 6 am. You can hear the electric locks start snapping one by one. They pop in a way that wakes you if you are still asleep. Then start announcements over the PA system, usually calling people to work or to eat. After breakfast there is a count time where you lock down in your cell again to be counted. After count there is an announcement to the first session of work. People head off to their jobs or to schools. If they don't have either, they may go to the yard. Before lunch another count time. Then lunch. Then another session of work/school/free time. Then dinner. Then evening programs. Then another count and you are in for the night. Then the next morning it starts over. Being deprived of true freedom, ever day is a slow procession of these events. One more X on the calendar. People count down their sentences in calendars.
Your cell is your 'house':  Your 10'x8' feet of real estate was the only place you had some say about. You could choose who may or may not enter. You can stay low and watch TV or read. You can exercise. It's your bedroom, your den, your kitchen, your bathroom. During lockdowns, it may be your only space for days or weeks at a time. Most everyone referred to it as their 'house'.
Some values are upside down: In prison, no one is ostracized if they go into someone's cell to beat them down and take their property. But they are lowest of the low if they sneak into the cell when no one is looking and steal those same things. If you are in your cell minding your own business and someone comes in to beat you up and the guards later see that you were in a fight due to your injuries, you go to the hole for fighting.
You can get new criminal charges: Sometimes when someone is jumped or when prison property is stolen or damaged, the prison will call the police and you will be charged with crimes. Those crimes may be added to your sentence.
Like a small town, rumors and news travel fast: My first night was terrifying. I was falsely convicted of sex assault on my stepdaughter (a rebellious teen who made up a story to get me out of her life), so I had a target on my back that I was hoping not to reveal. That first night a crew of shaved heads wanted me to show them proof of my charges to make sure I was a "decent criminal" and not a rapist or "chomo" (slang for child molester). I told them the truth, that I was still fighting my conviction and that my lawyer had advised me not to talk to anyone about any aspect of my case. Besides, I told him, I didn't bring any paperwork. That wasn't good enough, the big one told me. He gave me until the end of the week to show him some paperwork. The next morning I requested a move to a different cell house in hopes of avoiding any further confrontations with those three. It did no good. News travels so fast in prison that I was still unpacking my things in the new cell when someone came to take my new cellmate into the hall and tell him about the suspicions of the other crew. I was already labeled a likely "chomo".
Like any town, there are all kinds of people: There are all kinds of people in prison. I met friendly people and hateful people. I met thieves, drug addicts, child molesters, drug dealers, killers, alcoholics, rapists, and ordinary people no different than my friends and neighbors on the street. Nearly all of them were people with an addiction problem or who had made a serious error and had to pay. Only a handful were truly evil. How is that different than the neighborhood where you live now?
Like any town, there are safe neighborhoods and dangerous ones: There are programs such as bible studies or worship services that are safe places to be. The library and the educational programs also. Surprisingly, one of the safest places to be was our "weight pile" where everyone lifted weights. No one wanted to lose their weight pile privilege and even less so be the person who got the weight pile closed for everyone by acting up in there. That would for sure result in a beat down from a bunch of angry weight lifters! The cell house was more dangerous, especially if you went into a cell where you were out of view of the control center or went into the broom closet or the laundry room.
Like any town, there is an economy: There is no cash in prison, so everything is done by bartering even though bartering is officially prohibited. Inmates get to order snacks, food, stationery, stamps, hygiene items, and a few luxuries (eg. TV, radios, coffee makers) from the "canteen". Stamps are used like coins since they are small and easy to pass. You can trade your canteen items to purchase tattoos, drugs, sex, clothes ironing, haircuts, and more. You can use canteen items for gambling.
There is a hierarchy: Prisoners see each other divided into levels of status. "Decent criminals" such as robbers, drug dealers and drug abusers, murderers are the majority. They look down on any kind of sex offender, which includes rapists and child molesters. Only slightly lower are "rats" - those who testified against other inmates.
People who handle their own business are respected: Those who have a problem are encouraged to "handle it" - that is, confront the person with whom they have a problem. Those who run to authorities for help are despised. Those who don't resolve their problems become victims for more and more abuse.
Much more mobility than you might expect: From breakfast until about 10pm there is movement. You can go to work, to school, to the library, to the chaplain, to the yard, the gym, to other programs. You can stay in the day room and play cards or watch TV.
Politics: There are unwritten rules you have to learn. You don't fight a gang member without first meeting with their "shot caller" to explain your reason and receive a go ahead for a "heads up" fight. If a gang has a bad actor, they are expected to clean their own house or else other gangs will do it for them. Each race is expected to handle their own bad actors. There may be areas in the yard or in the "chow hall" where you shouldn't sit. There may be people with whom you should not associate, or you will become ostracized along with them.
Rehabilitation is scarce: There are few programs to help with rehabilitating offenders, and the few that exist are mostly for show and offer no real help. (My opinion)
Most guards are there for a paycheck: I did all my time (8+ years) at private prisons. The guards that I came in contact with were mostly decent people just trying to get a paycheck and get home. They were not difficult to get along with, especially since I didn't give them any reason for conflict. Less than 10% were just downright difficult people who seem to be taking out their anger from some other part of their life on all inmates. They seemed bitter and picked fights for no reason to try and provoke inmates. They went out of their way to make life harder.
It is not a place you want to be: Some people claim that our prisons are too soft. There is a gym, TV, sports, education, etc. Having been there, I would agree that it should be rethought. But however soft you may think it is, it is still very hard. Violence can erupt at any time and you can never relax. You can't visit your family. You can't be there when they or sick or when they die, like my mother did from cancer while I was in. When you leave, you carry the felony conviction as a huge obstacle to success. As my mother once told a guard, "if you think it's so easy, feel free to change places with my son."

Juliana Linn, had an extended stay in CCWF, May 11, 2016. Quora
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Primary Resource: Text: Violence, corruption and squalor in American prisons.
Violence, corruption and squalor in American prisons.

Anyone who has had the misfortune of being behind its walls knows all too well about the violence, corruption and squalor that characterizes this institution. Simply put, Cook County Jail is a harrowing, unforgettable experience for anyone. It is so awful that for many of its detainees a quick guilty plea and a trip to the penitentiary, even for twice as long, is preferable to staying in the County. It is the proverbial lesser of two evils. 11
The first challenge of this yearlong odyssey I had before me was to get through Intake & Processing, a long and exhaustive ordeal that tests the very limits of your patience and mettle. It is where you quickly have got to adapt to a new reality in order to survive. Even if you’ve been through it a dozen times—which is not uncommon, since the recidivism rate is disproportionately high—the process is traumatic, and leaves you wasted for days. For many, this will be the first time they will have their basic freedoms rescinded and experience the methodical cruelty and dehumanization of this kind of “factory corrections,” or the production, management, and warehousing of large numbers of offenders. 16
The experience is uniquely totalitarian in the purest Orwellian sense, a Kakfa nightmare where the detainee, literally, has no ability to speak for himself, and it is doubtful given the sheer volume of faces passing on and off the black and white screen that any of us were actually viewed as people. We were nothing more than depersonalized names and prior records next to subterranean faces distorted on an old monitor, which, from what I saw, the judge didn’t even bother to look at. 17
In between each of these stages detainees are left standing for hours in the bullpens. Naturally, it is unreasonable to expect anyone to stand that long, so eventually people begin to collapse onto the filthy floor, and onto the few benches along the wall, chests tucked to knees, unable to move. Regularly, correctional officers will come by and scream into the bullpens about the noise, or people sitting down. They make threats, make everyone stand up, leave, and the process begins all over. It becomes this absurd pantomime, a futile back and forth of authority and rebellion, insurgency and counterinsurgency, stuck in an infinite feedback loop.
Contempt and disgust pours from the faces of the CO’s and you wonder what makes them so hate-filled, before you have to remind yourself that some pretty nasty individuals have come through here over the years, and after a while, it must get to everyone. 20
This ritualized abuse and debasement would only get worse as I went into the prison system, a systematic brutalization of the basic human rights and dignity that I faced with every turn. You couldn’t even ask a simple, innocent question without running the risk of getting your skull cracked. They simply didn’t care; you were like live- stock to them, filthy, stupid animals that deserved nothing. It must have been what they had to think to even live with themselves. Deep inside, few humans want to be that cruel. Or do they?
Over time, stuck in the bullpens waiting, the men become more and more filthy and the stench in the room transmogrifies into a dull rancid taste that coats the back of your throat. That nasty taste still haunts my memories, surfacing in my dreams, like a sickness lingering. 21

Excerpt from Exile Nation, by Charles Shaw
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