Can someone please both allow me to experience it, and explain in depth to me what prison is like?
For some reason, when I read this question, it made me think of all the mattress ads I see everywhere.
So, I'm just going to tell you about the damn mattress pads.
Have you ever seen the movie "American Me"?
Prison. Iv done time in Australia and Thailand. Both experiences we're different for a couple reasons. In Australia I was very guilty in Thailand not guilty of crime. In Australia iv done a few years in Thai it was around 6 months before it was sorted out and I was released. Now prison sux but you have a choice to do your time easy or hard it's s a mental battle and I think brains go a long way as does good manners. In Ozz yeah there are some very hard men of all races and all that can be a issue also. Going in your first time is bloody scary. All stories you hear about getting raped and somone making you there bitch , well in Australia it rare. If you are a pedi or hurt woman ect you will cop it but if your just a crim your usualy ok. In max security your locked in cell up to 18 hours out 24 the time out gets longer as your classification get better. So if your locked in with a dickhead it can be miserable. Out in the yard there are rules and politics that needs to be followed or that can lead to trouble. The officers in max are more hard arse and they chill as you go through system. The hardest part I found was when shit happens to family and you can't do a thing about it. That's hard. Or when your girl writes a dear john its sux as your stuck in a cage with no we're to go. Prison needs to be done one day at a time. Yeah you need to plan if your only doing a couple years. If your doing big time well shit I'm sure that's hard to plan. But life Gos on. Prisoners still want good cool things like Nike shoes a good jacket a watch cool sunnies all that brings status. Good family Gos a long way. On other hand some people just struggle and it's obvious they can become vunrable. Iv found in Ozz it's not cool to hassle these guys. Your better of helping them. I'm proud Australian for this reason. I met a guy from states in long bay jail Sydney he had done time in states and said if ya week your a big target to be someone's bitch. As Ozz society becomes more multi cultural our prison is changing this I'm told by mates who have gone back. Jail is hard I hated it your told wen to eat shit sleep make phone calls ect but if you accept it well you can get by. I don't recommend it though. I found it harder once out as I felt like it was tattooed on my head just out of prison but again I had to chill exept some help and be honest to myself and others.
In Thailand I got jailed for somone else's drugs. They were in my home but I never knew a so called mate had them. Thai as you no and drugs not good. I proved they weren't mine but it cost a lot money Thai style to work through it. Thai prison is very hard. It's run more by trustees so you don't mess with them. Rapes are rare as there is sex if you want it. Lady boys also. You can actually hook up with them but you must tell the officers and they let you share ya cell and support each other. It's cool. There is slot of sickness in Thai prison HIV , HEP , TB ect leg ulcers and it's hard to get treatment so you must be as clean as possible. Food is limited from government so you need to look at options to acces more. There is s market within the prison if prisoners muck up the authorities will stop the flow of this market system then your in big shit because the long term era and local boys lose out. There are prisoners who hold keys to cells and have batting. They keep order and they will beat you bad if you mess up. And there fully hard arse I found my time there ok. I was hirrifued at first but it was ok you must show respect. I'm lucky I speak quiet s bit of Thai as my wife is Thai. That helped and I also helped Thai crew with legal letters and stuff. After around 6 months or so out of no we're i was taken to Bangkok shackled and cuffed in 4O degree heat in back of truck and my urine from my arrest had come back clean. When I got there my farther in law was there I didn't know how he knew about court date as I never but that's Thailand. Other evidence went my way. I was guilty of allowing a drug dealer in my house. He was under survalance for some time. Lucky I was never photographed with him or around wen he sold to under cover cops. I think if I never hard my Thai connection re family I would have been fkd. They let me go home 2 days later. I never want to do any time again ever. It's been 15 years since I have but I remember it clear as day. I think it's all had more of a mental impact than I reslise.
Sorry I started going of topic a bit
Background: First let me preface this answer with a statement. My situation was a dichotomy of sorts. I have been fortunate enough to have traveled the world and seen many things. Been behind the scenes with some of the worlds most affluent, while working on those types of deals or projects that most would envy. The ones that are supposed to have you "set" for life.
I have also been involved in many "situations" that were not of such lofty substance. Some that would make the even the most "experienced" individual's adrenaline flow. Situations that required precision thinking. No "blink" reflexes that involved more mental gymnastics then physical attributes. And, more times than not, ones that don't end in happy situations.
To sum it all up, I have been a "Crisis Manager" for over 2 decades. At times in an official capacity, other times "discreetly". Sometimes for million dollar "Fortune 500" type firms...Other times for 'off the grid' types of million dollar organizations. You never think high risk decisions will end in "trouble like" consequences. You always think "High Risk/ High Reward. Even when you know something about the punishment for said actions, it doesn't seem to register at that moment. Ask any high stakes gambler if "splitting Deuces" makes him think about losing double the money. No, his/her mind is wired for winning that bet. They will deal with the loss if, and when, that bridge ever has to be crossed. Those high pressure situations can often lead to life altering consequences. And never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine the mental strength needed in prison, if you ever plan on making it out.
Consequence: Prison became a by-product and a 'result' from one of those ill fated "pressure" decisions, in my particular case that is. And before I went to prison, I would have never ever imagined that life on the "other side of the fence" was so complicated. So diverse. So perplexing. There is a conundrum that exists. A Good/Evil 'pendulum' you would rarely see in the outside world. Something that you are not supposed to experience as a human being, at least in my opinion. It is one that you simply can't explain to an individual who hasn't been in that predicament. No amount of "consulting" can have you "game ready" for the life altering circumstances that you can possibly face. All one can do is teach you the do's and don'ts.
When I was sent to Lorton, one of the worst facilities in America, I knew I was going to have my hands full. Being from DC, this place was infamous for it's 'residents', and had an 'evil' mystique to it. The infamous "Wayne Perry". Associates of "Rayful Edmunds". Just to name a few. And within the first 24 hours, because of the side of town people assumed I was from, and because I was considered "White Collar" and "Brainy" I had made it to someone's hit-list, was thrust into "prison economics", and become a "hot" commodity. All from a game of basketball, a missed dunk., and a game of chess. Go figure.
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 shovelling 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 alarmedby 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!
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 :)
I would question rehabilitation and suggest that it's mainly remand instead.