Saturday, December 28, 2019

How to Prepare for Jail

 Image titled Prepare for Jail Step 1

Most folks never think that this can happen, yet it is a real risk in a world of doubtful justice and inadvertent missteps long before you engage in a premeditated crime.  For all that it is well to know this advice exists. 

This advice at least allows you to suck it up and to confront the various aspects of the situation.  You want to be able to do just that.

With all that you can put it behind you and again shape your future which is all that it needs to be about.  In the end, it all happened to that other guy.

How to Prepare for Jail

Co-authored by Clinton M. Sandvick, JD, PhD
Updated: October 9, 2019

Jail and prison are two different institutions. Jails are most often run by sheriffs and/or local governments and are designed for holding individuals awaiting trial or serving sentences shorter than a year. Prisons are operated by the state and federal government and hold people convicted of crimes and sentenced for more than one year. Both institutions provide specialized services, but depending on where you end up, those services will differ. The list could go on and on, but what is certain is that some basic preparation will help you in either situation. So before your go to jail, you’ll want to learn as much about the institution as possible, in addition to the imprisoned population. Think of yourself as an anthropologist, learning the rules of a new society. If you can do this and keep your cool, you can make your time served easier for yourself. 

Part 1
Taking Care of Your Obligations Outside of Jail

  1. 1
    Talk to your employer. Whether you're going to be in jail for a couple of days, a couple of weeks, or longer, you need to be honest with your employer. Tell him why you are leaving. You don't need to be explicit - especially if the details are sensitive - but you should not leave him and your co-workers in the dark. They'll need time to cover for you while your gone.[1]
  2. 2
    Get your finances in order. Talk to your credit card companies. Put your cell phone plan on hold to avoid unnecessary charges while you are in jail. Not taking care of something so simple as this can ruin your credit for you when you get out. If you have a financed car, try to sell it. Many ex-prisoners face bankruptcy when they get released because they don't focus on these issues beforehand.[2]
    • In some states, your bank may be able to provide a line of credit to cover your time in jail. This can be applied to your mortgage, car payments, and many other financial issues. Talk to your bank to see if there is anything they can do to make your transition in and out of jail easier on you.

  3. 3
    Borrow money to put on your account. When you get into the jail, you'll have a flex account you can use to buy basic things from the commissary. Make sure you have surplus cash just in case. It will come in handy while you are in there.[3]

  4. 4
    Get your attorney to file for a review at sentencing. If you are sentenced to 12 months in jail, you can have your case reviewed after a couple of months. If you've behaved well in prison and your lawyer makes a good case for your release, you may get to leave early.[4]
  5. 5
    Determine your custody rights if you have children. A convicted parent's rights differ depending on the crime committed, the state convicted in, and penitentiary held at. In general, protective custody transfers from one parent to the closest of kin (for your child). This means that if you get locked up and your significant other is still free, they'll have the most immediate chance of guardianship. After parents, custody can be temporarily transferred to aunts, uncles, siblings, or grandparents. A judge and children's services will be a part of the decision making process in these respects.
    • If your child doesn't have a family member to take care of them, they'll be placed in foster care for the duration of your sentence. Cases vary based on the crime you've committed. For violent offenses, you may lose custody completely - in which case your child may be put up for adoption.[5] If you can figure all of this out before you go to jail, you'll be in a much better position. Filing claims, talking to judges, and working through the red tape while behind bars is a difficult task.
Part 2
Learning About Your Jail
  1. 1
    Learn how visitation works. Every jail and prison run visitation differently. Everyone will only allow visitation on certain days and hours. Figure out these ahead of time so you can schedule when visits will come. Try to arrange family and friends to come on different days. Spread them out. It will give you something to look forward to.
    • Also figure out what you can do during visitation. This can range from simply talking to board games. Other places allow conjugal visits. Contact your jail before you are put in to see what they allow.[6]
  2. 2
    Figure out how money works inside. Most places keep a tab for you so you don’t lose your money inside or have it stolen from you. You’ll want to figure out how you’ll have access to your money. Most places have a commissary desk where you can spend your money.
    • Also figure out how you can deposit money into your account. Most places ask for a check, but some places allow you to deposit money online. This is a great option for family members on the outside. It’ll save them a trip to the office in the jail.[7]

  3. Learn what constitutes “good behavior”. Many jail or prison sentences can be reduced for good behavior. Talk to your jail ahead of time to see what specifically they look for. Simply asking might even help you get in good with the guards and staff. Avoid drugs and other violent/sexual offenses.[8]
    • Remember that, especially in the USA, jails are overcrowded so time off for good behavior is possible. Some jails will even cut your sentence short by a third for good behavior.[9]

  4. 4
    Talk to your jail about general services. Educational services, work programs, and detox/medical options are available at most jails. In order to make the most of your time, you’ll need to be aware of what is offered. Don’t waste your time behind bars. Take the time to learn, pick up a craft, or get off of drugs. Most of these services are free to use while serving time. [10]
    • Most jails have multi-denominational chapels as well. These can be great sanctuaries — literally and figuratively — for while you are serving time. Ask ahead of time, if you can bring your own religious texts or trinkets. Some prisoners claim that an unspoken rule is not to mess with religious people in jail.
Part 3
Conducting Yourself Appropriately
  1. 1
    Be yourself, but don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t stick out. You want to be yourself, because you have to live with yourself while your in prison. But this doesn’t mean that you have to be the center of attention either. Don’t be outspoken. Don’t yell when a soft voice will do. Don’t pretend to be “hard” or someone you’re not. The other inmates will sense that you’re a phony and find reasons to mess with you.
  2. 2
    Socialize, but don’t “associate”. The wrongfully convicted and recently released writer and speaker, You want to cultivate a reputation as an individual man. Friends are important. Owing friends a pound of flesh is not advantageous to you. When fights break out, it is often because of associations or gang-like pressure. One person has a “beef” with another and they call on their friends to settle the score. If you aren’t apart of this jail-time entente, you won’t be called into battle.
  3. 3
    Lose the attitude. Going in angry can get you in a pickle with your new cell mates. Attitudes turn into animosities. Don’t make enemies just because you are bitter at yourself, another, or the system. Don’t have a big mouth. “Playing the dozen” or exchanging insults will only end in sore relationships. Don’t be surprised if inmates have low self-esteem. One particularly poignant comment can make the difference between playful banter and a painful beating.
  4. 4
    Know how to answer the golden question. “What are you in for?” You should respond vaguely and politely. You don’t want to ignore the questions. That’ll just make your cell mates push harder. The hardest part of jail time is the boredom. New people mean new distractions. Don’t build up their anticipation or sense of mystery by refusing to answer. Just be vague.
    • Don’t engage in shop talk. Some inmates will boast about their exploits. Don’t join in, especially if you haven’t been charged with any other crimes. The last thing you want to do is for someone to figure out some reason to keep you in longer.
    • Don’t reveal a crime that might get you into trouble. Even other inmates will judge you based on your past. For example, it is not a good idea to tell everyone you were sentenced for a hate crime, child molestation, or some other offense that most would deem horrendous. If you do reveal this, you’ll probably be picked on more, because the inmates will feel justified doing so.
  5. 5
    Don’t touch other people or their stuff. If you bump into someone else, apologize and then move on. If your apology isn’t accepted, try one more time and then leave immediately. Don’t touch other people’s stuff (books, pencils, or clothing) without permission. This extends to food as well. You’ll have very few personal positions in jail. Most people guard their things far more closely in lock up.
    • This brings us to the unfortunate myth of prison rape. Rape is uncommon in jail. You won’t be cornered in the showers and taken advantage of. Consensual sex is far more common that forcible sex. Doing time is boring and lonely. Some men use sex to pass the time. These same men consider themselves straight on the outside. Sexuality is a spectrum and jail time proves it. If you are not interested, just make sure that you don’t give out any signals that you are.
  6. 6
    Don’t snitch. You’ve probably heard the adage “snitches get stitches”. There is truth to this claim and unfortunately, the jail/prison system is operated in such a way that snitching is a serious temptation. Guards will offer you special treatment, better meals, increased visitation rights, and protection in exchange for information on Johnny What’s-his-name. You might agree to supply the information because you haven’t gotten used to the food yet or you miss you family terribly. On the flip-side, if word gets out that you are a snitch or that the guards are giving you special treatment, the other inmates will find reasons to harass you.

Part 4
Making Your Stay More Bearable

  1. 1
    Eat. Meals come few and far between, and minutes seem like hours in jail. Don’t give away your food. This might seem like favoritism. The food is the worst you will ever eat, but now is not the time to be picky. Save up some money and buy Ramen noodles from the commissary desk. [11]
  2. 2
    Get in shape. If your jail has gym equipment, use it. You have nothing but time. Many jails in the US don’t have gym equipment any more. Rumors say it’s because inmates were getting too strong for the guards. More likely, its absence is best explained by the costs associated with purchasing and maintaining gym equipment. Either way, you can still work out. Do pushups, lunges, sit-ups, and other exercises in the confines of your cell. Take up jogging/running on the rec. field.[12] A healthy body leads to a healthy attitude, which can make your stay more bearable.
  3. 3
    Read a lot. Reading is the easiest and cheapest form of entertainment and education in the joint. There may be a TV available, but inmates rarely come to a consensus on what to watch, so most just read. There is a lot of time to kill in jail. Books generally take a long time to read. Pick up-lifting, interesting, or informative books. Whatever will lift your spirits or keep you engaged is best. Why not try Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo?[13]
  4. 4
    Maintain outside relationships. Call and write to your friends and family frequently. It will give you a sense of connection with the outside world. Phone calls can be made differently based on your location. Some jails/prisons require phone cards that can be purchased at the commissary desk (a general store in a jailhouse). The same goes for stamps. Just be aware that all communications in and out of the jail are subject to surveillance. Don’t call to tell your loved ones where the body or money is buried — either literally or figuratively.[14]
  5. 5
    Communicate with your lawyer. Depending on your case, your lawyer might need information from you. In order for him to work hard on your behalf, he'll need you to be as cooperative as possible. Moreover, talking with your lawyer about your case and your time in lock up can be a great way to pass the time. It can give you hope if you receive good news, but at the very least, you'll be informed. Often times, lawyers can help with other problems associated with jail time. Issues like child custody and paying bills can often times be completed through your lawyer.[15]

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