Eight Tips on Surviving Prison for the Newly Incarcerated

Here are a few tips for new fish I learned at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre.

1. If you are a non-violent criminal like myself, have your lawyer request ‘open custody’. This is also called ‘minimum security’. In minimum security, nobody assaults you for snoring or muscles you out of the use of the telephone or fresh vegetables. You are not locked in your cell for 14 to 16 hours per day. In fact, you have the keys to your own cell. You don’t have to go to the bathroom in front of your cellmate. The advantages of minimum security are legion. Keep insisting on being placed there. Ignore claims of a 30-day evaluation period or a waiting list and keep making requests. Have your lawyer keep making calls until you get moved to minimum. You’ll be glad you did.

2. When you get taken away to prison, make sure you have cash in your pocket; at least 100-200 bucks. This way you can buy essential things right away. Things like pens, paper, and envelopes. They allow you to send seven letters per week without stamps, so only buy the pre-stamped envelopes if you plan to send more than seven letters per week. Buy extra chocolate bars to use as bribes and reward prisoners for various favors, or to pay off poker debts.

3. When they give you a phone card, ignore the instruction from the automated telephone system to give your full name. Your last name will do. The more names you use to sign in with, the more opportunity you give the system to fail to recognize your name later. You have to say your name with the exact same timing and inflection or you will be denied your phone call. After being denied a call 22 times in a row, you’ll wish you just used one of your two last names. Trust me on this.

4. Dental floss is not available on the canteen list. Instead, there are devices known as dental picks: a pick at one end and a tiny bit of floss suspended between two points at the other end. Be sure to order some of these as the jailhouse dentist loves to pull teeth.

5. Have your loved ones order you books from Amazon or Chapters as soon as you get sent away. You are not allowed to be sent books directly from people and you are not allowed hard covers. Books come in handy when you can’t sleep and there is nothing good on TV, which is often.

6. Avoid conflict with your fellow prisoners. Let them get away with cheating, lying, and bullshiting. Do not challenge their control of the food, the phone, or the pool table. Obey all their rules no matter how silly. Sit where you are told. Don’t touch anyone’s stuff. Don’t be loud. Speak when spoken to. Failure to do any of these things may result in getting punched in the face. Unless you are trained in the mixed marital arts, you’ll have to be moved into segregation or protective custody to avoid further assaults. Neither of these places is all that attractive. Protective custody is usually for child molesters or crazy people, so, unless you are famous like Marc Emery or don’t mind having that kind of reputation, you’ll probably want to avoid protective custody. Segregation is a horrible place. The cells are barren of everything but a bunk bed and you are locked up 23 hours per day. There’s dry blood on the floor, walls, and ceiling. Often, the place is so full, there are at least two per room – it sort of defeats the purpose of segregation – or, at least, it is deceptive advertising. Better just avoid all conflict to begin with.

7. Get your friends to write you letters and send you photos, it will make guards and prisoners think your part of a community, rather than somebody that nobody likes.

8. Get your good friends to come visit you. This will keep your spirits high and help break up the boredom of the day. You may have difficulty getting through the visitor sign-up phone number and might have to call the main line. Explain the situation and ask them nicely to transfer you to the visit sign-up.

David Malmo-Levine

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    you forgot to mention:

    -never accept any favors from any inmates (cons). even somebody offering you a carton of milk from a lunch tray that they claim they don’t want anymore means you now owe them something and yes, they will collect.

    -never talk to the guards. avoiding the guards as much as possible is the best prison survival tip. their jobs is to screw you over as much as possible, don’t let them notice you.

    the other cons won’t bother you if you keep to yourself and ‘do your own time’. if you get in a fight, start throwing like you’ve never thrown before. if the guards ask what happened nothing happened you fell down.

  458. White Canadian on

    Racist Indians are the worst of the worst of mankind. They continue to flaunt the law. There are many more of us. We own Canada. You sniveling Indians will continue to be on the welfare line until you get education. This is NOT indian land, it is Canada! The proud and the free. Keep pushing us and see what you get.

  459. Anonymous on

    fIRST OF ALL YOU DONT EVER GET TO TALK FOR US, GOT THAT EUROPEAN AND AS LONG AS YOUR BALD ASS IS ON OUR LANDS WE WILL DO ANYTHING TO GET RID OF YOU!! YOU MAY WANT TO OVERLOOK YOUR PAST CRIMES BUT we will never!! AND CALL US AN AMERICAN AGAIN BRITISH SLAVE!! 500YEARS OF ASHOLE TALKING SHIT TRYING TO CONTROL TAKE YOUR MAKE BELIVE bible!! AND WIPE YOUR ASS WITH IT IT IS MAKE BELIVE YOU DUMB SHIT YOU DONT EVEN KNOW THE HISTORY OF weed SO SHUT THE FUCK UP AND GO HOME EUROPEAN NO ONE HERE WANT TO HEAR YOU same bullshit anymore!! WERE OUT TO FRE THE WORLD OF ALL YOU EUROPEANS YOU NEED TO LEARN ONLY ONE WORD…leace!! THEIFT ROBBER MURDER YES IF YOUR EUROPEAN AND HERE YOU are SO WORST ME POINTING OUT YOUR CRIMES OR you WHO TRYS TO HIDE THEM?? YEA THOUGHT SO, YOUR EYES SHOULD BE BROWN YOUR SO FULL OF EUROPEAN SHIT!!

  460. ricky chalk on

    i concurr or agree this aint nar game

  461. Brian Kerr on

    The person you are replying to is what is commonly known as a troll. Ok.

    Their entire game is to cause problems and laugh at any body who replies to them.

    They wither and die with *no replys to their posts*.

    It dose not matter how outragous their posts are. Hold Back!

    Let website admins fix the problem if they feel there is a problem to be fixed.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Who Is Brian Kerr ? Is that Me ? Or is it some one else ?

  462. Anonymous on

    Yeah, rule 6 is bitch country, dude. Sam, you don’t know squat, so zip it, before the adults bitch slap you. Some of you don’t seem to realize the game your playing.

  463. not in jail on

    David the Mouth Levine you’re a convicted career drug dealer with a penance for self promotion inspired by Nark’s compulsive confessing disorder. Dope dealers sell to anyone that has lunch money from school children to Nark. David is writing a jail blog bent over his cot whimpering silently. David was Mark’s ill-advised muse, a fall guy, a front man felony activist drumming up Mark business. David is learning to make better choices now, sell dope or prison grade blow jobs discretely. David you’re a martyr paying for all the little stoner school graduates who have replaced you. David and Nark, your old, coddled self appointed fanciful leaders of cannabis lemmings. Solitary is salvation otherwise your dead or prison bitches. You may only get a few years next time. Your Jail blog ass writes on toilet paper and it stinks try reading the best toilet paper novel ever written “Mans Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl.

  464. David Malmo-Levine (on the phone from FRCC) on

    Tough guys can feel free to disregard this advice; this is just for the people who don’t think that being put in segregation is worth it to win an argument or a game of backgammon.

    I do think it’s wise to stand up for yourself if it is over something meaningful. I just think most of the cheating, lying, and bullshiting is meaningless.

    I don’t know what other prisons are like, but there are many cameras here. The chance of fighting and not going to seg is both fat and slim.

  465. Anonymous on

    Never ever obey rule 6 unless you want to be somebody’s bitch and if this is marks rules you better drop this one before you get to the fed house or you will be wearing lipstick. Violent criminals are like animals on discovery channel the lion doesn’t pick the most healthy gazelle to attack he picks the sick young and weak one. If you follow rule 6 that will put a sign on your back that says I’m a bitch do what you want with me. Ive been to prison 3 times and never had any problems and I was a young white boy I didn’t take shit but was respectful and minded my own business. never gamble or borrow anything even if they say its for free that’s how they will own you. Prisoners have no respect for pussies so don’t take any shit and mind your own business. Theirs to many fags in jail for dudes to be risking 30 more years raping a guy when theirs plenty that want fucked in the first place, dudes running around with m&m colors on their lips for lipstick lol shits crazy. Good luck Marc, keep your head up and fuck PC, you’ll go nuts in their.

  466. Chris Bennett on

    You are a hateful racist and people like you hurt the Native American cause not tom mention the cannabis one.

  467. Anonymous on

    Who cares what a stupid british slave thinks and do?? Your inthere cage dumb shit, and your failed plan works for no one least of all, YOU!!!enjoy your cage there european you your kind DO NOT lead the movement, your kind HURT the movement!! Your not part of us down here we cahnged our laws you DID NOT!! because you have a Govoner general bitches!! Just leave and GO HOME were you can smoke your sels all stupid just like DAVE HERE!! 2010 the last year canada will be!! Fuck you europeans and yea when were done here, Where coming to enslave you all there?!? The ARABS wont mine helping us too? Leave or stave you crimmials all of you! We will move you like you moved us?

  468. Anonymous on

    I will just add this. I discharged a 5 year sentence here in the U.S. Out of everything I read, it seems everyone has some points and some things that are over done a bit. The best thing you can do is try and mind your own business but be friendly if approached by people unless they don’t have friendly intentions. Do not take any shit. Don’t be afraid to tell someone to get fucked if they try to push you around, but also be prepared to defend yourself. Sometimes it’s just unavoidable. Basically, just do your time, be friendly if you can and don’t start shit, but don’t take shit either. You will run into an enormous amount of shit talking from a lot of idiots and even some that are not. Ignore it if you can, but don’t let people treat you like a punk. Do your best to pass the time and don’t be afraid to be sociable. This article has a lot of good info but as with anything, is not perfect. Don’t be overly friendly and just walk up to anyone and everyone, but don’t be afraid to make friends. Observe and you will know who you can approach and who you should wait until they approach you. Mind your business and do your time, that’s it, but don’t be a punk. Stick up for yourself if necessary.

  469. Anonymous on

    Of course it was a long time ago, but that doesn’t change anything. I still spent all that time in either Wasco state penitentiary or in Avenal (where Charles Manson is kept)

    Sure David went to “jail” for his beliefs. If you are ok with playing a martyr then I guess thats a noble thing to do.

    As far as communicating his experience while in jail, thats fine as well. He is not however doing that now is he? He is attempting to write a survival guide based on his extremely limited experience. His “survival guide” in many aspects is correct with the one major exception of point 6. Allowing people to get over on you while in prison makes you a mark. Allowing them to have complete and total control over everything without comment makes you a mark.

    Once you have been determined to be a mark word spreads quickly throughout the prison and everyone it seems wants a piece. Maybe its just jacking you up for chocolate bars, call it protection money. Maybe you get tapped by another race or gang and used for all sorts of alterior motives, usually against your own race or affiliation. This leads to you being in deep trouble in the yard. If you don’t do what they say you get hurt by them, if you do you could very easily be harmed by those you are being used against.

    I was not, and am not saying that one should dive right into similar behavior or clan up, but one must in order to survive prison (at least in the U.S.)demonstrate that even though they do not want to participate in the gladiator games they are unwilling to be forced to participate against thier will and are willing to stand up for themselves.

    It’s alot like the saying “don’t start nothin, won’t be nothin”. If you pose no risk to those that would take advantage of you, you WILL be taken advantage of. Remember, when your in prison you are amongst criminals, almost every last one of them. It’s not like out here where you may have a criminal element in your general area. They are almost all willing to take advantage of you for the slightest gains if you pose no risk to them for doing so.

    Unless you have been inside and actually experienced that world on a first hand basis, you have absolutely no idea what your talking about.

    David’s advice, should it be followed, will get you hurt in a prison enviroment. You HAVE to stand up for yourself and call other inamtes bullshit. Its a matter of survival. The other inmates are there against thier will as well and have nothing much to lose. You don’t have to participate in all the otyher prison crap like gangs and such but you certainly have to at least prove your not a mark or a nub. Otherwise you are.

  470. Samuel on

    Of course Marc Emery could not survive in general population: you would be sending a peaceful, fruit-eating Utopian into a nest of violent criminals.

    This another great tragedy of the ridiculous War on Some Drugs: jail and prison time either kill innocent young cannabis-convicts outright or transform their characters into something much more dangerous and destructive. Prohibition creates criminals in so many ways that we are just now beginning to understand; the consequences have been devastating to the US African-American population, among others. Drug laws are used as an excuse to incarcerate young men who exit the system much more equipped to cause havoc than they ever were before. The US penal system is full of corruption and corporate interest: these conditions only serve to create more criminals. Anti-cannabis laws are the best friends of the Prison Industry.

    Mandatory Minimums should apply to education, not drug laws.

  471. Samuel on

    Please, give us more of your deep understanding of prison culture! Are you joking? David is writing blogs from inside and you idiots think you know more about the situation than he does!

    Move away from your keyboard, turn off the television and stop believing that just because you have watched a few episodes of “Oz” you have the intellectual stones to criticize a man who has gone into custody for his beliefs and then attempted to communicate his experience to the outside world.

    One more thing: lazy language is an indication of a lazy mind. Have you ever wondered why every modern civil rights movement in the US has centered around education? Why there is a fine tradition of woman’s colleges and African-American Universities throughout the South? The answer is simple: critical thinking and persuasion — both vital aspects of any movement dedicated to changing the status quo — depend on finely crafted, intelligent language.

    If you don’t mind being lumped in with a few million other sub-literate slaves you will get along just fine, however. Good luck; you’re going to need it.

  472. Newby Cultivator on

    …I’ve done 19 months in the CDC system(Not Center for Disease Control!) California Department of Correction… Prison is basically survival of the fittest. I was in general population, no gang affiliations a “square” by most standards but smart enough not to smoke or get involved with politics. Low points equals limited freedom with equates to opportunity to make money. In turn it gives you store and thus survival is achieved. Simple. Keep you mouth shut. Observe. Work out. Helps if your black…we don’t program nearly as much as the others.

    Mark Emery couldn’t hang with the general population…no offense he would get eaten alive, pot smoker or not.

  473. one12alpha on

    If you allow people to lie, cheat, and bull shit you, that is what they will do. Tell me, if you went to a car dealer and you thought the car was suspicious, would you buy it? Or would you call him on it. (If you’d buy it, send me $100 and I’ll send you $1000 ;-)) In a prison society, people talk and gossip. You let someone get one over on you a few times and you’ll be a door mat in no time.

    It is true that a 6 month sentence is spent in county jail. Though going to jail is no vacation, its still generally “softer” than prison. Prisons have people that will never leave, and have no loss in gutting you, jail does not.

    I would imagine it to be a good idea to mind your business for a while though. People are social creatures by nature. The community is going to want to know who is in their house, why, and for how long…odds are you will be curious about them as well. They will scope you out and test you, to see; if you’re someone they need to watch(thieves, overly violent people), someone they will want to outcast or harm(child molesters, rapists), or someone they can exploit (Dave). The only honest safe haven is religion, and you have to be monk like to it…if you didn’t rape someone, they’ll leave you alone outside of general conversation.

    Its absurd that someone would object to someones comments with only grammar errors as their argument, wrapped in insult…Only to later proclaim adult hood, as if superior. Now that is childish. If you’re going to participate in “adult” conversation, bring more to the table than your English 101 text book.

  474. Spanner McNeil on

    I just got back another letter I sent you. Same thing. It’s stamped contraband, ‘no photocopies’. You haven’t gotten any of my letters. Drag. Best, Cheers, Spanner McNeil.

  475. Samuel on

    Thanks for making all Americans look as crude, idiotic and cowardly, “Anonymous”. You’re (that’s “you are” in contraction, by the way; it is not the same as the possessive pronoun….but I’m sure you knew that already, right, genius?) obviously a scholar with a lot of experience in, how did you say it…”being sombodies [sic] playmate”.

    Run along now, boy. The adults are talking.

  476. Anonymous on

    Ok, and make sure you bring or have access to alot of tissue paper, sani-wipes and fresh water too. It takes those sorts of things to clean the shit off your nose for ass kissing as well.

    You walk around behaving like that and trying to fly under the radar of the mix and it wont be too long before your somebodies playmate if ya get what I mean. Just an example but, if you let them “get away with cheating, lying, and bullshitting” then you simply get placed as a mark and everyone in the place automatically assumes they can walk all over you without fear of any repercussions. They need entertainment, and you become that entertainment one way or another.

    Sorry David, no non violent criminal should be incarcerated, but lets be real here. Your doing a 6 month stretch is it? You don’t even have time in there to figure out the system for yourself let alone give any advice about how to survive.

    I don’t know how it works in Canada, but in the U.S. you don’t even go to prison unless your doing 366 days or more. Less than a year and you get to spend your time in a county jail.