On December 20, 1999, I was sentenced to ten years behind bars in the state of Ohio for illegal possession of a harmful drug substance.


If you’re currently facing a jail term, or you know someone (a family member or friend) who’s in the same predicament and does not have the slightest idea of how they’re going to survive through their time in prison?

In this article, I’ll highlight eight most important rules for surviving in prison.

Be rest assured that these tips I’m going to share with you were gathered from different inmates across different facilities and also from my experiences in prison. Thus, these rules are very reliable if you or someone you know wants to survive in prison.

Let’s get to business…

What Should You Not Do In Prison?

what should you not do in prison


Respect is very vital when relating with people, and with inmates it is no different. Now that you’re in a different environment from your normal everyday life, some values amongst which include respect should be practiced as well.

In the prison, try as much not to say or do things that will be viewed as a sign of disrespect to other inmates even if quite the opposite is what prevails in prisons.

An example of disrespect is stealing from another prisoner. If you’re by any chance caught in this act, you’ll sure get a hell of a beating, even from your friends.

Do not also use words like “hey punk” when calling out to a fellow inmate because inmate refer to a punk as someone who cannot stand up for himself. Thus, referring to a fellow inmate in that regard is inviting serious trouble that can lead a big fight between you two.

Another form of disrespect in prison is jumping the queue to go ahead of others. You’ll notice in prison that there’s virtually a queue for almost everything, for instance, there’s a queue for food, work, clinic and so on.

It is normal to sometimes wait for as long as half an hour in a queue, not even counting other queues you’ll also need to stay on in a day.

Jumping the queue in a scenario such as this, would be seen as a great disrespect to others because it will create the impression that they are lesser humans compared to you.

It’s even like a code of conduct among inmates in facilities to discipline any inmate who tries to jump the queue.

If such an inmate jumps the queue in front of you, you are required to immediately discipline such inmate and tell him/her to return to their previous position before they jump the queue.

In the situation you don’t do this, you’ll be considered a “punk” and other inmates will beat you up.


You might have seen movies where prisoners needed to joined a particular clique or gang to survive in prison, do not engage in any of these as they won’t truly offer protection till the end.

I for I for instance fared on very well without having to join any gang or clique.

One thing about joining a gang is that there will always be a rival gang, and in a situation such as this, there’s bound to be fights and attacks.

If you’re unlucky you might get caught up in them which will result in being beat up, stabbed, raped, or even killed in such a clash. 

I’m not saying there won’t be near cases of some sought of altercation, however try to settle out of such without allowing it to further escalate into a fight.

In my stay in prison, I’ve seen the result of gang clashes. There was one in which an inmate was beaten up with padlocks inside socks by a rival gang.

He was beaten up brutally that he suffered a deep gash to his head from which a large amount of blood kept gushing out all over the place from the cut he sustained. He was taken to the hospital where he was in a coma for days because of a swollen brain. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it.

Events like this is enough to discourage one from joining a gang for “protection.”


Drug peddling is a very common occurrence in prisons, so it’s not only a problem on the outside.

Infact, they’re much more expensive in prison than on the street and staying away from drugs will do you more good as I also experienced a case of a fellow inmate who as a result of being overdosed on marijuana, died right before my eyes. A terrible scene it was.

Moreso, you could even get additional charges if found in possession of drugs.

The prison I was incarcerated in randomly carries out drug tests on inmates and in the event your drug test is positive, you’re taken straight to solitary confinement for at least a month with the possibility of additional charges.

Now, solitary confinement is not a likable situation at all because it is considered as a prison inside of prison.

Here, you are confined to your cell most hours of the day with no chance to even come out to eat instead, your food is brought to you, and you eat it in your cell.

The only reason you may be allowed to go out of your cell is to take a shower or make a phone call.

Then if you’re caught smuggling drugs into the prison, you can get as much as an additional sentence of five years and in some cases inmates may get double their sentence!

So do not even think to ask someone from the outside help you to smuggle in drugs, as you may not only cause trouble for yourself, but for the person on the outside.


Gambling is another vice you should keep out of prison. Just as people get into serious trouble from gambling gone bad, the same applies in the prison.

There was a cause of an inmate (involved with a gang) who got involved in a gambling gone bad, and was indebted to the tune of $2,000 which there was no way he could pay for.

In a fit of rage, he was beaten up badly with padlocks inside socks by members of his own gang, who saw it as a way of disciplining him.

He was taken away by the medical not after he was brutalized by his gang members with blood oozing from cuts of his head, nose, mouth and other parts.


There are no doubt homosexuals in prison, however in no condition should you get involved with any one of them. You’re more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections in the prison than on the street, so avoid any contact between homosexuals at all cost. 

The prison I was incarcerated in for instance frowned so much as homosexuals that even the “known” ones never tried to openly display their affection.

It was a thing most inmates openly talked against and homosexuals for fear of being beaten up couldn’t challenge them or say anything in defence.

It’s even the same even among gangs, if your gang discovers that you’re involved with an homosexual, I bet you’ll given the beating of your life.


The phrase mind your business is no better practiced in prison than elsewhere. If you find other inmates engaged in illegal stuff, I advise you keep to yourself!

Don’t try to play the hero or good guy because it will be worse if you labelled a snitch by other inmates. The implication of this is that you would have to keep looking over your shoulder until you get out and we know how difficult that is.

In such a situation, the prison guards you loud mouthed to may not be able to protect you. Thus, you should keep in mind that the prison is a very hostile environment full of criminals, murderers and all sorts.

Snitching on any of them will put you in harm’s way with no option of running to the police like you have on the outside.

Most inmates have great resentment for a snitch, and would do anything to inflict great pain on that snitch.


An idle mind is the devil’s workshop, so get yourself busy. Most prisons I know of offer extra-curricular activities like exercising, working and enrolling for a school program. I for example exercised for two hours, 3 days in a week, also working for six hours a day in a factory for about five years. 

The pay from my work at the factory was channelled towards enrolling for a school program that offered night classes for inmates. I was eventually able to earn college credits upon completion, and I must say it helped me a great deal in staying out of trouble while in prison.


One way to make meaning and turn a new leaf while in prison is to join the fellowship of Bible believing Christians.

You will be able to read the Bible more often and share knowledge among Christian inmates like yourself on godly doctrines.

The Bible is also a book that contains most of the rules I’ve compiled for you to follow. Like it says, it is a lamp to your feet and a light unto your path, so try to abide by its doctrines.

Some prisons may give you access to watch religious DVDs, study religious books in the Chapel, or attend religious services where you get to be taught sound morals to help you stay out of trouble.

The prison is not a safe place and it’s not somewhere I would want any of my friends or family members to be. However, if you find yourself in this situation, following the highlighted rules will help you survive through it.

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