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Going to Prison: For Individuals Facing
If you have recently been sentenced and will soon find yourself
in prison, we have put together this section of advice to help
you and your family prepare for this difficult time. The stress
that you are facing as you think about going to prison may
prevent you from focusing on much else. Therefore, we have tried
to identify some priorities that you should focus on instead.
Taking care of certain responsibilities now can lessen certain
sources of stress for you and your loved ones. We hope this
1) Get your credit cards and bank accounts in order. Are you
married? Does your spouse, partner, or parent have access to
these accounts? Be advised that some states will seek to take
your assets if you are able to pay for incarceration.
2) It is not our goal to scare you, but prisons can be dangerous
places. You may not have access to the resources that you have
access to now. Get your estate documents in order before you
enter prison. These may include a Living Will, Power of
Attorney, etc. Ideally, find a qualified professional in your
area to talk to.
3) Find the prison where you will be incarcerated using
our site, and familiarize yourself with prison rules. Share
these with family and friends who may write or visit you.
Knowing what is and isn't allowed can make this period less
trying on everyone involved.
4) While medical care does exist in prisons, it is strongly
recommended that you seek a checkup out here to detect any
possible problems before you go inside. If you have any medical
conditions, you will have a chance to give this information to
prison medical professionals upon arrival.
5) Don't lose touch once you're inside. Depression can hit
hardest when you first get to prison. Make a plan now with your
family and friends on how you're going to keep in touch. Letters
are more affordable, but visits are most important. It may be
hard financially or because of driving distance to have regular
visits, but try to put together a practical plan to see your
loved ones, especially at the very beginning of your sentence.
6) Once you're in prison, be mindful of other prisoners.
Initially, stay in open areas where staff can clearly see you at
all times. Unfortunately, newer inmates are often the targets of
theft and violence. It will take time to acclimate to prison
We asked the following question to some of our members, and we
want to share their advice with you now: If you could have had
just one piece of advice to prepare you for life in prison, what
would it be? The information below
describes actual prison life. These comments were received
directly from the inmates with the intension of offering
firsthand advice to those who will soon find themselves
incarcerated. Some language may be offensive to some people.
Please do not read it if you are easily offended. It is provided
for educational purposes only, not for shock purposes or to
sensationalize a tragic situation.
From a prisoner in Pollock, Louisiana:
“What I would tell someone going to prison: When you can, in
times of silence, re-evaluate your whole life, what led you to
the very day you’re forced to leave your loved ones, work toward
an education. Your gut feelings are always right, go with them.
If you’re not strong it’s time to start building yourself up
physically and mentally. Know that for being depressed you can’t
change the past. Take things one step, one day, one smile, one
silent tear, one struggle at a time. Write your kids every week
and say a prayer every night!” - J.C.
From a prisoner in Amarillo, Texas:
“When you are incarcerated the most important thing to do is to
never show fear. In this place fear is like meat that everybody
would quickly feed on. So even if you are afraid, do not show
it. Once the convicts see you are scared or weak then they will
surely want to try you. And always stand your ground when
someone tries to test you by confrontation. This is not the free
world where you can walk away from a fight. Second, mind your own business. Whatever you see or
hear that doesn’t concern you, then it’s not your business. And
watch how you talk when you’re having a conversation with
another convict. A wrong word said that’s disrespectful could
mean a fist to your mouth. So always try to show respect. And if
you are a snitch, then you’re open game ‘cause any convicts at
any time might put a piece of steel in you. The same goes for
people who have sex cases, especially to a child. So if you’re
not a snitch nor a sex case and do the things mentioned above
then you should do all right. – V.T.
From a prisoner in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania:
“In preparation for incarceration, much depends on the length of
your sentence and your financial and marital status. A man on
his own – best advice: Prepare for financial stability. If it is
a long sentence, sell off a car, stereo system or other items.
Set up an account to draw from to survive your time of
If married, with or without children, realize life goes on for
everyone, the clock never stops and those out there who may love
you have a life to live. Do not make demands of others! Be
tolerant and understanding and they will likely do the same.
Last: Be smart and prepare physically, get in shape, prepare for
the unexpected. People will judge on appearances and you never
get a second change to make your first impression.” - B.V.
From a female prisoner in Columbia, South Carolina:
“First thing is, don’t let time do you. You want to be doing the
time. What I mean by that is – accept what has happened, take
time to mourn losing your freedom. Then get a grip on your life.
Even if it’s a short time or long. Get to know the real you.
Face the things you couldn’t before. Find God; make a strong
relationship with Him. Get as much positive that you can, then
plan for your future. Last, but not least, find how to love
yourself.” - D.G.
From a prisoner in Aberdeen, Washington:
“Work hard to keep friendships and relationships strong. Your
deepest connections will be tested – some will fail.
My daughter was 2 months old when I came to prison. She’s in
high school now. We have a great bond, but it took a lot of
work. Stay proactive in your ties to society. Prison can rob you
of your character, or build upon it. Family support is crucial –
do everything you can to help them help you through this. This
is hard time for them too.
‘Defeat doesn’t finish a man – quit does. A man is not finished
when he’s defeated. He’s finished when he quits.’ ~ Richard M.
Nixon (1913 – 1994)” - E.O.
From a prisoner in Cumberland, Maryland:
“My advice for new people going to prison would be, that this is
a university of life. Here you come to learn and experience good
and bad things, about prison and you can get an A or F. Here you
don’t have your mom or dad to look over you, you are alone in
darkness. Here you learn to be a real man or a real puppet. Here
you learn to be responsible and respectful to others and achieve
many goals if you go after them, if (you) don’t you are the one
who loses at the end.
My best advice is to go to school and get your GED if you don’t
have any or some type of vocational trade that will help you
even more on the outside world.
Use the time, don’t let the time use you.
About friends: That are of good nature so that they can help you to have
a good and positive attitude in a positive mode and stay away
from people who don’t have a good and positive attitude, and
once again don’t be a puppet.
This is very important:
1. Continue to be a good example, doing something different
isn’t easy and you may need to help reinforce this new way of
2. Keep the standards high; it takes hard work and dedication to
3. Never stop believing in yourself.
But, what you must never forget is that the power of influence
(depending on how it is used) is the most beneficial or
dangerous energy available to man. Man will destroy his
opportunity (to include others), becoming a puppet of his
environment and a slave to his circumstance.
Be a smart person and go get that A in this university of life
and be a better person, be a better man. ” - R.D.
From a prisoner in Tennessee Colony, Texas:
“In here you survive by playing a role, acting the part for the
benefit of indifferent eyes, hiding what you really are from the
contamination of this very sick world. In this place nothing is
gentle. Kindness is weakness in this place and to be weak is to
invite hurt. Being in prison is like living in a fish bowl where
you can’t even sit on a toilet without an audience.
It’s easier to describe what prison is not like; it’s not like a
country club; it’s not like a dungeon, a cave, or a torture
chamber. It’s probably not as bad as you think it is, yet, it
may be far worse. This leads up to my favorite inaccuracy,
“Prison is what you make it”. And in a very narrow sense, that
is true, although you probably can’t make it into a vacation, no
matter how hard you try. Another handy stand-by is: “Prison is a
learning experience”. That’s also true; however the same could
be said for a heart attack. Prison is lonely.
Prison is hearing a song on the radio that transports you to the
exact time, place and feeling of when she last said, “I love
you.” You could sooner be transported to Hell, a first cousin of
prison, than to be ambushed by memories in such a manner. Any
hunger, terror, depravity, injustice or humiliation that may be
connected with prison, most certainly takes a back seat to the
isolation and loneliness involved. Most everything can be
handled except the loneliness.
Serving time in prison is a very worrisome task. Prison is
loneliness that sinks its teeth into the souls of men. It is an
emptiness that leaves a sick feeling inside and smothers the
hearts of the hardest men in prison. It is memories that come in
the night and its cry is like the scream of a trumpet.
It is frustration, distress and indifference. It is men who hope
when hope seems slim. Prison is a meeting in the visiting room
to see the worried look on the face of a mother who studies the
face of her son.
Prison is the feeling that tears a man apart when waiting for
that special letter or visit and it never comes. It is the
anguish that dwells inside the men when their best friends turn
their backs and loved ones abandon them because being in prison
is something they don’t understand.
Important thing is to try to learn the wisdom that is presented
by the opportunity the mistake presents. Life deals us all
different hands. The test of a man’s merit is how he plays the
You cannot take a bad man and make him good; however, you can
take a good man, in spite of his bad choices, and make him
better. There comes a time when men need to grow up, face
themselves and learn the true dignity of manhood. There will,
however be those who complain when change starts to take place
in a positive direction. That’s when they need to remember what
I’ve said about prison: ‘You had to have been there.’” - A.J.
From a prisoner in Ashland, Kentucky:
“My advice to anyone being recently incarcerated is to apply
yourself to the best of your ability. A lot of our young men
have the tendency to continue the same behavior that they
displayed on the streets inside the prison walls, thus limiting
themselves from further growth and development and learning from
It takes one to do a self-evaluation of themselves, and a
process of elimination to find out what’s important and what’s
not, and then ask themselves, “Will my current behavior be of
any benefit to me or my family in the future?” I found out upon
this analysis of myself that my prior behavior and actions would
not do myself or my family any good at all. I also found that
what’s important is being an asset to your family, friends,
society, and most importantly yourself.
It takes a person who genuinely wants to change their current
self in order to get real results that you can be proud of.
Half-hearted attempts at self-improvement will only bring forth
half-hearted results. It takes being patient and honest with
yourself about the areas that need change and improvement in
your life in order to be a productive individual that we all
should strive to be. Define all your weaknesses and improve the
good qualities that you found you possessed all along. When you
start programming, take the programs seriously to get the best
part out of it.
It’s a Bible verse - I Corinthians Chapter 13: Verse 11, it
says: ‘When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a
child, and thought as a child; But when I became a man I put
away childish things.’
This is to say that childish or immature ways of acting and
thinking will get us nowhere. So we must apply ourselves in
order to become the Men that we should and are supposed to be.
Prison is a stumbling block, but who says you can’t use that
same stumbling block as a Stepping Stone to get to where you
want to be in life? Use your time wisely by applying yourself.
Don’t become a statistic, become a Positive Example of Change.”
From a prisoner in Somerset, Pennsylvania:
“Here is the best advice I could possibly give.
1. Don’t gamble and get stuck owing anyone!
2. Stay away from the punks! (homos)
3. Always mind your own business!
4. Take as many programs as possible.
5. Always pick the right crowd to hang with. The wrong crowd
will take you down the wrong path with them.
6. Try to learn a professional trade while wasting time in
prison; try to walk out of prison a better man than you were.
7. NO DRUGS!
Hope this helped you some.” - T.C.
From a prisoner in Newark, New Jersey:
“1. The best thing to do is mind your own business.
2. When you take a shower wash your head first to get the soap
out of your eyes so you can watch what goes on.
3. Never allow anyone to get over on you. If you have to fight
do so fast.
4. When going to the mess hall look around for your own kind and
TRY to sit with them.
5. If you do drugs, you’re already in trouble.
6. Work on a job to keep busy.
7. Find your kind to hang out with.
8. Never tell anyone your personal life; officers as well.
9. Go to church and let God be your judge, no one else.
These are just 9 things to live by. I hope this helps out.” -
From a prisoner in Lompoc, California:
“To: All those who will be joining all of us! We sat, where you
My advice for you men and women:
A quiet person can go a long ways, but when the times comes, and
it will for you to ask a few questions concerning your new
mailing address, how to order commissary or canteen, what are
the hours to pick up your laundry, look for a person with a good
attitude. How do you find this person? You must sit down and
watch, listen to all those around you. After all, even if you
don’t want to accept it right away, this is your new home away
from home. It is what it is! You will notice this person who
answers questions. He or she will be there – trust me. I’m one
of those people and there are plenty of good people in here.
Stay alert! And no matter how much you cry or pretend to get
sick, they still are not going to release you – plus that will
only reveal your weakness, then you will become someone’s bitch.
Stick it out; this is where you will find out – yourself; what
you’re truly made of, believe me. Don’t let jail, camp or prison
kill you. Let it heal you! And if you truly have family,
friends, who say they love you, this is when you will know the
truth about them as well, especially wife, husband, children,
brothers, sisters, etc. I’m not an inmate, I’m a convict. I
don’t give a rat’s ass what you did to get in here, but others
might want to know if you are a snitch, a bitch or a cop! Be
careful how you carry yourself. Always respect everyone and
everybody. Don’t borrow what you can’t pay back. So again, if
you do have people who love you, you will receive visits,
pictures, letters, make phone calls… and have money on your
account always. Keep yourself up! That means a lot – showers,
haircuts, clean clothes, don’t let yourself go. Work out; lose
weight if you are a fat ass. After all, you have the time. There
are lots of things to do to better yourself and your situation,
P. S. If you are a person like me, who found out that family and
friends were not who I thought they were it’s okay! We have
WriteAPrisoner.com. They will hook us up with new friends and
family, believe that…” - J.F.
From a prisoner in Butner, North Carolina:
“If I could give someone just one piece of advice to prepare for
the BOP (Federal Bureau of Prisons) it would be for him or her
to read a book called, ‘Busted By The Feds’. It is a book of a
lot of valuable information for such matters, put together by a
team of lawyers out of the Arizona area.” - R.O.
From a prisoner in Greenwood, South Carolina:
"Be your own person. Do not fall prey to those who will try to
manipulate you into believing that their way is the best way;
even though you made a mistake that has cost you a prison
sentence, you are still an adult and you know what is right. You
do not need an inmate to make you complete. Use this time to
acquire legal knowledge and legal skills to become a better
person and a more productive citizen. Be your own person. Make
these days count." -T.M.
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