Going To Prison? READ THIS FIRST!

Courtesy of Brad Simpson "Now Entering the Jungle" By Brad “Lou” Simpson I have only had a few overwhelming experiences in my life. Looking back, I can count them all on one hand. The first time, I was young and I saw my first real pet (a dog) killed, run over by a truck while I was waiting [...]

Chain-Gang Mating Rituals

By: Charles Norman, Contributing Writer Courtesy of Charles Norman Big Willie Taylor came to my cell one evening after supper with a question. I knew it was a question because he never came to my cell unless he had a question that stumped him. If you knew Big Willie, a massive prisoner with a balding,  pumpkin-shaped head, one bloodshot blue [...]

STAND-UP CONVICTS—“THE HIDDEN NOBILITY”: Old Convicts Versus “The New Convict Code”

By: Charles Norman, Contributing Writer Courtesy of Charles Norman Tex McClain had nothing but his word. Old and sick, having outlived anyone in society who might help him, he had to live by his wits to earn coffee and cigarettes. Old Tex’s word was good. If he told you a certain prisoner was a bad credit risk and wouldn’t pay [...]

Female Lifer Walks Us Through a Day in Her Cell

A Day in my Box By Dorothy Maraglino I try to sleep all day during the loud hours, so I can find peaceful silence alone overnight while others sleep.  Here's how my reverse schedule works. 4 a.m. and the lights slam on obliterating the darkness in my box. I curse the inventor of the mega watt bulb. Breakfast is placed [...]

A Lifer Makes a No-Bake Sweet for Another Lifer’s Birthday

The Number By Edward Ji I am prepared to die: My name is Edward Mike Ji, now age seventeen, newly minted adult duly dubbed and declared so by Collin County Juvenile Court, inmate number 207989, and death cannot come swiftly enough. I lay in this foul cell–lay in vegetative rot, a spiritual-mental-physical malaise–the whitewashed walls a creeping yellow, as if [...]

Slave Work In the Fields: Digging a Trench Through Shit Creek

Fields By Edward Ji They call fields. You wake up. Comfort yourself. Cuddle your sheet and pretend it's a cat. Your cellie rushes to smoke a K2 stick (spice joint), to less feel the pain. Shit if you can. Sit. Get ready. You go outside, for the first time in months. It's not that they don't let you, but after [...]

Inmate Details His First Riot: The Scourge of Tear Gas

Gas By Edward Ji Nice guards don’t last long. Grandmothers here for the health insurance cry at the sight of blood; at the ritual brutalizing of nineteen-year-olds cuffed and parked along the hallway, too stupid to lay down when the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) team came. Guards either get with the culture or quit. Turnover is a big problem. [...]

Why Won’t Prisons Better Educate Prisoners?

Other than a person’s age there is no greater indicator of whether someone will recidivate than one’s level of education.

Future Dreams

I've fallen asleep alone every night of my life. For half my life there's been another person in the room, but that's not the same. While I don’t have anyone lying next to me to keep me warm, I've imagined someone there every single night. My arms around my pillow, fingers weaving between the sheets, I imagine a lover's hand, hair, face. I've woken up kissing the pillow, embarrassed, the next moment scraping lint and dust off my lips.

The Hurricane: Juvenile’s First Day In Prison

By: Chris Dankovich, Contributing Writer First days are sitting in an inflatable life-raft in the ocean while the winds whip around you in a hurricane. Giant waves crash violently around you, and the winds and currents own you. Paddle if it calms the current in your soul, or ride the swell with open arms, because either way there has never [...]


Daniel H. Harris By: Daniel Harris, Contributing Writer Men who publicly masturbate in prison to add spice to their fantasies used to be a rarity. Twenty-four years later, that is no longer the case. Back in the day, it was predominately black prisoners exposing themselves. White and Hispanic gangs refrained because their gangs enforced discipline with its own [...]

They Can’t Break My Spirit

By: Mustafa Zulu, Contributing Writer "In order to reform a criminal you must first break his spirit." - Elam Lynds, warden of Sing Sing prison in New York Last month I was busted with a knife and been here in the hole since. Winter months in North Dakota State Penitentiary (NDSP) are the worse time to be slammed in the hole. [...]

The Wrath of Sling Blade

By: Whitney Smith, Featured Writer Early this morning, just before breakfast, I was jarred awake by the yells of an eerily familiar voice. It was the grainy, guttural bark which will be forever burned into my memory. "Sir... Excuse me, sir! My name is Glutton Nickerson! I need a towel, sir!" Sling Blade was back. It has been a while [...]

The Gross Things Prisoners Do When The Water Is Shut Off

By: Daniel H. Harris, Contributing Writer Eastham is an old prison with a slowly decaying network of pipes to provide water and remove sewage. For one reason or another we are without running water every few months. In the free world this would only be inconvenient. In a prison, well, read on. They do rolling flushes of each line [cell block [...]

I Taught Myself Yoga In Prison – And It Changed My Life

By: Daniel Harris, Contributing Writer Many are intimidated by the expensive trappings of yoga. When you take away all the specialty items, forget the retreats to faraway places, and make do where you are with what  you have, yoga comes alive. Yoga's roots were in a hovel; it has only recently taken to life in palaces. I began my yoga [...]

An Oral History of My Future

By: Whitney Smith, Featured Writer Not long ago I finished reading "The Story of Joe Gould." The Story of Joe Gould as told by Joseph Mitchell, a columnist and staff writer at The New Yorker magazine from the 1930's until the mid-60's. Mr. Joe Gould was quite the enigma. Sometimes monikered "Professor," sometimes "Professor Sea Gull" due to his self-professed [...]

Gizzardology: The Harsh Realities Of Prison Food

By: Whitney Smith, Featured Writer When I was a kid my parents didn't have any trouble getting me to eat my vegetables. Or any of my food, really. Of course, like every other kid, there were a few exceptions. It was a lost cause putting lima beans on my plate. And any type of stroganoff dish required a little coaxing [...]

Welcome To Club Fed: Prison Gangs, Politics, & A Lack Of Basic Necessities

By: Whitney Smith, Featured Writer "So how's Club Fed?" someone once asked me during a phone call home. For those who don't know, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has a reputation of providing plush environments for convicted criminals to serve their debts to society, hence the play on Club Med. How could I explain to the person on the other [...]

When You Grow Up In Prison, Did Your Life Ever Really Begin?

By: Chris Dankovich, Contributing Writer Sometimes, after my roommate has gone to sleep (or has left the room, or when no one is looking), I grab my pillow and hold it tightly, pressing my face against it. I fall asleep with my arm wrapped around it, or with it pressing against my back, pretending that I'm not alone – or at least [...]

Take A Look Inside Prison’s Underground Economy

By: Michael Winsett, Contributing Writer When it comes to the underground economy in prison, you have to live inside here to understand it. For example, inmates use “postage stamps” as poker chips. At the end of the night, you can keep the postage stamps or cash out the postage stamps for other items. Then there’s those inmates who run “inmate [...]

I Count Four Social Classes in Prison

By: Paul Gardner, Contributing Writer Inmates, just like people in free-society, are divided into social classes. After years of incarceration in Arizona, I’ve noticed four distinct social classes of prisoners: The Indigent-but-Content The Beggars The Hustlers The Supported Two things work in unison to determine which social class a prisoner belongs to: his access to money from the outside and [...]

Remember Amy Preasmyer? She Writes Us From Solitary

By: Amy Preasmyer, Contributing Writer I am once again faced with the abusive conditions in which Ad-Seg [Administrative Segregation, a form of solitary] has a legacy. It’s a place where protocols are swept under the rug and CDCR’s [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] performances are clearly inhumane and ineffective, evidenced by the increase in serious rule violation reports (115s). Don’t get [...]

In Prison, Stamps Are The Currency That Binds Everybody

By: Kenneth Foster, Contributing Writer Prison is simply a reflection of the greater society. Whatever is happening on the street block is happening on the cell block. Capitalism is mimicked. There’s upper-class, middle-class and lower-class. Yes. There are prisoners with and there are prisoners without. There are prisoners that have a little something, but not a whole lot. And the stamp [...]

Dorothy Maraglino on Prison: Part 2

By: Dorothy Maraglino, Contributing Writer  Don't miss Dorothy's "An Unusual Take on Prison Life: Part 1." ON MEDICAL CARE: Our doctors look like Doogie Howser and approach patients like a short order cook does breakfast. It’s easy to believe we’re part of some unknown experiment. I often have visions of us all being like Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly” -- [...]

Juveniles Tried As Adults: Becoming A Man In Prison

By: Chris Dankovich, Contributing Writer My first visitor in prison was my dad. Looking back at the picture I have from that day, I realize that I must have smelled just awful. It was my second day in at Thumb Correctional Facility's Youthful Side, Michigan's prison for adults ages 13-18, having just arrived from the state's prison intake and processing facility. [...]

Fighting the Ninja: Sex in Prisons

By: Charles Norman, Contributing Writer Mama Herc was a genuine prison legend, infamous beyond his razor wire boundaries. When I was in the county jail for a couple of years, fighting my case through the courts, recidivists would share chain gang horror stories about what would happen to the scared newcocks [new inmates] upon their arrival in prison. All that was missing [...]

What Prisoners Say About Prison, When An Inmate is Asking the Questions

BY TRACY LEE KENDALL, Contributing Writer This prison survey reflects the best and worst of prison life from the perspectives of a variety of prisoners in the largest prison unit in Texas, the H.H. Coffield Unit. This is a maximum security unit and as such, movement is extremely limited as is access to other areas. Getting information from those in [...]

#1 Ingredient in Prison Food? Water.

By Paul Gardner, Contributing Writer BY PAUL GARDNER, Contributing Writer Something smells fishy in the prison kitchen– and it isn’t dinner. The Arizona Department of Corrections uses an outsourced personnel provider to run their kitchens. Here is how it works: Aside from the obvious fact that water is needed throughout the day to hydrate the body, it has [...]

A Lesson on Drugs in Prison

BY TY EVANS Courtesy Ty Evans “Dope is how I do my time," Dale explained, after asking me about the availability of drugs in prisons I'd that he might be transferred. We were in a transfer unit at Michigan City -- he was pending transfer out to New Castle, me newly arrived from Pendleton. I was waiting for [...]

Prison Tips From a Pro

BY DANIEL HARRIS, Contributing Writer My 25 years of experience doing time in prison make me an expert at avoiding the pitfalls of prison. All prisons are different, but many of the rules of conduct stay the same. Simple common sense will save you most of the time. Here are 10 Prison Tips for New Prisoners: 1. Hygiene should be [...]

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