Convict or Inmate?  First of all, the two are definitely not, in any way, synonymous. The first is a state of being – and describes who you inherently are. The second is a being of the state – and describes who you are told you should be.


  • Is a being of the state, put into an institution with a bunch of other individuals who have to be told each and every day what, and who, they are expected to be, and how they are supposed to act. And yet, they still don’t get it.
  • Is only out for one person, and one person only… himself. Maybe that’s why the very word “inmate” begins with the letter “I”.
  • Does not confine himself to doing his time; he is constantly sticking his nose where it does not belong and, for some reason, feels compelled, or sees it as his right, to try to “manage” how others should do their time.
  • Is merely a nobody, lumped in with a bunch of other nobodies. That is what inmates are. And, oh yeah… believe me, you can spot one the second they come through the door — and many times, you can even spot them long before they come through the door, because you can hear them.
  • Now… the harder part. Keep in mind, while an “Inmate” is easily defined, a “Convict” is not.


  • Has many layers.  First of all, like I said, being a convict is a state of being — it is who you inherently are. An inmate cannot learn to be a convict; a convict is defined by who they are inside.
  • Is a person serving time – however, a true convict is not defined by the time he is serving.
  • Walks through the prison doors for the first time and instinctively knows that he is there to do his own time, no one else’s.
  • Will always be aware of his surroundings — whether a given situation involves him or not. And if a given situation does not directly involve him, a convict will not stick his nose in it. He will keep moving on, minding his own business, until such time it does directly involve him.
  • Knows how, and when, to sow respect, and he is given that same respect in turn.
  • Will willingly step forward and offer the help needed (for another convict or friend) and without strings attached.
  • Has honor and integrity, and treats his fellow convicts with the same. And yes, you can see a convict too, but usually they breeze on by, and you have to do a double take to be sure they did in fact pass by – because you do not hear them.
  • Does not need to make himself known– they are known by their aura and how they carry themselves.
  • So as you see, a convict and an inmate are two separate kinds of people – inherently different in every conceivable way. As I said, an inmate cannot learn to become a convict, but sadly, a convict can reduce himself to an inmate – a sad fact that has been taking place far too often lately. A true convict is a dying breed, and the prisons are being all too quickly filled with inmates.

But that’s not to say convicts don’t exist anymore. You still have a lot of good, sound, old-school convicts doing time. And yes, there are still some convicts trickling in – but not many. Sadly, a lot of the “new” convicts trickling in are giving up all too easily, and adapting themselves to the “inmate” ways.

While you may spot and easily know an inmate, knowing a convict is extremely difficult, because it can be extremely difficult to get close enough to a convict to get to know him. To put it in another context, I once read a quote by a convict that went something like this: “Some people put up walls not to keep others out, but to see who cares enough to tear them down.” Well, a convict will put up his own walls, not to keep others out, but to see who is smart enough, not to tear them down, but to find the door, and simply walk in.

Well, I hope I have somehow, however humbly, helped someone. If you are still confused – which hopefully you are not – here is a small, simple test.

Two incarcerated individuals come into your life at the same time:

#1- One guy constantly brags and boasts loudly of all his past exploits (real and imagined), about all the dope he’s sold, all the money he’s made, all the women he’s had in his life, and finally, how he’s always gotten the shaft. Then he asks you to send him a money order…

#2- The second guy talks (or writes) to you about who he is inside, what his hobbies are. He talks about his family and his friends; he asks about you, and what your likes and dislikes are and he tries to get to know you, while letting you know the real him – all keys to building, and sharing a true friendship, a strong relationship…

So… which is the inmate and which is the convict? If you chose #1 as the inmate, and #2 as the convict, you’re right.

An inmate constantly concerns himself with what was (real and/or imagined) while a convict concerns himself with today, and what’s to come.

So… to you Inmates out there, keep on squandering your time, and to those of you who are due to go home anytime soon, well… we’ll see you when you come back!

And to you righteous convicts… reach high, for stars lie hidden in your souls; dream deep, for every dream precedes every goal.

From Prison Talk, 2010