Ex-Cons Explain What Their Time in Prison Was Really Like

Ex-Cons Explain What Their Time in Prison Was Really Like
Photo by Emiliano Bar on Unsplash

Let's face it, jail is the last place you would want to wind up.

Former convicts who have been sentenced to time in prison can vouch for the harrowing stories of violence that are often depicted on film and TV.

But in addition to the savage attacks and violence that are commonplace while in the slammer, ex-cons could also recall being tormented by extreme boredom and eating inadequate portions of bland food.

Canned fruit, cream of wheat, and unsweetened grits, anyone? Yum.

The following former inmates described what life was like during their time in confinement, and shared their stories when Redditor Between3N20Karakters asked:

"For those of you who have been to prison/jail what is it like?"

Their unnerving recollections will remind you that being on the straight and narrow will always be better than the alternative.

The Friendly Murderer

"In prison in Colorado I was roomed with a guy who killed his wife and her lover and split his own throat yet he was a really nice person to me. There are gangs of every variety and it was hard."


Endless Reading

"24 days in county in Florida. I read 27 books while I was there. I didn't get my first book till my third day. It's an indescribable level of boredom. I only stopped reading when I could no longer find a comfortable position for myself. I also wrote about 40 pages of notes/diary entries, which is something I had never done before."


Poop Shy

"I'll just tell one story. I went in thinking I would be out in no time. I was in a cell block with about 12 other guys. There was a common area and individual cells. I was really shy about pooping in front of others, so I held it. For like 2 days. On the second or third day I couldn't hold it. So I waited until I thought everyone else was distracted in the common, went quietly to my cell, shut the door as much as I could without latching it, and sat down."

"About 5 seconds later the door comes blowing open, and in walk every single person in my cell block. They all formed a semi circle around me, arms folded, demanding I finish my sh*t while they watch. So there I sat, pooping, in front of 12 strangers. It was horrible. But I have literally no poop shyness any more. So silver lining I guess."


The Farm Pit

"It's not quite 'traditional' jail and doesn't last quite as long, but I found it far far worse..."

"I was arrested back in the mid 80s in my youth, living in the former soviet union in eartern europe, and served 8 hours in the 'Farm Pit.' Basically just a concrete pit at a factory farm that's empty when you go in, but then they shovel in pig sh*t as the pigs produce it..."

"I thought I was getting off light with a one-day punishment...but honestly it's been almost 35 years and I'm still a wee bit traumatized from it and still feel some anxiety when I see a pig farm, even in a movie. I never knew anything could smell or feel THAT bad."


The Ignored Prisoner

"50 days in Macomb County Jail. Mt. Clemens, MI."

"Cold. Boring. Smells like bleach and feet. The worst part was hearing a guy screaming for the deputies because his chest hurt. They ignored him. He had a heart attack, and died a few feet from me."


The Detailed Account of Life Behind Bars

"I've had multiple stays at county jails in TX. Every minute of it sucks. Having your freedom stripped from you is a terrible experience, even if you know you won't be in long."

"I visited my dad in prison when I was a kid and one thing that stuck with me from then to the time that I went to jail, was the smell. All jails/prisons seem to have the same funky a** BO/mildew smell."

"In county jail the food is horrible and they give you just enough nutrients to survive. People think that everyone works out but it's hard to have energy or build muscle with the amount of food they give you. You have to be able to make commissary to get more food.

"'Commissary is very necessary'. In county it can be prohibitively expensive for a lot people, packs of ramen go for like $1/each. In state prison, they feed you more and commissary is cheaper. You can also get items not in county jail like sodas and ice cream."

"Depending on where you're at you will most likely be grouped with offenders who have done similar level crimes. Meaning non-violent housed with non-violent offenders and vise versa. There are times this isn't true. Even though I was in on a non-violent driving offense, I was housed with people on trial for armed robbery, murder, attempted murder. I'm not sure why I was put in that tank, I don't have any history of violence. Maybe it's the way I look, idk. One of the murderers was actually a really nice guy (to me anyways) and I got along with him well. We discussed philosophy and played chess everyday."

"Being sick in jail is terrible. Medical care is highly lacking. If you're sick they give you a couple Advil per day and that's it."

"Mental illnesses are rampant. Some people are on their meds and stable, others have conditions that are undiagnosed and untreated but clearly off their rocker."

"Pathological liars are everywhere."

"Everyone is innocent. Everyone is a big time drug dealer. Everyone is a hard as f'k gangster. You get really tired of hearing people talk about all the money and sh*t they have out in the world but they're asking you for a shot of coffee because they don't have money on their books."

"Coffee, stamps and ramen works like currency. You can buy different things/services from other inmates. I used to draw, fill out paperwork, write letters and file motions for other dudes to help pass the time."

"Daytime TV is the most obnoxious sh*t ever and you will gain a new found hatred for it in jail. Dudes will be gathered around the tv watching The View arguing over the dumbest sh*t."

"In the showers, sandals are required. If you go barefoot in the shower you will end up with a f'ked up foot infection. I once saw a dude coming off heroin lay down on the floor in the shower. I wanted to puke. There's years of caked on germs on those shower floors and walls."

"Jailhouse snitches and thieves are hated. If you get caught stealing, you better hope you can fight because you will get f'ked up on sight over a couple packs of noodles."

"There's probably more but those are the main things I think people don't realize about jail."


Never Admit to Being Suicidal

"Try to sleep as much as possible, cuz it's not pleasant to be awake in a room filled with cots and a variety of random strangers, some of whom are cool while others are scary. There's a hierarchy so if ur lucky u will locate and secure a buddy near ur cot who offers to show u the ropes and let's u use her shampoo and wants to play cards. Do not tell the intake nurse the truth if she asks u if u have ever been suicidal, cuz I was long ago, and since I answered honestly i was sent to solitary confinement where I had to be buck naked with all lights on 24 hrs a day and no blankets, only paper towel thing and camera on u with creepy perverted guard watching u all night long"


Narrowly Escaping Death

"My a brother was in prison, he was almost beaten to death by guards. He still won't talk about it and it's been over 20yrs."


Keep Your Head Down

"Been in a number of US jails. Food quality varies, but generally you'll be hungry from dinner (~6pm) till breakfast (6am). Usually you can get some commissary items by trading desserts or playing poker (if you're good at it). Most of my time is spent sleeping and reading books, some people prefer TV and you often don't get to choose what's on. I've generally been in minimum security so haven't seen many fights, but I've been on cell blocks where someone's freaking out for over an hour, and this inevitably happens around midnight when you're trying to sleep. Mostly I've learned to keep my head down and do as the officers say."

"The beds suck, the food sucks, and you're inside at least 23 hours a day. 3/10 would not recommend."


Solitary Confinement

"8 days in solitary confinement was one of the worst experiences of my life. 23 hours in a cell one hour out to walk the pod and shower. Lights on for 16 out for 8. No blanket no books, noting that could possibly be put in the toilet to clog it and flood the cell to get out for a little while (apparently that was a problem). I begged for a bible (atheist) or anything to keep my mind occupied and was refused. 1/10 would not recommend."


Highlights Include LSD

"The longest I have ever done was 90 days in a very small jail. Boring 90 days at most we had like 17 inmates including DOC and females. I played alot of spades. Watched alot of stupid things on tv ( real housewives holy f'k). We usually had cigarettes smuggled in from the road crew so that was cool. My cellmate was in a PC programme and he was on trial for murder. The dude was annoying as f'k. The highlights of my sentence include tripping in LSD for the first time ever, and burning books in the shower cause it eas winter and it was f'king cold."


Bored Burglar

"Very small town jail for a weekend stay at 18 yrs old. Booorriiinnngggg. Eat. Sleep. Get hassled from Barney Fife. They left the cel door open during the day. We had to mop the floor (hell maybe we volunteered), got to check out the library in the jail....no blanket party, no tats."

"Pretty easy time all told. Which I guess makes up for being arrested for 2nd degree Burglary for stealing a mattress out of a unoccupied TENT at a girl scout camp in the mountains. In all fairness a tent is considered a dwelling, so yeah, I was a burgler."

"Yeup, don't do the crime if you don't want the time or whatever."


Family Support

"Honestly it's not too bad by itself. We were all kind of like a family there. The worst part for me was just how uninformed I was. I had no idea how long I was going to be there and no idea what was going to happen to my house and job. Luckily it all worked out thanks to my friends and family. I feel truly bad for people who dont have people to look out for them. I just couldn't imagine."


Backed Up For Six Days

"I was in Appomattox jail for 6 days. The arrival process is pretty humiliating. They strip you, make you bend over cough, squat and cough, than shower while watching. Their policy is first 24 hours confined. I was lucky and had a pretty nice roommate. In the cell the toilet is annoyingly close to the bunk bed. There were two common shower areas in the main area walkway. The food sucked. Mostly it's just so damn boring. TVs were on when we could go to the common area but you could barely hear them. We got sent to our rooms for every little thing like getting too loud. One fight broke out but mostly things were chill. I swear somehow I did not poop for the entire time....My body was like .nope. Worst part is they messed up my sentence because of sloppy handwriting. I was supposed to only be held a day. I wouldn't have even had to change my clothes just stay in the courthouse holding cell. I later went to court over it and had my fines and community service dropped."


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