A Regular Guy's Guide to Doing
There are currently 6.5 million people in prison
or 3.1% of our population. One in five men will
spend at least one night in jail in their lifetime.
It could happen to you.
You were framed. There was a one-armed man. You
didn't realize that littering in Kennebunkport
carries jail time. We believe you, but what if the
judge doesn't? Men's
Health magazine asked Johnny Z (who
served 10 months for burglary) to explain how to
survive a short sentence in the big house. Here's
Don't stare. It's rude, and fatal. "I
wouldn't want anybody lookin' me in the eyes," says
Johnny. "It's just a sense like, 'Okay,
what? You want some?'" If you do get into
a staring contest, make sure you win it.
Carry a condiment. Prison cafeterias are
always hotbeds of trouble; just look at your plate.
"The food sucks," says Johnny, who worked in the
kitchen for his first 90 days. "The spaghetti is
dry and it doesn't have any taste. The corn dogs
are the best." For the non-dog days, Johnny
recommends killing your three squares with Tabasco
sauce. (You can buy it at the commissary.)
Hoard cigarettes. But don't light up
unless yo like burning money. See, cigarettes are
still the preferred prison currency. "You can buy
anything with cigarettes. Anything. You can even
get somebody beat up," says Johnny. Take the money
your wife, girl friend, accomplice gives you and
buy grand-name cigarettes - like Marlboros and
Newports - on your weekly visit to the commissary.
Then go shopping.
Do the laundry. There are some really
crappy jailhouse jobs, e. g. toilet duty. Then
there are the bad ones - blood mop-up detail, for
instance. When you're asked to choose, make laundry
number one and commissary clerk number two.
According to Johnny, this is the easiest work, with
laundry being the sweeter of the two because you
have to report for duty only once a week. A
commissary clerk, on the other hand, works 3 days a
Make your bed. Horrible stuff happens to
inmates in the middle of the night - insomnia,
stiff back, cricks in the neck. The perpetrator is
the cot, which Johnny describes as "about as
comfortable as a driveway." His
advice? Start by removing the bottom sheet.
Then rip open your state-issued pillow and remove
the stuffing. Layer the stuffing evenly on top of
your mattress and put the sheet back on top. Ask
the guard for a new pillow.
Avoid diseases. "Always wear shores,
always. You never know what you're going to step
on," says Johnny. In the shower, wear flip-flops -
and practice having eyes in the back of your
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