Incarceration Etiquette: How to Get out of Jail or Prison—alive and un-raped.
In a perfect world, gentlemen are never incarcerated. But the world is an imperfect place, where bad things happen to good people each and every day. And on any given day, a gentleman may find himself thrown into jail or sentenced to prison. Everything from a routine traffic stop to participating in a demonstration to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or fitting a “suspect” profile, or a lovers’ quarrel gone bad can result in justified or unjustified incarceration. And because of the nature of jails and prisons and the persons oftentimes encountered therein, a gentleman may quickly find himself spiraling downwards in unfamiliar, treacherous waters with lifelong, life-threatening, or even life-ending implications.
Incarceration typically commences with arrest. What is of paramount importance is that a gentleman realize that from the moment of arrest—whether rightful or wrongful—his normal humanity-presumed freedoms and rights are severely diminished. As such, his conduct should reflect his comprehension of his diminished condition. Dignified compliance with the lawful requests of law enforcement personnel is highly recommended. (To that end, a gentleman should be aware of his rights and obligations—and those of law enforcement personnel—during interactions with law enforcement personnel. See “Police Detention” above). A gentleman should also be aware that whatever indignities are experienced during the arrest process are but a mere prelude to what will occur during incarceration, brief or extended. Jails and prisons are demeaning, humiliating realities with little regard for personal privacy and dignity. One of the primary purposes for jails and prisons is to severely diminish a person’s freedom as punishment for his alleged crime. Such is the reality of incarceration….
While some modern families educate their children about the proper conduct for interacting with strangers, criminals, or law enforcement officials in the outside world, rarely do families instruct their members on what to do or not to do in the unfortunate event of incarceration. “Prison 101” is rarely, if ever, a course-offering in any curriculum. And “How to Avoid Getting Penetrated in a Penitentiary” or “How to Protect Your ‘Bootyhole’ While in the Hell-hole” are not likely to be featured articles in mainstream men’s magazine for the foreseeable future. Simply put, society does not educate its members about incarceration prior to incarceration. But given the facility and randomness with which incarceration can occur, and given the numerous instances where routine apprehensions have yielded debilitating or even deadly results, it would be irresponsible for a 21st -century guidebook on men’s manners not to provide guidance on a subject that years ago no decent, upstanding gentleman would have been expected to know: prison etiquette. Times have changed….
Different countries and jurisdictions have different laws pertaining to incarceration and to detainees. But in general, incarcerated persons have less rights than their free counterparts. Even constitutional guarantees and fundamental rights such as the Freedom of Speech, the Right to Privacy, the Freedoms of Movement and Association, and Equal Protection are diminished once incarcerated. Still, even the most hardened, notorious, dangerous criminal is entitled to certain basic Human Rights while incarcerated. The laws presented below pertain to the United States of America—the country with the highest documented incarceration rate in the world—and are illustrative, not comprehensive or exhaustive. [In October of 2013, the incarceration rate of the United States of America was 716 per 100,000 of the national population. While the United States accounts for only 4.4% of the world’s population, according to 2013 figures, it houses 22% of the world’s documented prisoners].
The Difference Between “Jail” and “Prison”
The terms “jail” and “prison” are oftentimes used interchangeably, but incorrectly so.
Jails, also known as “detention facilities,” are operated by a county or city government and serve to house three main types of inmates:
-People who have been arrested and are being held pending a plea agreement, a trial, or sentencing;
-People who have been convicted of a misdemeanor criminal offense and are serving a sentence of typically less than one year;
-People who have been sentenced to prison and are about to be transferred to another facility.
[“Lockups” are typically holding facilities in very small communities where one or a few arrestees can be held for a short period pending transfer to a nearby jail/detention facility].
Unlike at prisons, many people arrive and are processed at jails on a daily basis as a consequence of intoxication, fights, loitering, etc., that led to their arrests. In some communities, mentally ill persons who appear to be or are a harm to themselves or to others may be transported to jail when no other suitable facility exists or is available. As such, the intake process at jails can be hectic for the jail’s staff and its medical personnel.
Of the many detainees delivered to jails on a daily basis, some may stay less than a day or only a few days, until they are approved for release pursuant to a court proceeding; some detainees are released after posting bail; others are released to a pre-trial services caseload; others are released and placed under supervision by a probation agency; and others are released on their own recognizance, with an agreement to appear in court.
A prison, also known as a “penitentiary,” is a secure facility operated by a state or the federal government that houses people who have been convicted of a felony criminal offense and are serving a sentence or one or more years.
-The number of inmates entering prisons each day is far lower than their jail counterparts. People going to prison know in advance: They may be transferred from a jail; taken to prison from a courthouse after a conviction; or may report to a prison on a date set by a court.
-(People released from prison may be released to parole supervision or to some type of community program. Alternatively, if they have served their full term in prison, they may be released with no subsequent supervision).
[ Note: In some states, county jails are referred to as “county prisons”; in some states, both jails and prisons are administered on a state-level; in some states, persons may be kept in jails for up to two years (as opposed to less than one year in many other states); in some jurisdictions, especially smaller ones, jails and prisons share different sections of the same facility; the U.S. Federal Government operates several detention centers in several U.S. cities. ]
(Theoretically, prisons were created to serve four primary purposes: rehabilitation (through programs and treatment), the aim being to have inmates return to the society at large as functioning, contributing, law-abiding individuals; incapacitation, the notion that placing the offender in a secure facility prevents him from causing further harm to society; retribution, the idea that making the offender serve time in confinement is payback to society for the harm done against society; and deterrence, the knowledge that if someone else had to pay the high price of incarceration for his crimes, then others will be discouraged from committing similar and other crimes).
Standard Intake Procedure at Jails/Detention Facilities
After an arrest—for whatever infraction, whether disorderly conduct, driving under the influence of alcohol, assault, drugs, etc—the arrested individual will be transported, in handcuffs or some other restraining device, to the jail/detention facility for “booking” and possible detention. (A preliminary search for weapons is typically conducted at the point of arrest).
-Once brought into the booking facility, the arrested person is again searched for weapons, contraband, and anything that could be used to endanger others or himself.
-After the search, the arrested person is typically taken to a “waiting room,” where he is likely to encounter other persons who have been arrested that day for various alleged crimes. Supervised by the facility’s personnel, persons in the waiting area are generally not handcuffed or otherwise restrained. They are seated in an open area as in any other waiting room. (Arrested persons are typically angry, aggressive, frightened, and/or injured. Many are under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs. Some are suffering from mental illness. While in the waiting area, a gentleman should conduct himself with dignity, focus on his own affairs, and be courteous and polite to those whom he directly encounters. A general greeting appropriate to the time of day may be extended upon entering the waiting area. Some people will respond).
-At an appointed time, typically in the order of arrival, the arrested person will be escorted to the “booking counter,” where he will be instructed to remove his shoes and socks and is issued standard rubber or fabric slippers. A series of basic personal identification and health-related questions are asked by the booking officer. (See above, “Police Detention” for information on the Right to Remain Silent, Right to Legal Representation, etc.). A check for pending charges will also be conducted. Typically, at the booking counter, the arrested person is ordered to open his mouth to verify that he is concealing nothing therein; he is asked to flex his ears forward to verify that he is concealing nothing behind them; to the extent possible, he is asked to run his fingers through his hair such that anything contained therein will be revealed; and with outstretched arms, he is asked to spread apart his fingers, palms facing upwards then downwards, to verify that nothing is concealed within his hands/between his fingers. Additional precautions may be taken, including more invasive searching, depending on the nature of the alleged crime, mental state of the arrested person, degree of aggressiveness, etc.
-The arrested person is fingerprinted.
-The arrested person is then transported to the shower area, where he is ordered to remove all his personal clothing—including underwear—so that he may be deloused and showered under supervision. Upon completing the bodily cleansing, the arrested person is issued jail clothing and basic toiletries. The arrested person’s personal clothing and personal property are stored until release (unless relevant for evidentiary purposes). At some detention facilities, different-colored prison clothing is assigned to different detainees, depending on the severity of the alleged crime.
-Once the arrested person is dressed in the prison-issued garments, he is photographed: the infamous “mug shot.” (Some jurisdictions do not permit smiling). (A gentleman should do his utmost to look as charming as possible during the “mug shot,” for such photos become a part of the public record and are oftentimes widely distributed. If there is ever a time to be photogenic, it is during the taking of the “mug shot”! Just ask Jeremy Meeks!)
-After being photographed, the arrested person is taken to a classification room, where he is screened and examined by a team of prison personnel and medical professionals for physical and psychological well-being; questioned about known enemies within the incarceration system; asked about gang affiliations; may inform prison professionals of special needs and circumstances; etc.
-Based on the findings of the screening committee and the nature of the alleged crime, the arrested person is assigned to a maximum-, medium-, or minimum-security cell, which, again depending on the findings and other space and availability issues, may be a single-cell or multiple-person accommodation.
-Persons on medication may request that their medication be brought to them by a family member or friend. Otherwise, on-staff physicians should ensure that medication be secured for detainees.
-(Arrests occurring in the late afternoon or night generally require at least an overnight detention such that the appropriate facility and court procedures may be completed. Arrested persons are sometimes released, pending further legal proceedings, on their own recognizance. Otherwise, they are released upon posting bail, or are retained at the facility [or are transferred, depending on the circumstances] pending further legal proceedings).
-Pre-trial detainees (persons who cannot post bail or choose not to post bail and are consequently detained pending trial) have the right to be held in humane facilities. In addition, pre-trial detainees are not to be “punished” or otherwise treated as “guilty” while awaiting trial.
Standard Intake Procedure at Prisons
-Offenders sentenced to prison are transported to a “receiving area” or “reception and guidance center” where they are tested, evaluated, and classified to the institution to which they will eventually be sent to serve out the prison sentence. Theoretically, the “reception process” should take about 10 days; but prisoners oftentimes remain in reception divisions for several additional weeks (three to five being typical), pending the availability of a cell in the particular prison to which they have been assigned).
-When offenders are first brought into a reception area, they are photographed, showered (including a delousing cleanse), and fingerprinted. Offenders are also provided with standard prison clothing (oftentimes similarly styled to medical “scrubs”) that must be worn during the processing; a toiletry kit including soap, toothpaste, and deodorant; and soft rubber or fabric footwear. (Any personal belongings of the offender will be secured by prison personnel until the offender is released).
-A check for pending charges is conducted, and a prisoner file is created, including the pre-sentence report and other documents that will be used in classification.
-All prisoners are administered a Tuberculosis (TB) test and a physical examination, which includes a blood test for HIV and venereal disease. (If further examination is required, or if a medical specialist is needed, arrangements are made and appointments are scheduled, sometimes requiring that the prisoner be taken outside the facility by security escort). Dental and eye exams are also scheduled.
-Offenders are also administered psychological testing. Attempts are made to identify personality disorders. (Prisoners who appear to be “normal” are allowed to continue in the processing protocol, while prisoners who appear to be in need of “further evaluation” and “possible intervention” are scheduled for interviews by staff psychologists. Prisoners convicted of certain types of crimes—such as sexual misconduct—are automatically scheduled for an evaluation by a psychologist. The interview may result in a recommendation for counseling or therapy).
-Prisoners’ reading and math skills are also tested.
-During “classification,” all the material collected about a particular prisoner, including the pre-sentence report, is reviewed. A “classification committee,” which typically includes a custody staff member, makes a decision—based on test results and the recommendations of the processor whose job it is to read all the reports pertaining to a particular prisoner—as to which of the classification levels would be most appropriate to house the prisoner.
-The primary concerns of the classification committee are the potential for escape and misbehavior while in prison. (Where applicable, an individual’s past escape record as well as conduct while incarcerated are considered). Enemies, if known or identified by staff or the prisoner, are separated throughout the period of incarceration. Prisoners in need of special protection are assigned to “protection units” within prisons. (Other arrangements are made: Prisoners who may be difficult to protect at state prisons are sometimes sent to federal prisons).
-Attempts are made to also classify a prisoner to a prison that offers programming that meets the special needs—such as substance abuse, sex-offender counseling, basic education, or vocational training—of the prisoner.
What Occurs During Reception and Classification
-“Reception” is tantamount to “quarantine”: A new prisoner’s movements are significantly restricted.
-While in the reception unit, a prisoner may receive visits only from the following persons: qualified clergy; attorneys on official business with the prisoner; and the Office of the Legislative Ombudsman.
-Prisoners may access the telephone only to make collect calls.
-Prisoners are fed in the reception unit and are typically allowed one hour of recreation per day.
-Library books and law books are available.
-Psychologists, social workers, physicians’ assistants, nurses, and doctors are available.
-Religious services are available on weekends.
-Prisoners are not allowed to have outside clothing or any private property while in the intake/reception unit.
Gentlemen should know their rights in anticipation of the unfortunate event of incarceration. Family members and friends of incarcerated persons should also know their rights vis-à-vis the prison system as well as the rights of their incarcerated loved ones so as to render or seek assistance in the enforcement of those rights. The laws pertaining to incarceration frequently change and evolve, and gentlemen should remain aware of those developments. Today, online entities such as www.hg.org and www.findlaw.com provide reliable information on prisoners’ rights; and, of course, expert legal advice should be consulted.
-Pre-trial detainees (persons who cannot post bail or choose not to post bail and are consequently detained pending trial) have the right to be held in humane facilities. In addition, pre-trial detainees are not to be “punished” or otherwise treated as “guilty” while awaiting trial.
-The Eight Amendment of the United States Constitution ensures that inmates are incarcerated under humane conditions and not subjected to “cruel and unusual” punishment. Any punishment or condition that can be deemed in violation of a person’s basic concept of human dignity may be regarded as “cruel and unusual.” [In 1995, a federal court in the State of Massachusetts found that detaining inmates in a 150-year-old, vermin-infested facility that lacked adequate toilets and was deemed a fire hazard was a violation of the inmates’ constitutional rights].
-The First Amendment of the United States Constitution allows for the free exercise of religion; freedom of speech; the right of people to peaceably assemble; freedom of the press; and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, among other things. Inmates retain only those First Amendment Rights that are not inconsistent with the legitimate objectives of the penal corrections system, such as the preservation of order, discipline, and security. As such, prison officials can open incoming mail, read e-mails, and censor outgoing communication in order to ensure that it does not contain any information that could interfere with the facilities’ objectives. Prison personnel may not, however, censor correspondence from an inmate that is merely “inflammatory” or “rude” to persons outside the facility. (Inmates do not have the right to have face-to-face interviews news media or news reporters, the rationale being that the media’s access to inmates does not supersede access by other members of the general public).
-The Due Process Clause protects inmates against unauthorized or intentional deprivation of their personal property by prison officials.
-Inmates do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their cells, and, as such, are not protected against “shakedowns” or searches of their cells to look for weapons, drugs, or other contraband. (Prison officials are entitled to open mail directed to inmates in order to check for illegal items or weapons). Inmates are not protected against warrantless searches of their persons or cells. Prison-cell toilets do not have doors. Bodily functions are performed in front of cellmates. If the shower room is equipped with stalls, the stalls do not feature doors.
-Inmates are generally not protected by employment laws such as minimum wage requirements when participating in work-release programs or other employment initiatives.
-Inmates have a right to be free from racial segregation, except in cases where segregation is deemed necessary for preserving prison security and discipline.
-Inmates have the right to be free from discrimination while imprisoned, including racial segregation, disparate treatment based on religion or ethnicity, or preferences based on age.
-Transgender people who have not had sex-reassignment (genital) surgery (regardless of how long they may have lived as members of the other gender or regardless of how much other medical treatment they may have undergone) are generally classified according to the birth-sex (“more-apparent sex”) for purposes of prison housing/accommodations. Transgender persons with ambiguous physical sexual characteristics are sometimes given “administrative segregation.” (But “administrative segregation” typically results in exclusion from recreation, educational and occupational opportunities, and associational rights). Generally, transgender persons who were undergoing hormonal treatment prior to incarceration are entitled to continued treatment. Generally, whether to provide hormonal treatment to transgender people seeking to commence hormonal treatment while incarcerated is determined on a case-by-case/jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis. Transsexual people who have undergone genital surgery are generally classified and housed according to their reassigned sex. In some jurisdictions, qualified prisoners are entitled to sex-reassignment surgery.
-Prison officials are required to protect inmates from violence at the hands of other prisoners. Prison officials who display “deliberate indifference” to this requirement violate the Eight Amendment Rights of prisoners—the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
-Inmates have a right to be free from sexual crimes, including sexual harassment—from other prisoners as well as from prison personnel.
-Inmates have a right to complain about substandard prison conditions and to voice their concerns about the treatment they receive—without fear of retaliation. (Inmates have a right to access the courts in order to seek resolution to such complaints).
-Inmates are entitled to “adequate” medical care and attention as needed to treat both short-term and long-term conditions and illnesses. (For example, a person with a cavity might not be entitled to a filling, but he might be entitled to have the tooth pulled. Even persons with life-threatening illnesses such as AIDS or certain forms of cancer are typically provided with only the minimum treatment necessary to keep them reasonably comfortable—not necessarily to combat their illnesses or extend their lives).
-Inmates with disabilities are entitled to assert their rights pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure access to prison facilities and appropriate programs.
-An inmate is entitled to a hearing if he is being transferred to a mental health facility. (However, an inmate is not always entitled to a hearing if he is being transferred between two mental health facilities).
-Inmates requiring mental health care are entitled to appropriate “adequate” care.
-An inmate is not entitled to a full hearing before the government may force him to take anti-psychotic drugs against his will. (An administrative hearing before independent medical professionals is legally sufficient).
-In most cases, an inmate is not entitled to representation in an internal disciplinary proceeding. But the U.S. Supreme Court has held that an inmate who is the subject of an internal disciplinary investigation or proceeding is entitled to advanced written notice of the alleged violation and a written statement of the facts, evidence relied upon, and the reason for the action being brought against him. (The inmate is allowed to call witnesses and provide documentary evidence—provided that doing so will not risk order, discipline, and security. [Consequently, inmates are rarely allowed to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses]).
Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) of 1996
In 1996 Congress passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act, limiting an inmate’s access to the federal court system. The Act contains five major provisions:
-Prisoners must exhaust internal prison grievance procedures before filing suit in federal court;
-Prisoners must pay their own court filing fees, either in one payment or in a series of monthly installments;
-Courts have the right to dismiss any prisoner’s claim that the court finds to be “frivolous,” “malicious,” or stating an improper claim. (Cases dismissed for the aforementioned reasons earn the petitioner a “strike.” A petitioner with three or more recorded “strikes” must pay full court filing fees in advance of filing any subsequent claim in the federal court system. [The “three-strike rule” may be waived in cases where an inmate is deemed to be at risk of immediate and serious physical injury]);
-A prisoner cannot file a claim for mental or emotional injury unless he can demonstrate that he also suffered physical injury;
-A prisoner may lose credit for “good time” if a judge determines that a law suit was filed as a means of harassment, if the inmate lied, or if the inmate provided false information.
Prisoners’ Survival Tips: How to get out Alive, Unraped
Enacted in 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) is a federal law that was created to eliminate sexual abuse in confinement. The Act‘s stated purpose is to “provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in Federal, State, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.” The Act has established a “zero-tolerance” policy, and prevention is its top priority.
While the Act has been effective in significantly reducing blatant incidents of sexual abuse such as gang-rapes and forcible rape, it still remains largely under-effective in cases of sexual abuse and harassment via manipulation, deception, trickery, peer pressure, etc. And the abuse begins from the prison intake process, where new inmates are stripped, deloused, showered, registered, and assigned to housing units.
The Sexual Predator’s Profile
–Seasoned inmates who offer instantaneous “friendship,” “advice,” “protection.” (The general rule: OBB—Observe Before Befriend [See how the person offering friendship treats others, and observe how others treat him]. In prison, as elsewhere, friendship should be earned. A good rule-of-thumb is to seek primary friendships with fellow neophyte inmates who are equally inexperienced). Beware of anyone who offers “fast” friendship and people who offer to “teach you the ropes.” Where a person sits during meals is oftentimes a good indication of a person’s ranking within the prison system: Persons who eat close to the food service area are regarded as “dominant,” while persons who position themselves closer to the guards and prison staff are regarded as “dominated.”
–Inmates who claim to “know” you from “somewhere.” (Unless a person is a known pre-incarceration friend or acquaintance, do not acknowledge any “familiarity.” Be very discreet and guarded with your personal information).
–Inmates who offer toiletries such as soap, shower slippers, etc. (The general rule is that nothing in prison or jail is offered for “free.” As such, accept no gifts from anyone who is not a confirmed friend). “Gifts are frequently left atop an inmate’s bed. (Such “gifts” should not be accepted; instead they should be politely placed at the entrance of your cell for retrieval by the donor. “Gifts” that are accepted come at a price that typically far exceeds the value of the gift).
–Much of the sexual advances occurs as inmates “assist” each other while using the exercise equipment. Sexual predators oftentimes offer to “help” inmates exercise, oftentimes positioning themselves “closer” to the person being assisted than necessary. (The general rule is that in such occurrences, the person being assisted should politely request “additional space,” then seek another workout partner).
–Sexual predators oftentimes seek personal information—about hometown, family members, friends, etc. (The general rule: Guard your privacy).
–Sexual predators oftentimes “court” their victims or targets. In prison, every act of kindness has a cost: even the opening of a door comes at a “price.” Accept favors only from confirmed friends. Again, in prison, the general rule is that trust must be earned.
–Sexual predators usually congregate in the shower rooms. The general shower rules are: 1) Shower with underwear on; 2) Do not speak to persons in adjacent shower stalls; 3) Do not accept anything related to showers or hygiene; 4) Do not eat/use anything left for you on your bed as a “present.” Return such items by leaving them by the door of your cell for retrieval by the donor.
What To Do If Sexually Abused:
-Seek medical attention immediately. (Do not wash, shower, brush teeth, or use the toilet. Forensic evidence will be critical in resolving your case).
-Seek immediate medical treatment to help prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
-You have a right to report sexual abuse/assault and be free of retaliation.
-Inmate Grievances (IG) and other pertinent reports should be filed.
-You are entitled to know the results of the investigations.
-You may also report your case to an outside, independent rape crisis center, requesting assistance in the reporting your case on your behalf.
-Family members may be asked to report cases of sexual abuse/harassment on your behalf.
-It is important to know that sexual abuse or harassment is never a part of the prescribed penalty for any infraction or violation that may have caused your incarceration.
General Jail/Prison Survival Rules:
-Observe. Remain cautious.
-Be yourself; do not pretend to be someone you are not.
-Whatever you need, get it from a Corrections Officer (CO).
-Do not gamble. Gambling debts rarely can be repaid on account of exorbitant “interest rates.”
-Do not use drugs/sell drugs/deal drugs while in jail or prison.
-If you feel you are in danger, go immediately to the appropriate authorities and request a “removal” from the situation. Speak with appropriate staff. (Specific names need not be mentioned)—but even so, it is not considered “snitching” if your life is in danger.
-Report threats, manipulation, etc., immediately to the appropriate prison personnel.