The Beginner's Guide to Jail

11 tips for enduring your first time doing hard time.

By staff writer Court Sullivan

Introduction (skip right to the guide): I've really outdone myself this time. I have been to prison. Locked up in the Big House and held down by the Man. Do not pass Go. Definitely do not collect $200. That's right: go directly to jail.

It's odd, because jail is normally something you look at from afar while driving obscure highways in Texas or while watching inmates being interviewed on gripping episodes of A&E's Cold Case Files, and think to yourself, "Wow, that looks pretty a thank-god-I'll-never-be-there kind of way." Well let me be the first to say: it's pretty cool up-close too!

In a thank-god-we're-all-in-here-for-misdemeanors, minimum-security sort of way.

But let's start from the beginning, shall we?

I would be lying if I said I didn't start mining for comedy material the moment the officer secured the handcuffs behind my back. I immediately began concocting escape scenarios in my mind, thinking what Harrison Ford would do if he were in my position. I found a lot of little things that kept getting in my way though: the rear doors to the police car were locked from the inside, there were no train tracks in sight, and the handcuffs were a little too tight for my liking...I guess you get pampered by the whole "playful handcuff factor" in the free world.

I then proceeded to do what any reasonable, falsely-accused detainee would do: attempt to figure out why the hell the man with the prosthetic arm would fucking frame me like that! I racked my brain over and over but I couldn't find the link. Then I thought a little harder and I couldn't even think of a man with a prosthetic arm. Then I remembered I was arrested for public intoxication—the very GOAL of an average college student every weekend. Then I looked behind me and found the links...all neatly lined up, holding my hands together.

So, after spending roughly 8 hours at the city jail—6 of those in general population (D-Block to be specific)—I have learned a great deal about the place Martha Stewart now calls home. Though the rent and food is free (unless you count the tax dollars I've paid up to this point), it's not a place I recommend staying for any length of time. It's also not the nightmare you might imagine...if you follow a few basic guidelines. And now, as my civic duty to those of you living life on the fringe, or otherwise planning on jeopardizing your freedom, I present:

The Beginner's Guide to Jail

1. Bring a positive attitude!

Sure, jail seems like the worst thing that could happen to you, but it could be worse. Remember the time your girl/boyfriend caught you cheating? That was pretty bad, right? Jail is a lot more civilized. Nobody's going to yell at you, slap you, or threaten to withhold sex (believe me on the last one). Rest assured you'll eventually get the right to a fair trial, not an arbitrary condemnation and a big "fuck you, we're through." The justice system still has faith in you! Just try not to rest assured overnight...all prisoners are treated equally until your trial (this isn't the kind of equal treatment you want).

2. Forget about anything you brought besides a positive attitude.

The police officers will confiscate everything on your person, except for your clothes, the moment you enter the jail. Ever felt naked without your cell phone? Prepare to get violated in jail. Read on.

3. You aren't limited to one phone call.

That being said, the jail always gets the last laugh. Shit, I must have used the jail phone about 125 times...with a success rate of 0.05%. You see, collect calls don't work on cell phones, and collect calls made to local numbers require the receiving party to setup a credit card account with GlobalTel for $30 in order to receive your call. First, don't expect to recall even a fifth of your friends' cell phone numbers from memory, let alone their home phone numbers. Second, don't expect your parents to shell out $30 to receive a collect call from you—it's just not logical. Your only option? The classic collect-call trick: when the operator asks for your name, you have approximately 4.5 seconds to get your entire message across to the receiving party. Rehearse your sentence before calling. When you've cut out enough extraneous verbs and articles to sound like Microsoft tech support, you know you're ready. I would suggest including three key phrases: "Your name," "in jail," "get me out."

4. When you get your mugshot taken, visualize Nick Nolte's DUI mug.

Trust me, you'll laugh about it later. And if you ever do anything famous, you'll end up on too.

5. Bail bond companies don't accept collect phone calls from the jail.

Just how illogical is this? Dumbfoundingly illogical. Put it this way: Imagine how much money you could make as a telemarketer by selling services at a 50% premium to clients over the phone. Now imagine you had to wait for these clients to call YOU. Now imagine blocking all of these clients from ever initiating contact in the first place. Congratulations, you now have the business model of a bail bond company. Don't expect to go public anytime soon. And just to torture you, the jail offers a list of over 25 bail bond companies phone numbers above the jail phone. Oh yes, you can dial them all you want, but that's what we like to call an "exercise in futility." Read on.

6. Do not over-exercise in jail.

If you need to do a few standard push-ups or sit-ups to blow off some steam, fine. But do not be the Tae Bo idiot training for the next Billy Blanks video. You don't need to intimidate a bunch of DUI and petty larceny thieves. Besides, you won't be around long enough to bulk up or join a prison gang.

7. Do not try to escape.

It's too easy, and you'll only get laughed at. Remember, this is a minimum-security facility where they leave all the cell doors unlocked so you can wander around inside your block (a two-story area with tables in the middle holding about 50 inmates). Look, they even open the door to the entire block to serve meals. Only a couple of napping security guards and a door buzzer stand between you and the outside world. The only escapes that make the news involve rooftops, ladders, razor wire, chisels, tunnels, bodies of water, electric fences, and Iraq.

8. Take whatever meal is offered to you.

Sentenced inmates have to take their meals by roll call, but all inmates are eligible to eat whatever tasty entree is on the menu. Remember all the stuff you refused to eat during middle school lunch? Yeah, the cafeteria workers made notes and put it on your "if you ever go to jail" record. This includes a healthy serving of prunes to keep you regular. That being said, if you skip a meal, don't expect to wander into the kitchen for a snack later on when you decide you're hungry. That might be considered an escape attempt, in which case you'll get laughed at for being fat.

9. Find the old guy with the beat-up checkers board and let him win.

He'll feel like it's his first day in jail all over again, and you will become his understudy—a valuable position when it comes time for negotiating with the asshole warden. There are two kinds of inmates: orange suits (sentenced) and plain clothes (held until bail is posted, aka you). Old orange-suited Chubby Checker has been in and out of jail enough to know the warden personally and buffer your pitiful pleas with kiss-ass know-how.

10. Embellish the adventure of your capture and arrest until you've gathered a small crowd.

Once again, it's all about P.R. If you market yourself correctly in jail, you will garner favors and insight into getting out. After the phone broke in my block and the guard said tough luck, another inmate explained to me that Officer DeMarcus would be in at the 7am shift change to let me use a different phone. Thank you Officer DeMarcus, I now realize that indeed, all 25 bail bond companies do reject calls from the city jail.

11. Don't leave jail without a shower!

Each cell has two inmates, a shower, and a toilet. When they call your name on the P.A. and tell you you've made bail, quickly ask one of your enamored inmates if you could borrow their cell to take a hot shower and a steamy dump. Mmmmmm, prunes!

That concludes the "Beginner's Guide to Jail." Stay tuned next year for "Earning Your Bachelor's Degree from Maximum Security!"

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Sucks that you got pinched though.


let us know when you can sit down again.

8 Hours in city jail is kiddie shit. Try 10 days in county.

Further suggestions.

1 Stay away from the psychos. Easy to identify, they're the ones whe get meds when the nurse comes early in the morning.

2 Claim to be diabetic or hypoglycemic. You get better grub.

3 Forget about getting a good nights sleep. You're gunna be sleeping on 20 year old 2 inch thick matresses. Hello back pain.

4 See a doc and tell them you you have a sore throat and a family history of strep throat / rhumatic fevor. In other words get yourself some antibiotics. You WILL get a funky rash from jail, best to nip it in the bud if possible. If you can't get the antibiotics in jail start taking them as soon as you get out. Sometimes the rashes won't develop for several days after you get out.

This info is pretty correct...I did 15 days in the city jail until I was sent to the state pen for 2 years! All in all, great info for anyone who is new to the "system"!


Personally never been to jail however, many friends and brother have not been so lucky! This is very funny and very accurate description of their misfortune. thank you and will forward to brother-he'll love it.

Number 9 is quite true...after telling the five black guys in my cell (they didn't hafta be black, but it was odd that they all were...) that I was in there for possession of a blunt, they were all good new pot-head friends who told me stories and offered me candy in trade for some nasty meat patties they call "veal burgers" (when you're in there for a while, you can buy other food and health items). My last suggestion to add-if you're in a cell with multiple inmates (3+), wear your sandles in the shower. Not all guys in jail are gay, some just enjoy the privacy of the shower and their own imagination.

lol and don't forget that ever so handy soap on a rope if u don't have that you'll be in for a not so plesant suprise! :lol: :lol:

<b></b>if you get pinched as soon as the cuffs go on keep your mouth shout,,,all you say is lawyer,they are trained to trick you they are just as clever as a dope fene...dont try to get on there good side they hate you more than you hate soon as you get to jail mind you not stare or look anybody in the eye for any lenth of jime thats prison look,and you get hurt for that ,remeber just because your in the county you dont know the guy next to you is a murderer and never going home ,he wants to bring people with him,remeber that you might just walk out without intance,im from new jersey ther is no shower in the cell only on the tear,in ny rickers dont use the phone its all gangs against the non gandg mebers,if you have any questions feel free to ask email is if been in all the system there is for more than 18 years i could help last think dont get caught.

number 11 IS NOT TRUE THERE IS no shower in a cell and everything is over croaded there 3 to 4 in a cell yes you sleep on the floor, the first week your in asak 23 hour lock down suck it up dont say im goint to commit suicide they take all your cloths and your bare ass in a lighted cell,,not to smart,,,time goes slow with nothin to do dont dwell on it,read daydream but forget the outside youll go crazy<b></b> :lol:

2 Claim to be diabetic or hypoglycemic. You get better grub.
great advise
3. say you have chest pains they take that serious and sent to medical..try to pump your self up inside get real nervous when there reading your pressure it help me many times to get out of lockdown,and being in medical the beds are soft with a pillow better than being lockdown in that week

I've just gotten out from three days in Prescott, AZ for DUI. Dude, it's one thing seeing it on movies or imagining it. The feeling when you are lying there or that hard mattress in a small cell with 12 other inmates, some of them sleeping on the floor because there were no beds, a few of them clearly out of their minds.... man the clicking sound when those lights go out, when the steel bars grind to close you out from the rest of the world. Jesus, that just beats the crap out of you. That feeling could kill the strongest of men. All is steel, you dont get to keep anyting from outside. There is a toilet in the corner of the cell, no walls no anything. Whatever you need to do you do it with 20 guys around you. 3 days in this prison and the people i met made me realize how close a human being is to losing his mind.

i spent a weekend in jail its not the best thing in the world but sometimes you just gotta do it...anyways my best piece of advice is entertainment always try to entertain yourself while doing the time i spent my time carving up the walls with my name and playing catch with an orange and if you spend your time in the intake cell where they never turn off the light its best to just cover your eyes with a pillow case or a towel and never i say never lean your face on the windowless doors cause that helps develop bad facial rashes that no one but you cares about

Fairly accurate. Of course it changes from jail to jail. I had the misfortune of spending a weekend in the Jacksonville, FL city lockup.

I was arrested for battery (I fought my older brother and the punk called the police) in my town of Jacksonville Beach. Cops pick me up at about 3am. Rode in the back of the car about 25 miles to downtown jacksonville. Fun. In processing took about 4 or 5 hours. By 11am I was in my cell. Trial time was at 1pm. It was a good thing I didn't sleep. The holding cell behind the courtroom was packed full of fellow detainees. We were shackled for our court appearence. I slept the entire 3 hours we sat in that tiny room.

DONT SLEEP until after your first appearence.

EAT all the food you're given. You'll see the other inmates hoarding little bits of food whereever they can cause these dudes are starving.

Shower. Wear flip flops. When you poop, hang a piece of toliet paper in the door. Don't be a pussy about pooping or showering. Just do it.

You can be nice to the openly gay people but don't chat with them at length. If you are gay, testosterone up a bit and try not to advertise it. This isn't college and gay men don't get a whole lot of respect.

I wouldn't reccomend being a chatty kathy like the author of the article says. Best just to keep your mouth shut.

I would work out like crazy. Do lots of pushups, pullups on the stairs, walk laps. Get your body tired. Believe me there isnt a whole lot else to do. My big fear was not getting out and missing work i/e losing my job. Working out allowed me to sleep to take my mind off that crap.

Actually, collect calling to cell phones is starting to open up with many of the mobile providers. Using 1-800-Call4Less, you can call collect to AT&T, SprintNextel, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Boost and Alltel. Hopefully Verizon Wireless will be available soon.

The downside is often jails will block collect calling altogether in order to convert the billing to prepaid calling, so you may collect to cellphones may be limited depending on which jail.

The Anti-Biotics advice is very true.

Some lock ups, it's actually a good idea to say that you are suicidal as they'll move you to a completely other building. Tell them you have a long history of attempts. If they ask if you feel suicidal, just say: "I always feel like killing myself."

that is the most funny true shit i ever read i just got out from doin two county years lol shit sux

Thats funny, you can only do up to 1 year in county.

Jail varies depending on which Jail you're at.

In Huntsville Metro:

We wear Orange if we're awaiting trial.

Inmates wear Green.

We have multiple cells in each block with a shitter in each, but only one shower, and fuck a shower.

Most of the time the seperate people depending on what they were arrested for (Meaning if you had a DUI you won't be in the same block as "the crazies")

It wouldn't be easy to "escape" Huntsville Metro, but if you applied for work release and removed the ankle bracelet you'd be home-free, but that usually means your serving a few months anyway, so why?

If you're in jail for more than a day either nobody loves you or you really fucked up.

I spent two days in Huntsville Metro until they lifted my hold and I bonded out then tranferred to Limestone County for about a day, then I bonded into Madison County where I was released after about another day.

I was involved in a string of burgaries but I managed to avoid any convictions. : P


I did 7 months in rikers for selling drugs but they moved me to a program and I got out faster. There's really not much to do always say u want ur visits

Best advice is to remain quiet - when asked guilt seeking questions by the officer - shut up - ask for an attorney.

When inprocessing - offer no additional information other than you address, name other vitals - DO NOT get chatty with the guards - yes or no will suffice.

DO NOT get chatty with people you dont know - they could be chimos (pedos, rapers etc) guilt by association is a bitch.

Do not work out unless you have backup and here's why: When you work out you cause your heart to pump much faster getting the blood to vessels that need it - if you are in your mucsles will be tired as well, if you're shanked - mid workout - your blood will pump even faster through the fresh new hole in your body.

This is county - relax - soak up the experience... if you are going to be in a while - best to check out the county prison you'll be in or find out how to get out faster with a prison sentence calculator online.

Eat shit arseholse, I make $404 an hour representing shit like you! Keep up the good work poopers!

haha that food part is too true
cook county bitch toughest jail in the nation!!

Haha. Lmao at Judge Dredd. He has a very good point. As long as criminals keep offending, He gets to keep a job! :P Seriously though, Just stop!

8 hours for PI and now you're writing books about how to survive in prison? Man you didn't even go to prison. Jail is for misdemeanors like PI. Prison is sentences over 1-5 years depending on the state for felonies. I just don't think you have the authority to write about it unless you really served some time. The best way to make it in kail and prisons is keep to yourself, mind your own business, dont take no shit (no matter how bad of an ass whooping you will receive) and last but not least - Don't get into debt! Which is easy to do these days with jails starving you to death. They feed better in prison though so no reason to get in debt for commissary there. If you are on drugs, dont bring your habits into prison, they will gladly credit you some drugs and when they dont receive payment you could get killed, raped or beat very badly.

Having people on the outside to send you commissary money is key too, if you don't have that you don't have anything. I had to serve time twice with no one to help me, was really hard.

Sorry, didn't realize how old this was. But anyway people saying you can only do a year in county for misdemeanors, not anymore. They can stack sentences, at least in TN. I have seen people serve 3 years for misdemeanors. Also most county jails are housing state inmates to get that money so in most places you can serve a 2-10 year sentence right there in county. Which would suck unless you was on work release. Most county jails your locked up in a cellblock or dorm all day and never see the light of day

Why do so many glorify jail/prison? I never thought it was cool to go to jail, I still don't think it's cool, and yes I know many many in prison, some for life, some coming home soon after more than a decade in the system.

I don't like caged, I don't like not being without a woman for more than a week, let alone years, I don't like to depend on other's, I don't want a felony on my record, I want a good job, I am not a follower, so I am responsible.

So why do so many today think it is cool to be a slave (go to prison?) anyone can go to jail/prison, it isn't like it's exclusive club, all you have to do is break the law.
I believe the weak minded go to prison, because they couldn't follow the rules (obey the law) this is not intended for those who were/are wrongfully accused.

Why is it when a person comes home from jail/prison, they think they are tough? lol! Why do they think real woman want them? NOT street chicks, I'm talking about self respecting woman, no one wants a man that waste their time in prison around a bunch of men for years, and comes home and can't get a decent job.

It's time to grow up guy's, jail is not the place to gain respect, school is, get an education and do something with your lives, why is it, felons that come home from prison get more respect that a man going to school or a man in the military? crazy!

Just my rant, we have a whole generation who thinks going to prison, being GANGSTA is cool.

And that is sad.

This was stupid. YO're just a little punk. I did 10 years in state. You're a punk. You would be little buttboy. Little faggot giving advice. When I bash yur head in and skull fuck you, what's your advice then punk boy?