What Jail Taught Me


It doesn’t matter who you think you are or pretend to be. When you go in, all the layers of your being are ruthlessly torn off and you are left alone to witness the demise of your fragile ego.

It’s a rude awakening the first time you go in. My initial reaction was…

“How could I be so stupid?!

It is inevitable that no matter how strong you are and how fast you are, there is only one you and plenty of them. Fighting will only make matters worse and you can run but you can’t hide forever. Once you’re behind bars, resistance is futile and before you know it, you’re shooting dice on the cell block and trading two percent milk for hard boiled eggs to minimize the physical atrophy you will surely experience.

Luckily for most people they don’t make it any further than the mass holding cells where everybody is herded into when they first arrive. You have the privilege of making a limited amount of phone calls so you can make bail. If your alleged offense is of a more serious nature then you may have to wait a while, sometimes weeks and in some not all too uncommon cases months before there’s any chance of getting back out.

Normally it takes about 48 hours to be processed and classified. After trading your personal belongings in for a jump suit and velcro shoes you are escorted by deputy sherifs in a single file line to your assigned cell block. Welcome to your first day of school. Get your pen and paper ready.

I was confined in Fairfax County, Virginia in the Adult Detention Center.

Two person cell

There’s worse places imaginable than jail. Once you become accustomed to the daily routine honestly, jail isn’t isn’t a far cry from any other routine. The only difference is you no longer decide when you feel like having some fresh air and you’re not having sex.

This is the typical schedule at Fairfax ADC

4am- Breakfast

5am- Recreation/Laundry

8:30am- Inspection

11am- Lunch

4:30- Dinner

10am- Lights out

So as you can see there’s plenty of time throughout the day to think.

If you’re not the pondering type you can gamble, read, write, watch reruns of The Fresh Prince and wait until it’s time to eat again. If you’re lucky, you have an opportunity to earn the status of trustee which means you get to work to pay the rent (inmates pay two dollars every day for as long as their sentence lasts)

I spent my time meditating, reading, writing, exercising and cursing the gods for cursing me. During my confinement I fell in love with the work of Hunter S. Thompson. I was dumbfounded that the jail would carry such literary gems but nonetheless I was delighted when I got my hands on The Hell’s Angels. I also had the pleasure to ingest The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, another book that I drew inspiration from.

Spending nearly a whole year in jail gave me plenty to wonder about and definitely shook me for better or for worse. One thing is certain however; the agony and bewilderment of falling in a trap with no possibility of escape will not cease to torment you. You become acutely aware of time. One week in jail might feel like eternity while seven months may feel like only hours have gone by.

“Looking back the most difficult part wasn’t waiting to be released, it was, what the hell am I going to do when I get out?”

I’m definitely not the same person I was before I went in. I’d say I’m a little rougher around the edges and less sympathetic. Jail taught me that freedom is a state of mind. Whether you’re locked up and carrying out your sentence or work a nine to five, your attitude will vastly determine your experience.

There are prison inmates that appear to be more free than someone on the other side of the barbed wired fence, nervously chewing on their finger nails, barely able to manage their life as they become inundated with the monotony of a prefabricated existence.

It’s a tad ironic when your liberty is taken from you you are then given plenty of time to reevaluate your actions and beliefs. For some people jail is a form of punishment. For me it was a time to decide what kind of person I truly wanted to be. Now I am deliberately working on becoming that person. A fighter and a lover. The best I can be.


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