- Say less. When in doubt, say nothing at all. Listening, really listening, will educate you to the lingo and to what’s happening around you.
- Look, but don’t stare. Be mindful of what’s going on around you, without appearing to be paying attention to anything in particular. Don’t look in someone else’s cell — you might see something you don’t want to see.
- Choose your words wisely. Take care. Much weight is placed on what you say and how you say it. Refer back to №1.
- Blend in with your clothes. Be neither the best nor worst dressed. Go for basic colors and clothes, and keep them in good condition. Be mindful of gang colors: red, yellow, blue.
- Stay off the gate when you’re locked in your cell; don’t join the chorus of conversation. You can easily be played for a fool in this forum, and play easily turns to drama.
- Keep your own counsel. Your problems are your own. Most of your peers are dealing with similar issues, so they don’t particularly care about yours. No one in here owes you his time and patience.
- Be mindful of the doors you open — lending, borrowing, giving, and receiving can all lead to unforeseen consequences. Check for any attached strings. Find a few good friends.
- Don’t gamble or use drugs — there’s a sucker at every table, and if you can’t easily pick him out, it’s you.
- You are always on stage in prison, and people-watching (and ear-hustling) is taken very seriously in the land of the perpetually bored.
- More than any other outside influence (peers, staff, prison conditions), you can make life in prison harder on yourself. The time is what you make it. Get past self-pity, take accountability for your actions, and be receptive to good breaks when they come your way. If you’re not careful, prison can ruin you. But this can also be a place where you square yourself away, and actually learn how to live.
Danner Darcleight is serving a 25 year to life sentence in an American prison. His memoir, “Concrete Carnival” is set for release in this month. If you liked this story, please recommend it and share on social media.
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