Makin’ Friends in Prison
May 18 2012
Human beings undergo megatons of unnatural shit in thee ol’ clink-clink. The socialization process is too hot to handle for an anti-social misanthrope like myself. There is a general misconception that most convicts are locked up in cells—that would be too fortunate for us and probably cost a ridiculous amount of money. New York had a jumpstart on imprisoning ludicrous amounts of non-violent offenders thanks to the Rockefeller drug laws, but the prison-industrial complex busted a huge stinky nut nationwide in the late 80s when the War on Drugs climaxed, leading to the state building an asscum-dickload of “cookie-cutter” medium security prisons with a 60-man-to-a-dorm setup. There are 35 mediums and only a few minimums left with the dorm setups, and then 14 max security spots where the majority are housed in single or bunked cells. Most of New York’s prisoners might as well get real comfy with multitudinous eyes spying on them all day and all night for years on end. Occasionally, the lack of privacy made me feel like a crazy man as I tried to balance maintaining friendships while still finding time to myself.
Generally, my policy is to act like a dick and stick to myself. My first few months in a new dorm or jail usually go the fastest, ‘cause no one bothers me and I just do my shit: read, write, work out, eat, get money, and sleep. I get into a somewhat enviable lifestyle like I’m at a Yaddo retreat, until the boredumb kicks in. Inevitably, one day I’ll drink too much coffee or have a momentary lack of discipline and talk to someone, possibly even makin’ a “friend.” I have made a few good friends in prison, stayed in touch with a few, and truthfully like them better in the real world than behind bars. In jail, I’m almost too uncomfortable to really take a friendship seriously. Regardless, once I make a “friend,” I’m likely to get involved in gambling, drugs, or some other illicit shit that I don’t necessarily wanna be doing.
One problem is that 75 percent of dudes in prison are dead fuckin’ broke. Lots of folks are so desperate that they’ll act like they’re your best friend just so they can saunter up to your cube and ask you for a crackhead soup (ramen noodle) every night. Or even worse, EVERY fuckin’ morning when I wake up all grumpasaurus mex, some slaphappy cockbreathed heathen wants coffee, sugar, AND creamer. Give thanks to Baby Jesus I didn’t smoke in there ‘cause the way these dick-faced knuckle-jobs bum cigarettes is truly uncanny. It always gets my knickers in a knot that people with no money still feel that they should be able to enjoy life’s luxuries like cigs, coffee, and sugar… but, hey, that’s what “friends” are for, according to a certain breed of lowlife. At times, I felt like an arrogant prick in prison, but for the most part, I wouldn’t befriend more than one or two broke dudes. I was cool with having a couple charity cases at any given time, but it can get overwhelming fast once you open that door.
Possibly my biggest problem with prison friendships is the lack of freedom I am allotted in the arrangement. Por ejemplo, if I have a friend in the dorm with me, there is a decent chance we will see entirely too much of each other. It’s 24-7, for real. Even roommates in college, or husbands and wives, still manage to get away sometimes, but not in jail. You might end up spending years with the same person as neighbors without a door, or even a curtain. Personally, I find it maddening, but, then again, I’m a huge fan of some alone time. Even if you have a friend not in your dorm, now there is an expectation that every time that you go out to recreation period you’ll be chillin’ with him or that group of people. If you stray and go do something else, lots of these guys are sensitive, or kinda possessive in a weird way. The white guys especially hated it if I happened to hang out with a black guy or a Hispanic guy. They really get paranoid and project some sort of traitorous intent on my character. It really is easier sometimes to simply not make any friends.
I like having choices. In the real world, if I feel like going out and hangin’ with Jabbar that’s awesome, and if I don’t feel like dealing with Jabbar’s over-boisterousness, then I can decide to just talk philosophy with Fancy Steve. But in jail, if I find a workout partner, now I’m obligated to work out with him every rec period… I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be in the real world, too, so I can’t complain about that too much. Still, sometimes I don’t wanna work out and these guys take it like a serious dis if you bail on gettin’ money with them even just one time. Prison friendships are so strenuous.
It’s difficult to navigate the field of friends in the slammajamma. The worst thing to do is let people decide that you are their friend. This used to happen to me more, ‘cause I wasn’t very good at being a dick. Some guys (usually creepy and white) might be really mega-lonely so they see a new guy come in the dorm and they try to make friends. Pretty soon, they’re trying to play cards every night, or even worse just hanging out at your cube talking, showing you pictures, and all sortsa other shit you couldn’t care less about. Anyone who’s been in a college dorm environment has probably seen this type of thing where somebody just becomes a hanger-on, and they’re not really a bad person, but you’re never really elated when they come around. For me, that’s 90 percent of dudes in prison that attempt to befriend me. Now I feel like an elitist asshole, but, seriously, finding friends in jail is kinda like baggin’ bitches at the STD clinic—not too savvy.
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