Abby Lee Miller is going to prison. How is she going to survive behind bars, especially being a wealthy celebrity who is going to get a lot of attention from the other inmates?
Even in minimum-security prison (which is where Miller, whose crimes were non-violent, white-collar crimes, will undoubtedly go), there are rules that need to be followed. There are, of course, the written rules that govern the prison, handed down from the warden and his or her superiors in the prison’s management. But equally important are the unwritten rules that the inmates expect each other to follow. Disobeying those rules could get you ostracized by the other inmates or, in extreme cases, either exploited or killed.
Orange Is The New Black It Isn’t
If you think the popular Netflix series Orange Is The New Black is an accurate representation of life in a federal minimum-security women’s prison, you’d be wrong.
— Masergy (@MASERGY) May 5, 2017
The show is a fictionalized interpretation of Piper Kerman’s book of the same name, which has far less sex and violence and focuses mostly on the dull, repetitive, day-to-day degradation that prisoners face. The ordeals prisoners face include the fact that you’re not a person, you’re a number, incessant head counts, horrible food, and the day in, day out drudgery of doing the same thing every day for months on end. In other words, Abby should expect fewer sex-fueled, wacky shenanigans and more mopping, doing nothing, and being counted.
The Written Rules: Keep Your Nose Clean And You May Be OK
All of that sex in OITNB is fictional. Speaking to Vanity Fair, Cleary Wolters, who was the real-life inspiration for Piper’s love interest, Alex Vause, makes it clear that sex in prison is a no-no.
Mais Cleary Wolters et Alex Vause svp!? Elle est ou la ressemblance là?! pic.twitter.com/3YUJuODTf8
— Yennefer (@PinkBauwtie) October 2, 2015
And while it happens, it doesn’t happen nearly as frequently as the Netflix series would have you believe. What’s more, guards police the prison pretty thoroughly for that sort of thing and getting caught can get you sent to a higher-security prison. That’s something most minimum-security inmates aren’t willing to risk.
Other written rules carry less severe punishments for violating them, according to Prison Fellowship. These include losing commissary privileges, being denied good jobs, and being given extra work. Miller would do well to memorize the rule book she’s given and follow it to the letter.
The Unwritten Rules: Respect Rules The Day
The most important tool you need to get by in prison, says Prison Path author Bradley D. Schwartz, is respect. Treating another prisoner with disrespect can get you killed. Don’t stare. Don’t touch another prisoner. Don’t touch their belongings or go into their “home” without their permission. Don’t talk about a prisoner to other prisoners.
- Do not snitch (tell on another inmate). Not ever.
- Do not talk to or trust the guards. If you must talk to a guard, yell so other inmates hear what you’re saying and don’t conclude that you’re snitching.
- Do not buy, sell, loan, borrow, give as a gift, or accept as a gift, anything, ever.
- Don’t gamble. “It can be money or food won, but you still have to personally collect it from the losing inmate. What do you do, if the losing inmate refuses to pay you? If you do not collect your winnings, the other inmates will see that you are easy meat. If you fight, you may be facing several of his friends and their shanks [homemade knives].”
- Don’t buy drugs, sell drugs, or use drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes. It’s against the written rules, and there are too many pitfalls in the prison contraband trade. If you had a drug or alcohol problem going into prison, make use of the 12-step programs available to prisoners.
- Don’t draw attention to yourself. If you’re seen as wealthy, as a troublemaker, or of anyone else who an inmate can use to their advantage (or take revenge on), you’ll be a target for possible exploitation and violence.
In other words, keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. Keep your head down. Obey the rules, mind your own business, use the time to better yourself (perhaps catch up on reading, or learn a new skill, like a foreign language), do your time quietly, and you will probably emerge from prison more-or-less unscathed.
[Featured Image by sakhorn38/Thinkstock]