Prison is a whole different community. If you want to survive and not get beat up, you need to follow the rules. Some are common sense, but some rules are completely bizarre.
Reddit users explained the basics:
Even if you aren’t racist you gotta stay with your own race.
You don’t whistle. You don’t call anyone a punk. It’s the worst insult. If you borrow something, it’s generally a rule that you payback twice what you’ve taken. You don’t steal, ironically. Don’t talk about what you’re in for. Don’t gamble if you can’t pay your debts. Don’t back down from a challenge. Always make sure a seat isn’t taken before sitting in the cafeteria. Don’t hide in your cell. Keep your cell clean. Don’t be friendly with the guards.
Never talk about your case unless you are out of appeals, because there are specific inmates who will try to learn just a basic understanding of your case, then lie and say you confessed to killing Billy or whatever, sprinkle a few legit details about your case to make it sound legit, and get some time off. This will destroy you in court as you will have no way to prove they are lying. I had one of these guys constantly asking me about my address, my family, all kinds of info, but I had been warned and gave false info so he would discredit himself.
If you make eye contact with someone, don’t look away, but rather look as if your trying to see something behind them.
If someone threatens you for something like graham crackers, don’t give it to them, it’s better to take one potential beating than dozens for forfeiting your food or anything.
Never take the Lord’s name in vein, many inmates turn to God while incarcerated and if you say “Jesus Christ” or something even remotely similar to that you will probably get jumped.
Many prison gangs like artists. This got me through because they wanted tattoos… so the best way to avoid the bulk of chaos is to be a decent artist.
Respect the cup, bowl, spork, or other item used as a microwave line place holder.
Riots or fights can break down by race real quick. Be prepared to have a friend beat the crap out of you or beat the shit out of a friend or get as far away from the fight/riot as possible.
In preparation for count if your cellie or bunkie is screwing around or about to screw up the count it’s your responsibility to ensure this does not happen. Everyone will give you crap for not keeping track of your cellie/bunkie.
The barber shop is not free. Yes the barbers are paid for cutting hair, but commissary items (3 to 5 dollars worth) is expected and the barber will tell you what to get for them.
Pay all debts as soon as possible. The longer you wait to pay for something the less trustworthy you seem.
Scrabble, chess, and dominoes are serious games. Either be good, get better, or lose horribly.
Do not isolate yourself and do not associate with just one group and be careful who you hang out with. Via proximity many assumptions will be made about you, but generally they will be bad.
If you see a group beating a sex offender to death you join in or else you will be labeled a sympathizer and get beat to death too at some point soon.
If you need to take a crap, hold it until the morning. Do not stink up the cell! Seems obvious but you’d be surprised how many people wouldn’t think twice about this – I mean when you got to go you got to go but have a bit of sense.
We all had an unspoken agreement that we wouldn’t contact each other one we were released. Around a year after my release I bumped into a guy I had gotten on with reasonably well with and we both sort of pretended to not see each other and went our separate ways. I like to think it’s because our gang/clique were all relatively decent guys who didn’t want to be reminded of our time being locked up.
Always have one leg outside your pants when taking a dump. Then if anyone attacks you your legs aren’t shortleashed together…
Always get a job in the kitchen if you can – it’s the best place to work.
Once I got transferred to working in the kitchen, we ate amazing food every day. Bacon, scrambled eggs, homefries, french toast, pancakes, etc for breakfast. Chicken fingers, chicken parm, veal, rigatoni, home-made bacon cheeseburgers and fries for lunch and dinner. Homemade cookies and brownies for desert. We ate like champs while the rest of the facility ate the garbage state food. It was the best part about being locked up.
DO NOT ACCEPT ANY GIFT WHATSOEVER. It will not be free.
Don’t crap in the wrong toilet. It’s disgusting and unimaginable, but offenders get really weird about their toilets, especially those who’ve been in solitary. Basically, most offenders have had to wash their clothes in the toilet. When there is more than one toilet, one is reserved for clothes washing and the other for crapping. No joke.
More tats means more rights. Walking through a door along side someone with say a full face of tats you should take one step slower so they pass you.
If you ever get into a fight, do not hit below the waist.
Also, if someone asks you why you’re there the safest answer to give is that you stole a moderately expensive car. Most other answers will at least leave 1 person hating you.
No self exposition. Don’t talk about your personal preferences or habits. Keep your life outside to yourself.
Don’t shower before 11 AM (gives people time to sleep) unless you have court.
If you’re unwilling to resort to physical means to be reimbursed for something, don’t lend anything. This will result in many of your possessions being stolen.
Never give your opinion to anyone unless asked directly, then lie based on what they were previously discussing.