How to Cope With Prison

Written by erin watson-price
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How to Cope With Prison
Prison is a harsh environment that is not designed to be comfortable. (prison image by Albert Lozano from

If you know you are going to be incarcerated, the best way to prepare is to contact a prison coach or a former inmate for advice and guidance. Prison is a harsh environment that is not designed to be comfortable, accommodating or forgiving. Your life will be strictly regulated — from meals and exercise time to access to people and technology. The majority of your day will be spent inside a small cell with little to no activity, so it is crucial to prepare your mind and body for isolation and possible assault.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Behave confidently. When entering prison and throughout your stay, do not display any signs of weakness. Walk tall, speak without hesitation and keep mind you own business. Other inmates and guards may look for signs of weakness they can exploit.

  2. 2

    Relinquish the idea of privacy. You will most likely spend your days trapped in a small room with one or more inmates. Guards will frequently inspect your cell, your personal belongings and your body for contraband. Prison life is noisy, filled with loud conversations and competing radios.

  3. 3

    Learn and practice relaxation techniques. If you are religious, you may find solace in prayer. Meditation could even provide you with the peace of mind and the mental strength to cope with prison life.

  4. 4

    Avoid dependency. Playing cards or board games with other inmates is an acceptable activity when permitted. However, avoid gambling, as this may create debt, and you may not be able to determine the method of payment. Likewise, avoid drug and cigarette use, as well as overly friendly associations with other inmates. Such relationships could be potentially dangerous.

  5. 5

    Be aware of both rule sets. There are written prison rules and there are unspoken prison rules among the inmates and often among the inmates and the guards. These rules may not be fluid, and their enforcement can be erratic. It's best to avoid any action that could be construed as improper.

  6. 6

    Maintain physical health. Take advantage of available exercise time. Not only will you remain physically healthy, but exercise can also provide an emotional release. A fit appearance can present a strong front to other inmates and curb bullying.

  7. 7

    Keep busy and make the most of your time. Many prisons have a library, so read often and on various subjects to keep your mind occupied and sharp. Write letters to family and friends. Some prisons may offer jobs — like kitchen work, yard work or custodial duties — and therapy sessions or religious services provide a stable environment to interact with other inmates.

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