Prisonology interviews Jay, a former inmate, about his experience in prison and the activities that are available.
Someone's first impression of prison might be that it will be boring. While it takes some getting used to institutional life, there are a number of opportunities to get involved in self-improvement programs available. You will find that most activities are run by the inmates and there are many to choose from.
Get involved. Getting involved in some activity will not only help you adjust but it will also demonstrate to prison staff your ability to engage.
Take it easy in intramural sports. You are not 17 years old anymore and back pains and injuries are more difficult to recover from in prison.
Start off walking, and keep on going. Walking on the prison track is a good way to meet people and preparing yourself for a healthier lifestyle.
Check that “winning” attitude at the door. Many of us want to compete to win, but do not overdo it to the point that you lose your temper. Play for fun and to engage with others.
Teach a class. If you have a skill or some knowledge that you bring, be willing to share it with other inmates. There are all levels of training needed from general knowledge (health) to specialties (finance).
Read as much as you can. You will never have another opportunity to pursue your interests through reading as you will during a prison term.
Write. Like reading, there is never a better time to write down thoughts in a journal or tell your own story.
Interact with people through card games, friendly competition or just walking the track. Get out of the dormitory as much as you can and engage with people.
Join programs and educational activities that are rewarding and have some benefit to life beyond prison.
Keep a log of your activities to make sure you are doing things that are leading to a successful exit from prison.
"There are so many things to actually keep you busy in prison. Obviously, I'm involved in music. Different prisons have different music programs, but YYYYY [Low Security Prison location] has an AWESOME music program. Dozens of instruments and instrument types to pick from. They also offer exercise classes such as spin, abs, jump rope, yoga and even Cross-fit classes. Softball is pretty big as well as football [flag], bocce ball, handball and Volley Ball. I also love working in the Leather Shop. It took me 3 months to get certified and now I'm authorized to order and craft my own leather goods. They also have art classes such as drawing and painting and even crochet. They offer college programs that allow you to get various kinds of degrees as well. I keep EXTREMELY busy and even find it hard to get everything done every day. There is more than enough to keep someone occupied in prison. It just depends on what you’re into. 9 times out of 10 times, the prison has a program for you. I like to think of prison more as a "college for the unfortunate" than a waste of time. If you apply yourself in prison, YOU WILL COME OUT A BETTER PERSON."
"Since this is a large camp [950 men in a prison camp on a military base], there are many activities compared to smaller camps. There are softball, soccer and basketball leagues. We have recreational courts that can be used for tennis. We have 4 racquetball/handball courts. There is a running/walking track. We have a weight pile which isn't very large, but it's adequate (very old and worn down equipment). We have exercise machines such as treadmills, Stairmasters, bikes, etc. Most are in need of repair frequently, but they do work. Some inmates are quite handy at repairing the equipment. We have 4 pool tables, a ping pong table (not many players) and a foosball tables (never seen it used but I'm sure it had its day). There are many TVs that you can watch all night. Just don't expect to be the one who is going to change the channel as there are TV-holics who sit there day and night. We have a very small library. There are educational courses, but they are mostly taught by inmates and aren't worthwhile.
If you are not into playing sports, there are bleachers and you can watch the sports. You can also volunteer and become an umpire or referee. We also have tournaments for all sports every holiday (Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day) and you can win a 6 pack of soda. It's not a trophy but it's something.
We have a movie theater that shows movies every night at 5PM and 7PM. New releases on weekends and older movies during the week. The seats are the most uncomfortable seats imaginable, but they have a big movie screen. Unfortunately a lot of talking goes on during the movies and there isn't much you can do about it other than bring your headphones and listen to the movie being broadest through your fm radio.
We also have a shack called "The Outpost" where you can borrow cleats, uniforms (for sports), chess, backgammon, checkers, Monopoly, Scrabble, etc. by giving them your ID."
"[Camp] has tons of activities all the time. Let’s start with the Recreational Building. There is an auditorium that seats 400 or so with a stage, like a typical high school. There is karaoke singing on Wednesday nights and movies shown Thursday through Sunday. The BOP only shows non-violent movies and sometimes they are pretty good. I just saw Spiderman 2 and Noah.
There are a lot of music classes here from beginner to advanced. Guitar, piano, trumpet, sax, drums ... all offered and they have a nice selection of instruments that inmates can use. Some inmates have formed bands that play on different nights during the week, which is pretty entertaining for all of us.
There is a full size gym where basketball leagues are offered year around. It is extremely competitive and rough ... but fun to watch. Fitness class are scheduled throughout the day; yoga, abs, strength, cardio and spin classes. In the Rec Center there are also additional bikes, treadmills, pool tables, TVs, and card tables where you can always find a card game going on.
There is also a good library here with magazines, books and newspapers of all kinds (USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post). The Education Building has GED classes, typing classes and a number of classes run by inmates. While we are not connected to the Internet, they have some old PCs with Microsoft Office software and they are holding classes on Word, Excel and PowerPoint. I just signed up to teach inmates how to use a PC and some of the software. We also have a career center where inmates can do research on how to write a resume, look for a job and see what kind of jobs are out there.
There are softball games in the spring and summer, a walking track, shuffle board, and outdoor handball/racquetball courts. We even have weights, if you’re into that. Honestly, I have never been bored in the 8 months I have been here and do not foresee that being a problem in the remaining time I have."