What’s It Like Inside?

By Texas Magnum

There are reality shows about being in prison and even a couple about being in county jail. The outside world can get an idea of how the dorm-style rooms are set up, how the toilet is stainless steel and how everyone hangs around, watching TV. But, there are just so many things you don’t think about or imagine until you are here.

Different county jails have different rules in place, but as for the one I am in waiting to transfer to prison, here are a few things you might find surprising.

We have lights out at midnight and we are woken up at 4:00. Breakfast is at 4:30. Because of this, pretty quickly you get used to eating breakfast and going back to sleep again right afterward. Our beds are bunk style, lined up all around the room. Most everyone spends a lot of time sleeping, trying to pass the time.

We eat, sleep, shower, use the restroom, and stay in this one room all the time, except for our rec time once a week and our 20 minute visitation twice a week, if we are lucky enough to get a visitor. I usually have 1 visitor a week.

All we get to drink is milk, 3 times a day with our meals, and tap water that is room temperature. I like drinking water, as a general rule, when I was outside I drank it a lot. And, lucky for me, I like milk. But I would pay a lot for a Dr. Pepper right now. Just something that wasn’t room temperature would be great.

It’s very cold. They keep the AC cranked way down in county. This is supposedly because it is better for the typical over-nighter in the drunk tank, and also to keep fighting down and disease down. You get used to it after awhile. When I got here I had no underwear, t-shirt or shoes on, just shorts and flip flops. Those items aren’t issued so I had to spend the first 2 weeks with the same jumpsuit on and no underwear, t-shirt or socks. I was miserable, cold and I smelled bad. I had to wait for someone to deposit money into my commissary so I could buy myself underwear, t-shirts, socks, and deodorant. These items are not handed out freely to inmates.

It’s very boring. At this county jail we get 20 minutes of “rec” one day a week. That means we are brought to a room with an open roof, so we can see the sky, and we can walk around. There is no sort of equipment to exercise with or anything to do but at least you can see the sky and it’s a change of scenery from the room we live in 24/7. Personally, I am doing push-ups and sit-ups in my area to keep my strength up and try to stay healthy. The meals are OK but they are high fat, and boring, and not a lot of variety or green stuff. I can buy chips and candy in the commissary. We place our order then some days later get our stuff for the week. The prices for chips and candy are about what they would be outside.

We also are not allowed to own playing cards, chess pieces or other such things. There is a book cart of donated books that comes around and we can choose something off of it. Sometimes it is pretty slim pickings. I can have a bible and a rosary, which is given to me. I can also have up to 4 photos that are sent to me. They have to be real photos, not ones printed on the computer.

My family cannot send me books, or any printed items off of the computer or any printed documents. They can not order me books via amazon or other sites like this. Once I am in TDC I will be able to get books ordered for me, and I can receive printed information from the internet. I think this is going to be much better. I also think that chess games and card games are allowed in TCD, although of course, gambling isn’t. I haven’t heard music since coming here, and I think that in TDC I can get a radio through commissary. I think this is a privilege you have to earn over time, not right away. It would be awesome to hear the radio.

Most fights break out over the TV. We have one TV and most of the shows are crap, like soap operas and game shows, but tensions run high over the TV and what is on it. It’s very loud almost all the time. Everyone talks loud and the TV is loud. Every minute here is long, but somehow the days go by. I can’t believe I have already been here over 3 months. The time stretching ahead of me seems like an eternity but I know it will pass.

  1. LIz` says:

    Looking at a cancelled bond, have some questions before I go back. Can I take a Big Book or will it be available in the library, and where do you store items when you are in the cell? Only spent one night in before bond but it wasn’t too bad at all. Do they let you keep your bra if it is white no underwire? I can get one before I go. What about socks?

    • LIz` says:

      I don’t have a lawyer yet or a court date. They said it could be 5 months to a year before I get a court date and can’t afford a bond.

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Hey Liz, you can wear in your white bra, with no underwire. And you can wear in socks. You could wear double socks to give you an extra pair. In my experience, they keep county extra cold so I suggest you consider wearing a t-shirt over your bra as well. A woman is allowed a t-shirt. A friend of mine wore in thermals to keep warm. It’s not a bad idea. You won’t be able to bring the Big Book but you should be able to get your hands on one once you are there, they usually have a book cart but it can be pretty slim pickings. Or have someone send you one. Books are one of the few items you can receive in prison but you would have to check if you can receive them at the county jail you report in to. Good luck and peace ~ Magnum

  2. Mike says:

    To all going and coming ,
    Heading for my 2 yrs for a victimless crime . Don’t sleep drunk on the side of the road in Texas. State jail sucks gonna wind up their on a 2 yr charge probably be there 11 months because of my time already in county. Probation is invasive and I am sick of being Texas’ whore. I am gonna do mine and bounce from a once great state. To hell with this place and it’s over compensated penalties.

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Hey Mike, sorry to hear about that. Probation was not something I did good with myself. I agree Texas can be shitty when it comes to incarceration but other than that, I got to say I like it. I think I’m sticking here. Good luck to you, man. Keep your cool. Peace ~ Magnum

  3. nynh says:

    Sorry to hear that you’re locked up in Texas. I’ve never been locked up myself, but I am facing a possible criminal charge where I may do at least a couple of months in county. Have no idea who I’m going to get through it if I get brought up on charges and convicted. Thanks for posting this, it gives me a sense of what to expect.

    I think the worst thing would be running out of toilet paper. I can deal with loud all day long, but I need my TP.

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Hey Nynh, I am now free, no longer locked up. I have been out for over 4 years now, freedom is great, and my plan is to never return. So far, so good. I am sorry to hear you are facing some trouble. Hopefully you will not get time, you could get probation if it’s a first time charge and not overly serious. If you do some time, make sure a family member or friend gets some money put on your commissary account right away and keeps you hooked up with funds for the duration, that way you can make sure you got your TP. Good luck to you and peace ~ Magnum

  4. I been down THREE times plus did a year in the county, all in Florida. Texas and Florida have similar criminal justice systems. I did my time for possession and driving while suspended, BIG BIG crime in Florida…WARNING: DO NOT DRIVE WITHOUT A LICENSE IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA.

    Been out since 2007, moved to Texas, and now doing Outreach and harm reduction to prostitutes and sex workers.

    ANY type of jail is no way to live, but no playing cards in county??? WOW, that’show I stayed out of trouble, Spades 24/7

    Good Luck everyone and Hit me up if you are or know someone in the sex industry, we are a human rights based org, meaning, “it’s your body do what you want with it”

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Hey Sherry, thanks for your note. Sounds like you are doing well now on the outside. Keep up the good works. Peace to you ~ Magnum

  5. Godfather says:

    I spent 19 years in prison. Been out for 6 wasca model inmate. Now I report 4 times a year! Freedom is a gift every day is freedom when i am free out here.

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Hey Godfather, freedom is a gift indeed. Glad to hear you are living the good life on the right side of things. Feels good, doesn’t it? I’m enjoying this life of freedom as well. Keep it up and peace to you ~ Magnum

  6. kimberly says:

    My fiance is in bcounty jail awaiting sentencing on two felonies…dui number 6…yep 6…and family violence impeading breath circulation on a minor child..choking my son in his sleep…yea again…anyway this is number3 he was in prison 2 times before for dui…and arrested a few times for family violence and i believe even one agravated sex charge that was dismissed…anyway he tells me he will be out in 18 months will i wait for him…i am 48..so is he…he is being offered 2 10 year sentences..he has been in county 5 months…do you believe it is possible he could be out in 18 nmonths? also he wants me to put 6grand on his tdc account for supposedly a good parole attorney so he can come home to me..hmmm i wonder if that is true and also can you even deposit that kind of money …i would think it could be considerd illegal for many reasons

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Hi Kimberly, I don’t know which county jail your fiance is in, but I am pretty sure almost all of them have a dollar limit for what can be put on an inmate’s books and it’s much less than $6000. If you call the jail where he is, they will be able to provide you with that information. I think that it might be more typical for you to just go pay the attorney yourself on behalf of your fiance.

      I feel inclined to ask if you have thought over what is in the best interest of you and your family? If you do happen to have that kind of cash on hand, it’s a lot to spend on a lawyer to help someone who has hurt your child, and who has a history of previous similar incidents. Have you and your family received counseling about the assault? Have you tried going to Al-Anon or another support group for those in relationships with alcoholics? It might be helpful for you to give it a try. Has your fiance shown some interest in learning more about his past behavior and making changes in his life to avoid future episodes like this?

      Before making any decisions about money and lawyers, and about waiting while he does his time, I would ask yourself what your expectations are about your fiance and the future you and your children will have with him. Do you have reason to believe he is going to do things differently this time around?

      Regarding the time your fiance will have to server, I don’t know if 18 months is a realistic expectation regarding your fiance’s sentencing and time served. If a lawyer or other inmates are telling him it is a sure thing, they are just guessing as well. There are many variables including the fact that he is serving time for an offense he has previously been incarcerated for. That sometimes means they are not so quick to parole. I have always heard that parole lawyers are not worth the money, and an inmates behavior and attitude while incarcerated as well as a good parole plan will go further towards his parole being granted than a lawyer will. But, when we are in bad circumstances, we all like to think a good lawyer can fix our troubles, so I understand that.

      Best luck to you and your family Kimberly, hope it all works out and keep us posted. Take care ~

    • elisabeth says:

      he choked your son, why is he still your fiance?

    • curious person says:

      Why would you consider letting a person who choked your child return to your life after they get out of prison? I personally would be knocking someone’s door down and you would have to tie me up to keep me from physical altercation if someone attempted to kill my child (which is what impeading breath circulation does by the way)…..Please find help for yourself.

    • Anonymous says:

      I do believe he will u know all the time he has been in jail counts towards how many ever yeara they decide to give him personally my brother just got sentenced to 5 years for family violence and impeding breath circulation we heard the same thing 2-10 years in prison but the day he was sentence they said 10 all off a sudden our lawyer spoke with DA and he got 5 yearss.. My brother decided it wasnt a good idea to try the case …he pled guilty is the best thing that can be done if he tries the case the jurora might even give him 10 yrs for each case. They can even reopen the case that was dismissed …juat a heada up ok good luck we are waiting for my brother to be transfered to prison from a county jail…

  7. Emily says:

    thank you for your insite. My brother in law just recieved life after a year of horrible waiting for a wrongfully accused crime of his pissed of 12 year old…. Good men are put in there everyday. Im on the ouside and batter with withdraw from opiots.. Im only on week two so you got me :). thank you and tell them they need more tosh.o!!!

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Congratulations on 2 weeks off of opiates, you can stick with it, and it is worth it. I am sorry to hear of your brother in law’s sentence. Another good reason to stay strong, as support for the other members of your family who need you.

  8. rick says:

    I was at gurney for almost two years its hot as being in the middle of the Sinai desert august. The warden or the co’s don’t care about the offenders. Don’t give up on the hopes for AC in the prisons.I spent seven years in that hell hole Texas calls rehabilitation.

  9. SoulGardener says:

    Why is it that county jail inmates are only allowed to attend religious services once every 3 weeks?

  10. Amy Lynn says:

    If you are going to Montgomery County Jail – yes they will let you shower daily. You have a weekly towel exchange as well as a weekly uniform exchange. Wear a white bra with no underwire when you are admitted so you will be permitted to keep it, as well as white underwear, white socks, a white thermal undershirt and a white t-shirt. These are all things you will not be issued and you will want to have. They provide you with a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a bar of soap when you are processed. Once inside, if you cannot order shampoo and such on commissary, you can order an indigent commissary pack on Tuesday. The code on the form is 8900 if I am not mistaken. Get to know some of the women in your tank; if you do not have certain items they are going to be your saving grace. I was training to be a massage therapist so I traded back rubs for different things I couldn’t get because I didn’t have any money on my books for commissary. All the pods or tanks are different; the one I was housed in had 12 bunk beds totaling 24 women. There were 3 stainless steel toilets and two showers. You can shower at any time except for rack down at 10:30 pm – 4:30 am. Breakfast is at 4:30am and you can go back to sleep after that. You may not be under your blanket until 9:00pm and you must rack out at 9:00am and make your bed, but you may go back to sleep on top of your blanket. I slept under my little towel. You have to wash your own undergarments, so make sure you order some detergent on commissary or use your shampoo. You have to hang these things out to dry – there are hooks on the side of the bunks. If they provide opportunities to go to church, go. It’s a nice change of pace and it can be very healing. Also, write to the chaplain on a request form so you can request a Bible and a Christian book. Put in a rec form request to go to the library. If you go to the law library, you will see all the books available but you won’t be able to take any of them with you. However, you will be able to pick up legal documents at the law library. I filed for a divorce while in jail, and it only costs $1. You can also get very inexpensive dental work done while in jail but they take it from your commissary. I think the most expensive thing I saw was an extraction that cost $20. The only drawback – they do not give you narcotic pain relief, only an ibuprofen 800. Weigh the pros and cons. If you can afford to get decent dental care when you get out, I would do it. If not, go ahead and get it taken care of. There is not much to do while you are in there. I occupied my time working out, reading the Bible and writing to my loved ones. They don’t give you much food, so commissary is vital. If you don’t get commissary, your best bet will be asking people who do not finish their cornbread or rolls to give them to you and save them for later. Bread tends to fill the gaps. Breakfast is at 4:30am, lunch is around noon and dinner is usually 6pm. This can make the night time very difficult to bear, knowing that your next meal is over 10 hours away. I slept a lot. Anyway, I hope this answers some of your questions. Keep your cool while you’re in there. Get chummy with the women who get a lot of commissary so they will share with you. A lot of the women there made ‘spread’ which is a mixture of ramen noodle soup and whatever leftovers they had from lunch or dinner, plus a packet of chili or whatever is on hand. They would put it in a bowl and spoon it over crackers. It’s not too bad (wouldn’t eat it on the outside) but it would be a major bummer when they were making it and wouldn’t share any. You don’t want to be the person always begging for people to share, but if you are friends with them they will usually pass some your way. Remember, if you have something extra, always trade it for something else, whether it is a cup of coffee or extra paper. If you see someone in need, help them out. It will come back to you. When I left I gave my extra items to a girl that came in who was in my same situation with no commissary. It made me feel good to know that she would have some items to help her be more comfortable than I was. Good luck to you, I hope it turns out well.

  11. Richard says:

    Don’t worry Magnum, I was in TDCJ for 13 years. You’ll get the hang of it and before you know it things will smooth out and you’ll catch yor stride. You seem pretty intelligent, so I doubt you’ll have many problems. Most of the drama on the inside involves idiots, icluding both inmates and officers. There’s really only one cardinal rule inside: MIND YOUR BUSINESS. What qualifies as being “your business” are boundries you will determine along the way. I wish u peace bro.

  12. Jesse says:

    Hey Magnum,

    It’s great to see such a good post. I have a feeling I’ll be spending some time in Montgomery soon for a probation violation. I’m worried sick about it, but at least it’s nice to have an idea of what’s it’s like before I go.

    If you’re still available, maybe you could answer a few questions for me. Do they let you take a shower every day? What about brushing your teeth? How often do you get your laundry done? How often are there fights and what can you do if someone starts one with you, besides getting in trouble for fighting back?

    • Editor says:

      Hey Jesse,

      This is the Editor, I will forward your questions on to Texas Magnum. He has to get this stuff and reply via snail-mail! I am sorry to hear you are going through this. You will make it just fine though. I think the worry beforehand is one of the worse aspects of this situation. How long will you be looking at?

      I will tell you what he has told me, in regard to your questions. He says it is not anything like what you think it is going to be like. In some regards better and other regards worse. The food is bad, and it’s very boring. I do believe in Texas he is allowed to shower daily and to brush his teeth daily. The laundry is weekly I believe, but my understanding is MANY inmates do their own clothes in the toilet tank. Gross right? But apparently that is what they do. And, in fact, you will find once in that various inmates have various services they offer, laundry being one, and you can trade commissary items or magazines you have or something like that for getting your clothes washed if you want them done more regularly. Regarding fights, well, of course avoid them, but I am sending you an email on that.

      I also want to mention that there is a site out there called http://www.prisontalk.com. There is a GREAT forum with sections on everything you can imagine. You can find the appropriate state and sections for yourself there and get a TON of good information. If you have family members that will be waiting for you outside, they will also really find that site helpful. It has a family support section that I have found to be extremely helpful and informative. It has been a lifeline for me.

      Also, if you have a family member that can send you a little money in commissary it will help you, to buy necessities like toothpaste and deodorant and even a snack now and then. Magnum can receive books ordered for him from Amazon, including used ones, which saves a lot of money. This helps the time go buy. I am not sure what the rules are in Montgomery but probably you can also get books and magazines sent.

      Try not to worry too much. I know that is easier said than done. I will send your questions to Magnum and email you with his direct responses.
      Take care ~ Editor

  13. Lewis says:

    You call this doing time for the crime. It will make you think the next time, maybe!!!!!! Keep your nose clean and you’ll be out soon. Hope you don’t do something dumb and end up back in there. God bless you

  14. smitty1935 says:

    1 st. time here, been on Prison Talk and they made it almost impossible to sign in, I decided to try this place. Have a son in Tx prison, he has been in and out for 19 years of his life. I am in my 70’s and it’s hard to know I probably won’t be alive by the time he gets out. enjoyed reading some of your messages. smitty

    • Editor says:

      Hi Smitty, I am the Editor and a family member of Texas Magnum who helps him post to this blog. I wanted to thank you for your comment and also say that I also visit Prison Talk and I have found it to be a GREAT source for the family members of incarcerated people. I am sorry to hear that you had trouble registering because I think that if you can figure it out, you will really find some great support on that site. Most especially, there is a section called “Parents of those Incarcerated” which is VERY good. I would be happy to help you register if you would like. Just send me back a message and I will try to help you with it.

    • Sany says:

      I can’t speak for everybody. Every pesorn’s experience is unique. I was married to a military man for seven years. Those were the worst years of my life. He was an arrogant, overly religious, self-righteous, and controlling. His life revolved around religion and military image. I would like to give you an insight some of the abuse I endured at the hands of my ex-husband then tell you about the life I have with my new husband.My military ex-husband controlled every aspect of my life. If I wanted to have friends, they had to fit into this criterion: female, Christian, married, and what he considered “moral”. I was not allowed to have friends that were male, homosexual (male or female), unmarried, non-Christian, or anybody he felt would “corrupt” me or “immoral.”While we lived overseas in Europe, he did not allow me to own a vehicle or have my own monies. (For those who are not familiar with policies overseas. Dependent family members are not allowed to own / register a vehicle, rent apartments, renew / obtain military dependent ID, obtain employment, or any legal / official duties without a power of attorney and the active duty member’s military orders.) I wanted to work. I have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing but could not utilize my degree. He refused to give me the proper documentation in order to obtain employment. When I disobey or “was bad” he made me walk without food, water, or money (to buy food or water). I did not report him because I did not want to ruin his career. Every day was a nightmare. He criticized me in every way. The bulk of his insults were directed to my intellect and my spirituality, “I can’t believe a pesorn as ignorant as you has a degree. You don’t deserve it. Agnostic people are not moral enough to make good medical decisions. They lack morals and compassion. They should never be allowed any degree.” After seven years of this abuse, I left and returned home to Las Vegas. I was told that an old friend of mine was in prison for for burglary and drug charges. My first thought was “he can’t be worst than my ex-husband.” I wrote his a letter and the relationship started from there. When he was released from prison, he and I were married. He went back to school and worked as a janitor. Within three years of his release, he obtained an Associates of Arts in general studies. After obtaining his degree, he began working with trouble youths. At the moment, he is waiting to be accepted into any university. He told me, “Even if I can’t get into a university to get my bachelors, I have a great life and a great job.” Because of his past it’s difficult. I admire his dedication to change. He went from being a felon to a college graduate. I went back to school and specialized in pediatrics. We have had good time and bad times. The most important thing is to support each other. When we have a problem, we talk about it and resolve it. We do not use name calling, hitting, or any type of abuse to control or end an argument. My husband compliments me on the smallest accomplishment. He supports me 100% in all my endeavors. He does not criticize or attempt to control me.I can have friends without fear of being abused. In fact, all my friends and colleagues love him. He accepts and loves me as I am. His love and support has given me the courage and strength to pursue my goals without hindrance.Be advised, not all people released from prison are ready to dedicate the time and effort necessary to change. It is wise to examine any relationship. Relationships formed on the outside can be just as or more destructive / abusive than prison-started relationships. It is my pesornal belief that not all bad people are in prison. My ex-husband was a religious-law-abiding military man and he abused me worst than a convicted felon. Any pesorn can be abusive, not just convicted felons!Hope this helps.

  15. Cindy says:

    I know when my sweetie was in TDCJ he was able to purchase a radio but it took awhile before he got that privilage.Until then and even after I sent him song lyrics.It was better then nothing.What kind of music do you like?

  16. ip camera says:

    You certainly deserve a round of applause for your post and more specifically, your blog in general. Very high quality material.

  17. Bossman says:

    Dont worry, when you get to TDCJ you wont be cold except in the winter. We dont have airconditioners except at the Psyche wards. You will have plenty to do like work unless you go milk some medical restriction out of the quack doctor so you dont have to work like the other 80% of the population which explains a lot about why they were
    robbing and stealing instead of working in the free world. You are job security for me. Thanks. See ya behind the wall.

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Hey Bossman, You don’t worry either, I was a hard worker in the free world and I will be a hard worker inside too. The reason for that is because of who I am, not who you are or what attitude you put up against me. Holding a job has never been my problem.

      I have heard there are 3 kinds of CO’s. The ones that believe if inmates are rehabilitated and educated during their incarceration, they may not return through that revolving door, the ones that are just there doing a job and working towards their retirement, and the ones that seem to have a grudge against the inmates because some kid beat them up back in middle school or something. Which group do you consider yourself to be a part of?

      By the way, I heard there are budget cuts so don’t be so sure on that job security. I appreciate the note and the information about what to expect.

    • ParoleNow says:

      Bossman may be slightly distorting the facts. The guards do have A/C in the pickets, the guard mess hall, and the offices. The prisoners don’t have it anywhere except the infirmary.

      During the days in the Summer at the newer units like Gurney and Holliday the temperature is well over 100, the metal on the bunks/racks is to hot to touch, and the guards may bring around cold water once or twice a day (enough for a cup for each prisoner).

      From what I’ve seen in the newspapers lately it looks like there are a lot of guards who will soon know what it feels like to be in the white or orange suits. Not as many as should know though.

  18. How long do you have to spend on the computer every day? Do you have to wait and take turns?

    • Texas Magnum says:

      From the Editor: Magnum does not have any computer time while incarcerated. He writes his posts out with pen and paper, mails them to me snail-mail, and I post them on his behalf. I also copy the comments left to him and mail them back to him via snail-mail. He is being transferred sometime very soon and will be out of touch for 2-3 weeks while that happens, so there is going to be a little gap in posts then. If you ever wish to, please feel free to send Magnum a personal email which I can then print out and mail to him. Thanks!

  19. ohmom says:

    My son spent 9 months in the county jail. He would call home every now and again just to hear some music. He would call and ask if I could find a certain CD and could I please put the phone down next to the speaker~ just 10 minutes of music soothed his soul.
    I hope you can find a good long book to read. I was allowed to donate books to the county and son got first choice, it made his time there bareable. God Bless you

  20. Oren says:

    Hey Tex,

    Sounds like rough going.

    A/C down cold, trying to make you all hibernate.

    High fat food, rec 20 minutes a week, no wonder fights break out over the tube.

    Hope you hear the radio soon.

    This will all be over one day.