There are quite a few differences between doing time in county and doing time in actual prison. County jail is usually freezing, prison is usually really hot. County jail is usually much more boring as there is no recreation or classes or exercise. Prison has a better, larger rec yard and there are vocational and educational classes and work is assigned.
The prison I am in is a Texas State Jail, originally created to hold Class 4 felons on 2 year or less charges. However due to the massive overpopulation in the Texas Department of Corrections, many Texas State Jails now have a portion of their space allocated to 3rd degree or higher felons. The unit I am in is a new unit, and actually one of the few that have air conditioning. This is probably considered a plus by many, as most prisons are not air conditioned and also most cells or dorms do not have fans either. A few inmates can purchase fans in the commissary but this is considered a “special” purchase and many cells and dorms don’t have electrical outlets for them anyway. I personally don’t mind the heat too much so even though it’s nice to have, I could live without it. But don’t get me wrong, I won’t turn it down.
In prison the commissary is much better stocked. If an inmate has funds (sent to him by family or friends) he can buy chips, sodas, and even Bluebell ice cream and popsicles. There are all kinds of hygiene products like soap, deodorant, athlete’s foot cream, vitamins, and shampoo. There is canned tuna, peanut butter, ramen noodles, and many other food items. Tea bags are a good buy.
Also in prison there is coffee. Crappy coffee, but coffee. In County jail there was nothing to drink except for room temperature water and milk served with meals. Here ice tea is served at meals.
Here at my unit there are a few vocational classes and educational classes but they are very crowded. I signed up for Commercial Painting but there are no openings yet. I was also assigned a job doing yard work like mowing but I have not been called to work yet, and it’s been several months. So, in theory we are more busy, but in actuality, besides exercising more I am not that busy. I do play my guitar and harmonica in the church choir. There is church and AA and NA classes available, and there is a small library. We can also have books sent to us from places like Amazon or Barnes and Noble or a few specialty places for prisons. I can also receive stationary supplies.
Before arriving at prison it is normal to feel anxiety about what might happen. The rule of thumb is mind your own business. You can’t really be yourself, and you need to keep an eye on your back. The way it usually goes down is, once you arrive you find the group you fit in with best, based on race. There is a lot of racial tension and segregation in prison. No matter if you are friends with people of other races on the outside, in here you can’t be. I am mixed race so that gives me a few more options but I still had to choose who I was going to align myself with with here.
One of the stressful things is that the men want to fight for many different reasons. Because you looked at them in some way they didn’t like or some other action that they felt was disrespectful is a main reason for fights. A lot of it, most of it, is stupid stuff, but it doesn’t matter, that is the way it is. So you go along with the rules and you mind your own business and try to keep out of trouble.
Everyone here is looking at parole or hoping to get out, and even though there are some more violent offenders here, in general this is not a “bad” prison as far as violence and fighting goes. If you fight and get caught, you lose privileges, get put in Ag Seg (Agrravated Segregation), and possibly affect your parole chances.
There is no way to really describe what it is like here. It is not what I expected in many ways. It is something you can’t even describe. I will make it through this but I hope that none of you reading this need to experience it for yourself.