“I caught a state charge in 1991. LSD Conspiracy. I was like, “Cool, whatever.” I thought my middle-class background and my light complexion would provide leniency and drug rehab. But I was wrong. The Feds jumped on my case…The U.S. attorney’s office wanted some good public relations. It was like, “Look, we prosecute white drug dealers too.” But we all know that is some bullsh*t. I am just one of the unfortunate few who slipped through the cracks…” – Seth Ferranti, “A White Boy’z Tale” Don Diva Magazine
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would end up in federal prison. Maybe you find yourself in the same position now and that is why you are reading this book. I can’t tell you what choices to make now that you find yourself at this juncture in life. Whatever choices you made are up to you, but I can give you the benefit of my experiences, as I’ve been incarcerated for almost 18 years now in federal prison…for a first-time, non-violent drug offense.
Like I said, I never thought I would end up here. But, at the age of 22, I was sentenced to 304 months (25 years) for an LSD conspiracy charge. I’d never been to prison before – not even county jail – so I had no idea what to expect. I’d grown up in the suburbs so, to me, prison was something very foreign, something you saw in the movies. I was led to believe that prison was a world of extremes with terrible and dangerous things happening randomly and daily. Everybody’s heard the stories and seen the movies, but all that wild stuff – while it can and will happen – is not the norm, it’s the extreme. I’m not saying prison is a nice place, but it’s not the scary place it’s made out to be. But you can find yourself in some scary situations, if you let yourself be put into those situations. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll be aware of the pitfalls of prison life so that you can avoid them.
When I first came in, an old con told me the rules: Don’t gamble, don’t do drugs, and don’t mess with homosexuals. I took his words to heart. He also told me, “Be polite to everyone and look people in the eyes when you speak to them. Be respectful but firm and assertive at the same time. If you follow these simple rules, you can survive in any prison. Men respect men and you have to give respect to get it. It doesn’t matter if you’re big or small, white or black, rich or poor. When I came in, I looked like a college student but I stayed out of the mix, followed those rules, and got into a routine.
I didn’t try to get close to anybody or join a clique or gang or hang with the guys. Those are sure paths to trouble. A lot of people in prison are miserable and like they say, “Misery loves company.” In prison, you have to stand on your own two feet. Don’t get drawn into your homeboy’s beef or problems because, trust me, they will try to draw you in. Hang back, check out the scene, and see who’s who. There are some solid, considerate, trustworthy people in prison, but you have to realize where you are – the lowest dregs of society can be found here also.
In prison, people judge you by who you’re with. So if you hang out with gang members, homosexuals, snitches, or pedophiles, then people will assume that’s who you are. If you hang around dudes who are doing drugs or drinking hooch and staying in trouble, then you’ll be labeled as such also. That’s just how it is. That’s why I said check out the scene, see who’s who, and watch how dudes move. Make connections with like-minded people only after you’ve studied and identified who’s who. But the best advice is to stick to yourself, keep your mouth shut, and don’t get involved. Don’t jump out there and expose yourself because if you put yourself in the wrong position, people will call your bluff. If you don’t handle yourself accordingly, you’ll be labeled as a pussy, clown, buster, or worse. Then it will be open season on you and the sharks will circle.
That’s why I said don’t put yourself out there. If you do find yourself in a situation, try to hurt the other person as quickly as possible. Here, people don’t respect words, they respect violence. That’s the currency that buys respect. But if you’re smart, watching your surroundings and who you let in your circle, you’ll never get in a situation that escalates to that point.
Be wary of people bearing gifts. Don’t get yourself in debt. A lot of times, when dudes are offering you something of financial help, there are strings attached. Don’t get friendly with the staff and try to find a job that you’ll like, or they will put you in the kitchen. If you have questions about how things on the compound operate ask someone, but most things will be explained to you in admissions and orientation.
Basically, if you have a lot of time, you need to develop a routine and find something constructive to do with it: working out, working at the prison factory, working in recreation or education, or learning a trade like plumbing, carpentry, or electronics by working in facilities the important things is to take advantage of your time and do something constructive. Read, learn, work out, eat right, make positive connections, and associate with like-minded people. Stay away from the negative and all that comes with it.
I know this piece is brief, but hopefully you can use the knowledge I’ve imparted. A healthy body and a healthy mind are important to your survival in prison. You need to set goals and accomplish them. Take whatever classes you can to better yourself and choose your associates wisely. Don’t let anybody draw you into their schemes or their bullsh*t. Like they say, if you give someone an inch, they’ll take you a mile. So be assertive and don’t even give them an inch. In the long run, you’ll be thankful! In prison, most people mistake kindness for weakness and though that maxim isn’t always true, dudes tend to prey on those who they perceive as kind or weak. So keep your guard up, be polite and respectful and you should be good. I hope my words help you make the necessary adjustments so that your serve your time.
The above is an excerpt from Locked Up but Not Locked Down. You can order a copy from Supreme Design Publishing http://www.guidetoprison.com/