12 Prison Habits Ex-Cons Say Are Hard to Break

When someone gets sent to prison, I imagine they’re forced to adjust fairly quickly to life on the inside. There are ways of doing things that will help keep you safe and keep you out of trouble with the guards, and basically just make your day to day life as easy as possible.

Those habits don’t usually translate to life outside of prison, though, but depending on how long a person has been institutionalized, they can be hard to break.

These 12 ex-cons are sharing the habits they had to work hard to leave behind bars.

12. I mean…

My dad was in and out of jail when I was a child. When he was out he used to make me “jail house slams” basically whatever you can find to throw into ramen as you said.

I thought they were the best thing ever, and it was so cool cause I ate what my dad ate, right? Fast forward about 12 years and I’m telling my gf this story and she’s just like. “… your dad fed you prison food?”

11. In case he needs to run or fight.

Dude I work with said for the first little bit after getting out he would take a leg out of his pants when he’d shit.

Not sure how common that was, dude’s a fighter though, so maybe that had something to do with it.

10. In case he needed to jump up?

My ex would sleep a certain way all the time. To me it seemed like he was sleeping as if he was in a coffin, his arms crossed and wouldn’t move the entire night for a couple months.

He eventually broke that habit.

9. That’s a good reason.

Not me – but guy who worked for me. When things were very busy, I would often get carry-out lunch for everyone and bring it back to the workplace.

This one guy would eat a cheeseburger and french fries in two minutes.


Once I asked him why he ate so quickly. He said “Well nobsforgma, I spent 7 years in a Federal prison and if you didn’t eat your meal in 10 minutes, you didn’t get anything.

That 10 minutes often included the time it took standing in line to get your food.”

OK then. I never said anything to him about it after that.

8. You can’t trust anyone.

A somewhat-friend of mine did a few years and the one habit he couldn’t shake was distrusting people.

He said that people in prison are never nice, if they’re nice it’s because of a hidden motive.

Up to this day he still doesn’t trust people who act nice / generous / helpful / .. towards him.

7. Gotta keep an eye out.

Being paranoid always looks over my shoulder and never letting anyone stand behind me.

Even people passing on the side of me I’m always turning my head to see what they’re doing.

food I could be the last one to eat first one done and I still stand when I eat around people.

6. Why would you want to do that?

The hardest thing has been to talk without using the words f**k, f**ing or a$$hole in every sentence.

5. You’ve gotta make yourself look big and scary.

God, I got out two years ago and I cannot for the life of me shake my aggressive posturing… Thats all prison is, being hyper vigilant, and I would argue worse yet, always appearing indifferent. Like you could be kickin it with your “friends,” laughing, watching tv, but then even the slightest miss phrasing of something or a sudden movement will shift the whole mood of the room at a drop of a dime. So whatever emotion you display has to be instantly shut off and on a moments notice you have to be ‘booted and suited.’ I would return to my unit on occasion and there would be blood smeared on the walls from a fight I missed. You didn’t look at it. Eyes forward, indifferent. Emotion is weakness, and though I was secretly panicking, I had to bury and put on as a cold motherfucker.

I got in one fight. We beat the shit out of each other in the gym area and if you judged by other peoples responses, it was like nothing was happening at all. Many quietly walked away, while others just stood there emotionless. If it had gone south for me I could have been killed in front of 250 people, and nobody would have said or done jack shit. That is true loneliness the which of like few people in the first world truly understand. Fuck, if I got a bad fever in bed at night (which I did several times) even though there were six bunks in my cramped cell, I could have died in my sleep and the guards would have only noticed at count.

There were 12 guards on duty for 1500 inmates… think about that. If someone wanted to fuck with you, you’d be hamburger meet before a guard showed up. So thats the way it was. High tension all the time, mad respect for everyone, stay jacked as fuck and walk shoulders straight on the yard. In the weight area, Ive seen John Cena looking swastika tatted aryan motherfuckers say please and thank you to for weights to Terry Crews looking black power guys and they said the same back. That simple. Your fortune is on your back and in the words you speak.

Surprisingly, it equated to a surprisingly smooth system. Once you earned your bones (respect) on compound you just went through life like a robot and there was little friction, because everyone knew the smallest spark could ignite an inferno. So many stories I could tell… but the point is that raw genuine brute value has no currency in the real world. People will scoff at you that are the size of your thigh… i get cut off in line at the grocery store… people mean mug from across the room. All that shit is liable to get you hurt in prison, and its hard to let go of this mentality once your out.

I am an educated white kid from a rural area, and I was thrown into a metropolitan prison. I didn’t have an ounce of aggression in me before. And my wife, who has stuck by my side through it all, says Im as gentle and kind as before, but my prison mannerisms stick around nonetheless. She’s always telling me not to make such strong eye contact with people, not to cross my arms all the time… ugh… it is subliminal and Im getting better at it but its been hard as hell to shake. Moral of the story, dont go to prison kids, because your only one poor decision away.

Tldr; Aggresive Posturing

4. There’s enough to go around.

Never been to prison. But i did a few months in county jail. Something i haven’t seen mentioned is trading food.

When i got out i asked my girlfriend to trade me her chicken wings for my macaroni. Pure habit.

I really could’ve just went to the kitchen and got more chicken.

3. At least it’s healthy.

Doing laps. In prison, every time you get time on the yard, you do laps. Seriously, almost every single person does it too. When you get out, it’s hard to break that habit.

2. More than a few things.

My uncle was in prison for a while and we’ve talked a bit about his experience and how it effected him:

-He has a hard time not being violent. You’d never guess since he mainly just sits in a corner and smokes but he’s been out for nearly ten years and still always struggles with using his words

-The guy cannot stand authority. He tells me that its hard to listen to bosses when you know you’re probably smarter and tougher than them. He knows most people feel this way, but he just can’t ignore it. He’s taken up professional carving so he can be his boss.

-He’s really in touch with our native roots now, on account of joining a first nations gang in prison.

-Doesn’t talk much, I don’t know if that’s because of prison but he really only speaks if he wants to. Not the type of guy who likes to talk just to talk.

-Doesn’t have a lot. He has some sort of abandonment issue or something so he doesn’t want a lot of things to miss if he goes back to prison.

-For all the time he doesn’t spend with people, he’s out with nature or doing something in the wilderness. I think it helps keep him calm and feel connected.

Nice enough guy, but prison kind of fucked him up I think and he’s going to live his life being slightly disconnected with people.

1. It’s what you’re used to.

Making prison commissary-only food. Everyone around me thinks it is gross as hell to throw summer sausages, pickles, cheese, doritos, cheetos, and such into my ramen noodles, but good lord, I can’t stop, and I have been out for five years.

These are so interesting. The human brain is a strange and wonderful thing.

If you’ve spent time in prison, what would you add to this list? Share with us in the comments!