16 Former Inmates Share The “Prison Habits” They Continued On The Outside

I have to imagine that being incarcerated for any length of time isn’t easy. It must change a person right down to their core, making coming out of jail at least partially as hard as going in.

Humans are adaptable creatures, though, and so people change to fit their environment – but even after release, these 16 former inmates share the “prison habits” they just can’t shake.

16. It all seems strange.

I did 12 years in a state institution. The only really strange thing to me was answering the telephone.

First off, you don’t receive calls. Second, once the call connects, you can hear them say hello and then a prompt plays letting them know the call is recorded and what not before you then say hello.

For about a year people would answer when I call them and I would wait for the recording to play before responding.

15. The struggle is real.

The dorm pod I was in had metal stairs that made loud noises when you walked down them. Almost got in a fight with 3 other people because I woke up at night and had to piss and woke everyone up.

To this day I can’t fall asleep without peeing immediately before laying down. Like, even if I went less than an hour earlier I have to stand there and focus with yogi-like intensity to squeeze a few drops out or I lay awake feeling like my bladder is full.

14. Aware of your surroundings.

Hypervigilant. Size up everyone everywhere I go.

Especially public transport and public spaces.

13. Best to keep out ahead of it.

When my dad came home from prison I remember him being very polite.

He was careful not to bump anybody, and he always said excuse me if he were trying to pass somebody.

12. Not the soup!

Ice cubes. Spoon. Soup. Eat it as fast as possible this way.

Don’t let someone have the chance to take your soup.

11. If you’ve got the time.


That’s where I figured out how to read for leisure.

Also how to be meaner in pick up basketball games. But the reading habit is probably more useful.

10. Better get a cat.

well my brother had a hard time closing the door to poop he said it felt weird to poop alone.

9. Love a good card game.

I can play Spades a bit better now.

8. You watch your back.

Former prison librarian. I learned to always look in window reflections to make sure my back was covered. I had to count inmates as they came into the library so that there weren’t too many people.

I can look in a room full of people and give a really accurate estimate of how many bodies are in a room because of this.

7. Cold comfort.

My bedroom is basically set up like my old cell. In my bedroom I have everything at arms length.

I sit with my back to the wall when I’m out. I still pace back and forth in small spaces.

6. You can’t take your time.

I eat with my plate tucked between my arms, huddled over it like a trough, shoveling it in as fast as possible.

It’s institutionalised. Prison, army, mental facility, care home, refugee camp, lots of places ultimately involve the same thing: doing what you’re told, when you’re told, with set times for everything, amongst a large number of peers and a smaller number of superiors, day in day out, in a controlled environment, for years on end.

5. A sad commentary.

Save every extra sugar packet I come across in case I get hungry between meals.

4. Definitely a trick. Or a test.

If a snickers magically appears on my bed one day, you best believe I’ma leave that s*%t alone.

This is referring to the PREA video all inmates in the united states have to watch when you go in and during your annual review. PREA stands for Prison Rape Elimination Act. Its a federal law.

In the video, which is ridiculously poorly acted that its funny, the inmate goes in his cell and theres a candy bar on his bunk and he picks it up and goes out into the dayroom and holds it up and says something like “I do not want this candy bar!” like an announcement to everyone on the block. Its really funny.

The point from the video is that you dont want to accept anything from anyone because even a candy bar can lead to putting yourself in debt to someone which can lead to s*xual assaults. I think.

Everyone once in a while someone in the dorm would hold up and a candy bar and yell out “I do not accept this candy bar!” haha it never did get old really

3. Teachers, too!

Eating fast. Too fast honestly.

2.  It’s just considerate.

Flushing before it hits the water on every drop to mitigate the smell everyone has to deal with. Lots of flushes. Work probably wonders what the f**k is going on in the restroom when I’m in there.

And general toilet cleanliness etiquette so it’s nice for the next person. I don’t want to clean up your nastiness, you don’t want to clean up mine. It’s a good way to get into it with someone for the dumbest reason. Just leave it nice.

Edit: There are people being downvoted below for comments about water conversation. They are not wrong, this is wasteful. To be clear, I was not advocating many flushes. I was just answering the question honestly about what stuck with me.

I do advocate the cleanliness part tho. Do that.

To avoid wasting water there are environmentally friendly before-you-go sprays that create a scented oily slick on the water’s surface that mask and trap smells beneath the surface pretty well. Then you only need minimal flushing. I’d suggest looking into that for work/office/communal restroom situations.

Problem is they don’t have that inside, and if I have to choose between flushing a few times, or trying to explain why the smell is good for everyone because I’m saving the planet and we should all be happy about that instead of pissed at me…

Could I lose the habit now? Sure.

1. What is bored?

Being entertained doing absolutely nothing like staring at a wall I just don’t get bored anymore.

I found all of these just super interesting, so I hope you did, too!

If you’ve got experience coming out of prison, tell us in the comments what habits you found hardest to break!