16 People Who Have Been in Jail Share What It’s Really Like

If you live in the United States, the truth of the matter is that far more people have spent time in jail than should spend time in jail, so maybe you already have an idea what it’s like.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who have managed to avoid it (probably not because you’ve never done anything wrong, but because you didn’t get caught, and are curious, these 16 former inmates are here to give you a peek behind the guard towers.

16. You have to find a way to fill the days.

24 days in county in Florida. I read 27 books while I was there. I didn’t get my first book till my third day. It’s an indescribable level of boredom.

I only stopped reading when I could no longer find a comfortable position for myself. I also wrote about 40 pages of notes/diary entries, which is something I had never done before.

15. That’s definitely a “worst” moment.

50 days in Macomb County Jail. Mt. Clemens, MI.

Cold. Boring. Smells like bleach and feet. The worst part was hearing a guy screaming for the deputies because his chest hurt. They ignored him. He had a heart attack, and died a few feet from me.

14. Don’t tell the truth.

Try to sleep as much as possible, cuz it’s not pleasant to be awake in a room filled with cots and a variety of random strangers, some of whom are cool while others are scary. There’s a hierarchy so if ur lucky u will locate and secure a buddy near ur cot who offers to show u the ropes and let’s u use her shampoo and wants to play cards.

Do not tell the intake nurse the truth if she asks u if u have ever been suicidal, cuz I was long ago, and since I answered honestly i was sent to solitary confinement where I had to be buck naked with all lights on 24 hrs a day and no blankets, only paper towel thing and camara on u with creepy perverted guard watching u all night long

13. As long as they’re nice to you.

In prison in Colorado I was roomed with a guy who killed his wife and her lover and split his own throat yet he was a really nice person to me. There are gangs of every variety and it was hard.

12. A waking nightmare.

8 days in solitary confinement was one of the worst experiences of my life. 23 hours in a cell one hour out to walk the pod and shower. Lights on for 16 out for 8.

No blanket no books, noting that could possibly be put in the toilet to clog it and flood the cell to get out for a little while (apparently that was a problem). I begged for a bible (atheist) or anything to keep my mind occupied and was refused. 1/10 would not recommend.

11. Imagine having no soda or ice cream.

I’ve had multiple stays at county jails in TX. Every minute of it sucks. Having your freedom stripped from you is a terrible experience, even if you know you won’t be in long.

I visited my dad in prison when I was a kid and one thing that stuck with me from then to the time that I went to jail, was the smell. All jails/prisons seem to have the same funky a$s BO/mildew smell.

In county jail the food is horrible and they give you just enough nutrients to survive. People think that everyone works out but it’s hard to have energy or build muscle with the amount of food they give you. You have to be able to make commissary to get more food.

“Commissary is very necessary”. In county it can be prohibitively expensive for a lot people, packs of ramen go for like $1/each. In state prison, they feed you more and commissary is cheaper. You can also get items not in county jail like sodas and ice cream.

Depending on where you’re at you will most likely be grouped with offenders who have done similar level crimes. Meaning non-violent housed with non-violent offenders and vise versa. There are times this isn’t true. Even though I was in on a non-violent driving offense, I was housed with people on trial for armed robbery, murder, attempted murder. I’m not sure why I was put in that tank, I don’t have any history of violence. Maybe it’s the way I look, idk. One of the murderers was actually a really nice guy (to me anyways) and I got along with him well. We discussed philosophy and played chess everyday.

Pedophiles do not get treated like social media or movies wants you believe. They get put in ad seg/protective custody and are basically untouchable. I heard if you attack a pedophile in jail, you can be charged with a hate crime. I have not been able to verify the accuracy of this claim.

You rarely see full sunlight or full darkness. There’s always lights on. Fucking fluorescent lights… buzzing all the fucking time. It will drive you mad.

10. Busting the boredom.

Jail is just boring and you mostly sleep all day or read whatever is available – unfortunately mostly it’s bibles. Do lots of pushups and sit-ups. Not that scary but it is unpleasant. Like staying in the waiting room of the DMV for weeks.

Food is bland and not much of it. You order some food from the commissary but it’s super expensive. $2 for a ramen pack or something like that. Dollar store food priced at $10.

9. Worse than traditional jail.

It’s not quite “traditional” jail and doesn’t last quite as long, but I found it far far worse…

I was arrested back in the mid 80s in my youth, living in the former soviet union in Eastern Europe, and served 8 hours in the “Farm Pit.” Basically just a concrete pit at a factory farm that’s empty when you go in, but then they shovel in pig sh%t as the pigs produce it…

I thought I was getting off light with a one-day punishment…but honestly it’s been almost 35 years and I’m still a wee bit traumatized from it and still feel some anxiety when I see a pig farm, even in a movie. I never knew anything could smell or feel THAT bad.

8. Not the books!

The longest I have ever done was 90 days in a very small jail. Boring 90 days at most we had like 17 inmates including DOC and females. I played a lot of spades. Watched alot of stupid things on tv ( real housewives holy fuck).

We usually had cigarettes smuggled in from the road crew so that was cool. My cellmate was in a PC programme and he was on trial for murder. The dude was annoying as f%ck.

The highlights of my sentence include tripping in LSD for the first time ever, and burning books in the shower cause it was winter and it was f%cking cold.

7. It’s hard to sleep.

Been in a number of US jails. Food quality varies, but generally you’ll be hungry from dinner (~6pm) till breakfast (6am). Usually you can get some commissary items by trading desserts or playing poker (if you’re good at it). Most of my time is spent sleeping and reading books, some people prefer TV and you often don’t get to choose what’s on.

I’ve generally been in minimum security so haven’t seen many fights, but I’ve been on cell blocks where someone’s freaking out for over an hour, and this inevitably happens around midnight when you’re trying to sleep. Mostly I’ve learned to keep my head down and do as the officers say.

The beds suck, the food sucks, and you’re inside at least 23 hours a day. 3/10 would not recommend.

6. We all love privacy.

Honestly jail was pretty chill.

I got popped for simple weed possession (yay Texas). My cell mates were a friendly black man and a really old Indian man.

Had some good Convo. Bullshit about how dumb my charge was. I got bailed out like 8 hours later. Nothing crazy happened.

I did have to poop in front of them though. That was awkward.

5/10 would not do again.

5. Everyone goes hungry.

I’ve been as a lawyer a couple of times, and that is good enough for me. I’m fairly claustrophobic, so as an attorney visiting clients, you walk through one door, they shut it and lock it behind you, and a few seconds later unlock the next door you have to walk through.

That moment locked between those two doors is awfully creepy for me. Can’t imagine being in that for more than a couple hours. Also, it blows my mind that they genuinely don’t feed you enough to survive in many jails/prisons. Everyone has to buy from the commissary to subsidize their nutrition

4. Is this real?

Very small town jail for a weekend stay at 18 yrs old.


Eat. Sleep. Get hassled from Barney Fife. They left the cell door open during the day. We had to mop the floor (hell maybe we volunteered), got to check out the library in the jail….no blanket party, no rape, no tats.

Pretty easy time all told. Which I guess makes up for being arrested for 2nd degree Burglary for stealing a mattress out of a unoccupied TENT at a girl scout camp in the mountains. In all fairness a tent is considered a dwelling, so yeah, I was a burglar.

Yeup, don’t do the crime if you don’t want the time or whatever.

3. This is very odd.

I’ll just tell one story. I went in thinking I would be out in no time. I was in a cell block with about 12 other guys. There was a common area and individual cells. I was really shy about pooping in front of others, so I held it. For like 2 days.

On the second or third day I couldn’t hold it. So I waited until I thought everyone else was distracted in the common, went quietly to my cell, shut the door as much as I could without latching it, and sat down. About 5 seconds later the door comes blowing open, and in walk every single person in my cell block.

They all formed a semi circle around me, arms folded, demanding I finish my sh%t while they watch. So there I sat, pooping, in front of 12 strangers. It was horrible. But I have literally no poop shyness any more. So silver lining I guess.

2. Just in case you were on the fence.

Jail is boring..cold..crappy food.

You don’t want to go there.

1. Don’t get sick in there.

Being sick in jail is terrible. Medical care is highly lacking. If you’re sick they give you a couple Advil per day and that’s it.

Mental illnesses are rampant. Some people are on their meds and stable, others have conditions that are undiagnosed and untreated but clearly off their rocker.

Pathological liars are everywhere.

Everyone is innocent. Everyone is a big time drug dealer. Everyone is a hard as fuck gangster. You get really tired of hearing people talk about all the money and shit they have out in the world but they’re asking you for a shot of coffee because they don’t have money on their books.

Coffee, stamps and ramen works like currency. You can buy different things/services from other inmates. I used to draw, fill out paperwork, write letters and file motions for other dudes to help pass the time.

Daytime TV is the most obnoxious shit ever and you will gain a new found hatred for it in jail. Dudes will be gathered around the tv watching The View arguing over the dumbest shit.

Gay shit happens but not like you see on TV. If you’re a straight dude you might be shocked about what you see in the showers.

I want to be surprised by these but I’m just really not.

If you’ve spent time in prison and have something to add, tell us what it is in the comments!