The Reality Of Prison


I'd bet good money some of you have heard from the older homies how cool prison is. Prison is a way to get street cred. Or earn your stripes and in many respects this illusion has become an urban right of passage.

I've been in prison for nearly twenty-five years. Let me tell you the real. All that crap ain't nothing but hog-wash. The reality is that if you got homies on the outside, they disappear when you fall for the hood and wind up inside. That's real. The reality is that they wont' accept your collect calls or send you packages or help you get a job when, or if, you get out.

The reality is that your so-called enemy ain't your enemy inside. Inside the guards, at least the corrupt ones, become your enemies. The mixed races that you kicked it with on the outside suddenly become off limits. They become the enemy inside. Everything is about race separation on the inside. And like the game of shoot or be shot on the outside, it's stick or be stuck on the inside, if you get in the game. It's better not to.

Many of you might go get ice cream after you read this. You might have plans on going to Magic Mountain or a nearby park. Those types of choices of freedom don't exist in prison. Want to go holla at some girls? Aint nothing but men inside. Want to go talk to some boys? In prison there are guys, but they're old prison guards and you really don't want to go there.

I'd give anything to just fly a kite with my little brother, or take my now grown daughter to dinner. But I am stuck in a cell about the size of your bathroom. And the guards wouldn't let me out today. They had to search some cells on another yard. Cable TV? Not! A delicious bacon-burger? Not! R rated movies? Not! Don't take anything for granted out their folks. In prison it ain't happening. That's the reality of prison and don't let nobody tell you different. Especially if they ain't done twenty-five years straight! That's the real.

Dortell Williams, an inmate in California State Prison, Los Angeles County, writes about the social realities of life in prison as part of his participation in The Beat Within, a writing workshop for the incarcerated, which has generously allowed The Crime Report to share.

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