What is Jail Really Like? Interviewing Ex-inmates Reveals a New Level of Insight
By Lewis Gunter
As a recent venture, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to people who have had experiences of being incarcerated. I personally have never had time behind bars and have no close acquaintances who’ve been through the experience, either. As such, my only exposure to the jail experience is from what I’ve seen from TV and movies. I never really knew what the actual experience was like.
My phone interviews were educational in several ways. For one, as background research, I found out that one out of 142 Americans (slightly outdated data – likely a higher percentage now) is currently in jail. It’s over 2 million people right now. I also learned things about some jail terminology and concepts I had not previously grasped. For example, in some counties, you will only serve one half of your sentenced time as a result of time off for good behavior. I learned about work release programs that give relatively privileged inmates a level of freedom even when they’re not fully free.
I also learned about the dark side of jail. Now, as I mentioned, I’ve seen movies and TV that have shown me a lot of dirty things going on in jail, but I have a hard time believing them because, hey, it’s the movies. It turns out that a lot of the stuff about the gangs requiring payment for protection, watching out who you talk to, shiv making and so forth really does happen, at least in the big jails. It was pretty scary to find out the amount of reality in the fiction I’d seen.
After my interaction with these ex-inmates, I was given a new level of respect for the freedoms I take for granted. In a lot of ways, hearing about how bad things are there opened my eyes to how good I have it. I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend it as a pastime for people who want to see the positive in their lives, but I do think that if you know someone who’s been to jail, talking to them can provide a very enlightening look into just how good your life really is.
Lewis is a media manager for Jail Media, which currently has informational sites for the [http://theocjail.com]Orange County Jail, the [http://utah-county-jail.com]Utah County Jail, and [http://cookcojail.com]Cook County Jail.
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