A good defense attorney can do a lot. But even the best attorneys can’t keep every single client from going to prison. If you’ve been convicted of a serious crime and sentenced to a state or federal facility, there’s a lot you probably don’t know about prison life. You’re likely to have questions and concerns, and that’s understandable.
The good news is that the reality of prison life is a far cry from what is depicted in television and movies. Hollywood has a penchant for over-dramatizing just about every aspect of living inside a correctional facility. The bad news is that going to prison still isn’t easy. Prison can be a difficult, dangerous place in certain circumstances.
Here are seven common myths about prison life, and what the reality actually is.
1) Rehabilitation Isn’t A Priority
The common assumption of many is that the idea of rehabilitation is just lip service to make people feel good. The reality though, is that prison systems have learned that by treating inmates humanely and giving them resources and leadership, it can effect positive changes that benefit everyone.
The majority of inmates in prison will eventually be released to rejoin their communities. Both inmates and the communities around them succeed if inmates re-enter society better equipped to navigate it then before they went to prison.
2) All Prisons Are Overcrowded And Always Will Be
First of all, smaller prison populations mean less stress on everyone involved, from the inmates and prison staff all the way to local law enforcement. The only people that overcrowded prisons help are journalists and television news producers trying to fill up space.
There is no arguing that overcrowding does exist. But efforts are underway across the nation to revise criminal statutes, engage the community, and find alternatives to prison for non-violent offenders.
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3) Prison Food Is Terrible
There is a massive gap between the “stale bread and moldy gruel” prison food stereotype shown on TV and a meal at the Four Seasons. And while the average prison meal may not win a Michelin Star, the food is nowhere near as bad as you might be lead to believe.
In fact, prison auditors are required to sample at least one meal from the cyclical menus that include spaghetti, chicken dishes, burgers, egg dishes, and turkey bacon. Some cultural foods, as well as religious and medical diets, are also available.
4) You’re Going To Be Raped Or Assaulted In Prison
Typically the most common fear and most persistent myth about prison life is of being physically and/or sexually assaulted. Do incidents happen? Yes, unfortunately, they do. Do they happen as often and with as few repercussions as most people believe? Absolutely not.
Regardless of if an incident is an inmate-vs-inmate or inmate-vs-staff encounter, all physical assaults are taken very seriously by administrators. Conflicts typically result in some combination of sanctions, physical separation, and additional prosecution if necessary.
5) Prison Guards Are Just As Abusive As Inmates
This myth is, once again, pure fiction created and perpetuated by Hollywood. In reality, prison administrators employ close oversight and monitoring of staff against whom allegations have been lodged.
If any abuse is proven, sanctions range from disciplinary action to termination. In cases of egregious misconduct, prison employees may be referred for prosecution.
6) Solitary Confinement Is A Small, Dark, Damp Room
This is complete and total fiction. A prisoner may end up in what’s called a Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU) for a variety of reasons, including for fighting and assault.
The same meals and level of treatment are given to inmates in RHUs as the rest of the population, although some activities and privileges may be restricted.
7) Sick Or Injured Inmates Are Left To “Rot” In Their Cells
Absolutely not true. Prison inmates receive regular medical screenings and access to emergency health and dental treatment. Treatment for mental health issues is also provided.
Inmates that believe they are not being treated well can file formal complaints with the prison administration, which is reviewed and taken seriously by senior staff. If a complaint is found to have merit, adjustments may be made to correct the issue.