By: Shaun Attwood
A fish is a new prisoner, usually someone unschooled in prison etiquette. If you know someone who is heading to prison for the first time, you may want to send them this guide. It could save that person’s life. This survival guide was compiled with the help of Xena who is aware of dozens of people who have been smashed, stabbed or killed for violating these guidelines.
1. Stay out of debt – especially drug debts. If you use drugs, know how to pay for them. More people die from being unable to pay drug debts than for any other reason.
2. Know who the gang members are in your race, and know what their rules are. There are two sets of rules: Department of Corrections' rules and the political rules enforced by the gangs – play them in conjunction. For example, befriending someone from another race may get you smashed.
3. Don’t flash money or property around. Most inmates have little or none, and will take yours if they can. If you have money, help your indigent friends, especially with hygiene products. If you have no cash, get a job or try private enterprise (drawing and tattooing are common).
4. Do not be perceived as being friendly with prison guards, or you may be suspected of snitching, which can get you killed. If you know a guard prior to coming to prison, keep it secret.
5. Do not talk about people unless they are present. Do not whine or complain – especially around lifers – or you may get smashed. Don’t lie, and always keep any promises you make. If you’re a short-timer don’t talk about it. Don’t ask people how much time they are serving, or for why. Wait until you get to know them and they are comfortable around you, if you want to ask these questions.
6. Don’t act like a big shot unless you can fight. Bear in mind that if someone challenges you, and you don’t fight, you may be perceived as weak and be taken advantage of by others.
7. Don’t show weakness or let your emotional barrier down. Especially youngsters, who can easily become extortion and rape fodder for the hardcore. Never cry.
8. If you are gay, stay in the closet unless you are prepared to fight people who will want to stab or rape you. If you are openly gay, find a man with power who can protect you.
9. Don’t become obese or you’ll be perceived as unhealthy and weak, to be preyed upon. In prison, more people work out than in any other society.
10. Learn prison slang. Beware of becoming a "torpedo" – usually a youngster manipulated to smash (beat up) someone so that the manipulator doesn’t get his hands dirty. Beware of someone doing an "okey-doke" on you – for example, an inmate lying to you about being called a punk, so that you will fight his enemy. Beware of becoming a "trick-bag" – being manipulated into saying something offensive to another, not realising that you were being insulting.
11. Stay hygienically clean. Being dirty is considered disrespectful, especially to your own race.
12. If you practice a minority religion, you may want to keep it secret rather than risk being smashed.
13. Don’t cut your life short by contracting a deadly disease from using dirty tattoo instruments or syringes. If you have to inject drugs, bleach the works first.