The way we view prisons is changing. Nationwide efforts are successfully refocusing energy into rehabilitating incarcerated people, which is essential to be effective. But these efforts must be ongoing; moving from the punishment model to responsibility/rehabilitation model requires a long-term commitment.

In prison cultures the interactions with peers and staff can be challenging. But having insight into the potential consequences of one’s actions can help incarcerated people successfully navigate the prison system and parole supervision. Here are a few tips from a previous PPPC client on how to navigate these challenges.

Practice Situational Awareness

Stay aware of your surroundings, including situations happening around you. Avoid putting yourself into situations where you can be punished further, whether it’s by physically restricting your movement or, worse, imposing some form of isolation. Staff are required to write work and block reports which become a part of your file. Over time, these reports may impact your chances of parole.

Stay Amenable and Respectful

Make an effort to show respect for staff and avoid receiving misconduct tickets of any kind, especially during the last three years of your term. This is an important element of your consideration by the parole board. If an MDOC staff member requests that you do something, as long as it’s a legitimate request, try to say “yes.” Be intentional about not giving “sassy” responses like you might with a friend on the outside. Be straightforward and to-the-point, no “funny business.”

Don’t Attempt to Make Friends With Staff Members

Beyond your interactions with staff themselves, being too friendly toward staff is a great way to get you on every other prisoner’s bad side. It might even give others the impression that you could be an informant. If something bad happens and the staff find out, you’re more likely to be falsely accused by your peers.

Make Sure What’s Yours is Yours

Make sure all your property is “in compliance.” Purchase your appliances legitimately and make sure they’re labeled properly with your prisoner number. Property bought “on the street” can be, and often is, confiscated by the officers for non-compliance.

Having excess clothing in your locker is also a no-go for incarcerated people. When it comes to borrowing property, don’t, especially if it’s labeled with another prisoner’s number. On the other side, don’t loan out any appliance labeled with your number. If the officers find you or another prisoner in possession of a different prisoner’s property, it’s considered theft and can result in a serious misconduct offense.

Never Provide Sexual Favors

This is the last situation any incarcerated person wants to be in, and it can be a terrifying one. If you find yourself confronted by an officer, MDOC employee, or inmate that propositions you for sexual favors, shut it down. Document the who, what, where and when. Then either give your family all the details and ask them to call the warden on your behalf, or report it as soon as you can to your ARUS. Thorough documentation is key.

Don’t Be Afraid to Play it Safe

Being in prison requires you to prioritize your personal safety. We’ve talked about safely navigating prison terms before, but we hope this additional advice will prove helpful to you. Stay aware, stay neutral, and strive to come out of your sentence a better person than when you went in.

Explore the rest of our website to learn more about PPPC services including pre-trial and sentence mitigation & parole services and assistance with commutation of sentence/pardon applications.

If you’re ready to engage with Dr. Schaefer, please fill out her contact form or call her at 313-408-0567.