How to Handle Hard Time (And Avoid Getting Locked Up in the First Place)

The holidays may be over, but that doesn’t mean social activities involving drinking have stopped. For many people, drinking is often a part of business dinners, after work get-togethers or simply a solo activity to wind down at the end of a long workday.

This article isn’t about the negative effects of consuming alcohol — or to judge anyone who chooses to imbibe. This article is about one particular worst-case scenario that may arise as a result of the consumption of alcohol…

You are stopped by law enforcement, detained and find yourself in jail.  

The chance of being incarcerated at some point in your life is not unlikely. Approximately one out of every 15 people (6.6%) will serve prison time during their lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.

This article is not to help the hardened criminal or repeat offender ease his or her time behind bars. The following information is for someone who is going to jail for the first time. Knowing these survival tips could not only lessen your troubles, but may also prevent you from injury and death.

Life Behind Bars

There is a huge difference from one county jail to another. You may find yourself in your own cell or among some 10,000 other inmates all being held for various reasons. There may be little or no violence — or you may have to fight for your life.

During the first days in jail, inmates are generally not separated by the severity of their crime. If you’re there on bench warrant for not showing up to court to pay a motor vehicle fine, for example, you could find yourself sitting next to a gang member or a rapist.

If there is a silver lining to being incarcerated, be thankful you are being detained in an American jail. In many foreign countries, jail time includes hard labor. However, you need to mentally prepare yourself for what could be a longer-than-expected stay.

Whether it’s for a day or a month, jail is definitely not a fun-filled environment. Having a little bit of context will help you avoid making a few crucial mistakes and pass the time faster.

Try to slow things down in your mind and conserve your energy. This is an excellent opportunity to utilize COMBAT BREATHING. Inhale for four seconds, then exhale for four seconds and repeat.

Shift into a “one day at a time” perspective, or better yet, one hour at a time. Remember, this too shall pass. If you will be there for more than a day, establish a routine and stick to it. If you must remain behind bars longer, keep in mind it takes about a week to adjust to any different environment.

Rules to Remember

The No. 1 thing is to ALWAYS show jail employees respect. Also, try to make a “friend” who knows what’s going on and follow their lead. Every jail is different. There may be little things that set inmates off. Find out as soon as possible what these things are so you can avoid them.

Here are a few things you should NOT do when in jail:

  1. Don’t discuss your charges or your case. The less other inmates know, the better off you will be.
  1. Don’t draw unwanted attention to yourself.
  1. Don’t use inflammatory words — especially toward other inmates.
  1. Don’t be a “snitch.” Jail houses the worst of society. Unless a situation directly involves you, you need to look the other way.
  1. Never talk to a guard unless you feel you are in immediate danger — other inmates will be watching your every move.

Basically, if you end up in jail, don’t do anything illegal, keep your nose clean and be a ghost.

Don’t Get Locked Up

To avoid going to jail in the first place, please consider the following when enjoying an adult beverage with your friends or co-workers:

  • Alternative transportation options such as Uber or Lyft, a taxi, a designated driver, public transportation or walking (but consider distance and weather — you are much more likely to fall or get hypothermia when intoxicated)
  • Limit yourself to a set number of drinks/amount of alcohol and stick to it
  • If a friend says you have had too much — listen to them. They are your friend for a reason
  • If you feel like there is a confrontation about to happen — walk away. Unless you are being attacked. Then fight like hell to defend yourself and notify law enforcement immediately! Usually, the first person to contact the police will have a better chance of their version of the story being believed
  • If you feel you are in the wrong — RESPECTFULLY decline to make any statements before contacting an attorney.

One last thing… If you do go to jail, when you get out, stay out. Be part of the 15% who don’t return.

Be a survivor… not a statistic,

Cade Courtley

Cade Courtley



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