Here are a few tips for new fish I learned at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre.
1. If you are a non-violent criminal like myself, have your lawyer request ‘open custody’. This is also called ‘minimum security’. In minimum security, nobody assaults you for snoring or muscles you out of the use of the telephone or fresh vegetables. You are not locked in your cell for 14 to 16 hours per day. In fact, you have the keys to your own cell. You don’t have to go to the bathroom in front of your cellmate. The advantages of minimum security are legion. Keep insisting on being placed there. Ignore claims of a 30-day evaluation period or a waiting list and keep making requests. Have your lawyer keep making calls until you get moved to minimum. You’ll be glad you did.
2. When you get taken away to prison, make sure you have cash in your pocket; at least 100-200 bucks. This way you can buy essential things right away. Things like pens, paper, and envelopes. They allow you to send seven letters per week without stamps, so only buy the pre-stamped envelopes if you plan to send more than seven letters per week. Buy extra chocolate bars to use as bribes and reward prisoners for various favors, or to pay off poker debts.
3. When they give you a phone card, ignore the instruction from the automated telephone system to give your full name. Your last name will do. The more names you use to sign in with, the more opportunity you give the system to fail to recognize your name later. You have to say your name with the exact same timing and inflection or you will be denied your phone call. After being denied a call 22 times in a row, you’ll wish you just used one of your two last names. Trust me on this.
4. Dental floss is not available on the canteen list. Instead, there are devices known as dental picks: a pick at one end and a tiny bit of floss suspended between two points at the other end. Be sure to order some of these as the jailhouse dentist loves to pull teeth.
5. Have your loved ones order you books from Amazon or Chapters as soon as you get sent away. You are not allowed to be sent books directly from people and you are not allowed hard covers. Books come in handy when you can’t sleep and there is nothing good on TV, which is often.
6. Avoid conflict with your fellow prisoners. Let them get away with cheating, lying, and bullshiting. Do not challenge their control of the food, the phone, or the pool table. Obey all their rules no matter how silly. Sit where you are told. Don’t touch anyone’s stuff. Don’t be loud. Speak when spoken to. Failure to do any of these things may result in getting punched in the face. Unless you are trained in the mixed marital arts, you’ll have to be moved into segregation or protective custody to avoid further assaults. Neither of these places is all that attractive. Protective custody is usually for child molesters or crazy people, so, unless you are famous like Marc Emery or don’t mind having that kind of reputation, you’ll probably want to avoid protective custody. Segregation is a horrible place. The cells are barren of everything but a bunk bed and you are locked up 23 hours per day. There’s dry blood on the floor, walls, and ceiling. Often, the place is so full, there are at least two per room – it sort of defeats the purpose of segregation – or, at least, it is deceptive advertising. Better just avoid all conflict to begin with.
7. Get your friends to write you letters and send you photos, it will make guards and prisoners think your part of a community, rather than somebody that nobody likes.
8. Get your good friends to come visit you. This will keep your spirits high and help break up the boredom of the day. You may have difficulty getting through the visitor sign-up phone number and might have to call the main line. Explain the situation and ask them nicely to transfer you to the visit sign-up.