what prisoners actually do Do in prison?This is a question we get a lot of here prison insight, We noticed a lot of misinformation about life in prison. So we decided to ask someone who is currently behind bars to write this blog post, rather than looking for a different article or telling about my experience years ago.
Our blogger today is Mistie Vance, who is currently serving a 20-year sentence at the Chillicothe Correctional Center in Chillicothe, Missouri. She has been in prison for more than a decade and is not expected to be released on parole until 2025.
Misty and I became good friends when we served together at the Eastern Women’s Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Vandalia, Missouri. She was my personal trainer and aerobics instructor, and we often spent time together during smoke time or in the prison yard.
Here’s Mistie’s take on today’s blog question: What Do Prisoners Do in Prison? In her posts, she will cover the following topics:
- Every Prisoner’s Prison Experience Is Different
- prisoners have many opportunities
- Prison can be an opportunity to connect with spirituality
- Fitness, library books, and self-improvement classes
- Every prisoner must have a job or go to school
- Not all prisoners choose to better themselves
- Writing is an important part of passing time in prison
- Some prisoners do not engage in life in prison
Every Prisoner’s Prison Experience Is Different
How a prisoner chooses to spend his time in prison is entirely up to the individual. Some inmates use their time in productive ways, choosing to use this time as an opportunity for education and self-improvement.
These are people who aspire to a better life than they were before they went to prison and will do everything in their power to ensure they don’t walk out of these doors the same way they came in.
Other prisoners still cling to the mentality that brought them to prison and choose to live in prison much the same way they would in the free world. They are happy to “pass the time” and spend their days gambling, doing drugs and hanging out in the yard with friends.
In between these two extremes are prisoners who really want to do better, but can’t seem to overcome the many temptations that surround them.
prisoners have many opportunities
For those who really want to do better, prison offers many opportunities that are not always available in the free world. Prisons offer GED courses, college courses, and vocational education courses to individuals at no cost, making educational advancements possible that might not be readily available to some outside prisons.
Not only is education more accessible and affordable, but prisoners also face fewer distractions, such as work and caring for family members, making it easier to focus on completing their studies.
Prison can be an opportunity to connect with spirituality
For some, prison is an opportunity to connect with their spirituality, or to reconnect if they were previously spiritual and neglected that aspect of their life before going to prison.
A priority for these inmates is to take advantage of the many church services, Bible studies, or other forms of spiritual initiation offered in the prison. Now is the time to introspect and discover the truth of their beliefs while finding a way to live out their truth.
Fitness, library books, and self-improvement classes
Prison is not only a great place to improve yourself mentally and spiritually, but it is also a great opportunity to improve your body. For some prisoners, exercising is an obsession! Just look at some of the tough guys you see coming out of jail and you’ll see what I mean!
Exercise equipment, videos on our prison-issued tablets, and an outdoor running track give inmates a variety of options so they can find something that works for them. In the two women’s prisons I’ve served time in, we even have aerobics classes taught by AFAA-certified inmates like myself, teaching inmates how to exercise safely and effectively.
These prisoners not only had better bodies, but also found a way to release stress and better cognitive function.
In addition to the previously mentioned opportunities for self-improvement, other healthy options for activities in prisons include classes such as exercise, Pathways to Change and victim impact classes, and using the prison library for self-improvement.
Prison libraries are a must for those of us thirsty (and intriguing) bookworms! I myself probably read thousands of books during my thirteen years in prison! Just the simple act of reading can enable a person to gain experience and knowledge far beyond these prison walls.
Every prisoner must have a job or go to school
While I can’t speak for every prison, most require inmates to have jobs unless they are full-time students.
Jobs at this agency include food service, cafeteria, warehouse, clothing issues, library staff, church staff, entertainment staff, dorm tenders, yard maintenance, maintenance, job posting, laundry, floor staff, or porters at various locations .
Work is mandatory, and unlike the streets, there is no requirement to call in sick. Not working or arriving late for work will result in a behavioral violation or being tripped. Working in a prison is a great opportunity to learn a good work ethic and experience the pride that comes with doing a job well done!
Not all prisoners choose to better themselves
Not all prisoners choose to use their free time in a productive way. Many inmates spent their days playing cards and gambling, doing drug dealing in the yard, or creating dramatic fun for those around them.
It amazes me how many people actually seem to take pleasure in hurting others. Prisons are full of every kind of lie and manipulation imaginable.
Many inmates spend their days watching TV and eating canteens, which they acquire through manipulative “tricks” — they call men and women and together sell their dreams of the future so they can send money.
Another favorite pastime of many inmates is having several girlfriends here, convincing everyone that they are the only ones, causing a lot of hurt and insecurity for all. Relationship issues lead to most of the fights I’ve seen in the prison I’m currently in. You can rest assured that in an institutional setting you will find that there are no limits to drama!
Writing is an important part of passing time in prison
Another way inmates pass the time in prison is by writing. Most inmates have people they write to on a regular basis, whether it’s children and family, friends, or pen pals from other institutions. I once knew a girl here who was writing letters to 12 different men in other prisons!
In addition to writing letters, many inmates choose to keep journals to help document their experiences and growth, write poetry or other creative writing, and even write books about their lives. Writing is a great way to pass the time and an opportunity for continued growth.
Some prisoners do not engage in life in prison
Unfortunately, some prisoners choose to not participate in life at all in prison, sleeping most of the time. They’ll feign illness that puts them out of work, skips playtime, and sometimes won’t even get up to eat.
Their only goal is to get out of here so they can start living again.
To me, this is very sad. Every day is a gift, an opportunity to learn, laugh and live no matter where you are. What if you die suddenly and unexpectedly after sleeping for a year? You’re just wasting the only life you have because you didn’t enjoy it while you had the chance! We spend a lot of time wishing for more instead of appreciating what we have.
How do prisoners spend their time in prison? Pretty much the same way anyone spends their time. Work, play, eat and sleep. Live, laugh, love and learn. Make tough decisions and accept the consequences of those decisions. Face their demons and hope for ultimate victory.
At the end of the day, prisoners are just people, too, and people will do what they can to live out their cherished ideals. How anyone spends their time is a reflection of who they are, and every day we get to choose who we will be.
Would you like to write to Mistie Vance or donate to her commissary? You can write to her:
Mistie Vance #1231904
3151 Lytton Road
Chillicothe, Missouri 64601
If you want to deposit funds into her commissary account so she can buy food, hygiene items, communications and clothes, you can do so at JPAY.com. Select Missouri — Chillicothe Correctional Center — Inmate #1231904 Mistie Vance.
Sources: Personal Experience Essay by inmate Mistie Vance at CCC in Chillicothe, MO.