Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The Ten Commandments of Prison

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Okay, so I really messed up. My first time on holiday to the US from Jolly Old England, and now

Im being convicted on federal drug trafficking charges, just because I left my bags with that

seemingly-nice man while I was in the airport bathroom. Thankfully, Im not in Singapore,

so I wont be hanged for my stupid mistake, but I am gonna be doing hard time in a US federal prison

until my next appeal. But dont worry Ive seen The Shawshank Redemption twice, and Im pretty

sure I watched a couple episodes of Prison Break. Its not like there are ten super important rules,

right? This should be a piece of cake 10. In prison, do not refer to the

other guys doing time with you as inmates. Of course, on my first day, I want to make sure

I make a good first impression. After all, Im potentially staring down the barrel of a ten-year

sentence, so its definitely a good idea to make friends. Thats why, on my first day in the yard,

I walked up to the nearest group of prisoners and decided to lay my British charm on them.

Hello, my fellow inmates! I said. They looked at me like I was an alien. I figured

it mustve been the accent, so I tried again. How about we go from in-mates to good mates?

I said, and sadly, nobody laughed. They just kept staring at me.

That night, as I was helping scrub down the tiles in the showers, someone whacked me on

the back of the head with a bar of soap inside a tube sock. Ouch! Next thing I knew, I was in the

infirmary. When I told the prison doctor the whole story, he just shook his head and said.

Word of advice, buddy. Dont call your fellow prisoners inmates. Its a sign of disrespect,

or shows that youre softer than Wonderbread. Use convicts next time.

Well, thats one lesson learned the hard way 9. Dont PC up.

After only one day in prison, Id already decided that being locked up with a bunch of

murderers and hardcore career criminals really wasnt for me. These men could be real brutes,

and Ive always been more of a soft touch. I thought that it was probably best to get

myself a little protection from all the scary men with cheeks covered in tear-drop tattoos. Thats

why I approached one of the guards, and asked him if I could be put under protective custody.

He asked why, and I told him my tale of soapy woe. But the guard just laughed,

and rudely told me that my concerns just werent a priority right now. Worse still,

one of my fellow inmates- Uh, I mean, convicts, saw me get rejected. How humiliating!

It literally added injury to insult when that convict, along with a few others,

cornered me in the yard the next day and kicked me several times in the head. I just cant win!

Later, in the infirmary, the doctor told me, You were lucky it was just a beating.

You really shouldnt PC up unless its life or death, cause if you get seen doing it,

youll make it life or death. 8. Do not gamble, borrow,

or use drugs that you get up front' with the promise that you'll pay later without knowing

beyond doubt that you'll be able to pay. After my frankly quite shoddy first few days

as a convict, I must say, I was really feeling sorry for myself. Not only was I going to miss

out on the release of the PlayStation 5 because of the length of the sentence,

they didnt even have so much as a PS3 on the inside! It was torture! Thats why I decided to

score myself a bit of the old Bolivian Marching Powder from my cellmate, Hector. He gave me a

quizzical look when I asked, and said: Are you sure youre good for it?

Yes, yes, of course, whatever, I said. Just give me my drugs. Im miserable here!

So, Hector obliged me, and I spent the next few hours feeling pretty darn good. Until,

of course, Hector pushed me up against the wall and held a shiv up to my throat, asking for

his money with language I cant really repeat here. When I told him I couldnt pay him back,

he thankfully only beat the living hell out of me. Dont gamble, borrow, or take any drugs you

cant pay for, you stupid, British jerk, he said, before going to bed.

I spent that night in the infirmary. Again. 7. Never Back Down from a Challenge.

By mid-week, Im not gonna lie, I looked like a mess. I was so bruised up that I looked like

a dalmatian, and I was feeling lonely since Hector was sent to solitary for beating me up.

I decided to just sit quietly in the yard and read the only book the prison

library had available at the time, which was sadly a copy of a Justin Bieber biography.

So, you can only imagine my frustration when a man they called Aryan Nation Steve on

account of all the Swastika tattoos and racial hatred came over to me, jonesing for a fight.

He said, in his deep, intimidating voice: You and me right now, little man, lets go!

Of course, he was twice my size and way, way angrier, so I didnt much fancy a fight.

Cant we just talk about this like civilized men? I asked.

When a few of the other convicts heard me say this, they apparently took offence,

and started crowding around us. Aryan Nation Steve challenged me again.

Im sorry, Steven, but Im just not feeling it! I said.

So, I got beaten up by seven guys instead of one. And while Aryan Nation Steve was punching

me in the face, he said Word of advice: When someone challenges you, you take that challenge,

or things will get a whole lot worse! Duly noted.

6. Defer to, and show respect to the older convicts. You do not get

to survive prison to old age by accident. Needless to say, after all these beatings,

I was feeling pretty powerless. I needed a sense of retribution,

or my self-esteem was going to take a real nosedive. I vaguely remembered something about

asserting dominance by taking on the strongest guy in the yard, but the strongest guy in the

yard a Russian gangster who went by Big Boy Boris would probably use me as a toilet brush.

Thats why I decided to instead take on Toothless Bill, who at 75 was probably the oldest guy

in the penitentiary. As a spritely young lad of 22, I figured I could probably take the old

codger and after all, as Id learned yesterday, you can never turn down a fight in prison.

This would be a perfect way to at least end up above someone on the food chain!

So, I approached him, and said, Come on, Toothless Bill, its time to throw down!

And without a word, he rose from his seat, and gave me a swift chop to the throat that sent me

crumbling to the ground, gasping for air. He gave a grizzled old chuckle and said,

Respect your elders, kid. You do not get to survive prison to old age by accident.

5. Maintain Good Personal Hygiene. It goes without saying that prison

really wasnt going well for me. Id learned five important rules, sure,

but at what cost? I was getting bloodied and bashed on an almost daily basis. And

ever since the soap bar assault on the first day, I was petrified of getting back into the showers.

As a result, my smell apparently became a little offensive to my fellow convicts.

And okay, maybe Id been spotted leaving the bathroom without washing my hands a few times,

but Id only peed! And with the constant threat of assault coming at me from every angle, maybe

some of the little things were beginning to slip my mind. But apparently all this wasnt so little

to the other prisoners, as they werent nearly as accustomed to my brand of natural musk as I was.

I think thats why I was hit over the back of the head with a rock, and dragged into the showers,

where they forcibly scrubbed me down against my will and then shoved a bar of soap into my mouth.

It was my first day all over again! They didnt say much, save for a lot of very creative swear

words, but I still got the message loud and clear. Maintain good personal hygiene,

or have the snot kicked out of you. Understood. 4. Dont Break The Chow Hall Seating Arrangement.

If the constant violence and degradation werent bad enough, the food in prison is terrible, too.

Just a random assortment of government-mandated slop on a TV dinner plate. After being handed

my so-called meal in the chow hall, I turned to take my seat, and suddenly noticed that by what

seemed like pure chance the convicts in the chow hall were all segregated by race. How strange,

I thought. Maybe theyve been in prison so long they didnt even know segregation had ended?

I decided Id do the decent thing, and go sit in the African-American section to tell them about

all the amazing racial progress thatd gone on outside. Theyd probably be delighted to

hear it! But as I sat down among them, they all just gave me some really strange looks.

I decided it was probably because of all the bruises, so I persisted with my pitch-perfect

retelling of the American Civil Rights Movement. I somehow ended up with a dining fork sticking out

of my cheek by the end of the anecdote, but in the process, I learned an extremely valuable lesson:

Dont break the chow hall seating code. Oh, and dont be condescending to people, either.

3. Mind your own business at all times, and use 100% of your common sense at all times.

Hector was back in the cell with me that night. Our relationship had definitely been a little

strained since the drug-fuelled violence incident, so we mainly kept to ourselves. But, in the night,

I heard strange noises coming from the top bunk. When I took a peek, I saw that Hector

had somehow obtained some contraband lipstick, drawn a crude image of a woman on his pillow,

and was passionately making out with it. Of course, I found this to be hilarious,

and decided to tell the story to a few fellow convicts out in the yard. They were laughing along

at all the right moments. Things were finally going well! I was being liked! Until suddenly,

I was being garrotted with a shoelace. Turns out, Hector had heard me talking smack, and wanted a

little retribution of his own. Thankfully, the guards intervened before he could finish the job.

It was another important lesson for the future: Mind your own business at all times,

and use 100% of your common sense at all times. 2. Do not fraternize with convicts of another race

than your own. If you do, understand that you are putting your life or your health at risk.

I was still feeling silly for my ham-handed attempts to bridge the racial divide in the

chow-hall, and decided to try it again on a much smaller scale in the yard.

I approached an African-American prisoner and struck up a conversation you know, all the

standard prison small talk: His name, what he was in for, and whether he had a favourite video

from The Infographics Show. He seemed like a nice enough guy, if a little skittish about talking to

me. Maybe I was finally building up my cred! Though I realised the true reason for his

nervousness afterwards, when Aryan Nation Steve punched me really hard in the face and called

me a race traitor. Thats when I learned it was probably just best to avoid fraternising

with convicts who werent the same race as me. God, who would have guessed that

prison was such a prejudiced environment? 1. Do not tell on anybody, for any reason.

My American prison experience, on the whole, had been horrible. If you could give prisons Yelp

reviews, Id definitely give this one zero stars. Id made no friends, been assaulted constantly,

and just had a generally bad time. I decided Id finally get payback the only way I knew how:

Id tattle to a guard about all the sketchy things my fellow convicts had been doing, and watch the

warden rake them over the coals for it. I told them about Hectors drug running,

about Aryan Nation Steves penchant for punching, and about the countless instances of

rule-breaking and contraband Id seen on the yard. It seemed like a great idea, until that night,

when I was peeling potatoes in the kitchen. Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by stone-faced

convicts, all of them carrying shivs. Im guessing youre not here to help

me with the potatoes? I asked. And one of them just sneered,

and said to me, You forgot the most important rule of prison, kid: Snitches get stitches.

And in that moment, before receiving a very painful Cell Block B acupuncture session,

I realised that there were not only ten crucial prison commandments that you have

to follow to save your skin, but that there was an unspoken eleventh commandment. A commandment

that is arguably the most important of all: Make sure you learn the other ten beforehand,

because if you have to learn them by experience inside, then you wont make it out alive.

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