I wanted to write an entry about the things I have learned since being in Lewisburg or in federal prison in total.  This will sort of be a potpourri of advice and little pieces of knowledge I have acquired in my short stay.  A good amount of this will fall under the category of common sense but sometimes having someone with experience explaining it out loud might help magnify and register in your brain.   Luckily,  many of the things I will write about below I was able to learn through observation and not by being thrown into the fire.  If even one of these entries is helpful to you readers then I will have felt I performed a service.

Keep a tight Circle AT Lewisburg Federal Prison Camp

– We all conduct ourselves differently while in society but while being a guest of the government I would recommend maintaining a smaller circle of friends or confidants.

– The daily grind of being incarcerated effects everyone differently.   One of the few common themes is that people will have unexpected bad days.  When this happens it is better to only open up to a trusted person.  It has been my experience that when certain people see you down they would like to make it worse.  Bad days will come and having a game plan to manage these days in advance will serve you well.  This can manifest itself in many different forms such as exercise, confiding in a trusted peer or sleeping it off and waiting for a new/fresh day.  Find what works for you and practice it when one of these uncomfortable days arise.

Don’t speak to Guards:

– I have written on this before and it has not been an issue for me whatsoever but I feel it is somewhat important to reiterate.  There is almost zero reason to interact with the guards within prison.

– The only time you may need to have such an interaction is at your place of work and even then it should be truncated and work related.

Keep Busy at Lewisburg Prison Camp

– I have expounded on this in prior entries but I cannot emphasize enough how important a full daily calendar is.  There are many inmates who would gladly sleep away their time away and stare at the wall the balance of the time.  In my opinion this is a recipe for disaster.  Some people say “how you do your time is how you will be on the outside.”  No one wants to be in prison and no one wants their liberties taken from them.  The truth of the matter is you need to accept where you are and plan accordingly.  A full daily schedule allows me to plan for the future, work on my health and keep a healthy mental outlook.

– This schedule will include items such as classes, work, exercise, writing, committees, faith-based activities.  I have taken two jobs in order to fill my daily calendar this in conjunction with my other priorities keep me moving from sun up to sun down and believe it or not has made the calendar move quicker and my mental health stronger.

Don’t Listen to Gossip/Don’t Spread Gossip:

– One of the biggest surprises I have been faced with is how  much prison resembles a middle school cafeteria or school yard.   The amount of gossip that moves through this facility is both shocking and mind-numbing.  People will spread rumors about the most minor of items and sometimes these “stories” will take on a life of their own.

– It is my strong recommendation that only believe 10% of what you hear and repeat 0% that you can not confirm to be accurate.

Don’t be overly Helpful or a Try-hard:

– Stay in your lane.  Some people by nature are helpful.  This in everyday society can be seen as a virtuous quality but while in prison can be viewed as demeaning or over-reaching.  It is safer to assume if someone wants advice or needs help with something they will ask.

– Once again, some of you might identify as an over achiever in your everyday life. That is a fine attribute but while in prison keep your efforts tighter.  By all means while trying to better yourself go full throttle.  My advice and what I have witnessed is that one should keep a lower profile in the public arena in prison.  While at work or in your class work do what is expected and required but keep the compulsive impressing to a minimum.

Keep Hygiene a priority:

–  This goes under the stating the obvious banner.  People love identifying and speaking out against someone they view as lacking in this department.  It is for your own health and your own sanity.

People in Federal Prison have a thin skin:

–  This was information and advice that was given to me by a peer when I arrived and I didn’t believe it until I witnessed it.  Inmates have inordinately thin skin.  What most would view as a quick tease or joke in fun can quickly be received as “disrespect”.

Don’t inquire too much:

– Your relationships within prison will develop at their own pace.  Let discussions unfold naturally and try not to be the first to inquire as to why someone might be in prison or what transpired.  Keep conversations cursory and topical.  A little goes a long way.

Respect & Friendliness go a long way:

– Don’t forget your please and thank yours

– Smile and say hello while passing people in the hall or on walkways.

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Matthew O'Callaghan