Taken from A Hedonist’s Guide to Life

A Hedonist’s Guide to Prison Survival by Howard Marks
Howard has spent well over 3,000 days in a total of 15 prisons in America, Holland, Spain, Hong Kong and the UK.

You are light years from home with no friend, family or fellow countryman anywhere around. You are confined within a small area surrounded by razor wire fences, electric fences, searchlights and patrolling uniformed psychopaths itching to use their machine guns. Your fellow inmates are assassins, urban guerrillas, child molesters, serial killers, cannibals, rapists, mass murderers, snitches and other perverts whose pleasure derives from others’ pain. You are physically weak and skint. You are a smart arse with a degree and several kids. You are attractive and all the other male prisoners fancy you. You have no choice of food, clothing, employment, bedtime, waking-up time, work time, interior decoration or roommate. You have no television, radio, sound system, computer, telephone or sight of a female body. You have no drugs. You are on your own in the belly of the beast. You are buried alive.

The absence of your family will tear your heart out. Nobody can wait for you that long. You will witness gang rape, garrotings with guitar strings, stabbings of vital organs, attempted decapitation and 200-strong free-for-alls in which the participants slice each other up with home-made swords, kitchen knives and sheets of glass. But don’t worry. You will become numb and impassive to all forms of blood, guts, hysteria and grief. You will also get ill. Smoke and phlegm will fill your lungs and an ill-fitting denture plate will dangle from your mouth. How are you going to survive, motherfucker?

Realise you are almost completely forgotten. When banged up for a long stretch, you’re a complete pain in the arse to everyone outside. Nobody knows what to write or send. Life is much easier for them if they forget you. Don’t take it personally.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Even in the free world, you have no meaningful control over events. You are insignificant. In prison, this is even more the case. You can’t control what happens to you, but – and this is so important – you can totally control your attitude to whatever is happening.

Never show your fear. Animals smell fear and go for the kill to get their food. Humans smell fear and go for the kill for their money, pride and sexual pleasure. Never show fear.

Keep fit. One way of getting even with the bastards who put you away is to have the same life expectancy on your day of release as on your day of arrest. Another is to escape by scaling fences, jumping gun towers and disarming prison officers. Both require dedicated preparation and a certain level of fitness.

However, prisons do not really go in for the transformation of an unhealthy, confused and possibly feeble delinquent into a fit, powerful man, focused on revenge against the system that destroyed everything he had. There are no gymnasia. Prison cells, however, are ideal for the practice of yoga, the oldest system in the world of combined mind and body development. The basic postures, asanas, are a series of strange but surprisingly easy-to-learn positions that keep the body lean and flexible. The practice stretches and tones every part of the body, and through twisting and turning, massages the internal organs. I’m not going to rave on about inner peace. Quite simply, the exercises make sense: stretching and breathing, as opposed to contracting and puffing, and overcoming the physical discomfort generated by some asanas gives a sweet, calming feeling. I don’t think it’s the least bit necessary to avoid chemical highs, but it’s comforting to realise there are other ways of achieving similar mental states.

Always help people. Resolve firmly to assist the inhabitants of your immediate environment. It’s easy, and there’s no downside.

Don’t give up the fight. The bastards would dearly love you to rot in prison. You feel you can’t win. There’s no way out. That’s not a good enough reason to stop fighting. The way of the warrior is correct, win or lose.

Don’t grass. The only guaranteed way I could avoid a lifetime in prison was to testify against my friends. And never, ever again be able to look my parents or kids in the eyes. I would have preferred to give up the ghost and lay down in the prison cemetery, the graveyard of those forgotten before they die, than to grass.

Content copyright of Howard Marks / Hg2.com

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