Monday, 20 October 2014

10 Practical Tips to Survive Prison

Good day to you fine Internet reader, my names Jack Hill and I spent just over 14 months inside the UK Prison system. I am writing this blog to pass on my observations and experiences so that they might prove of value for you, either for some first hand knowledge / experience or a bit of entertainment.

I was a student studying for Professional Sound and Video production at University when I committed my (very stupid) crime. Check out my article on my past if your interested : The Student Armed Robber - by Jack Hill

I also have a youtube channel in which I share my experiences and observations in person in the form of vlogs, check it out here : DrunkerJack1 (most recent vlog on Prison Showers!)

If not, here is a picture of me in a ridiculous sketch in Manchester TV studios next to the massive orad green screen. I'm the one on the right :)

So here are my Top 10 Practical tips for surviving Prisons
(from the perspective of male UK prisons)

1. Adjust

The quicker you adjust to your surroundings and situation, the better the chance you will have of surviving the situation. Every prison is different, different high danger areas : dangerous/ difficult people to avoid, different rules and regulations : stay within the rules of the prison if you don't want to be shipped out etc. There can also be different kinds of slang in each prison that need to be learned. The more clued up your are on the Prison workings, the safer you are from manipulation.

The sounds, smells, tastes (food) and sights of some prisons can be disgusting, but if you just remind yourself to adjust for now and that it's only temporary, this may help you to progress with your sentence a little better.

Learn what rights you have and what facilities you have access to (library, gym, farms, pool rooms etc), aim to use them all when you can to add variety to your sentence / life as well. Trying to avoid repetition was a big thing for me inside and I did that partly by trying to do as many different things as I could.

2. Try to make friends

Do you consider yourself a sociable person? Can you adjust to a different and very tense macho environment? If you are nice in general and can have a joke occasionally, this will help you make a few friends. I'm not talking long life besties, just friendly acquaintances that you say hello to when you pass and will happily speak to when you can on social time, if they need a reasonable favour, you can help. These friends will protect you in a way, because you are seen amongst a group and not as an individual, your chance of being targeted as a weak loner, will be reduced. (This seemed somewhat prevalent, in part because the victims didn't yet know how some of the prison worked... Including rules put in place by prisoners sometimes)

3. Stand your ground

I'm not saying be overly stubborn with every matter. But on simple principals like "pad" mates ( cell mates) using your belongings (toiletries, food etc), be sure to stand your ground otherwise you could be manipulated and exploited.

This happened a few times when cell mates where using my stuff and we had to argue (sometimes slightly heatedly) until the situation was resolved.

4. Set goals and benchmarks in your diary

If your looking at any length of time inside, it can seem daunting to someone who has never been to prison. Try to break up your sentence into different productivity sections in your diary, setting as many goals in each section as possible, with the end of your sentence as your end point for productivity - like reading books, training goals, academic goals, language learning, musical goals, writing targets, developing a skill, nutritional targets (any personal development goals will help you feel as though your at least using your time as productively as possible). I always thought of the health & fitness activities fondly because I speculated that if I was loosing 14 months of my life inside, I could potentially extend my total expected life by 14 months or more by being as healthy as possible! And in a way, gain time in life by making rational choices in how I choose to live my life.

It may have been a little too optimistic, but it provided a good distraction and productive past time at least. I read as much as I could about diets and started eating a lot healthier (as healthy as prison food will allow, the portions were not that big, part of the contributing factor to weight loss), I read about fitness and started training a lot more and setting training targets to work on. Both of these massively contributed to stabilising my energy levels throughout the day. I also slept much better at night when I had exerted myself in the gym and then eaten as healthy a meal as I could.

I equated the mental battle of prison and mental fight whilst doing a lengthy and taxing run to be similar in structure - To start off with you go into alarm and feel slightly scared that you won't be able to make it, then you adjust slightly and get your rhythm, some struggles along the way to gain your composure and forever clock watching, as it draws closer to the end time also slows somewhat and then the last few moments can be very hard to endure.

5. Think of 3 things that you appreciated through the day every time you go to sleep

Anything at all, even if it's just a meal that wasn't terrible - e.g. at least it wasn't awful, I got 1 extra biscuit at tea tonight, that book I read was good etc.

This was a method that I used throughout prison and it really helped me to stay optimistic and mentally survive prison. It's simple I know, but it was effective for me. I did it just before I went to sleep every night and then used a meditation method to help me sleep. It was based on some self development methods I had read about and in particular the "Power of the Inner Monologue", this can be a very powerful survival tool.

6. Maintain contact with family and friends on the outside. Letters & Phone calls

Write as many letters as you can, this will remind you of who you are on the outside and the positive qualities that people see in you. Try and build on these and be honest with those you care about, apologies are never wasted as people on the outside will be emotionally hurting just as much as you are. Try to build on relationships with honesty and sincerity.

This was a great way for me to spend my time when I was inside, writing and reading letters. I loved hearing my friends and families stories and writing to them all. Every letter was like a little reminder that you hadn't been forgotten about (which felt like a constant and real threat with the unfortunate souls surrounding you and the Ground Hog day repetition that comes with an incarceration institute).

The more letters you write, the more letters you will likely receive! A constant incentive for me to write letters as it game me two things to do.

Phone calls are also very important, as writing letters doesn't actually involve any real human interaction it cannot suffice with the need for this connection. A few phone calls a week was enough to get me through the initial / hard part of my sentence.

These phone calls should be to a good friend or relative who is very sensible and who cares about you enough to listen to you moan / cry / talk for a short time.

Make note that other cons can still here you talk whilst your on the phone, so don't start bad mouthing everyone or your pad mate because it will probably get back to them!

7. Visits

Visits are one of the most important things to a prisoners psyche. They are the thing that prisoners look forward to most (besides they're release).

Through letters Prisoners can invite people for visits, sometimes having to send out visit request slips or forms for the visitor to fill in and send back in the mail. The Prisoner can arrange visits for himself, sometimes, but not all the time. An unexpected visit from a loved one is one of the nicest things that can happen in my experience of prison. Because you know people are trying to get to you to make sure your alright and that is a strong positive gesture of care / love.

So, both sides can contribute in arranging these visits, but willingness and pro-activity is always good.

8. Deal with any problems on the outside with finances / debt / housing

Try to contact anyone your in debt with and let them know your in prison and unable to pay anything at all, let them know your exact means of contact ( mailing procedures / cell number, wing, etc ) and that available for communication. This can at least FREEZE your debt whilst your inside, providing that the debtors agree to it.

You can also arrange to pay them off if you can actually afford it of course. I think Prison is a place to say, "ok I should tidy up this mess now". So any outlying issues, you may as well address them and attempt to resolve them inside, if it's possible.

My family helped me to resolve all of my debt problems inside by simply contacting and talking with the companies to clarify details, circumstances etc. This can clear your mind of any past issues and help you look to the future.

Try to arrange as soon as you can for some accommodation outside, the sooner you get this in place, the sooner you can stop worrying about it and look forward to leaving prison.

9. Be Respectful

When talking with anyone inside, a con (prisoner) or a screw (prison officer), try to maintain some base level of civility because you never know when you could be talking to a nutter or power mad / sensitive screw. I only saw one of the latter, but still something to be avoided as screws can make a cons life very hard.

Don't use dodgy jokes, NO Paedophile jokes, NO "Your Mum" (or any family) jokes. I almost got in a fight over a "your mum" joke that i said ( I found it hilarious, but the con didn't).

10. Start planning your future

I would only do this once you've done at least 75% of your sentence. Too early can be a negative thing (because you can just end up desperately missing home and waiting for freedom to come) but used at the right time it can potentially give you a second wind.

I realised that when I went to Prison, I didn't like certain things about myself, about my character and me as a man. So I asked myself the question "What kind of man do I want to be?"

I did a lot of personal development, resolved a lot of internal issues and then wanted to start planning my future. A better future.

I started to plan my future with what I wanted to do and "who" I wanted to become. A better man.

Healthy activities, social events, simple meals with different people, ideas to expand upon, potential places to visit, people to see and things to say. There may be some hindering factors involved here, but if you practice your skills at problem solving and working your way around any problems that come up, with a calm and calculated mentality, you will at least give all of your goals in life your best shot.

Asking yourself the question "What matters to me in life?", is also a good question to ask yourself inside as this is good personal development to try and figure out your priorities in life. Family, friends and people who supported you is a good place to start.


So that's my top 10 practical tips to surviving prison, I hope you enjoyed it :-) And who knows, by following these and using a good level of critical thinking, empathy and as much willpower as you can muster, you might just survive prison and become a better person. I hope this has helped you and feel free to check out my youtube channel : DrunkerJack1 and add me on twitter for a chat and updates on my next blogs, vlogs, music and an open dialogue if you like : avpstudios09

Big love to you all :-)


Monday, 6 October 2014

The student armed robber - by Jack Hill

Student, Robber, Musician and Vlogger
"Who am I?"
by Jack Hill

My name is Jack Hill, I was incarcerated for just over 14 months in UK Prisons at the age of 25 whilst studying for a BSc Degree in Professional Sound and Video Technology at Salford University. I am starting to write blogs and I do Youtube video blogs (vlogs) on my experiences and observations from my time spent inside and amongst the criminal underworld of the UK.

Why am I starting a blog, its simple, people seem to be entertained by my stories and I believe that I have had an interesting life so far and may have a unique perspective on some things. I also like to try and help and inspire people as much as I can. I think the people and the internet deserve the truth as well.

How did a student, facing his own destruction find himself incarcerated for Armed (knife) Robbery? I made a very, very big mistake whilst I was in a deep state of depression and a less than sober mind.

Bare in mind, none of this or any of my vlogs are excusing what I did, let me make that very clear. I did something hurtful to others, to my family, friends, to the victims of my crime and to everyone who had ever met me. It shames me every time I think about it, it upsets me deeply sometimes to know that I had been so lost that I had acted so unlike "myself", hidden away in a corner of the world away from all of my loved ones because of the biggest mistake I have ever made. I have had a lot of time to feel sorry for myself and bad for what I did, but eventually you have to close that chapter of your life and move on. There is no point regretting the past so much that you miss or mess up the present.

So all I can do is try to be the best man I can be now, regardless of the mistakes I made, I've paid for them ( at least in accordance with the law of the land) and I can only try and be a good man for the future.

So what was I like before I went to Prison? I was apparently a "lovely child" my mother tells me, always playing and very well behaved and polite. I still feel like this child inside and remember massively how I felt at the age of 7, I am still that boy inside in many ways. I never lost my child like sense of wonder about the world or my love of "playing out" - ie running around outdoors, climbing, exploring and getting covered in mud and sweat. I had an fantastic child hood with my 3 siblings, two sisters and an older, and of course my parents.

So lets skip to 6 months before I was arrested.....

I had grown into a man. I was at university and had a long term girl friend. I had been using drugs and alcohol quite heavily during my university years which partly influenced the relationships demise. I also couldn't sleep very well and would often obsess over some things and couldn't sleep without figuring something out. I was in the midst of a depression, partly caused by a bit of a rough relationship - it wasn't physically abusive, but it felt very emotionally abusive to me, it was up and down and I just put up with it all.

So she broke up with me. It was the first person I thought I loved ( I definitely cared about her deeply) and it crushed me. I remember the break up was hours of us talking and just crying. One of the most painful moments of my life ( at the time), little did I know that my own stupidity had a little surprise in store for me and that this was nothing compared to the pain yet to come.

I went into a deep depression, I had been struggling with my mental health before this moment but things seriously went down hill for me at this point.

I tried to avoid everyone I could, I tried to recover on some days, but I was high a lot of the time and couldn't form an "escape plan" to my situation. The emotional damage that I had been bottling from my past and the damage that the end of my first long term relationship had caused had become an infection in my emotions and I couldn't seem to resolve them. I woke up crying and was deeply depressed.

A few other things happened that caused my situation to worsen, I had a good job setting up stages with a few friends and had done regular work on the Liverpool Echo Arena for the likes of Usher and Justin Beiber, to mention a few. The work for this company stopped coming in and I no longer had work to go to.

I also was working full time for 3 months in order to pay for my tuition fee's, being told that the loan was just delayed and would materialise in semester 2. I got to semester 2, after a really hard 3 months.... and the loan failed to materialise. I distinctly remember a phone call from the university saying that if I didn't pay all of my loan by the next day, I would be kicked off the course.

All of the above plus a lot of debt chasing me that I simply wasn't dealing with caused me to go into a hiding place where all of my problems just piled on top of me until eventually I had to get out of that house.

In this period, I rarely saw anyone else, I didn't eat that much at all, I hardly slept at all and my mental state snow balled into dangerous state that lead me to feel like I was on the precipous of my own destruction and I had to get out of my current situation. Though it was more of an inner sense of fear and running away than a reasoned thought process.

Unlike Andy Dufresne (picture above from the classic Shawshank Redemption) - I was guilty and deserving of Prison. 

On the night of my crime I believe that if I hadn't have done my stupid crime, I would have done something equal or greater in stupidity and killed myself. I remember the feeling, I had tunnel vision and no real sense of the world, I was a shell of my former self. When I was caught, I new something was changing and even though at the time I knew it was going to be bad, I didn't have any feelings of care for my own well being. I only felt really bad for the "ex-friends" that I had just scared the shit out of. It took a few hours to sink in properly and then I was in more pain again with the level of regret and shame I was experiencing.

They put me on suicide watch on the first night I was inside, fearing that I would self harm or attempt suicide. Understandably so, because I was crying loudly, shouting and punching walls for most of the night. That was the darkest night of my life.

But my family and friends followed me into the dark place, the place I had put myself in, just to see me and to hold out a hand and support me through it.

Without the people who supported me, I believe there was a good chance of me killing myself inside. I can't express in words the gratitude for their kindness, and the hope in humanity and life that they gave me over the next 6 weeks or so.

So I decided to try and stay alive and survive my prison time and that maybe on the outside there might be something good for me in the future. They made me believe that life could be good again.

I will be talking more on lots of different topics, possibly a weekly blog, but I usually do a weekly vlog if you want to check out my youtube channel as well or follow me on twitter for updates and an open dialogue :) 

or follow me on twitter : @avpstudios09

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed :)