Written vs. UnWritten Prison Rules | Noah’s Story

So obviously in prison, there are plenty of rules, and these may vary from facility to facility, but most are the same. Also, as I said before, there are both written rules set by the facility, and unwritten rules set by the inmates.

I will cover the written rules first in this post.

Written Prison Rules

Rule 1

Listen for the announcements on the PA.

These announcements come throughout the day, and for some reason when you first get there you can’t understand it, but eventually, you will. I used always ask people around me what they just said when an announcement would come over the speaker, and they would say, “don’t worry if they are looking for you, they will find you.”

At first, just listen for your name as that will be the first thing you understand, but as you start to understand the rest, it will let you know if the compound is closed for any reason, or if there will be an early recall or anything unexpected.

Rule 2

Don’t go on the compound unless the compound is open.

First thing you need to find out is if there are 10 minutes moves. These moves open up every hour and give you 10 minutes to get where you are going before they close and then the compound remains closed until the next hour when it opens again for the next one.

These suck because it can make your trip to the library or medical that would typically take 15 minutes, take up to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Also, every now and then they don’t call the next 10 minutes move for 2 hours so you are stuck wherever you are for even longer.

My suggestion is to bring a book, radio, or Mp3 player. Not all compounds have 10 minutes moves, such is the case at Yankton, but you still have to make sure the compound is open. An easy rule of thumb is if you are the only one on the compound, it’s probably not open, so go back inside and ask someone if it’s open.

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Rule 3

Check the callout sheet.

This will be located in a common area, most likely near the front door or officers’ station. They are posted Monday through Friday around 2:30 pm and this will let you know if you are supposed to be somewhere the following day.

If you miss this callout, you will be called repeatedly over the loud speaker, and you may receive an incident report for it as well.

An incident report is also called a “shot,” and it’s a disciplinary write-up.

When you first get to prison or a new compound, you will be on this sheet multiple times in the first few weeks to see medical, psych, case manager and counselor, and RDAP. After the initial dog and pony show you are usually just on the callout sheet when you sign up for something or are involved in a program.

There are also bunk moves, and job and program assignments that are included on the callout sheet. Be on time as well.

Rule 4

Find a job, or they will find one for you.

Your case manager will usually give you a few days or up to a week but you may want to find a job of your choosing, or you will get put where they need you, which is usually jobs that nobody else wants to sign up for therefore they are low staffed. If you want to eat, I recommend food service, if you like working outside then day compound, if you have a trade or want to learn then facilities, if you’re a book worm then education. Also, ask around for different programs your facility offer, for example Yankton has a horticulture class that many other facilities don’t have, and Milan had an automotive program, so you never know what each place has to offer.

Rule 5

Don’t cross yellow lines on the sidewalk and keep an eye out for signs.

There are certain places on every compound designated as out of bounds, some are labeled, and some are not, but you probably will only get in trouble if you cross the labeled one or cross the unlabeled ones after a warning. The labeled areas will usually have yellow lines on the sidewalk, signs on the grass, or a sign posted on the door of the entrance.

Rule 6

Don’t miss or mess up count time.

This time is universal throughout the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Monday-Friday count time is 4 pm and 10 pm during the day, and these are stand-up counts. For 4 pm you will either be by your bunk bed or at your work detail and 10 pm count you are by your bunk. There is also night counts that you will do in your rack; these are at midnight, 3 am, and 5 am.

On the weekends there is a 10 am stand-up count as well that you will do by your bunk or at your work detail. Some facilities will have census counts throughout the day, especially ones like Yankton that are in the middle of a town; we have these at 8 am and noon.

The rest of the rules are fairly obvious. Don’t have contraband, don’t fight, don’t steal from the kitchen, don’t have sex, don’t use drugs.

There is a list of the different severity of shots in the handbook, ranging from 100 series shots being the most severe which include violence and drug use, then 200 series shots ranging from stealing from the kitchen and circumventing the mail systems, 300 series shots ranging from unauthorized property and tobacco, and finally 400 series shots including swearing. I have never seen someone get written up for a 400 series shots, but they exist if they want to get real petty.

Following these rules and some common sense, you should be able to figure the rest out as you go.

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