If you're heading to jail or prison, you're probably worried. Along with the loss of liberty, you're wondering how to pass time in jail. Instead of waiting around for your release while you're there, find ways to prepare yourself for life after your incarceration.
Think about the life you want for yourself after your release. If it involves a better relationship with your family, a new career or a healthier lifestyle, start working toward your goals while you're in jail or prison.
There’s no other way to put it: jail and prison are boring. If you go in without a plan, a months-long sentence will feel like years, and a years-long sentence will feel like decades.
Create your plan for how to cope with jail time by picturing yourself after your release. What do you see? Use your idealized vision of life after jail to create a plan that will not only help you pass time while you’re incarcerated, but help you prepare for the life you want to live.
Create a Routine
The routine you create for yourself provides the framework for the ways you pass time while you’re incarcerated. Once you’re used to the facility’s daily routine for inmates, create a schedule for yourself that complies with it. Your personal routine may incorporate programs offered by the jail as well as activities you do on your own, depending on the availability of programs like classes and work programs.
Work on Your Relationships
While you’re in jail or prison, a good support network inside and outside the facility will help you stick to your goals and stay motivated to keep up the routine you’ve established. Talk to your fellow inmates and bond over games of chess, cards and dominoes. Having friends can make your time in jail more enjoyable, and these friendships can last far beyond the length of your sentence.
Work on your relationships with your family and friends outside jail, too. If you feel you want to rectify past wrongs and start fresh with the people you love, now is a great time to reflect on your relationships and set new courses for them. Writing letters to your loved ones can help you pass the time and give you an outlet for your thoughts and feelings. When you establish a correspondence with a pen pal or a loved one, knowing that a letter’s on its way to you can give you something to look forward to and break the monotony of your days.
Many jails and prisons have education programs. If you don’t have a high school diploma or GED, now is a great time to complete one. You could also enter a college program and possibly leave jail with your Bachelor’s degree.
Education is more than sitting in class and handing in assignments. Some of the most effective education is self-directed, so head to the library and take out books on subjects that interest you. If the library doesn’t have what you’re looking for, ask a friend or family member to send you the books you want.
Build Your Skills
There’s a link between vocational skills and recidivism rates: when former inmates don’t have the skills to find jobs and support themselves after being released, they’re more likely to end up back in prison. Using your time in jail to develop new vocational skills or further those you already have will have a positive impact on your life after release.
Every jail and prison is different when it comes to work programs. In some, work is mandatory for inmates and in others, it’s optional. Inmates might work full-time or close to it, or they might work for only a few hours each day. See if your facility has programs for building vocational skills. If it does, completing a vocational program will pass the time while preparing you for the next step in your career.
Live a Healthy Lifestyle
The image of prison inmates working out in the yard is a stereotypical one, but it’s one you should take cues from. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine won’t just benefit you physically, it will benefit you mentally. You don’t need fancy or expensive gym equipment to get into shape; you can do sit-ups, push-ups and squats using just your body weight as resistance. Simply walking laps outside will help you clear your mind and feel physically refreshed.
Prepare for Life After Release With Your Counselor
Discuss your progress with a counselor at the facility. A prison counselor’s job is to work with inmates to help them reach their goals, which might be developing anger management or other social skills, working through past trauma and developing healthy coping mechanisms, or overcoming substance addiction. Your counselor will evaluate your progress toward your goals and advise you as you progress toward new goals. Your counselor is your advocate; when you feel lost or discouraged, your counselor is your best resource for staying on track.