Former Inmates Are Sharing The "Prison Habits" They STILL Do In Everyday Life, And Some Of Them Surprised Me

The other day, Reddit user u/youknowyoulick asked, "People who have been in jail, what habits do you still do today that you learned from being in lockup?" Former inmates shared the unconventional and unexpected habits they still hold onto to this day, and TBH I learned a lot.

a person's hands going through jail bars
Atit Phetmuangtong / Getty Images / EyeEm

Here are some of their most fascinating responses:

1."The dorm pod I was in had metal stairs that made loud noises when you walked down them. Almost got in a fight with three other people because I woke up at night and had to piss and woke everyone up. To this day, I can't fall asleep without peeing immediately before lying down."

"Like, even if I went less than an hour earlier, I have to stand there and focus with yogi-like intensity to squeeze a few drops out, or I lay awake feeling like my bladder is full."


a toilet
George Mdivanian / Getty Images / EyeEm

2."When my dad came home from prison, I remember him being very polite. He was careful not to bump anybody, and he always said excuse me if he were trying to pass somebody."


"Anytime you get within arm's length of anyone in the pen, you have to say excuse me. If you don't, you are liable to get an ass whooping. Also, you never approach someone from behind. That's another good way to get your ass beat."


a prisoner looking mad
Columbia Pictures

3."My bedroom is basically set up like my old cell. In my bedroom, I have everything at arm's length. I sit with my back to the wall when I'm out. I still pace back and forth in small spaces."


"One of my best and closest friends murdered somebody while high back in the '90s and did 15 years in Attica and a few other prisons in upstate NY. Since he’s been out (2012), he spends a few hours every day in a tool shed in his backyard — the size of a jail cell, fully stocked with a fridge, TV, AC, music, and a little bed. He said it helps him feel sane and in control. I get it, though, and chill with him. He has a six-bedroom house that he shares with his wife. The shed is just a separate place for him."


a small bed
Benjamin Rondel / Getty Images

4."In jail, I learned the very useful concept of 'program.' Think of your normal life, all the things that you do in a day or week that fill up the time: hobbies, time with friends and family, the gym, cooking, shopping, a job, etc. All of these activities are what make up your life as you know it — your identity. Responsibilities and obligations are what get most people out of bed every morning. Now, take all of that away. You now have tons of free time and nothing to fill it with. The human subconscious needs to be busy; it's a holdover from our days as hunter-gatherers since being occupied was necessary for survival, and with absolutely nothing to do, people go mad."

"Program is how to fill that time in a responsible and productive way. In the simplest terms, it's making a schedule and sticking to it — deciding how to fill that empty day with activities that serve your goals. During my time inside, I got in great shape, did a ton of reading, and learned a lot from various interesting people. When COVID lockdowns began, I wasn't worried at all because I knew how to program."


a prisoner on the phone
South_agency / Getty Images

5."I did 12 years in a state institution. The only really strange thing to me was answering the telephone. First off, you don't receive calls. Second, once the call connects, you can hear them say hello and then a prompt plays letting them know the call is recorded and whatnot before you even say hello."

"For about a year, people would answer when I call them, and I would wait for the recording to play before responding."


a prisoner on the phone

6."I slept on the floor for 10 years after getting out because the first night (to punish me), guards took away my mattress. So, to spite them, I slept on the floor the whole time."

"It took a good job and a nice apartment for me to finally sleep on a bed. I haven't slept on the floor in a long time."


a person sleeping on a floor

7."Hypervigilance. I size up everyone everywhere I go, especially on public transport and in public spaces."


"I had an uncle who was like this before he had passed away. He was in his late 70s and spent over a decade in prison. You couldn’t tap him on his shoulder or approach him from behind. He would turn to you quickly and already have a fist. He also would 'test' me by throwing a bottle cap on the ground, and if I would look at it, he would tell me, 'See I could have made a move because you were distracted.'”


two men in a jail cell

8."My husband still makes 'jail snacks.' He also turns meals into sandwiches because bread was cheap and filling. Spaghetti between bread slices is an example. If we go somewhere like a restaurant, he's extremely uncomfortable if he doesn't have his back against a wall, so he can see the room and no one can be behind him. He's very quick to anger/react if he feels disrespected."

"I also know people who hide items they feel are valuable. Even if they live alone, they hide 'commodities,' like good snacks, Crest Whitestrips, etc."


Joey from "Friends" holding a sandwich

9."Being entertained doing absolutely nothing, like staring at a wall — I just don’t get bored anymore."


"I was put on three months bed rest at the start of 2020, and I learned this skill. I’m honestly never bored. Ever. I’m not someone who’s really ever been bored much to begin with. I would spend hours thinking about everything and nothing and staring at the trees out my window. Very healing actually."


the hallway of a jail
Getty Images

10."Flushing before it hits the water on every drop to mitigate the smell everyone has to deal with. Lots of flushes. Work probably wonders what the f**k is going on in the restroom when I’m in there."

"And general toilet cleanliness etiquette, so it’s nice for the next person. I don’t want to clean up your nastiness; you don’t want to clean up mine. It’s a good way to get into it with someone for the dumbest reason. Just leave it nice."


"My brother had a hard time closing the door to poop. He said it felt weird to poop alone."


a person flushing a toilet
Win Nondakowit / Getty Images / EyeEm

11."My boyfriend was in jail quite some time ago and still holds onto his habits. He washes his clothes in the shower or bathroom sink, he sweeps every morning, he jumps out of bed as soon as he wakes up, he lives pretty minimally, he's super fit and works out every day, and (he didn't learn this in jail, but it serves as an example of fitness and self-sufficiency) he rides his bike everywhere."

"I sometimes have to remind him that he can indulge in luxuries, like using the washing machine or sleeping in."


a person handwashing clothing in a sink
Silviajansen / Getty Images

12."I can play Spades a bit better now."


"Man, I got really good at Spades in there. Played constantly. Had 400 packets of ramen at one point, then people stopped wanting to play me and my partner."


a hand of Spades
Northlightimages / Getty Images / iStockphoto

13."Out of jail, I noticed that I had a habit of waiting for some person somewhere to operate a door for me. I wasn't standing there a long time, but there was a definite pause until I was like, 'Oh, it's one of those manual doors; I can do this.'"

"Also, I'm quite good at hiding things and observing people — noticing what people are doing."


a person behind bars

14."Save every extra sugar packet I come across in case I get hungry between meals."


"I constantly question myself before I throw something out. Just finished a bag of chips and I go to throw it out — nope, have to think twice. Can I use this empty bag for something? That's jail mentality: Never throw anything out unless you're absolutely certain you aren't going to use it. Save everything."


sugar packets
Eakkarin Suphornpanich / Getty Images / EyeEm

15."Ice cubes. Spoon. Soup. Eat it as fast as possible this way. Don't let someone have the chance to take your soup."


"I eat with my plate tucked between my arms, huddled over it like a trough, shoveling it in as fast as possible."


a man eating soup
CBC Television

16."If I don't have dice but need dice, I just get toilet paper and toothpaste. You make basically a macramé paste with them, and then put it on a window corner and rotate it while its drying to keep it level. Boom — dice."

a person's hands throwing dice
Zero Creatives / Getty Images

17."Flossing. In prison, dental care is rudimentary, and it's close to impossible to get anything done beyond a filling or a pulling — and getting cleaning done was a super-long waiting list. So, I flossed religiously, because I knew I'd be f**ked if I developed an actual problem in my mouth."

"Amusingly, we didn't have floss after the first few years, because of the possibility that it could be used to make rope. So, what we had were 'dental loops,' which were like weak rubber bands that you slid between your teeth for flossing purposes. Anyway, it's been almost 20 years, and I'm starting to get bad about flossing again, but I was really good about it for my first 15 years out."


someone flossing
Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

18."I learned some new free body workouts that are decent. Picked up pinochle. And I keep commissary recipes in my back pocket in case I'm ever stranded with hot water, a ramen packet, and some Hot Cheetos."

"And this is not something I still do now, but for like two weeks after getting out (on more than one occasion), I kept leaving the bathroom with the sink still on. In jail, they use these combination metal sink/toilets that work like push-button drinking fountains. You need to keep hammering on the button to get water for more than a few seconds, and it turns off on its own."


a plate of Cheetos
Javier Zayas Photography / Getty Images

19."My friend's ex was in jail, and he apparently learned how to give really good massages. Now, he owns his own massage therapy clinic and employs, like, 30 RMTs (registered massage therapists)."


a person's leg being massaged
Ljubaphoto / Getty Images

20."Reading. I read hundreds of books while away."

"I haven't even cracked one since I got out, but I do enjoy reading."


"That's where I figured out how to read for leisure. Also, how to be meaner in pick-up basketball games. But the reading habit is probably more useful."


a person reading

And finally...

21."When I go for a walk, I don't look at people's house windows or inside other people's cars. I also don't look at people when I'm driving — I just notice their car and not who's driving the car. I once got into a verbal fight with a guy because I looked into his cell. He said you don't go around looking into people's house windows and that was his 'house,' so why the f**k was I looking in there. Kind of set the pace, and it changed my perspective. Whatever is going on is none of my business."

"Respect is another one. I catch the ball sometimes on the internet, but I almost always try to have respect for everyone, whether I know them or not, because in prison respect was everything. It's so odd to this day seeing people, especially when drunk, be so disrespectful to random people. It took me a year or two to adjust to the blatant, and now culturally accepted, disrespect from everyone. They just don't get it because there are rarely actual consequences for disrespect in your day-to-day life. You might get yelled at or cussed out on some social media platform, but 99% of people have never had to fight someone over a single smart-ass comment. It's been 10 years since I've been out now, but respect still plays a huge part in my life."


a prisoner being held by the collar

WOW. Did any of these surprise you? Let us know in the comments below.

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.