Psychology of a former convict

37 habits of prisoners that are hard to get rid of even in freedom

Strange habits of former convicts that haunt them at liberty, after release from prisons and zones.

A long stay in prison seriously changes a person’s character and way of life. Against the background of severe restrictions, there is a rethinking of life values, but rather harmful habits are developed. They accompany former prisoners throughout their lives and cause great discomfort.

After leaving prison, many of the consequences of being in prison haunt those released for a long time. The state and worldview of such people differ significantly from the worldview of those around them.

Reddit users were recently asked the question: what prison habit is the hardest for you to get rid of after release? Ex-convicts and their immediate environment shared the most difficult manifestations of the effects of imprisonment, which is better left in the past.

We at 1Gai.Ru have selected for you the most interesting answers.

– I catch myself hoarding toilet paper under my bed. Sometimes I do it without much thought, and when I look in there, I find 10 unused rolls. – tentosamo

– I don’t abuse smoking, but every time someone offered me a cigarette, I would hide it in my pocket. The habit stayed with me on the outside as well. It took me about 1-2 months to give it up. – interchangeable-bot

– I didn’t use a fork in prison, so I got used to eating everything with a spoon even when I was free. – justinlarson

– And even if you have no qualms about using sharp objects criminally, you may subconsciously be afraid of them after release. I recall someone trying to pass me a knife to cut groceries and I was afraid to touch it. It’s the same with mirrors in all bathrooms. It’s hard enough to stop seeing them as weapons. – Skishkitteh.

– For a long time after my release, I showered faster than 5 minutes. – Dysphoric_Otter.

– After I was out, I spent a long time telling my wife what I was doing now, even if she didn’t ask me to. At first she treated it as a fun habit, but soon became concerned about my condition. – carter5oh.

– Sitting in jail, you get used to constantly consulting with authority figures before you do something. – redhedinsanity.

– My entourage thinks it’s a damn disgusting thing to throw sausage, cheese, pickles, and other foods into my Doshirak noodles. But I still can’t stop after a 5 year prison sentence. – peanutjesus.

– I still like to keep bags of food somewhere, even if I’m not going to eat it. – dbx99

– We were very restricted in how many tampons or pads we had, which made us develop a habit of hiding everything under the bed. We often encountered the unpleasant phenomenon of menstrual blood on the floor and benches. – feiticeirarose

– I thought I was doing something wrong if I slept past 5 a.m. For 6 months I struggled with this habit and it wasn’t until six months after my release that I stopped judging myself for sleeping past 5:00. Even at 6:00 a.m. I am a restful sleeper. That said, this habit has allowed me to never be late for work and succeed at everything. Ironically, it has made me more successful than ever. – Reddit

– I’ll agree with people who say they eat really fast, but then walk home slowly after working out while enjoying a street walk. But I’ve learned to incorporate the pleasurable little things. I used to concentrate on the food while eating, and I used to concentrate on the TV while watching a movie. Now I can combine pleasant with useful, so I confidently snack while watching a movie, because there are not enough hours in the day. But inside, I’ve been trying to make the days go by faster. – DeuceTheDog.

– I’ll share the story of an ex-con who worked for me. During a busy day at work, I would often make lunch for everyone and bring it to work. And this kid would eat a cheeseburger and fries in two minutes. Now that’s speed! And one day I asked him why he ate so fast, to which he said, “I did seven years in a federal prison where they gave you 10 minutes to eat. If you don’t make it, goodbye.” After that I didn’t ask him any more questions like that. – NoBSforGma.

– Pull your underwear up to your thighs. In prison, many people do this to hide their personal belongings. It took me a long time to get out of that habit. – ajdo

– When you walk outside in incarceration, you subconsciously walk around in circles. Almost everyone does it, and once you’re released, the habit stays for a long time. – Official–Moderator

– An acquaintance of mine who served time in prison tells me that he spent most of his time huddled up against the wall. It had to do with security measures so he could see everything going on around him and assess possible threats. Now he often scans the crowd to assess possible threats and the current situation. It is also important for him to make as many allies as possible. He attributed such actions to the fact that it is a special strategy he developed during his two-year incarceration – to make everyone laugh and make them his friends. – SherbetMalargus.

– When I was in prison, I always knew what was going on around me at 360 degrees. It’s been 1.5 years since I was released, but I’m still constantly evaluating the people around me. No matter where I am – the grocery store, the park, the street – I continue to analyze each person and make a plan in my head of what I would have to do in case of a fight. – sDotAgain.

– A buddy of mine who’s been out long enough tells of a habit he hasn’t been able to get rid of at all – it’s a total lack of trust in people. He claims that people are never nice in prison, and if they do show a friendly attitude, it’s only for personal gain. Unfortunately, many released people continue to live with this habit even after they are released. – ehamo

– An ex-convict who has been working for me long enough always sends me to the bathroom. I politely informed him that there is no need to report it every time, but he still asks and apologizes, saying that he can’t get out of this habit. He even told me that he is uncomfortable going to the bathroom without getting permission to do so. To wean himself off of it, he started telling me, “I’m going to the bathroom.” I believe we managed to find a middle ground on such a delicate issue. – MountainLizard

– My ex slept like this all the time – he crossed his arms and didn’t move all night for months. He eventually managed to kick the habit. – myjobbetternotfindme

– The hardest thing for ex-prisoners to get rid of is swearing. They are used to insert profanity into every word, even when talking to strangers. – james0martin

– I got out of prison two years ago, but I still behave aggressively and get wound up at the slightest conflict. It’s a habit developed during my time in prison, where you have to remain vigilant and alert every second. In prison you had to be indifferent even to your comrades, because any wrong wording or movement could change the situation in the cell and lead to a fight. So you have to learn how to control your emotions and not get wasted. Emotions are a weakness, and although I secretly often succumbed to them, I had to become cold-blooded about everything. Unfortunately, this attitude is hard to get rid of, even after I was released. – PaintshakerBaby.

– Even when someone uses the word “bitch” in jest, I take a hostile stance. Words matter a lot (Ain’t a sparrow a word: you can’t catch it). – Hurv

– The hardest thing I had to get rid of after I was released was the eating schedule. If I even feel hungry, I think I have to wait for the right time to eat. After release, I often skipped meals and sometimes ate only once a day. It took weeks until I realized that I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I used to be able to sit hungry at a refrigerator full of food, waiting for scheduled meals. – physical0

– I had to give up this habit, which was to knock twice on the table when I had finished eating and planned to leave the room. This was considered a huge mistake in prison: if you stood up abruptly without knocking, it was seen as disrespectful at best and a call for violence at worst. In any case, the offender would have reacted negatively to such a move. I recall a case where a new inmate suddenly stood up and was stopped by someone because of his abrupt movements. Soon the inmates got tired of his rudeness and beat him up badly. – dentstowel

Photo: Sergey Pyatakov / RIA Novosti / via

– In the prison (I have never been there before) the light is not switched off even at night. The guards want to keep an eye on what is going on in the cell and know that everything is okay there. – kierkegaardsho.

– The leisure time of most prisoners is reduced to constant games of cards, chess and other board games, which few people want to play in freedom. But after I was released, I asked my friends for a long time to play a game of spades. They looked at me like I was crazy. I played this game for hours on end, even though those around me enjoyed watching movies or playing video games on the computer. And I was only interested in card games from my prison past. – ethanwa

– It is very difficult to give up the daily routine (regime). In prison life is carried out according to the same schedule. When I was free, I often worried that my day was not scheduled by the hour. – cachem0n3y.

– Whenever someone entered a room in the barracks, I would immediately hide my phone. It took two months before I stopped doing that. – jackofharts94

– When I am in the bathroom, I often flush. It has nothing to do with being polite, but is just a waste of water. In prison, if inmates heard an unpleasant smell coming from the toilet where you are, they would immediately ask you to flush it. – PhillyDilly23

– It is certainly very hard to break the conditioning that is formed by years in prison and consists of constant pessimism and cautious optimism. When you are waiting for your trial and sentence, you will change your testimony 50 times, hoping that certain details will help you get away with it, but you get very disappointed when it doesn’t work out.

ITAR-TASS/ Alexandra Mudratz / via Rossiyskaya Gazeta

As a result, I stopped enjoying pleasurable events or feeling elated about them without making sure they were true. When my wife informed me that she was pregnant (I already knew it from the symptoms), I asked her to take a test anyway. But because I am always cautiously optimistic, my emotions often did not go beyond my inner understanding. I couldn’t feel comfortable or satisfied until I knew my daughter was okay. Until she was born, I was restless for a long time.

You can apply this to any number of things, especially global events in your life. Getting engaged, preparing for a wedding, buying a home. No major event gives me much of a rush of emotion. I still hear from my wife that I don’t show my feelings enough.

It’s hard for a person after prison to live and enjoy life without seeing results. I’ve been home for over 7 years and with my wife for 6.5. She is an emotional catalyst that has helped me change my attitude about life and not give it up to the system anymore. However, she will never know how much I love her or how much she affects me as she interprets and accepts my cautious optimism and partial indifference. – Elrond_the_Ent.

– I used to be a social person, but after spending a lot of time alone I don’t know how to act around other people anymore. – 88Knuckles88.

– The individual habits that came up in prison weren’t bad. Among them were brushing my teeth after every meal, yoga, exercise, meditation, and other things. After my release, many of them accompanied me for a long time. – RyWater.

– Thinking you don’t have a say is probably the most unpleasant habit after being in prison. – whitefish_will

– After prison I often went into the shower in my slippers. Gotta give it up. – The-walkin-dude-.

I had to do some serious work on myself to stop getting nervous when I heard the sound of keys. In prison, the only people with keys were our supervisors. So if you hear the sound of keys, it’s probably some kind of warning. – Varsityxl.

– A buddy of mine ate his food cold for a long time as he forgot there was a microwave in his house after his prison sentence. It was amusing enough watching him consume cold food. – Lowesquestions

– I used to sharpen kitchen utensils to make them into weapons and resell them to fellow inmates. I’m still trying to sharpen plastic utensils in a state of constant anxiety. – marktwain6522.

– It’s like an unwritten rule: people in prison don’t whistle. The first time I was in jail, my cellmate reported it, saying that free people on the outside whistle. If you get caught whistling inside, it could end badly for you. – Kyonghoonsin

Note. Some Reddit user responses have been edited for ease of reading and understanding.

The stories and facts listed only confirm that getting out of prison is not yet a hundred percent sign of freedom. There are habits that remain even after release. Maybe there are some other strange things ex-prisoners do on the outside? Write about them in the comments.

Cover: 1Gai.Ru / FSIN RF / IK-29 / Perm Territory / © drugoi /

“Loneliness is a guarantee of security.”

“I found even a strange joy in how little emotion and thirst for companionship was left in me. Something like, ‘Wow, a year has passed. I survived. I don’t feel anything. Flight is normal. Most convicts live like that. It’s like being in outer space. Just you and emptiness,” says Viktor.

He is 34 years old and served 4 years and 4 months in a Russian penal colony under Articles 30 and 228 of the Criminal Code. He was released on parole for good behavior. Journalist Alyona Shpak recorded Viktor’s monologue about the most ambiguous aspect of life in the penal colony: human relations.

* The names have been changed at the hero’s request. Identity documents are at the disposal of the editorial staff.

“The main thing is me.”

Once you are in the camp, after a while you stop measuring everything by the categories of the real world. And what seems absurd on the outside may take on a different connotation in the zone. Here you soon realize that you can’t trust anybody: after a while you stop trusting even yourself.

For most of the men in the camp, the only experience of life in a male collective was in the army. But although military service is not the most pleasant thing on earth, with all its quirks, there a man is taught to achieve his goal, relying on the collective, even at the cost of sacrifice. In other words, I’ll die and the goal will be achieved. But the camp teaches you to survive on your own, no matter what. If a platoon of army men gets into the abyss of battle, they’ll either accomplish the task or die; if there’s a prisoner there, everyone dies except him.

“The main thing is me, I’m not interested in the rest,” that’s what the zone teaches quickly. At first it is shocking. It provokes rejection and non-acceptance.

No one talks to anyone just for fun! Everyone has some kind of purpose.

I understood it when I was working at a brokerage house – they do backgammon, chess and so on here. A good acquaintance came up to me after work and asked: “Do you have a phone?” I told him everything: how to get the phone, where to hide it, because I wanted to help him.

What happened next, it is not difficult to guess: literally a week later, the staff came and looked in the place in question. By happy coincidence, a couple of days before I did a phone re-hiding. But I learned my lesson. That man is neither good nor bad, he just chose this kind of survival.

Loneliness is a guarantee of safety. It is one of the first tests for the psyche: you are constantly among people, and yet you are always alone.


Maintaining emotional intimacy with those who remain on the outside is largely a myth. You change, you evolve, or you degrade, it depends on how the map turns out. That’s where a person goes through changes, too. You meet, and it’s hard to find common ground.

I was married before camp. I changed my mind about marriage only when I actually lost my family. My wife never came to see me. All five years. Or rather, she came twice.

She never explained anything to me, but she started making excuses for a long visit under any pretext. We talked on the phone dryly and sparingly. She almost stopped answering my letters. For three years I was writing letters, which were nothing but a conversation with myself in written form. The last time she came, she was very distant, a complete stranger to me.

She informed me about the divorce some time before parole. She wrote a letter. It was painful, though expected.

Illustration: Alexei Sukhov for TD

As for sex, I want such warm and tender something only at the beginning of the term, and then it doesn’t matter. So there is no such thing. You lose the need for intimacy, both emotional and physical. I went through my entire term without dating or sex.

How did you get over it? I got over it somehow. Cocks [the lowest ranked person in the prison hierarchy and with whom homosexual intercourse is committed, most often forcibly. – I never went to the roosters. I am kind of proud of that. But I don’t judge anybody. If your sentence is 15 years and you’re alone… I don’t know what I’d do if I had to sit that long. Mostly they’re used by the bigwigs, but there are exceptions.


Roosters are often emotionally broken, lonely people who have no one waiting on them. Most of them were not originally homosexual. Some have mental disorders, identity disorders, and so on. It’s not about safe sex, I’ve never heard of anyone using condoms. They don’t think about the consequences, and again, the psyche goes into some special state during the term.

Cocks, as a rule, are not paid. Money is rare in the zone; people pay for sex with food, tea, and other necessary household items. We once had a guy who was released who had a lot of nice free clothes, among which was a polo shirt. And then another convict said to him, “I saw a polo shirt on you, let’s go behind the bathhouse and I’ll work it off.

It’s very natural to jerk off in prison. People can ask each other about it, masturbation goes from the realm of your personal to the realm of the collective. After the collective viewing of porn-when the inmates watched it at night from a shared phone-there was no way into the toilet or shower: everyone was, as they say, “on manual control.” But if the barracks’ supervisor found semen on the floor, it was a scandal. It was an unspoken strict rule to clean up after oneself. When telephones began to “go” in the camps and became available to mere mortals, the situation was humanized: everyone could have privacy.

As for all sorts of perversions, it all depended on two things: how long the sentence was and how badly the roof had already begun to leak. I myself started going to church in the camp, and somehow we happened to discuss this point with another inmate. He said to me, “Be careful with the faith study groups, because there was a case where several times a week five people went to study the Bible…” – and he’s laughing his ass off.

I knew right away that it was some kind of creepy story. I wondered: what were they really doing there? It turned out that somehow during class someone needed something from one of the participants. One of the convicts went to call him, and… the guys were caught having group oral sex. Laugh and sin, as they say.

Their fate was unenviable – they were put in the “offended” barracks: there was no special barracks for the offended and downcast [the same as cocks. – TD’s comment], but their beds were near the toilet. And a lot of unpleasant duties were imposed on them: to clean the bathroom, to do laundry, and sometimes they were just called in for various humiliating indulgences.

One day a man came into our camp under Article 228. I still don’t know whether to say “he” or “she,” but I assume that since she was sent to the men’s zone, it was still a man according to her passport and primary sex characteristics. Nevertheless, when she was called by a man’s name, she took great offense and asked to be called Veronica. I remembered her silicone lips. If I had seen one of those on the outside, I’m not sure I would have understood the situation at once.

The first week or two the camp went crazy. They did what they couldn’t do to her, but after a while everyone calmed down. Veronica was assigned to the roosters, but she was put on “gentle treatment” by agreement of the parties.


The female theme in the prison is again an ambivalent one. On the one hand, a woman is a mother, which means it is respected, but on the other hand – a constant reason for bullying. Many things about women are labeled “dirty” and closely tied to the loss of status.

Illustration: Alexei Sukhov for TD

So, blabbing about oral or anal sex with a woman is really scary. And, of course, everyone says it’s never happened to them. And if you walk and stand under the doors of the DC rooms, you hear things that the Marquis de Sade would probably smoke nervously.

And different categories of women come there. There are those who just like to wait for the sitter. One comes out, she starts waiting for the next one. Or she waits for two at the same time: she comes to two men in the same camp. Between themselves, these men become “milk brothers.” Why? So very simple everything: “one tit sucked”.

Women who are convicts get acquainted with by correspondence, through newspapers or the Internet, are ridiculed because they are “fools, cash cows,” and the topic of wives who were “from freedom” is gently avoided.

In fact, this is such an internal censorship, it starts to develop on its own.


The camp is a catalyst, the secret room, as it was in Tarkovsky’s book, which satisfies true desires. In some ways the man in the zone turns out to be infinitely better, in some ways infinitely worse.

“Divorce for love” is one of the most popular types of fraud in the camps. But here, too, all sorts of things happen. Someone always falls in love. It’s like the famous song: Some of them want to use you, some of them want to get used by you.

I saw two stories unfold: in one, a guy met a girl over the phone and found out she was studying at the police academy, so got on her nerves that after a couple of months she dropped out and married him in prison. A year later he dumped her. I asked why. The guy said: “Just wanted to fuck a cop.”

The second story is also an extramural acquaintance, but here the guy fell in love. The girl is young, beautiful, everything is great. Butterflies in the belly. One problem: money problems. If it were not for them, she would rush to her beloved. 150,000 rubles. Exactly how much she was able to get out of him during the “Love Story”. This is a lot of money for the camp, considering that by paying only 3,000 rubles you can buy the right to use the shower in the barracks for the entire term. But you don’t have to feel sorry for him; he pulled them out of other “loves of life” afterwards.

I didn’t see love in camp. Not in any of its manifestations. Neither same-sex love, so that there would be a “couple”; nor different-sex love, so that people would meet while serving time and create a strong family. To use someone, yes; to receive gears and benefits, yes. Carrying the “I won’t leave you” cross – yes. But love hasn’t been seen. Love requires freedom. Love does not live in unfreedom.

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