Prison Etiquette

 So I was outside for a meeting today and just as I was about to walk back to work this guy asks us where the medical building is.  Since I work right next to it I told him to follow me and I showed him.  It was about a 4 minutes walk and we made some random chit chat and in that time he TWICE mentioned that he had been in prison for 15 years and I TWICE sort of ignored it.  

What are you supposed to say to that?

Are you supposed to ask what they were in for?
Are you supposed to ask if they were actually innocent?

I didn’t want to pry but I also didn’t want to come off as thinking less of him because of it so I just picked up on something else he said to move the conversation forward.

I also was afraid to ask  what he was in for in case the answer was something like "Murdering friendly red heads! And YOUR next mwah hah hah!" So I figured it was safer, and more polite, not to.

What would you have done?

On this day:

In 2008 – Brent went back to work… 10 feet away
In 2007 –
In 2006 – IKEA binge
In 2005 – I still have those glasses but they are scratched to shit so I need a new pair.

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12 Comments on “Prison Etiquette”

  1. utsi says:

    i suspect there’s not a lot of good conversational practice in prisons. liekly it’s the only thing he can think of a fodder for conversation 😦 even though it’s not to his advantage. my thoughts are on this track because teh new p/t hire i have keeps apologizing or thanking everyone for _everything_. the book keeper tried to point out to him that becuase she erred in entering his schedule into the time clock- he shouldn;t apologize for that. he then apologozed again. he’s new to canada. so i’m thinking that there’s a similar disconnect to having been in prison. it’s a different culture, with different patterns and customs.
    just a thought

  2. utsi says:

    i suspect there’s not a lot of good conversational practice in prisons. liekly it’s the only thing he can think of a fodder for conversation 😦 even though it’s not to his advantage. my thoughts are on this track because teh new p/t hire i have keeps apologizing or thanking everyone for _everything_. the book keeper tried to point out to him that becuase she erred in entering his schedule into the time clock- he shouldn;t apologize for that. he then apologozed again. he’s new to canada. so i’m thinking that there’s a similar disconnect to having been in prison. it’s a different culture, with different patterns and customs.
    just a thought

  3. clivec says:

    Ignoring was certianly the best policy. I mean, there’s no where to take that conversation that won’t get awkward hyper fast.

  4. clivec says:

    Ignoring was certianly the best policy. I mean, there’s no where to take that conversation that won’t get awkward hyper fast.

  5. metahara says:

    I’ve said, “I’m glad you’re free now”
    in a similar situation.
    It’s not my business what he did, just as I am not obligated to tell him my most stupid choice ever. I reminded myself that most of us have done things that could have landed us in a jail cell at least for a day, and got away with it (illegal drinking, drugs, driving without a license or insurance, etc.)
    If he wanted to talk about it, I would have done my best to listen with the compassion of a mother listening to her son.
    currently a FB/Myspace friend, someone who hung out in the same crowd in NOLA ( a musician) recently mentioned that he was free from incarceration. I’m pretty sure that it’s from drug use- heroine took hold of a few of the guys and one gal in our extended friends group. I haven’t asked. He is very thoughtful and on a path of enlightenment at this time. I relate to him in the now.

  6. metahara says:

    I’ve said, “I’m glad you’re free now”
    in a similar situation.
    It’s not my business what he did, just as I am not obligated to tell him my most stupid choice ever. I reminded myself that most of us have done things that could have landed us in a jail cell at least for a day, and got away with it (illegal drinking, drugs, driving without a license or insurance, etc.)
    If he wanted to talk about it, I would have done my best to listen with the compassion of a mother listening to her son.
    currently a FB/Myspace friend, someone who hung out in the same crowd in NOLA ( a musician) recently mentioned that he was free from incarceration. I’m pretty sure that it’s from drug use- heroine took hold of a few of the guys and one gal in our extended friends group. I haven’t asked. He is very thoughtful and on a path of enlightenment at this time. I relate to him in the now.

  7. “and i got THIS scar when we kidnapped the warden and the national guard had to come rescue him….”
    I suppose it’s a lot like a grizzled combat veteran interjecting tidbits about the service during normal conversation. 15 years in prison comprises a considerable part of your life and who you are. But what do you say when they bring it up? i don’t know.
    It’s definitely socially awkward to smack some complete stranger across the face with your ex-convictedness. To me, that seems like the kind of thing you’d nervously bring up only after knowing someone for a good while.
    I’m sure that ignoring it is the best way to go. or to say something offhanded but non-committal about it as was suggested above.
    what would i do personally? well i kinda dislike idle conversation to begin with, especially if it’s pretty clear that you’re just some random person that i’m not likely to see again in my entire life. So unless you happen to be talking about something wildly cool like “i was the first person to ever capture a polar bear using only 4 dinner plates, a bowling ball and a couple of excedrin tablets” then i’ll likely be tuning you out anyway.
    and really, from the other end of this… if you find yourself in a position of being “some random person” you should always remember that random people aren’t that interesting*, so if someone is ignoring you when you try to interject tidbits about yourself, you really don’t have any right to be offended about it.
    *unless they are.

  8. “and i got THIS scar when we kidnapped the warden and the national guard had to come rescue him….”
    I suppose it’s a lot like a grizzled combat veteran interjecting tidbits about the service during normal conversation. 15 years in prison comprises a considerable part of your life and who you are. But what do you say when they bring it up? i don’t know.
    It’s definitely socially awkward to smack some complete stranger across the face with your ex-convictedness. To me, that seems like the kind of thing you’d nervously bring up only after knowing someone for a good while.
    I’m sure that ignoring it is the best way to go. or to say something offhanded but non-committal about it as was suggested above.
    what would i do personally? well i kinda dislike idle conversation to begin with, especially if it’s pretty clear that you’re just some random person that i’m not likely to see again in my entire life. So unless you happen to be talking about something wildly cool like “i was the first person to ever capture a polar bear using only 4 dinner plates, a bowling ball and a couple of excedrin tablets” then i’ll likely be tuning you out anyway.
    and really, from the other end of this… if you find yourself in a position of being “some random person” you should always remember that random people aren’t that interesting*, so if someone is ignoring you when you try to interject tidbits about yourself, you really don’t have any right to be offended about it.
    *unless they are.

  9. rachaeldoss says:

    You know, I’d have done the exact thing you did. Or probably awkwardly said, “Oh, I’m sorry.”
    I think it’s a prisoner thing. I think they almost feel like they have to give full disclosure or something. Every single person I’ve ever met who has spent time in prison (and for some reason, this number is actually higher than 3…) has made it one of the first few things out of their mouths. It’s almost like it’s a poor way of saying, “excuse me for my awkwardness.” Of course, there are probably some of those people who like to see how uncomfortable it makes the other person. They were in prison, afterall, and intimidation is a big game there.
    She says as if she spent time up the river…

  10. rachaeldoss says:

    You know, I’d have done the exact thing you did. Or probably awkwardly said, “Oh, I’m sorry.”
    I think it’s a prisoner thing. I think they almost feel like they have to give full disclosure or something. Every single person I’ve ever met who has spent time in prison (and for some reason, this number is actually higher than 3…) has made it one of the first few things out of their mouths. It’s almost like it’s a poor way of saying, “excuse me for my awkwardness.” Of course, there are probably some of those people who like to see how uncomfortable it makes the other person. They were in prison, afterall, and intimidation is a big game there.
    She says as if she spent time up the river…

  11. Anonymous says:

    I think that’s a very strange thing to mention to a stranger in passing; so I would take it as carte blanche to tell him something equally strange in return, like: “Oh ya, was it a Turkish prison?” OR “Really? My friend Jake was in prison, too. Do you know Jake?” OR “Cool! Did you kill someone? ‘Cuz I killed someone once, but I never got caught.”

  12. Anonymous says:

    I think that’s a very strange thing to mention to a stranger in passing; so I would take it as carte blanche to tell him something equally strange in return, like: “Oh ya, was it a Turkish prison?” OR “Really? My friend Jake was in prison, too. Do you know Jake?” OR “Cool! Did you kill someone? ‘Cuz I killed someone once, but I never got caught.”


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