USA / Illinois / Cook County Jail CountyJail.net has 1,403 interviews from ex-inmates. Share your story
Full interview (by category)Interview with Rachel, Jason, Kat, JM Advice, Brian, DavidP, keke, Teabag, Crystal, Edward, isaac, Lucky, Laydie, Kathy, Lisa, Apache, Janet, Ron, Ryan, Laetia, Dennis, Laura, Fernando, Gail, George, Rich, Mark, John, Juan, Erik, Scott, Shawn, Dominic, James, Carl, Josh and Jose
Getting along with other inmates
Time off for good behavior
Food and Commissary
JM: Did you find it difficult to get along with other inmates? Please give examples to explain why you did or didn't.
Rachel: i got along with alot of them but alot of them wanted to beat me because i dont know why.
Jason: I was the only white man with over 150 Blackmen in each holding cell for ours. No way to use a bathroom.. Having to stand for hours, no place to sit. Being threatened constantly for hours. Singled out everywhere they put me. I am no push over ( 6'1" 235 pounds ) and can hold my own but you cant stop 10-20 or more from killing you..Also after we had been strip searched for the 4 or 5th time I was placed in another holding cell with another group of abot 150 and 2 minutes after some one lights a Joint in the holding cell...
Kat: No they were all cool.
JM Advice: If you have never been to jail, the social change will probably be something of a social shock. Many of the inmates in Cook County Jail have been there before and are used to the experience. There is also a fair amount of violence at the jail, so tread lightly and be careful who you interact with.
Brian: I didn't think it was too hard.
DavidP: It's a culture shock. I was by far a minority there. I'm white, and it's 99% black or Hispanic there. I'm not a racist person at all, but they make you feel completely unwelcome and out of place. There's a lot of gang affiliation in there, with both black and Hispanic gangs. Almost every single one has been there multiple times. Many spent more time in there than not. For me, it was a horrific experience. I didn't expect to go to jail in the first place. Going through a place like this - it's in the middle of the South side of Chicago. It's a rough area of town to begin with, and then in the jail, with everyone in there - the jail doesn't make you feel welcome at all. After a couple of days, in my area, there were about 60 men, and maybe four or five that I could talk to, or would talk to me, and make me feel a little bit better. It took a couple of days for me to talk to them, and for them to talk to me. That's how it was all during the three months. I only really talked to four or five guys. There's a lot of hatred and violence. A lot of them didn't like me just for the color of my skin, or whatever.
keke: no not at all just cuz u are in jail doesnt mean all people are going to be mean and bad you see people from your niehborhood
Teabag: "Almighty Don't like nobody".... Almighty Simon City Royals.... Nuff said ???
Crystal: No, but the guards and administrators purposely isolated me as much as possible to keep me from talking with the inmates and telling them their rights. I was put on protective custody and 24/7 lockdown a lot to shut me up and due to bogus claims that they had to protect me from other inmates. There is a lot of mental illness and inmates who are good at conning others, lying, and manipulating. It is best to not give many personal details. Be a good listener rather than talker for your safety.
Edward: At first everything was very differant.i was sent to div 5 were 2 men shared a cell but due to limited space I was with 3 including myself.every one at div 5 was somewhat laid back but i only was there for about 2 weeks were i was sent to div 1.at div 1 it was extreamly differant.Im not in a gang and never was, so when you first walk in its a dorm setting with 48 beds all in a big dorm.people walk up to you right from the get go and ask what gang your in and if your not gang related they just walk away.at first its hard but if your going to be their for awhile it just gets better with the other inmates
isaac: there was a couple of gangbangers who pick on the big white guys but mind them none all lot of talk
Lucky: With rival gang members it's always tense. But the deck I was on was cool, I got along with everyone.
Laydie: my time spent with others was only a few hours, but it was good behavior, I would not like to serve any time there ,still I can say if you do your part to stay out of trouble in there then the guards will do the rest to keep you safe from harm.
Janet: ON A COUPLE OF OCCASIONS YES.IT ALL DEPENDS.YOU ARE LOCKED UP WITH ALL DIFFERENT WALKS OF LIFO,AND MANY DIFFERENT ATTITUDES.BUT I MEAN YOU CANT REALLY BLAME SOME PEOPLE,YOU MAY BE THERE FOR A MINOR TRAFFIS OFFENCE,WHEN THE GIRL NEXT TO YOU IS CHARGED WITH A MURDER. YOUR LOOKING AT PROBATION AND SHES FACEING LIFE.
Ryan: No. I am affiliated with a street gang and have been for some years so that helped alot. It is always easier for us than non-members because we look out for one another.
Laetia: not at all.
Laura: Yes. I am very opinionated. I was an 18 year old white girl who didn't let anybody talk her down or steal her cookies! I think everyone had arguments, young or old. I am an agnostic, and many people in jail "find God" and get religious and it was a constant struggle. I never and will not speak out against religion but when in group therapy one day while asked I acknowledges that I believe people in jail finding God is great and all, but very fake, wow what a shit-storm that brewed.
Fernando: no,it wasnt difficult to get along,because i just kept to myself,tried to stay bizy and read,or just meditate and exercise,a lot of praying is also what i used to calm me
Gail: No.I get along with practically everyone.I grew up in Juvenile Detention centers and IYC-which is DOC for juveniles.I am usually the one who tries and helps everyone from the beginning.
George: No,because I'm the type that can get along with people.I had a friend in there that did magic tricks with cards,so that took up a lot of my time.I seen a bunch of fights in there.
Rich: IT WAS'NT A PROBLEM CAUSE I WAS IN A DIVISION WITH A LOT OF MY BROTHERS, SINCE IT WAS MY FIRST TIME THEY EXPLAINED & GUIDED ME FROM THE DO'S & DONT'S OF BEING LOCKED DOWN.
Mark: yes i found it difficult because most of the other inmates where gang members and i was never a gang member. also the other inmates try and steal anything from you. food, cash if u have any while in the holding cells or even your clean cloths.
John: I don't have a problem with that its just the inmates that think that they super bad because of a charge or since they think they been on a certain tier for a while they think they runn the tier those are the inmates that I don't get along with
Juan: yes i got along in my division tit was low security people who worked in the kitchen etc...being white ifiiteed in....the gangs are a problem but i was considered a neutron...non affiliated
Erik: NO I AM A PEOPLE PERSON, I EVEN MADE A FEW CONTACTS INSIDE THAT BECAME FRIENDS ON THE STREET, I SHOWED RESPECT FOR GUARDS AND INMATES, AND FOLLOWED PROTOCALL'S, NO PROBLEMS
Scott: No, it's like if you mind your own business then your cool. There are situations of negativity but you have to maintain control of yourself everyone is under pressure so always take that into account.
Jason: the only difficulty i experienced with other inmates was gang related. for an entire week or more i was threated to get beat for breaking the line. I didn't know what that meant. as it turns out there is a pecking order to going to eat or clothing exchange. gd's followed by vice lord followed buy neutron. and some other gang. had it not been for my size and refusal to be bullied I may have been injured. others weren't so lucky as it was common to return from lunch to have your food stolen or other valubles.
Shawn: yes the inmates need to be grouped together by age gladiator school is for the yongibs theres no need to hsve a grown ass man in gladiator school just waiting a a fight to break out
Dominic: I got along well with other inmates. I was somewhat older than many of them and I was often sought out for advice or just conversation about the charges they were facing.
James: i didn't have any trouble. i am 6'6' tall. 255 lbs. i kept to myself. i didn't know anyone and no one knew me. it was a quite day that i went in a monday. so people was really drunk or roudy
Carl: no not at all i knew a lot of people there so it was ok the worst part is someone telling me its time to got to bed or that i couldn't get out my bed for hrs
Josh: The other inmates were mostly gang bangers and I'm not. Not until I got to the drug unit was it semi-relaxed. But even their we were told to write each other tickets. Dangerous
Jose: No. I got along with inmates very well. There isn't much to do in jail, so my main choice of passing time consisted of conversing with other inmates and telling stories to have something to do.
JM: What types of things did you have to do to avoid problems or fights with other inmates?
Rachel: look down. tell the officers
Jason: PRAY, PRAY PRAY and look down, no eye contact, offer no information about ANYTHING...I was dressed in nice cloths and shoes which made me stand out like a sore thumb..There are way too many placed together in one cell and the stress of being called MF, and standing shoulder to shoulder for hours adds more tention.
Kat: Just stick to yourself. Be careful of body language sending off bad signals.
JM Advice: Inmates report that there are strong allegiances within various gangs and some of them may offer you protection in exchange for commissary items or meals. The end story is just be careful who you interact with and avoid offending others. Some inmates may have seats they claim at a dining table, for example. If people begin to put up a fight, just let it go. Being a county jail, however, you will tend to have less confrontation with other inmates than you would likely have in prison - most of these inmates will be out within a few months and they have a strong incentive to stay out of trouble. Keep to yourself until you feel comfortable with another inmate and you probably won't have any problems.
Brian: Just keep to yourself.
DavidP: There were stupid things like not taking a guy's seat at a table I mean, they had their seats. They're not afraid to start screaming. Anything like that, almost on a daily basis, like five out of the seven day week, there was a fight between inmates. It was either fistfights, or, they make weapons out of things. They take a fluorescent lamp they put a chair on a bed so they can get up to the ceilings and reach the lamp. They break it apart, and take the metal out of it, and use the metal to make knives. There were those kinds of fights at least once a week, so you stay away from those kinds of guys that initiate those fights. You can tell who is angrier than others you see who is the least of the worst. You stay around the least violent people. Most of them are more comfortable in there than they are on the streets. Most of them know each other from the streets and jail. It's kind of weird, I mean, they all know each other, and their comfort zone is there and around each other, being in jail. You can pick out the ones that are less apt to fight. One of the first guys I picked out he was actually one of the first guys to come to me, and I could see that he was half decent. He was the leader of the black gang that was in there. He said that I either needed to be with him or this other Hispanic guy that was in there. He said that one [inmate] was going to cause trouble, and that he had to watch out for me. He protected my back, and in turn, I had to give him something. I'd give him meals or parts of meals every day. You have to give something up. Buy something from the commissary, which you get on a weekly basis. You have those inmate accounts, and once a week, you can buy something, and you give him something, and he protects you. So first off, you determine who's not as angry or violent as others, or who seems to be nice to you, in a way it's all relative. It wouldn't hurt to pick someone out who has a gang who could protect you. Just figure out who could protect you.
keke: keep to yourself if you dont know them the ones running they mouths are weak
Teabag: Hahaha your joking right !!
Crystal: Don't argue if you can avoid it.
Edward: to avoid fights or problems i just was myself.if your not in a gang when you go in dont get into one when your their.i never did and it saved me from fighting with other inmates.i just kept to myself and asked nothing from anyone.some inmates are laid back and they will help you out with soap,towels and other things that you didnt get but others expected to be paid back in full and that can cause a problem.just be yourself and dont think you can fight the world.
isaac: stay to urself and dont act like a tough guy there are some decent people in there who just made mistakes
Lucky: I don't know what it is but weak or scared people stick out. You can make it fine in jail as long as you don't talk sh* to anyone, don't steal, never call a man a bitch! Be yourself...
Laydie: I kept a good attitude and upbeat mood, I got along when need be and kept to myself when need be.you can say I agreed with the format of things on a yes and no basis.
Kathy: Not disagree with their temperment.
Lisa: I just mind my own business
Apache: mind my own buisness
Janet: BASICALLY KEEP TO YOUR SELF AND LIMIT THE PEOPLE YOU TALK TO.
Ron: Stand up for myself and take no crap
Ryan: Nothing to avoid them. There is an unwritten code of conduct for all inmates and for the most part as long as those are followed there isnt any problems.
Laetia: keep to myself and pray often
Laura: Act like you don't have an opinion.
Fernando: have to let a lot of things go like people walking in front you,tripping you,reaching over in food line,have to just try to stay calm and dont let where you at discourage you,use prayer,meditation and reading,find certain people to talk to,those who fit your profile,and act friendly to all you meet
Gail: At first I just stayed in my cell.Other inmates were the ones with the tendencies to look for fights and the easiest way to avoid one is to smile and just keep moving! :) 1988 is another story.I was involved with a gang and there were also many predatory females trying to make their moves on me as bisexuality and lesbianism was prevalent.:( YUK!!!!!!
George: I had to stay to myself and few others.I also read the bible and went to church.I play cards and spoke with older men that were in there for many years.They gave me lots of wisdom.My main thing was prayer to GOD,he made me to get through all of this.
Rich: MAKE SURE YOU KEEP URSELF CLEAN AS IN UR HYGENE. IF UR NOT IN A MOB U HAVE NO PROTECTION FROM THOSE WHO WANT WHAT U HAVE.MIND UR OWN BUSINESS AND PLEASE IF U GOT A MOUTH LIKE A BITCH,CHECK THAT FUCKIN GOSSIP SHIT AT THE DOOR. YOU COULD GET UR HEAD SPLIT!
Mark: to avoid any problems or fights with other inmates i had to basically not over engage in any conversation even if it doesn't include arguing. do a good job cleaning if you have duties in the room and just don't make friends because other inmates you choose not to be friends with will become your enemy.
John: the things that you have to do is stay two your self in do your time don't gamble in jail because its gonna end up n a fight because you might win a lot of stuff in the might want to pay you or they feel like your cheating in a fight is gonna happen
Juan: well you had to watch your commisary...i was lucky enough to be arrested with 200 on my person that went to commissary...but you didnt punk down..people traed lot of stuff...you found uses for evry thing...u didnt throw anything away...you could find drugs in this division...the kitchen workers smuggled peanut butters,cookies etc for trades on commissary...i was lucky enough to get atappering down dosing of my methadone...cook county gives you methadone if your on a program and they verified....but it took 4 days before i got dosed...that third day/night no sleep...
Erik: WELL IN COOK COUNTY, I FOLLOWED, THE RULES THAT EXITED, SEEING THAT THERE WERE 2 DIFFERENT GANGS THAT WERE IN THE BUNK AREA THAT I WAS IN, AND CLEANLINESS IS THE ONLY THING THAT THEY REQUIRE OUSTIDE OF RESPECT OF THEM WHEN THEY HAVE GROUP PRAYER OR WHEN IN THE CHOW LINE
Scott: Mind your business, mind your business, mind your business, stay to yourself, show everyone the same respect they show you, avoid negativity at all cost, live and let live. The people that look for trouble in this place will find it just to let that be you. most inmates are trying to get the hell out of there.
Jason: as mention before i had to abided by the cell rules. i had to eat in the gang approved order. i had to mind my own business when i may have known who was stolen or rather who did the stealing.the gangs tended to be up at diffErent times making noise being loud and rully. the only thing that you could do was keep to yourself.
Shawn: you have to keep to your self and pick a side who you are goin to aid and assist a certain group plus the over crowdin is just as insane buddy up with someone in the jail and hope when a fight breaks out aroundtha t you are going to be willing to fight
Dominic: The main thing I had to do to avoid fights or trouble with other inmates was to know my place as a neutron, which is an inmate with no gang affilliation. Never snitch on anyone. Never gamble with gang members. And never be seen talking to a jail officer alone.
James: the gangs was present. you had to eat in acertain order. sit in a certain place. little things but inconveinant. you had to keep your body clean if not that was an ass whipping, i agreed with that one who wants to smell your stanking azz when soap and water are free. no reasson to be stank
Carl: i was Friends with a lot of people in there but to keep peace i kept to myself and pitched in on commissary for the new people coming into the div don't come in thinking you hard and can beat up any body cause that will get you beat up or worse killed
Josh: Be nice. Stay out of the way. Don't talk to much. Stay in the middle of the luch line when getting trays if your a neutron. Watch to say nothing racial because thats always an ass beating. Respect your celly or life would be hell. Remember to keep on flushing the toilet when #2.
Jose: There wasn't a big problem with avoiding fights since I know how to act in a jail environment. There are some basic rules to follow: Do not gamble. Do not threaten people or make fun of/ ridicule other people. Avoid gang confrontations by not being in a gang and doing gang related activities. Also, don't drop the soap!! Just kidding.
JM: Were you able to choose an inmate as your cellmate if you knew one? How often would your cellmate(s) change?
JM Advice: No.
Brian: I didn't know anybody there but I really doubt it.
DavidP: No, and actually, I was in a weird area where I have a health problem. I have very, very high blood pressure, and therefore I went into an area that was used for people that needed medical care. It wasn't like a hospital, but it was a little more directed in that area. Consequently, I was in an area where there were 60 beds in one room. It wasn't a cell with one cellie, this was an open room, like a cafeteria at a college. There were 40 beds - four rows of 10 I think, and so it was a situation like that - a little different from what you've heard from others. Going back to that 24 hour period when I was being checked in, the nurse noticed I had high blood pressure, and I was eligible to go in. She recommended that I go into this other area. I wasn't among the general population, although it had the same kind of inmates, same kind of people. It wasn't a less intense situation. It was the same type of people that had some sort of health problem that required a 24 hour doctor nearby. It was more than what you get in the other area, though, I guess.
keke: hell no
Janet: TO TALK TO YES.AND IF YOUR HOUSED AT COOK COUNTY AFTER YOU HAVE BEEN THER A WHILE YOU CAN REQUEST THEY SHARE A CELL WITH YOU.
Ryan: I am not sure themeaning of the question. If u mean to be a cell mate with no not most the time.
Fernando: not able to choose cellmate,cellmates usually change about 15-30 days,the county does the chosing for you,have to stay calm and cool with who ever your cell mate winds up being
Gail: I did not.But funny you ask because a girl who was convicted of murder in my neighborhood happened to be my first cell mate.In the end I had a single cell. While incarcerated in 1988 WAY BETTER STORIES .I had to fend for my life...... At the age of 17
George: I one cell mate the whole time I was there.Me and him became good friends.We meet each others family.He was smart but was short tempered.I still chat with him today.
Rich: FOR THE MOST PART U HAVE NO CHOICE IN UR CELLMATE, BUT IF THEY KNOW UR MOB RELATED THEY TRY TO PUT U WITH UR OWN T0 KEEP DOWN THE FRICTION.
Mark: no you have no control over who your inmates or cellmates are. they are computer generated i believe from the time you're processed. cell mates would change depending on if someone is released and there is a bed available or if room is not over crowded. can be 2 a day or weeks with no change
John: I didn't get to choose a cellmate one was already there in I would have swithed cell mates like evey two to three months sometimes longer than that or shorter depends on your cell mate case
Juan: ..i wasnt in a cell but a huge 100 person pod witha bunch of bunkbeds...people came and went daily..everyday about 25 people went to court and ant night maybe 3 were let go. and the rest stayed
Erik: NO, BUT WHEN IN KANE COUNTY IF THERE WERE ANY PROBLEMS WITH A CELL MATE, I COULD REQUEST TO BE MOVED, BUT I HAD NO PROBLEMS, WE BECAME GOOD FRIENDS, AND WHEN WE GOT OUT WE WENT AND PARTIED TOGETHER
Scott: Sometimes but usually the staff assigned cellmates but every now and then you could have someone you were cool with as a cellmate, but the timing for something like this to happen hade to be perfect.
Jason: no i wasn't able to choose my own inmate in the beginning. however when i was moved to another dorm none of the bed assignment meant anything. the gangs bunked together. or ethnic groups. black with blacks. WHITES WITH WHITE, SO FOR AND SO ON. WHEN SOMEONE MOVED AND THEY HAD A BOTTOM BUNK THE GANGS TOOK OVER AND CLAIMED THEM. THE BEDS ROTATED OFTEN
Shawn: this isnt the hywatt you dont get to pick your cell mates cell mate each time was different what you get is what you get their is no lets see like
Dominic: I was never able to choose a cellmate. When I was detained at Cook County jail, there was three inmates to a cell designed to hold two inmates. Every time an inmate came on the new- a terminology used for a new inmate, the inmate was placed in a cell that previously only held two inmate. But very often, the next day the new inmate was moved to another cell that had inmates who belonged to his gang. But if you were a neutron, you had no say so as to who your cellmates would be
James: the common theme in jail is that you have no choice in anything. you can choose to go to protective custody.you can choose to bond out those are your only choice if you even have them
Carl: no we're not allowed to pick our cell mates and we had people coming and going all the time it was always 3 to a cell and many people had to sleep on a thin mat on the floor
Josh: No,never. Maybe if you knew the gaurd or been there a long time. A gaurd knew me and put me in the anti-gang wing because Div. is such a bad place to be.
Jose: You are not allowed to choose a cellmate. The only way you will be in a cell with someone you know is if you got convicted with that person. When I was inside I had the same cellmate the whole time.
comments powered by Disqus