The Convict Code Doesn’t Exist For Many Prisoners    by    Ruth Utnage

If you have watched television or known someone in prison you have probably heard of the “convict code”, a set of precepts that supposedly all prisoners follow that enable continued criminal behavior as acceptable and maintain separation between corrections officials and prisoners under their care.

These codes have been immortalized through folklore and maintained through fear of violent repercussions, social isolation, or even death. However, these ‘codes’ do not exist in all prisons nor do all prisoners follow them and furthermore, dissention from them has proven itself to be the more beneficial choice by far.

Instead of me spoon feeding you fabricated and grandiose takes of bloodshed to fulfill the prerequisite falsity that prison must be brutal, how about we explore truth? Allow me to educate you with reality and if you are in academia I will probably frustrate your research. I have a distinct advantage in gathering data and information because of what is known as immersion. I am immersed in prison, as a prisoner (who is guilty) with the educational capacity to view this space and culture with objectivity. I am able to name my environment as I experience it whereas observers, researchers, and overseers are unable to to immerse themselves because of their role as ‘other’ than a prisoner. A fact overlooked again and again that skews data.

All prisons are not the same. There are maximum, medium, and minimum security facilities that house different types of prisoners and cultures. The ‘convict code’ resides, in its truest sense, in maximum security prisons only and comprise 15-25% of prison and prisoners, or less. The other 75-85% are not bound by the same level of violence and cultural ‘codes’, in fact, the ‘codes’ get altered significantly.

Covering all prisoners with the limiting label of a convict only confirms a bias and limits possibilities of being something other than a convict. The prisoners cultural value system is drastically different from that of the non-incarcerated populace because of their very placement in a prison. This difference is not taken into account when research is conducted, statistics are determined, and oversight is administered mainly because the existence of someone not a prisoner will alter the information the prisoner supplies in nearly all collection settings, even those that center around surveys because the prisoner instinctually seeks to please the individual who is not dressed as a prisoner. The cultural value the prisoners seeks to fulfill in nearly all instances is to seek to prolong contact and validate their own existence in a community that is not prison.

Having someone produce research as a prisoner is a distinguishable advantaged because of cultural immersion. I hope to help gather and publish robust and accurate information so that together we can establish a more effective rehabilitation theory that adds to the enrichment of all our lives.

With Love

Ruth Utnage

Feel free to contact me for any reason.