How to Be a Model Jailbird

GoToJailI feel like it all started with HBO's gritty series, "Oz," but when Netflix released "Orange is the New Black"--an original program about a women's prison--we added the term "binge-watching" to the popular lexicon and glued ourselves to the T.V. to watch the ladies of Litchfield doin' time.

Maybe our fascination with incarceration is reasonable, given the number of Americans behind bars and the current debate over who should be there and if it makes sense to provide criminals with three-hots-and-a-cot to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year while children in this country go to school hungry.  But let us not speak in realities; instead let us ponder the technicolor version of prison life with this list of must-haves, should you ever find yourself in a cellie situation--preferably the fictional kind.

 

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Orange is the New Black - yes, the show is based on a true story. And this is that story. A good reference for where entertainment takes a flyer from actual life.
 

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 Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars - if anything we've seen is to be believed, showers are risky and meals are fraught with trouble: both from what's on the tray and what can be done with the tray. Instead, sustain yourself with a nice cell-cooked bowl of ramen...
 

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 How to Win Friends & Influence People - friends are key in prison. Dale Carnegie's six ways to make people like you, and perhaps more importantly, nine ways to change people without arousing resentment, could prove invaluable...
 

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 Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement - getting sent to the hole or the shoe or whatever the networks are calling it was never like this. Hang onto your sanity--this shit's for real.
 

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Prisoners' Self-Help Litigation Manual - see above. If there is any way to get the hell out of jail, you will want to investigate every legal nook and cranny even if you've got to get DIY with it.
 

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 How to Write a Love Letter: Putting What's in Your Heart on Paper - just because you're a jailbird doesn't mean you can't find love, but if you're going to write one of the fine ladies (or gentlemen) who correspond with prisoners, you'll have to distinguish yourself with something special.
 

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Origami Fun Kit for Beginners - so, maybe your next love is right there in front of you! Having some mad folding skills up your sleeve will be a huge help for passing love notes or just making someone's day with the gift of a paper crane.
 

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4-Pack

Light My Fire Original BPA-Free Tritan Spork Multi-Color 4-Pack - how did we get this far without mentioning the uber useful spork? It's a fork, it's a spoon, it's serrated edge probably makes an excellent shank, and BPA-free means it won't poison you should it be necessary to hide it, ahem, in your person.
 

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Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel - it's always helpful to learn a trade while doing time and it's an ever-changing economic world out there--so why not see how the drug business has morphed into something resembling a Fortune 500 company, only run by criminals. Well, stereotypical criminals, anyway...
 

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 Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You: A Journal - everything will be scary at first, but fear is best met head-on and journaling is excellent therapy. Over time, it may be rewarding to try some other prompts: remember the adage, sing as if no one is listening... etc.?
 

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The Prisoner's Self-Help Litigation Manual is seriously out-dated. Don't forget most prisons have libraries and librarians to suggest and guide. Sporks will be VERY restricted in most cells. Why teach inmates how to run a cartel and not a legitimate business? They ask for it! I was a medium security men's prison librarian for 24+ years. Most of the titles on your list are very high theft items.

Posted by: Liz | Thursday March 3, 2016 at 9:56 AM

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