How to Survive Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Jail System

1 If you don’t want to end up with the mystery-meat slop the inmates call “red death” then when you first enter the jail tell the booking officer you need a religious diet. Claiming Hindu will get you vegetarian food. The Jewish food is considered the best, but you might have some explaining to do to the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang.

2 When you arrive at your assigned pod, dorm or tent do not hide your charges or else you will be suspected of sex crimes or crimes against women and children, which can get you smashed or killed. If the inmates tell you to “roll up” as soon as you get there and offer no further explanation, then you are in imminent danger, so ask to be moved unless you are the type of person who enjoys fighting five people at once.

3 Immediately ask who the head of your race is and be aware of the political rules he is enforcing. For example, if you are white and an Aryan Brother is running the whites and you go and sit at a table with the Mexicans, Mexican Americans or African Americans you may get smashed. Video of an Aryan Brother murdering an inmate who violated the gang rules:

4 When you get your first meal, sit down last because you don’t want to sit on the seat of someone who likes to knock people out for the slightest affront. Find out who sits where, and ask someone where is the safest place for you to sit.

5 Don’t run up drug or gambling debts. Debts are the number one reason for jail violence.
6 If you brag or act tough – no matter how big you are – someone will want to smash you. The gangs go in like packs of hyienas on big men.

7 If you must do drugs, clean the works. There are hundreds of men sharing one dirty syringe throughout Arpaio’s jail system. Hepatitis C is rampant, and TB not uncommon. The way Arpaio runs the jail constitutes a public-health risk.

8 Same goes for tattoos. One inmate I met had contracted AIDS from getting a jailhouse tattoo.

9 Don’t flaunt money or get a lot put on your inmate account all at once. If you do so, you are asking to be extorted. Don’t give store items away for free or else you will be perceived as a soft touch and the inmates will try to take everything you own.

10 When a riot happens the whole area is usually pepper-sprayed or maced. Wet your eyes and blink rapidly, so the chemical agent comes out in your tears. Wrap a wet towel around your head to protect you from the effects of the spray.

11 Don’t pal up to the guards. The inmates will assume you are providing information and smash or murder you for snitching.

12 Don’t talk about someone behind his back. Beware of inmates telling you they heard someone say something bad about you – like someone calling you a punk – because they may be inciting you to fight their enemy. A good response for such a situation is: “Anyone who thinks I’m a punk needs to man-up and say it to my face.”

13 Don’t tell the guards you are feeling suicidal or they will four-point you, meaning all four of your limbs will be shackled to a bunk and you will have to urinate and defecate where you lay.

14 When store items are being collected for indigent inmates or men in the hole/lockdown contribute if you can. You do not want to be viewed as being stingy towards your race.

15 Be aware of your body language. The inmate with a spring in his step and his chin up is less likely to get preyed upon than the inmate with his head down staring at the ground giving off vibes that he’s afraid or he has something to hide.

16 Maricopa County is paying out a fortune in inmate lawsuits because of the inhumane treatment of prisoners by the Arpaio regime. If you are mistreated, request for and fill out all of the necessary grievance and medical paperwork otherwise your claim will not stand up in court. I encourage inmates to sue the jail and Arpaio as much as possible - that's how changes get made. So as to avoid court cases and bad publicity, inmates are often paid out-of-court settlements. This is a good earner for inmates who have suffered illegal treatment.

17 Stock up on the free toothpaste, AmerFresh, in case you end up in a cockroach-infested area. It effectively blocks the cracks the cockroaches swarm from when the lights are turned off.

Click here for my fish survival guide.

Tags. How to survive jail prison, survival guide, shaun attwood, First Ave Jail Fourth Avenue Jail Durango Jail Towers Jail Estrella Jail Tent City Lower Buckeye Jail Madison Street Jail


Noelle said...

I'll keep all that in mind for the next time I visit the system!?! (just kidding) Wow, all that makes me shiver at the thought. I don't know how you survived in there. I don't know how anyone does. You have to be so on your toes at all times-that seems crazy. And, it probably makes you feel so too. (Sigh) So glad your out!! :)~ Great writings-keep 'em coming!!!!!

Anonymous said...

So what about people who are actually Jewish? I'm assuming the Aryan Brotherhood isn't exactly welcoming. Some Jews can certainly "pass" as non-Jewish, but a great many certainly can't. Did you encounter anyone Jewish during your time inside, and if so what sort of treatment did they get?

Not that I plan on needing your advice here, but you never know!

Anonymous said...

Shaun, when are you going to add the end of Zucchini?

gumi said...

You could write, direct and act the appropriate scenes for a how-to survive your first week in a American prison series, and post it on Youtube for instant fame and ad-fortune.

Anonymous said...

That is a good one !!

Barry in Tonopah

Anonymous said...

ha! very enjoyable Shaun. although it is looking like arpaio may be in the last months of his long reign. even the mayor's turned against him now.

Jon said...

In the jail system, the majorities pick on the minorities. I saw discrimination against Jews and Middle Easterners. But a lot depends on how you carry yourself.

I'll try to post the next installment of the Zucchini series some time this month.

Jayne D said...

Thanks for this, Shaun. I'm printing this and mailing it off to Kurt!!!

Anonymous said...

does saying you're a Hindu put you in Danger with the Aryan Brotherhood?

Jon said...

dirtos, if the gangs know you are claiming a certain religion to get one over on the guards by way of better food, then it's OK to do so,
any way of beating the system is respected by the inmates

Anonymous said...


You failed to mention the two most important other reglas (rules) for inmates.

1. Mind your own business. NEVER mingle, comment, or involve yourself in anyone elses affairs. Doing so can result in capital punishment by inmates.

2. If you are being challenged to a fight, never back down, no matter how big your opponent is. Failing to stand up for yourself will show your weakness and you WILL BE PREYED UPON. A 30 second fight against a much bigger opponenet, you will be surprised what you are capable of when you are fighting for your life. Plus, if you fight in front of the guards your fight will not last longer than a minute (which I remember seems like an eternity). You will be seen as someone who is not weak and will stand up to defned themselves.

P.S. I cannot even begin to tell you of the white kids who came in acting like they were black and how they were extorted, beaten, and left with no front teeth.

Sticking to your race is absolutely critical.

Thank you Shaun.

-Jose in San Diego

ms_saul said...

Great list. Funny and yet saddening at the same time. Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

Some very good essential advice there Shuan, which I hope will get through to the very vulnerable who will benefit. Well done.
Terry B

Anonymous said...

I grew up in America. I'm glad I didn't cross over the line, there. Amazing reading, Amazing person!


Anonymous said...

Funny because it's so true! But this is a mans version. The women I encountered seemed to have more to prove, have a few more rules, and we can be downright evil!

Chino the 2nd said...

In Los Angeles' old county jail back in the early sixties, the guys used to call the red jelly they were served with their breakfast toast "Red Death" because they claimed you could glue the soles of your shoes with it!

Chino the 2nd said...

" I wonder if people know about the treatment of Arizona's juveniles which was like a living hell & I wrote about Fort Grant in my autobiography "My Life/Inside Out" by Angelo R. Avila Jr

Chino the 2nd said...

breakfast in 1960's Maricopa County Jail used to consist of a scoop of Oatmeal & a scoop of prunes & a half cup of black coffee,two meals a day were served, the evening meal was a scoop of Lima beans & a day old slice of bread with a thin slice of bologna & a tin cup of water, it never varied. I was also in the original Phoenix jail with a gold fish pond at the front where you could yell out to your friends below.

Chino the 2nd said...

I did time in Tracy's DVI prison aka Gunsel/Gladiater School in the late sixtees while my brother was doing time in Florence,Arizona at the same time. I almost went with him.I also did time in Fort Grant ASIS as a second -timer on the Rocks. I wrote about my experiences in my autobiography "My Life / Inside Out" by Xlibris