#164 Prison PRS (Pack Rat Syndrome)

April 28, 2010 at 3:47 pm Leave a comment

Prison P.R.S (Pack Rat Syndrome)

Today I was putting out our trash for the city spring cleaning, and I noticed as I was putting some of our trash out, some of the cars slowed down, to see what we were putting out. Last year when we did it, we had cars actually stop and check out our junk. In fact, almost all of it was picked up by other people than the city. As I said in a previous blog, it is amazing how one person’s trash can be another person’s treasure.

But as I finished, I thought a bit about how similar this is to prison, something I like to call “P.R.S” or “Pack Rat Syndrome”.

And while it might sound negative, I think in many cases it is out of some form of necessity. Not every inmate does it, but many have either been approached about it or did it themselves.

PRS is where an inmate looks to get extra items from another inmate at the point, or near the time, of that inmate is to leave the camp. Now, when I say “leaving” the camp, I mean basically one of two ways. Either the inmate is about to be released from prison entirely (as in going home) or that inmate is about to be shipped to another camp.

There are lots of inmates who are always looking to find out who is leaving, because when an inmate leaves, sometimes he has to discard some items. If you are on a camp for a certain period of time, it is quite possible that you may have accumulated more than you should have. If you are being shipped to another camp, it is quite possible that you are not allowed to take some items with you, meaning you may have to throw it away… or give it to somebody.

There are, as I said, many inmates who are quick to pounce on an inmate leaving the camp, and they are looking to see if the guy leaving has anything he has to get rid of… or wants to get rid of…or even willing to sell before he goes.

Call them opportunists if you want, but the guys who go around “pack ratting” are looking for items they either need, or items they believe they can turn around to sell. Anything is up for bargain when you are in prison, from stamps, canteen, pens, paper, even state hygiene supplies. Anything you have that might have so much as a nickel in value is what these guys are looking for.

Just now I am thinking if I ever did that myself, if I ever asked a guy if he had anything he wanted to get rid of before he left the camp…and to be honest, I think I may have, but to me, I think that should apply to guys that you really know, because lots of guys in prison won’t speak to you unless there is something in it for them. I’d hate to be approached by some guy that never talked to me, and asked me if I had anything I didn’t want…for him that answer should be no.

I’ve gone through this “Pack Rat Syndrome” a few times, and noticed it many times and how it worked. Because I was kicked around to many prisons throughout my incarceration, I often saw myself in the position where guys would ask me if I had anything I could give them before I left.

One example was while I was at Pasquotank Correctional, in minimum custody. It was the first time I was being retaliated against, and at the time I had no idea that it was going on…I only knew that I was the only guy getting a transfer, when I never asked for one, and almost NOBODY got transfers off that camp.

Yet I got one, and was to be shipped soon. When guys heard about that, I had a lot of guys come to me, seeing what I had. When the day before the transfer came, I had to pack up my belongings, since we would ship very early the next day. That meant in a dorm full of inmates, there was no hiding that I was shipping.

And understand what I am saying here, I said “no hiding”. I learned that if you are about to ship out, don’t tell everybody your business because if you do, that means the entire camp will be bugging you about freebies. Best to tell the friends you made there, so they know that you are leaving, and leave it at that.

But on the day before you are shipped, the officers will give you up to 3 white plastic bags to put your worldly belongings in. This is a bright light sign to anyone in prison that YOU are about to be shipped…there is no hiding that.

So when I got those bags while at Pasquotank, there was no more hiding that I was indeed about to leave the camp…and the pack rats came out. Guys were looking at my stuff, seeing if there was anything I could leave behind for them. I actually had quite a bit of canteen, like cup o soups and stuff like that, and I had a bunch of guys that wanted to help me take some of that off my hands.

The problem with me is I value my writing more than other stuff, and when it came time to pack, I noticed I had MORE than the three bags could hold. They won’t give you any more than 3, and the three I had were not the strongest bags anyway. I had to pack as light as I could, but saving all my written material. It meant I had to leave a lot of stuff behind, which of course was great to anybody who was looking for canteen. I remember leaving some canteen for a few guys, some designer paper and things like that and I also know that I gave about 20 or more faith magazines to the prison library.

On another camp I had the same situation. While at Sanford, I was about to be shipped and like before, guys come out of the woodwork to see what you can give them. Its almost like paying a fee to leave prison, rewarding them for having to stay. Now, I was never threatened to give anything (thank goodness) but sometimes guys get on your last nerve about stuff. One guy liked one of the books I had, a DuPont Registry issue… anybody who knows what that is knows that this is a magazine with some of the finest cars on sale. One guy begged and begged and begged me to let him have it. I told him that I didn’t get too many of those books (because it is expensive) and told him I would be willing to sell it to him. He said he didn’t have any money to buy it…to which I knew he was lying. When you see an inmate day in and day out buying stuff…he’s got money. I think I even offered to sell it to him for just $1…JUST ONE DOLLAR, just to say I got something out of it, but he kept trying to get me to just give it to him.

I relented, but before I gave him the book, I tore out about half the pages for myself before I gave it back to him. I didn’t really feel good about giving him the book, because I knew he could have bargained with me for it, but maybe he saw that I was too kind.

The last time I remember being in the PRS was before I was released from prison, while at Dan River Prison Work Farm. I knew my release date, and told in private the closest friends I made while there. I told them that if they want anything I have, to “put their bid in now” before anybody else finds out. Now, by “putting in their bid” I was not talking about buying my stuff. This time, I was more than willing to give it away, since I was going home, not to another prison.

For a couple of weeks I was able to keep my leaving private except for a few of my friends. When the last day came, and I had to pack my belongings, the pack rats came out to see what I had. By then, I had given most of my belongings to my bunkmate, or other friends. I saved my writings, because again, they were most important to me.

Again, this might kinda sound chaotic, but there is some method here. Lots of guys in prison don’t get any support from those on the outside, and sometimes they have to hustle to make a few dollars. Now granted, this is frowned down by the prison, and certainly by society, but lets face it folks, this is a different world they live in. Sometimes a dollar or two to buy canteen can lift the spirits of an inmate.

I’ll go one further, the different between prison soap and REAL soap can mean a lot to an inmate as far as self esteem. Lots of you may not really understand that, because some of you will think that soap is soap….really?

Try buying to ultra cheap brand for about a month or two, and see how you feel when you switch to a better brand. You will notice the difference. The same in prison. One thing that a lot of guys tried to take pride in having was name brand hygiene. I say again, don’t think that getting the “el cheapo” is just as good. When you are in prison, it is vital to keep your self esteem, and often times hygiene is directly attached to that. Having good smelling deoderant, good smelling shampoo or good toothpaste means a lot more than you can imagine.

So when guys get a chance to ask somebody else for these things, they are looking to secure some self esteem by having better-than-cheap products. Now, not all guys are so honorable…many look to get stuff just to get stuff. Like pack rats, some guys try to get everything they can get, whether they can use it or not. The idea behind this is likely to sell it to somebody else at another time.

For example, before I left, I remember one guy giving me a folder full of certificates, like “Mother of the Year” and stuff like that. It actually is the basis of the Prison Encouragement certificates I make now. In fact, I STILL have those, even today. One of my friends left prison before I did, so he left them to me. I tried to sell them, but didn’t do so well with it. So I took it home with me.

Almost anything an inmate has can be given away, except personal things like letters or cards. I am trying right now to think of the things I gave away before I left prison, apparently one of them was not my radio…I still have that cheap $&@& thing…


My toiletries, some batteries, designer paper, I think a little canteen, some other things I gave away before I walked out of that prison, but I still came home with about 3 bags full of stuff. Almost all of it was my journals, letters, and writings. All of that I still have today. But in retrospect, it may have been good to give what you can to other guys. To friends I had no problem with, but even to other guys, I guess it is ok. After all, every inmate in prison is trying to make it one way or another, who is to say that one way is better than another?

Almost everything has a value in prison, even if that value is none. One of the things I could NOT give away is the state supplies of hygiene. Because anybody can get them, and because it wasn’t worth a penny anyway, nobody would take them. In fact, you might laugh at me for this, but just last week I threw away a bar of cheap state deodorant, called… Maximum Security.

Yeah folks, I kept it in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom ever since I got home in 2001…only used it once…and regretted it since. So last week or so, I threw it away. It wasn’t worth anything in prison…and certainly not worth anything now.

Almost anything else has value, and because of that, guys are always looking for someone who is leaving the camp, in hopes they can get something from them. I suppose all inmate are like that in some way, so maybe we are all pack rats when the time presents itself. No different than today, as even during this blog somebody came by in a pick up truck, stopped and scooped our old satellite dish and Gazelle workout machine.

Again, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Same in prison, same in life.

Anyway, I gotta go, do email me about my prison encouragement certificates, prison cards and my “Grades of Honor” books. Until then…


Entry filed under: girlfriends with boyfriends in prison, God and prison, inmates, jail, LostVault, mothers with sons in prison, prison, prison abuse, prison blogs, prison books, prison cards, prison food, prison jobs, prison mail, prison pen pals, prison support sites, Prison Talk Online, Prisonbid, rehabilitation, son in prison.

#163 Thanks but no thanks #165 Proverbs in Prison

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