How do you earn more respect in prison?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
All communications between inmates and external channels are facilitated by approved volunteers since inmates do not have access to the internet. This program with Quora is part of The Last Mile San Quentin. Twitter: @TLM
In prison, there are two ways to earn (more) respect. First, you can conform to prison politics and the gang mentality and earn respect by "putting in work." Putting in work means fights, stabbings, murders, etc. This type of respect is based in fear and comes with many pitfalls due to its deviant nature. Despite the negativity, this type of respect does have longevity although it is very tumultuous.
On the other hand, you can earn respect through self-respect, and instead of "putting in work" to harm other people, you can put in work in the classroom or in self-help groups. Doing the right thing isn't always the popular choice, but it is a highly respectable one. Yes, even in prison! Unlike the first course of respect, this one is more serene. Similarly, it also has longevity.
Ultimately, the course of earning (more) respect is entirely up to the individual and their preference of method. The truth is that some people are simply good at being bad and doing good requires hard work. Throwing your hands up in the air and saying "I give up" is much easier than resisting negativity and continuing down a more positive path.
Respect is not hard to come by in prison. People can lose their life in here when respect is not present.Most people that are not respected in prison usually start off with a level of respectability when they first come in to a prison.
However, this respect can be lost. Once respect is lost it is usually gone for good and your deeds will follow, so you can not just go to another prison. There will always be someone on the new yard that knew you from another prison. Sadly I have seen people move from prison to prison and they do not last more than a week before their baggage catches up with them and they are assaulted.
This is really prevalent on all Level 4 Maximum Security prisons and most Level 3 Semi Maximum Security yards. It is rare on Level 2 yards like San Quentin. Some of the things that can cause you to lose respect and end up on a Sensitive Needs Yard (Protective Custody or P.C.) are stealing, there is a saying no one likes a jail house thief (how ironic I know). Another thing is having a sex crime like child molestation, rape, and other unconscionable crimes. Also snitching or ratting on someone can make you have a bad day in prison. So to answer the question, respect is not hard to come by but you damn well better fight to keep it.
There was a time when I believed respect was about others seeing me as a tough guy. Over the years with maturity as well as help from programs like the TRUST and The Last Mile, my belief system has been challenged and as a direct result, my belief system has changed.
Now I see in prison, as well as in the free world, respect starts with self. Since my belief system has changed, the way I interact in my environment has changed, and the way my environment interacts with me has also changed. I no longer hide or run away from how I really feel. I don't gossip or talk about people behind their back. I try as best I can to remain fair and impartial.
I can't say that it gains respect with everyone. I can say it gains my respect with those who have respect for themselves.