Behind Bars: Things I Learned Working in a Prison

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Who doesn't?!

Who doesn’t?!

biosize Dustin Nichols
Dustin Nichols is a freelance writer, most notably seen on Camel...
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In my 31 years on this planet, I have worked a variety of jobs, with most of them falling into the retail category in some form or another. As a result, I have probably seen every type of customer there is, from your average Joe to customers who are a bit–how you say–weird, to those who would straight-up murder and/or rape someone who crossed them.

Yes, I said customers who would murder or rape, and I mean that literally. From September 2004 until August 2006, I worked as a retail clerk in the commissary of McNeil Island Corrections Center in Steilacoom, WA: a prison that, until it shut down due to budget cuts a few years ago, was one of the last island prisons in the country (Charles Manson even did a stretch there).

For those that don’t know, in most prisons, inmates work jobs for anywhere from $0.55-$2.00/hour, and that money can be used to buy goods you would normally get at the grocery store, with 90% of them being food items like cereal, junk food and ramen noodles. My job was to process the food orders, bag them up and deliver them to the inmates. And, although the job wasn’t too complex, just being in the facility allowed me a chance to see what life was really like for a lot of these guys, and it doesn’t always go how you might think.

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