My Days in an Ohio State Prison


Prison info./Advice:- Eating healthy foods in prison is extremely difficult. Nearly every item in the chow hall is processed food, with exception of the occasional salad a couple of times a week. This is just another unfortunate consequence of being in prison. There’s just a few ways of eating healthier food in prison, one is by purchasing healthy items from the commissary, which is very limited and also very expensive, especially when it’s nutritional. Some of the things I purchase from the store to eat and snack on when I’m hungry is fruit & nut cereal, tuna, almonds, peanuts and sometimes wheat crackers. I’ve gotten really good at making some tasty peanuts by mixing bbq sauce, honey, mustard, spices and microwaving it all with the peanuts until they look roasted. After the nuts cool off the sauces harden up and dry around the peanuts. I try to do this every week so I have a healthy snack when I’m hungry. When I roast them at the microwave it releases a strong smell and always brings a crowd of inmates wanting to try some. Now I often get a lot of guys that buy them from the store and ask me to show them how to make them. Now I have my friend, Kurt hooked on them also. Another way and basically the only way of eating fresh fruit that doesn’t come from a can in the chow hall is by purchasing the fruit from a diabetic. I give two diabetics five dollars of commissary each month for four pieces of fruit every day. Usually I get oranges an apple, but sometimes I get the occasional banana. Long story short, I can’t wait to come home and eat lots and lots of fresh fruits, vegetables from the garden and food that isn’t processed.


I’ve run between five and eight miles every single day for the last two weeks, that’s on top of my daily pushups, dips, crunches, etc. I started to wonder if I was working out too hard without giving my body its needed rest in order to recuperate and today my body spoke up by shutting down on me. This morning I continued my daily routine, but shortly after I got back from running and out of the shower I started to notice something was wrong. I started to feel a little light headed, so I thought maybe I needed to drink more water. Then during my yoga stretching I couldn’t keep my balance as well as usual. Later on I continued to feel light headed, and then on my way to lunch I felt very dizzy to the point where I almost passed out. My body started to have a vibrating sensation and that’s when I decided to lay down and rest. I fell asleep quick and remained asleep for three straight hours, that’s better than I sleep at night. From now on I’m going to give my body a rest more often, allowing it the time necessary to recover from all the hard work I put forth every day, especially in this extreme heat and humidity the body obviously can’t handle the kind of stress I put on it.


Prison info. – I’ve never been to a federal prison before, but I do know that there are many differences between the two. For instance a person sentenced to a state prison, at least in Ohio has to do all of their time, unless they get a judicial release or the opportunity for parole which is extremely rare. In Ohio, mandatory time means if you get five years then you have to do all of five years, where as in a federal prison inmates only do a portion of their time, unless of course they’re serving life, or have a life tail at the end of their sentence, there are always exceptions. In state prisons inmates are allowed to have televisions in their cell, where in federal prisons inmates have to watch the televisions in a community dayroom area and wear radio headphones that tune in to the frequency of the TV. station, having to watch what everyone else is watching. I hear the food is a lot better in the federal institutions, but who knows… Being transferred to another prison in Ohio is always a possibility for me, but federal inmates can be transferred to other federal prisons anywhere in the country, far away from family in some other state, something Michael Santos has shown us in all his travels across the nation, from some of the worst prisons in America to some of the better prisons that didn’t even have razor wire fences around them to contain the inmates. I’m hesitant to say that there’s a different class of inmates in federal prisons, but it’s true. On one hand federal and state prisons both have some really good hearted people that just made some really poor choices and both also have some really bad people, monsters that should never see the light of day. Having said that, state prisons are generally a collection of gang bangers, drug addicts, armed robbers, an unfortunate plethora of child molesters, rapists and murderers. Sure, federal prisons also house these kind of individuals, but they also house a unique set of individuals that state prisons lack and that’s white collar criminals. Okay so a crime is a crime, right is right and wrong is wrong, we all know that, I’m just saying that we don’t have these kind of interesting intellectual people in here. I believe that everyone in prison is suffering the punishment for their crime no matter what it may be, so I do my best not to judge, but one can get awfully tired wondering if you’re having another conversation with a child rapist and be associated with them by others, easily labeled as one of them, simply for not knowing who you were talking to. This is why I spend most of my time in my cell disconnecting myself from prison life and the inmates in it. In the last three years of my imprisonment I’ve lived beside all kinds of different inmates from all facets of life, most of whom I wish I never met. I’ve also met some really smart and interesting people from similar backgrounds as me, but at the end of the day I just can’t wait to be a part of society and socialize with the law abiding community of generally good people within it.


Hard work continues to pay off. After checking my weight today I see that I’ve lost another ten pounds just in the last two weeks. Now it’s official, at a current weight of 165 lbs. I have now lost a total of 100 lbs.! I haven’t felt this healthy since I was a kid! The more that I continue to take care of my health and plan for my future the more I start to love myself again. For too long I’ve hated myself for all the stealing, lying and hurting people to support my addiction. My self-hate fueled my substance abuse, as long as I was intoxicated I didn’t have to think about all my problems, not caring that I was just feeding a vicious and deadly cycle, thus creating more problems for myself and my loved ones.


My first day of school was amazing. Everything is extremely interesting to me, making it easy to retain the information. Our teacher is great; he’s very knowledgeable in the field of horticulture. Our teacher is licensed by the Ohio board of education, the class is real and recognized by whatever standards any real school on the streets are recognized by. The certification I will receive at the end of the year is just as valid as any certification in horticulture in society. There are four separate certifications, all of which I’m unclear on, but passing all four tests at the end of the year would be called a master certification and I haven’t a single doubt that I will achieve that goal. Last year, out of forty students from both minimum and medium security camps here, only three of those students were successful in achieving a master certification. Personally I like the sound of those odds; it makes the achievement more gratifying. We looked at real plants and branches that the teacher brought in, I took notes on every word he spoke and every letter he wrote on the board. Next week he says that we’ll be spending some time in the greenhouse looking at and touching more plants. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity in prison.

Steven Dybvad

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