May 22, 2015

Race, Religion, Politics in Prison

In the real world, I was told it was always best to avoid discussing race, religion or politics at social and business gatherings. I followed that advice to avoid coming into unnecessary conflict with others. In prison, I have followed this advice because one of my primary goals in prison is to avoid conflict with others. Prison is hard enough without unnecessary conflicts.

At Jesup, most of the prisoners intermingle and get along quite well regardless of their race, religion or personal politics. However, I am told ( that at other prisons, there is self-separation by race. When you go to the chow hall, you sit with your race. When you go to church, you sit with your race. Apparently at these other prisons, each racial group has a leader called a “shot caller” who resolves conflict within the group and also works with shot callers from other racial groups to resolve inter-group conflicts.

Prisoners are, at times, also, segregated by their type of crime. For example, certain drug guys may have a bias against white collar guys or sexual offenders.

Each prison has it’s own set of unwritten social rules that a new prisoner needs to learn to get by without conflict. When I arrived in Jesup, I did not know what to expect. I kept my mouth shut and watched and listened. I am fortunate that I ended up at an institution that has a very relaxed set of unwritten social rules.

Ken Flaska

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