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Preparation Prison Life After

07. Activities


By the time most people hit federal prison, they have been binge drinking, they are not exercising, their stress level is high and their eating habits have made them overweight.  Now, they are entering prison in the worst shape of their life.  Not that prison is a great place to get in shape, but you will find plenty to do to get the exercise endorphins going and lose those unwanted pounds.  Beyond that, exercise is the best treatment for depression, and there are few places more depressing than prison.  That is just a fact.

There are numerous accounts of people who have gone to prison and transformed their physical and mental health.  Dramatic weight loss, reduced reliance on prescription drugs and improved strength are all a result of improved health through physical training.  To help inmates achieve those goals, prisons offer facilities, equipment and an ability to organize groups to get involved in fitness.

Each prison will have different facilities but most have the basics like a basketball court, handball/3-wall racquetball court, walking track, intramural fields, outdoor game area and indoor exercise area.

There are some facilities that have tennis courts (Also referred to as “recreational courts” so as to avoid seeming like a country club), or the tennis court is shared with the basketball court.  The nets are usually pretty worn, as you might expect, and the racquets are available through donations or, in some camps, can be ordered through the commissary.  You should not expect top quality equipment, but it is enough to enjoy a match.  Tennis, like other sports, is usually organized by inmates so that equal access to the court is available to everyone and to arrange intramural matches.  Tournaments are very popular around the summer holidays (Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day).  The prison will often offer prizes, usually food snacks or soft drinks, to winners of these tournaments.

Most prison facilities have weight or resistance training equipment.  Like intramural leagues, there are inmates that offer weight training classes ranging from levels of novice to body builders.  There are stationary bikes that are used for spinning classes and mats used for Yoga sessions.  The equipment is not the best but you will find many dedicated people helping inmates get into shape.

The most used facility on the compound is probably the walking track.  Running clubs and casual walkers all use the track to walk or run the miles away.  It is not uncommon for someone to walk for 2-3 hours in a day.  The commissary has running/walking shoes available and you need to invest in a pair as soon as you can.  Walking in cheap boots on the track is not going to work in the long run.

Intramural leagues for soccer, flag football, softball and basketball are all set up by inmates.  Referees, cheering fans and athletes engaged in the sport are all part of the athletic experience.  Basketball is very competitive and big games are often part of the prison community.

Another part of intramural play is injury.  Injuries resulting from intramural sports are common.  Broken arms, legs, torn ACLs, back aches, pulled muscles are part of sports.  While you will get the medical attention needed to heal an injury, it may not be the medical attention you are used to receiving.  Pulled muscles and back injuries, while painful, may not get immediate medical attention.  Beyond that, there will be no painkillers given to ease the pain.  The best advice is to pace yourself, or get involved in less competitive activities.

There is always a card game, chess, checkers or dominos going on in game rooms or on benches located around the compound.  Many inmates form leagues, clubs or classes on game strategy, so you can probably find a chess club to hone your skills.