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Ex-Prisoners Are Revealing All The Things Hollywood Gets Wrong About Prison, And It's Legit Fascinating

"Dropping the soap will not get you rampantly taken from behind."

People who have been incarcerated are sharing what movies get wrong about prisons and jails — and it's a fascinating perspective that you don't often get to hear.

A prison interior

It all started with a viral Reddit thread posted by user u/Warlock1509. Here are some things that former prisoners think movies and television shows get way wrong:

1. "Whistling in jail. You will get yelled at by other people. Shit travels through the pipes and sounds awful."


2. "There aren't really bars on windows and doors anymore. It's mostly plexiglass nowadays."


3. "Dropping the soap will not get you rampantly taken from behind."


prison showers

4. "There are typically a few actual gay men in prison who want to bottom, so it is very rare for straight men to be sexually abused, unless that sexual abuse is some kind of revenge or punishment."


5. "The sheer boredom...everyone there is actually pretty nice, but damn, it was boring as hell."


6. "Inmates love to work. Fights even break out for jobs because people are so bored."


prison yard

7. "Every morning, they'd come in to ask two inmates to take out the trash. You roll a couple of giant bins full of bags out to the dumpster. Just that little bit of something to do that involved going outside, even though it was just 10 minutes tossing nasty trash bags into a dumpster, was so popular that one guy threatened to kick my ass because he thought he should have been picked before me."


8. "Not me, but my sister. The boredom and, for her, the lack of cigarettes. The jail was smoke-free and you got a smoke break twice a day."


9. "Drugs are crazy easy to get. At least where I was."


A bag of cocaine

10. "There are no underground fight tournaments."


11. "Most of the inmates just want to do their time and go home. Not a lot of them are trying to act out and misbehave for whatever reason. That 'good behavior' time off their sentence is like gold to them."


12. "You're only going to catch shit, get beat up, or shanked if you're a pedophile, member of a rival gang, or just otherwise a piece of shit who causes other people grief. Mind your own business and be respectful when you do interact, and things will be pretty boring. It's not the 'Everyone is fair play' trope that media makes jail and prison out to be."


hands behind bars

13. "They kind of let you wander around a bit more than you'd expect. First time visiting jail, they just unlocked the door and told me to hang a left at the bins. I could have been off anywhere."


14. "Most of the inmates aren't hardened criminals. They simply made a mistake or came from a bad situation and are genuinely trying to assimilate back into society. Also, some of these dudes are hella smart. Trying to get a job as an ex-con is very difficult. If they never got involved with drugs or gangs, they'd be major contributors."


15. "The guys were actually very nice and gave me life advice. Something about having your freedom stripped away gives people a newfound love for wisdom and giving advice."


A barbed wire fence

16. "The movies get a lot of it wrong, but I was surprised to learn that most of the old-timers sound like Morgan Freeman."


17. "Half the inmates are mentally ill — not only a few people that the movies use to add color and character, but mentally ill people everywhere."


18. "There aren’t always actual toilets. Like a toilet with a bowl, lever, cistern, etc. Sometimes there’s just what looks like a kitchen draining board with a large hole."


A prison toilet

19. "You know those scenes where they clog up a toilet with toilet paper to cause a distraction? There are a few reasons that won't work. First off, those toilets are STRONG. That thing will suck a sock down. And if it does get clogged, the pipes usually have valves built in to prevent too much from backing up, since it's such a common tactic for people to try. Finally, you never get that much toilet paper to begin with. Unless you take the cleanest shits ever or are fine with a crusty butthole, you never have enough TP to do the job it was designed for, let alone any sort of clogging."


20. "No guns or cellphones. On TV, whenever a cop goes to the jail to interview the suspect, they have a gun and cellphone on their hip. Both items are turned in at the front gate."


21. "The guards checked on me regularly and were genuinely concerned...I refused to eat for five days because of depression and was trying to find anything to kill myself with. They noticed and tried their best to get me to eat. One very sweet CO pulled back the slot in the door and was begging me to eat because she was concerned. You could hear it in her voice."


A prisoner talking to a visitor through glass

22. "I know it's hard to imagine, but movies can't replicate the smell inside the jail. It is a smell that can't be described. The stench is something between bad body odor and garbage, along with insufficient ventilation and something else. It is truly disgusting."


23. "In actual prison, any sort of electronic item must have a clear shell, something that isn't seen in movies. This is to ensure you're not hiding or smuggling things. Also, any noise-making electronic has a max volume that is so low, you have to hold it to your ear to hear it."


24. "The showers. I'd heard they had group showers, but the jail I was in had separate showers with shitty little curtains. The worst part about showers was hitting the button for water every 15 seconds."


And finally...

25. "They always show the food as more akin to regular food than it really is. The food looks practically like pastel Play-Doh and mash. It's no wonder sometimes even McDonald's is too rich for inmates to eat when they get out after being in for an extended stay. Honestly, it makes the whole idea of a 'last meal' before execution seem like a cruel joke to me, when you think of how long a lot of death row inmates are in for before they actually get executed."


A prison meal

You can read the full thread of responses on Reddit.

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.