Prison Etiquette - give respect and/or get respect
It won't take long to figure out what to do and especially what NOT to do in prison. The word that is prevailing over any other is "respect". Inmates are all about respect. Giving respect and getting respect. If you do not give respect, you will have a very difficult time doing your time. If you don't get respect, you had better figure out a way to earn it.
The television viewing area, the wall of telephones and the chow hall are the three main areas where problems occur. Here are some "dos and don'ts" as they pertain to respect and staying out of the hospital or the hole.
Never change the channel of a television without first expressly ask everyone in the vicinity if they are watching. Only change the channel AFTER getting a verbal "okay" from the others in the area.
Telephone etiquette in prison can be complicated. Inmates have bad days from time to time so one can never be certain if what you are doing is going to irritate another. Talk at a normal level, the telephones are closely situated and it's uncomfortable but unavoidable. Don't listen to another inmate's conversation, don't make physical contact and remember to be respectful.
The chow hall is a place where inmates take their meals seriously. The food is not great and it's severely limited. Never reach across the table over another inmate's tray, never cut in line and always offer uneaten food. Respect the fact that there are limits to the food and some inmates get no money for commissary.
The last bit of etiquette is never easy to explain, to write or to even read, but nature calls. If you are confined to a cell with one or two inmates, using the toilet is a sensitive but necessary occurrence. When you have to go, the other inmate(s) will turn their back and you MUST flush immediately and often during this process to avoid smelling up the confined space. If the restrooms are in the dormitory-style setting, the toilets are where the sinks and showers are. Do your "business" and flush constantly. Do not sit there and subject the other inmates to your "product". You will be paid a visit if you fail to respect another inmate's time to brush their teeth or to take a shower. Using the toilet is something everyone has to do, but be respectful. The first time, you will be reminded (if you delay your flush), "Water is free". Don't let it happen a second time. Remember, flush early and often.
It's all about respect.