Alpha Male Ryan: Homesickness in prison.

Sending letters home to family and friends is one way that prison inmates combat homesickness, Alpha Male Ryan says. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

Editor’s Note: Stanley “Tookie” Williams, cofounder of the notorious Crips gang, was a death row prisoner from 1981 to 2005, when he was executed. In his autobiography, “Life in Prison,” Williams wrote that homesickness was one of the most agonizing emotions that inmates went through.
“Worst of all is knowing there is no cure for my homesickness,” he wrote. “My homesickness even makes me feel sick to my stomach. The deep longing that I have to be at home with my relatives and friends actually hurts me physically.”
Alpha Male Ryan says he knows from experience what that was like.

A lot of people in prison had homesickness. That’s your motivation and drive to stay out of trouble. A lot of inmates write home and call home every day.
We had a telephone at the end of the hallway in my dorm. They were on from 1 o’clock to 10 at night. There was generally a line of inmates waiting to use the phone every day. You had to respect the lines.
The telephone causes a lot of fights because for some guys, that was the only way to fight homesickness. There were times when the officers would shut off the phones and say they weren’t working, just to be d**ks. They did that on nights when they were bored. They’d shut off the phones and then wait to see if there were any fights.
A lot of times it was me. I’d fight every night. We had a lot of fights on our wing. There were other guys as volatile as me in there. They’d be p**sed that the guards were shutting off the phones, and then they’d be in a bad mood and take it out on someone else.
When they f**k with you and your family, that’s when you know they’re messing you up. When they’d cut off the phones and cut off you and your families, they’re messing with your mind.
We had visitation in the weekends. A lot of the inmates, especially the ones with kids, would not be happy when their family had to leave at the end of visitation. Some people, it really gets to you.
Not everybody had that need to be attached to the hip with their families back home. Some of them, they had families that had given up on them, so they made friends in prison.
It depends on the person. I’m sure for some of them, the ones who weren’t loners and wanted friends, I’m sure that worked out for them. That changes from person to person.
But making friends in prison is not recommended. Usually you don’t make “friends” in prison. The same guy smiling at you and shaking your hand can be stabbing you in the back the next day — a literal knife in the back, not a figurative one. That’s when a figurative knife in the back doesn’t feel so bad.
Some inmates had no support from their families — no phone accounts, no money in their account, no letters or visits. I wasn’t one of them, but the ones who were on their own had to hustle in prison. They had to make money somehow, or they stole from the kitchen.
Some people are better off in prison — and they know it, like the guys with prison letters who come back again and again. Every time you come to prison, you get a letter in front of your DC (Department of Corrections) number. The first time it’s a zero. Your second time in prison, it will be an A, and then a B, and then a C, and so on and so forth.
Considering there are guys in there with a K letter, that tells you something. No matter what, they’ll keep doing it.
A lot of them feel more comfortable in prison. They don’t have to pay room and board.
And prison becomes their family — and their sense of being.

Contact Alpha Male Ryan at

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