Alpha Male Ryan: Prison as Reality TV? Forget it.

The reality of life in prison -- or Hollywood hokum? Alpha Male Ryan knows the answer. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

Editor’s Note: Movies like “Lockdown,” the HBO drama “Oz” and MSNBC’s documentary series “Lockup” claim to capture the truth about the harsh reality of life in prison. The fictional versions depict brutal inmate-on-inmate violence, including rapes, beatings, and stabbings. Alpha Male Ryan, who spent 20 months in a Florida prison, said the shows are about as true to the reality of prison as your average Bugs Bunny cartoon is to everyday life. He also says if a camera crew went into a Florida prison to film in the cells, viewers would quickly get as bored with the tedium of the daily routines as the inmates do.

If a camera crew came into my prison to film us, they’d record a bunch of inmates who want to be famous — guys sitting in their cells trying to rap, or guys saying “I didn’t do anything, I need a lawyer, I’m innocent.”
Then there are guys like me, who were in there for bulls**t, who are never going to get paid attention to.
They wouldn’t bother filming me.
If they did bring in cameras, what would they see?
Maybe a fight … or maybe just a card game. Maybe some gambling.
I used to play poker tournaments in prison, like Texas Hold ‘Em. I was really good at it. I always came in the first or second slot. Most of the other inmates didn’t play very good.
What did we do all night? Some inmates went to the TV room. Some inmates went to church. Some inmates went to rec, and some inmates stayed on the phones all night.
Some just stayed in their cell with a magazine.
Guys were always rapping in their cell. I always hated that. I’d say, “Shut up!”
Sound boring and tedious? You get the picture.
Shows like “Oz” say they’re telling us what prison is like, but none of that is real. “Oz” isn’t a real prison. You don’t have plexiglass in there. Most of the cells in “Oz” were made of plexiglass, so you could see right through them. They don’t have that in maximum security prisons.
“Oz” turned prison into something cliche, something tough. It’s not like that anymore. It’s not even called a penitentiary anymore. There’s a reason for that. Nobody is penitent — repentful, sorrowful, apologetic for what they did. Now they’re just criminals who don’t give a damn.
In “Oz,” guards get shot. That’s not realistic. That wouldn’t happen, not where I was at in the Florida state prison system. There were some inmates who would pull a knife on an officer, and they were always locked away in solitary — no human contact at all.
In “Oz,” guys get raped in the shower. That didn’t go on where I was at.
You get fights in prison, but not as many as you might think. More inmates go to jail — or solitary confinement — for stealing food from the kitchen than from fighting.
Even being in solitary is not like it is in “Oz.” They make it seem like solitary is being in a dungeon somewhere — almost like a cave. The inmates in “Oz” are naked in there.
Solitary in prison isn’t a dungeon. You keep your clothes in solitary. You even get a change of clothes every shower day.
In the movie “Lockdown,” one thing seemed real to me — when the inmates were riding the bus on the way to their first day in prison. It reminded me of what I went through — a bunch of dudes in blue riding to prison. It was the same kind of bus as the one I rode on, and the same officers with guns riding with us.
“Lockdown” is pretty realistic. Watch it. That’s how stabbings go down. That’s how race wars get started in prison.
It looks like it was filmed at FSP — Florida State Prison. I worked there. It was right across from my prison. The cell blocks in the movie look just like FSP does. If it wasn’t filmed there, it sure looks just like it.
“Oz” doesn’t portray it right. In “Oz,” they give freedoms to inmates that we didn’t get.
Know what they didn’t get right on these shows? How you walked away from us, with no care for anything about us, treating us like dogs.
Dogs get better treatment than we did. Dogs get to bathe any time they want to.
We sure didn’t.

Contact Alpha Male Ryan at

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