Alpha Male Ryan: Privacy in Prison

If there’s one thing that prison inmates abandon, Alpha Male Ryan says, it’s their complete and total sense of privacy. In prison, inmates are just a number, Ryan says. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

Editor’s Note: If prison is meant for one thing, it is to strip inmates of the freedoms they enjoyed before they were convicted of criminal behavior. Those freedoms include one cherished by millions: the right to privacy, to spend time entirely alone, with no one else to interfere with that glorious solitude.
That right of privacy, Alpha Male Ryan notes, was completely gone in the 20 months he spent in a Florida prison.

It’s a myth that there is privacy in prison. That’s one of the many things prison strips away, is privacy. You’re just a number.
Prison takes away your individuality – or it attempts that. That’s when they beat you, when they’ve taken away your individuality. I never let them do that to me. I never let them take away my individuality. I never was one of those guys.
In prison, your whole living space in a cell is small, like the size of your front porch. If my cellmate got on my nerves, usually I would tell him he needed to chill the f**k out. I wouldn’t go nowhere – it was my cell, too. Usually I was the longest one to stay in that cell, so it was a pecking order. With most of my bunkmates, they moved in with me, I didn’t move in with them, so it was kind of like my house.
I had one roommate who p**sed on the toilet. We didn’t have toilet seats in prison, and he would dribble on the toilet and not clean it up, so I’d call him out on that.
To escape from it all, you could put on your radio if you were lucky enough to have one, which I was. I got one my first week in prison.
If you wanted to be alone, there wasn’t much you could do about that in prison. Our cells had a back porch, so sometimes I would just go on the back porch and close the door behind me. They had cells like that at my prison, with back porches because it used to be a death row, and you don’t ever come out of that cell.
If you wanted to take a shower, there was no curtain on the shower in my cell, just a wall. If you stood behind it, it blocked the view. That was if you were in my camp in the wings. Most other prisons, you’ve got a communal shower and everybody uses it together.
If you had to use the toilet, most people hang a sheet on the two walls, the shower wall and the other wall across from it, when they needed to take a s**t so it gives you a little privacy. You’re not supposed to put sheets up, because the guards can’t see you, so that could be an escape attempt, so they said – you could be trying to cut through the bars or something. Some guards enforced it and told you to take the sheet down, some didn’t. They were always telling me to take the sheet down – always busting my balls, because that was a rule I was constantly breaking – because you need some privacy, man.
Why did the guards do that to me? It’s control and degradation. It’s the same reason they give you a strip search – to degrade you a little bit.
Usually when a bunkmate took a s**t, I’d walk out of the room. That’s if you have respect. I did, I’ll tell you that much.
You could go outside to rec. They had three recs daily, and one was mandatory. But there’s not really any privacy at rec. There’s not a whole lot of privacy anywhere in prison.
You had chapel to go to. That’s where I spent most of my time, playing music and singing. Music had always been my oasis. A lot of people took advantage of the fact that there was movies and air conditioning in the chapel.
That and work were the two places in prison where I got to get away from it all. At work, I was somebody because I told other inmates what to do. At chapel I was somebody because I told people what to do. Everywhere else I was still a nobody.
The best way to get privacy was in your head. Whatever you think about, when you close your eyes, whatever you’re thinking about is your privacy.
When that’s gone, they got you.

Contact Alpha Male Ryan at

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