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How do you earn more respect in prison?

A recent Quora question asks how one might earn more respect in prison. We’ve selected several responses from inmates participating in San Quentin’s Last Mile program. Check out their thoughts and add your own in the comments.

David Monroe: In prison, there are two ways to earn (more) respect. First, you can conform to prison politics and the gang mentality and earn respect by “putting in work.” Putting in work means fights, stabbings, murders, etc. This type of respect is based in fear and comes with many pitfalls due to its deviant nature. Despite the negativity, this type of respect does have longevity although it is very tumultuous.

On the other hand, you can earn respect through self-respect, and instead of “putting in work” to harm other people, you can put in work in the classroom or in self-help groups. Doing the right thing isn’t always the popular choice, but it is a highly respectable one. Yes, even in prison! Unlike the first course of respect, this one is more serene. Similarly, it also has longevity.

Ultimately, the course of earning (more) respect is entirely up to the individual and their preference of method. The truth is that some people are simply good at being bad and doing good requires hard work. Throwing your hands up in the air and saying “I give up” is much easier than resisting negativity and continuing down a more positive path.

Darnell Hill: Earning more respect in prison is a matter of consistency and self-discipline.

Respect in prison is a matter of perspective. If a person sees “respect” as a means of honor or self-validation to encourage others to maintain a sense of integrity, then that’s a positive point of view. But if a person sees “respect” as a means of intimidation or fear tactic then that’s negative point of view.

Both respect for encouragement of integrity and as an intimidating fear tactic are played to enhance one’s self esteem or value of oneself for different reasons. The key to learning to get more respect in prison is consistency and discipline.

Looking from the outside in, most people would think that gangs or even officers earn more respect than anybody. The truth is, inmates who display a consistent level of integrity in keeping their word, educating themselves and others, acquiring a sense of discipline in not participating in gangs or any criminal activity just to get their needs met and then go back to wanting people to see them as a respectable person makes them as deceptive and untrustworthy then the consistent A-hole offender, gang member and habitual criminal.

Jerome Boone: In this community, behind these walls, a person is not going to get respected by everyone. Some people don’t even respect themselves, so it’s no surprise that they don’t respect me and mine (and this I have had to learn the hard way).

When I first entered the system, as a young adult, I was trying to please everybody and it just wasn’t working. I would end up getting into confrontations because I was trying to hang out with people I really didn’t have any business hanging out with. They didn’t respect me, and as I remember, the feeling was mutual.

Fast forwarding to present day, the way I gain respect is to surround myself with likeminded individuals, and make sure that my actions are aligned with how I outwardly represent myself. In other words, if I represent myself as someone who is straight edge (sober), non-violent, and into self-improvement, then I am not going to associate myself with the drug dealing-street soldiers with a high propensity for violence.

Instead I am seen going to my classes, my 12 step group, or just at my bunk reading and writing, like right now. No I am not respected by everyone, but through my consistency in being who I say I am, I have the respect of those who matter most in my life.

“The Question” section brings together user-generated articles from our Facebook page based on questions we pose to our followers, as well as some of the best content we find on Quora, a question-and-answer website created, edited and organized by its community of users who are often experts in their field. The site aggregates questions and answers for a range of topics, including public safety. The questions and answers featured here on C1 are posted directly from Quora, and the views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of C1.