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Getting out of jail isn’t instantly puppies and roses. Life on the inside is different, and there are customs that can be hard to shake off when out.

Woman in jail

TNT / Via giphy.com

Redditor u/KimJohnChilled asked the question: “Ex-cons of Reddit, what was the hardest prison habit to break after being released?”

People who’ve served time, and others close to them, shared some of the most challenging behaviors to leave behind.


“Hoarding toilet paper.”

CBS / giphy.com

“I find myself hoarding it under my bed. Sometimes I do it without thinking and I’ll look under there and have 10 rolls of TP.” — u/tentosamo


“Pocketing cigarettes.”

“I don’t smoke, but every time someone offered me a cig I would pocket it. On the inside that’s a bartering chip, took me about a month or two to break.” —u/interchangeable-bot


“Eating everything with a spoon.”

Odd Creative / Via giphy.com

“I didn’t use a fork for a few weeks. Ate everything with a spoon without thinking.” — u/justinlarson


“Being shocked to see sharp things.”

“Like, there’s no desire to use them inappropriately but you are just kinda shocked they’re there. You might be surprised what qualifies as a sharp object. I remember whenever someone tried to hand me a knife to cut veggies I’d be afraid to touch it. Glass was the biggest thing though, just mirrors in all the bathrooms. Real ones. Stopping thinking of objects as weapons is hard.” — u/Skishkitteh


“Taking short showers.”

Olive Bridge / Via giphy.com

“For the longest time after I got out, I took less than five minute showers.” —u/Dysphoric_Otter


“Telling someone exactly what you’re doing when you do it.”

“After I was released I kept telling my wife exactly what I was doing without her asking. She thought it was funny at first but after a few weeks she got bothered.” — u/carter5oh 

“You get used to having to tell authority figures what you’re doing before you do it at all times.” — u/redhedinsanity 


“Throwing everything into ramen.”

TV Tokyo / Via giphy.com

“Making prison commissary-only food. Everyone around me thinks it’s gross as hell to throw summer sausages, pickles, cheese, Doritos, Cheetos and such into my ramen noodles, but good Lord, I can’t stop, and I’ve been out for five years.” — u/peanutjesus

“I still like having a stash of ramen packs somewhere even if I’m not going to eat them.” — u/dbx99


“Hoarding feminine hygiene products.”

“We were super limited on the number of pads or tampons they gave us. They didn’t give any to the women in holding cells. There was dried and fresh menstrual blood on the floor and benches.” — u/feiticeirarose


“Sleeping past 5:00 a.m.”

TruTV / Via giphy.com

“I felt like I was doing something wrong if I slept past 5:00 a.m. It took me almost six months before I slept past 5:00. Even now, 6:00 a.m. is sleeping in for me. It has allowed me to never be late to work, and show up everyday. Ironically, I am more successful than I ever thought I would be because of this habit.” —u/[deleted]


“Stretching out enjoyable things.”

“I agree with all the people who said they ate super fast, but then we would slow walk back from the chow hall — any excuse for a few minutes more outside.

I made sure I never consolidated enjoyable things. If I had a snack — I ate it and concentrated on it. If there was something good on TV, I watched it. Now, I’ll snack while I watch a movie because there aren’t enough hours in the day — but on the inside I was trying to make hours and days go away.” — u/DeuceTheDog


“Eating as fast as you can.”

Desus & Mero / Via giphy.com

“Not me, but a guy who worked for me. When things were busy, I would often get carry-out lunch for everyone and bring it back to the workplace. This one guy would eat a cheeseburger and french fries in two minutes. Wow! Once I asked him why he ate so quickly. He said, “Well, I spent 7 years in a Federal prison and if you didn’t eat your meal in 10 minutes, you didn’t get anything. That 10 minutes often included the time it took standing in line to get your food.” OK then. I never said anything to him about it after that.” — u/NoBSforGma


“Taking a shit with my underwear up to my thighs.”

“To hide my junk. It took a long time to go back to pants around the ankles.” — u/ajdo


“Doing laps.”

Run Gum / Via giphy.com

“In prison, every time you get time on the yard, you do laps. Seriously, almost every single person does it too. When you get out, it’s hard to break that habit.” — u/Official–Moderator


“Having your back to the wall.”

“Not an ex-con, but have a good friend who is. He says he always has to have his back pointed towards a wall and be able to see all exits so that he can see who is coming and going and if they’re headed towards him, for safety. He also is constantly scanning the crowd to evaluate threats as well as making sure that he is friends with as many people as he can be so that everyone is his ally. It’s pretty sad really, considering I used to think he was just super outgoing. Now I know that he’s just trying to minimize threats and make sure no one has a reason to want to hurt him. He said that was his strategy when he was in prison for two years; make everybody laugh and be your friend so all the toughest dudes got your back.” —u/SherbetMalargus


“Having your head on a swivel.”

IFC / giphy.com

“When I was locked up, I always knew what was going on 360 degrees around me. I’ve been out for almost a year and a half but I still constantly size people up. No matter where it is (grocery store, Walmart, walking down the street), I still analyze each person and figure my best course of action if we have to fight.” — u/sDotAgain


“Distrusting people.”

“A somewhat friend of mine [got out of jail] a few years and the one habit he couldn’t shake was distrusting people. He said that people in prison are never nice, and if they are it’s because of a hidden motive. To this day he still doesn’t trust people who act nice/generous/helpful towards him.” — u/ehamo


“Always asking to use the restroom.”


“An ex-convict who works for me always asks to use the restroom. I’ve politely informed him there is no need to do that, but he keeps asking and apologizing saying that it’s hard to break the habit. He even told me it’s hard to pee when he hasn’t gotten permission. To get around this now he tells me, ‘I’m going to the bathroom, you might someone to cover my station,’ so I think we found a happy medium.” —u/MountainLizard


“Sleeping like you’re in a coffin.”

“Not me, but my ex would sleep that way all the time — his arms crossed and wouldn’t move the entire night for a couple months. He eventually broke that habit.” — u/myjobbetternotfindme


“Cursing all the time.”

Preity G Zinta / Via giphy.com

“The hardest thing has been to talk without using the words fuck, fucking, or asshole in every sentence.” — u/james0martin


“Being aggressive and also indifferent.”

“God, I got out two years ago and I cannot for the life of me shake my aggressive posturing… That’s all prison is, being hyper vigilant, and I would argue worse yet, always appearing indifferent. Like you could be kickin’ it with your ‘friends,’ laughing, watching TV, but then even the slightest misphrasing of something or a sudden movement will shift the whole mood of the room at a drop of a dime. So whatever emotion you display has to be instantly shut off and on a moments notice you have to be ‘booted and suited.’ I would return to my unit on occasion and there would be blood smeared on the walls from a fight I missed. You didn’t look at it. Eyes forward, indifferent. Emotion is weakness, and though I was secretly panicking, I had to bury and put on as a cold motherfucker.” — u/PaintshakerBaby


“Going into fight mode when I hear the word ‘bitch.'”

BBC / giphy.com

“Even when someone jokingly uses the word ‘bitch.’ And I’m no tough guy, institutionalization is real.” — u/hurv


“Specific mealtimes.”

“Mealtime was the hardest for me. It doesn’t matter if you are hungry. If it isn’t mealtime, you don’t eat. When I first got out, i kept missing mealtime (the specific time when you are supposed to eat), sometimes only eating once a day. It took me weeks to realize that I could eat whatever/whenever I wanted. I was all alone, sitting hungry with food in the fridge, because I didn’t eat an hour ago and I couldn’t eat until breakfast.” —u/physical0


“Knocking when you get up from a table.”

Comedy Central / Via giphy.com

“I had to stop myself.” They explain: “You’d knock/tap the table twice when you were done eating and getting up. Doing so meant you were leaving. If you abruptly got up without knocking it was considered very rude at best and cause for violence at worst. Either way it was interpreted was bad for the offender. Once a new guy got up suddenly and was immediately cold cocked by someone nervous of sudden movements. Another time people got tired of some dude’s rudeness and he was blackballed from the TV room.” — u/dentstowel


“Placing a shirt on my face while I sleep.”

“In jail (never was in prison) the lights are never turned off. The COs want to make sure nothing bad is going on in the cells.” —u/kierkegaardsho


“Playing cards.”

Fox / Via giphy.com

“Hardest habit to break was the desire to play cards, chess, and other trinket games no one wants to play with you on the outside. I’d go to friends houses and I’d say, ‘Let’s play Spades,’ and they’d look at me like I was crazy. I would play these games daily for hours… so I had a strong habit of wanting to do so. Everyone else was play video games, watching TV, going out, partying, etc. I just wanted to play Spades man.” —u/ethanwa



“The hardest thing when you come out is the lack of structure. I have so much anxiety because my whole day is not scheduled out.” —u/cachem0n3y


“Hiding my phone.”

“Whenever someone walks into the room. Been out two months and I’m still like that.” —u/jackofharts94


“Flushing the toilet every 5 seconds.”

Adweek / Via giphy.com

“When I’m on it. Not that it’s a completely bad habit to ‘courtesy flush’ but it is a huge waste of water. In jail, if you shit and someone caught a whiff of it they would tell you to ‘throw some water on that shit.'” —u/PhillyDilly23


“Constant pessimism and cautious optimism.”

“By far the hardest conditioning to break, which I haven’t and doubt I ever will, is the constant pessimism and cautious optimism. You see, when you’re waiting to work your way through court, get a deal, and get sentenced, you will have your dates changed 50 times, hope for certain things only to be disappointed, and any time you are told something hopeful it doesn’t work out.

As a result, I never get excited for something until it actually happens. When my wife told me we were pregnant (I already knew from her symptoms that she was but still, you never know for sure till you take the test), I was obviously happy, but because I’m always cautiously optimistic and rarely show emotion, I couldn’t feel comfortable or excited until I knew that my developing daughter was healthy. Even then, it didn’t really hit me till she was born.

You can apply this to anything especially big events. Getting engaged, planning the wedding, buying a house, ANYTHING. I still hear from my wife how I wasn’t crazy surprised or excited to be having a kid. I was, I actually was the half of the relationship who was dead set on a kid when my wife supposedly could’ve gone either way.

You just can’t get your hopes up or look forward to anything until it is here or has happened. I’ve been home over 7 years now and with my wife for 6.5. She’s truly the catalyst that motivated me to truly change my life and to not give any more of my life to the system, but she’ll never know how happy she makes me because she misinterprets my cautious optimism/realism for pessimism or indifference.” — u/Elrond_the_Ent



“I used to be a social butterfly but after spending so much time keeping to myself I don’t know how to socialize anymore.” — u/88Knuckles88


“Working out.”

Vice / Via giphy.com

“I actually found the habits I developed in prison were good (brushing after each meal, working out, yoga, meditation) and were harder to maintain once I was back in my daily life…” — u/RyWater


“Not being able to vote.”

“Probably that pesky habit.” —u/whitefish_will


“Putting shower shoes on the toilet.”

“Before sitting — well, there’s no seat actually.” —u/aquablaze28

“Not wearing shoes in the shower.” — u/the-walkin-dude


“Getting nervous when I hear keys.”

Allianz Direct / Via giphy.com

“It took me a while not to get nervous — in prison the only people with keys are COs so if you heard keys coming that was a heads up.” — u/Varsityxl


“Remembering microwaves exist.”

“My buddy forgot this for the first few months after release. It was the funniest thing seeing him just grab shit out the fridge and devour it cold.” —u/Lowesquestions


“Sharpening plastic silverware.”

“I used to sharpen them to make weapons and sell them to the inmates. I still find myself sharpening plastic utensils out of lingering anxiety.” — u/marktwain6522


“Not whistling.”

Paramount / Via giphy.com

“It’s like an unwritten rule that people in prison don’t whistle. When I got first locked up, my cellie told me not to whistle ’cause that’s what free people do on the outside and if people catch you inside they’ll target you.'” —u/Kyonghoonsin

Being released doesn’t equal total freedom. Are there other lingering habits from lock-up that aren’t on the list? Let us know below.

Note: Some answers have been edited for length/clarity

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