How To Survive in Prison as an Innocent Man Convicted
of a Sex Crime
James D. Anderson*
Psychology Editor's Note: This article includes some strong views
that may be surprising and challenging. We have chosen to publish
it because we believe prisoners have a right to seek interaction with
those outside the prison walls. We also believe there are many
innocent men and women in prison who are wrongly convicted of sex
offenses. They too, have a right to stand up for their
innocence. One of the more poignant episodes in our lives was in
June, 1985, when Lois Bentz, accused with her husband, Robert, of
sexually abusing children in Jordan, Minnesota, was told by her attorney
about a very attractive plea bargain. With tears running down her
face, Lois said to us, "I did not do it and I will not say I did
something I didn't do." The Bentzes rejected the plea bargain
and went to trial. The Bentzes were acquitted and the Jordan case
is often regarded as the beginning of the "backlash" that has
led to increased awareness of false accusations and the reversals of
several highly publicized convictions in recent years.
Still there are many many lesser known cases where Large numbers
of innocent people remain behind bars. We receive letters every
week from men and women in prison who assert their innocence. For
years we have agonized about what we can do in response. The most
we have been able to do is to try to stay in contact and provide
information to assist those working on appeals. Based upon our
experience with Ms. Bentz, we have also tried to say what Mr. Anderson
repeats several times in this article maintain your own personal
integrity. Mr. Anderson tells us how he has done this for
himself. It may not be a way that works for everyone, but this is
what he tells us works for him. We believe Mr. Anderson is very
likely to walk out of prison when his time is served and be standing up
straight and tall.
Your only exposure to what prison is like has been through movies
that sensationalize the violence, drug use, and sex in the big
house. The prison bus you're on rounds a lonely highway corner and
you get your first glimpse of what is to be your home for the next
10-odd years a steel, razor wire, and concrete house of
pain. You wonder how you'll ever make it out of this hate factory
alive. You imagine your first day being gang-raped by six huge,
tattooed lifers, by the end of the week you're being sold up and down
the tier for cigarettes, and within a month, you're found dead in your
cell with a twelve-inch "shank" protruding from your
chest. Not only are you the new fish in the cell block, but you
have been convicted of a sex crime, and you've heard how convicted sex
criminals are abused in the joint.
You're one of the thousands of innocent men wrongly convicted of sex
crimes in the U.S. every year. Won't it matter to your fellow
prisoners that you are not a sex criminal and are completely
innocent? Not in the least. It is possible, though, to make
it through prison even though you were convicted of a skin beef.
You can not only live through the prison experience, you can claim some
degree of victory at the end of your unjust prison term. Life will
be neither easy nor fun for the innocent man convicted of a sex crime
and sent to prison. But, surviving prison is not impossible.
I have spent over seven years in maximum-, medium-, and minimum
security prisons after being wrongly convicted of first degree rape
the result of my having been falsely accused of date rape by a mentally
deranged woman with a history of falsely accusing men of sex
crimes. I am writing this from the Oregon State Correctional
Institution. Although life has not been easy for me in prison, I
have managed to keep my self-respect, my dignity, and my
integrity. I have spent months in solitary confinement for
defending myself when necessary. I have allowed no prisoner, no prison
guard, and no member of the parole board to disrespect me due to my
wrongful conviction. I have consistently maintained my innocence,
even when doing so has added years to my prison term.
I earned a college degree behind bars, and have even escaped from
prison once. To help other innocent prisoners, I founded the
Society Against False Accusations of Rape (SAFAR), and for five years
have published the underground prison publication, The SAFAR
Newsletter. Currently, I'm working on my book, Falling on the Deaf
Ear: False Accusations of Rape, Child Abuse Hoaxes, Innocent People in
Prison and How to End the Sex Crime Witchhunt. I know first-hand
what it is to be an innocent man in prison, wrongly convicted of a sex
crime, and I know how to survive the prison experience.
Now that you have been falsely accused of rape or child abuse, been
convicted in record time, lost all your assets along with your
reputation, and been sentenced to 10 years in prison by a judge who
couldn't care less that you are innocent, you would think your troubles
are over. Think again. You not only have to make it out of
the prison with your life and sanity, but with your self-respect, honor,
and integrity intact. Let's face it. After being wrongly
convicted of a sex crime, your sanity, self-respect, honor, and
integrity is all you have left. Prison will not break you if you
are a man or learn to become a man, even though the main goal of
prison officials is to sap the soul from men, and spit out castrated,
submissive males. With all the odds against you, it is even
possible to walk out of prison a better man with your head held
high. Again, it will be neither fun nor easy, but what battle ever
is easy? You can either walk out of prison with your manhood
intact knowing you beat the corrupt prison industry or you can crawl out
on your belly as a hated sex offender.
Don't fool yourself that the community will be outraged that you were
convicted and sent to prison for a crime you didn't commit or that may
have never even occurred. You are now a convicted sex offender and
your innocence means nothing. You're the lowest of the low, in and
out of prison. There will be no mass protests at the prison gates
demanding your release.
Most people believe the propaganda of the sex crime witch hunters and
probably feel you should die in prison. Most of your friends will
abandon you and even some members of your family will turn their backs
on you. Only your very best friends and your immediate family will
stick by your side at first and most of them will fall by the wayside in
the coming years as you rot in prison.
One of the most important things for the innocent man in prison is to
maintain contact with at least one person on the outside. This
person can help you try to prove your innocence and keep you current on
what's happening outside the prison walls. If you can maintain
contact with at least one free worlder to help you, you'll be doing a
lot better than some prisoners. Many prisoners lose their friends
and their own families and are isolated in prison with no contact with
the outside world. You are going to be walking into prison alone
and will be alone while you do your time. You need at least one
ally in the outside to help free yourself from the nightmare of being
thrown in a cage and given the scarlet letter of a convicted sex
offender for a crime you did not commit.
For the most part, prisons and correctional institutions are not the
hell holes of years past. The "get tough on crime" craze
has mutated into "get tough on prisoners." Although
prisons are not for continued and endless punishment, politicians don't
want to educate or rehabilitate prisoners. Prisoners are to be
warehoused like the commodities they've become. College courses
and vocational training in prison are a thing of the past. With
all the new prisons being built in the U.S., doing time has become quite
sterile even safe because all the new prisons are so
controlled and high-tech that prisoners now spend most of their time in
The idea that prisoners really run the joint is a myth. Some of
the older prisons are still dangerous, but these are slowly being phased
out. It used to be that only the worst, most dangerous, and most
hardened criminal was sent to prison. It was no wonder that
penitentiaries were dangerous. But these days, with so many
first-time offenders doing mandatory prison terms and so many people
being sent to prison, the nation's lock-ups have become diluted with
nonviolent prisoners. Today most prisons can even be considered
In all my years behind bars, I've never seen a murder, a stabbing, or
a rape. I believe some prisoners try to brag how tough prison is
to make themselves look tough. They romanticize their prison
experience by telling their friends and family how brutal prison was and
how they had to fight for their lives every day. Prison, however,
may be harder for the innocent man convicted of a sex crime because of
the scorn. In the old days, a convicted sex offender
innocent or guilty was sure to get physically attacked.
Today, that is not the case. A man wrongly convicted of a sex
crime can make it out of prison unharmed if he stays on his toes and
What about all the violence you read about what goes on in
prison? Of course, violence does happen in U.S. penitentiaries,
but with over 1.6 million Americans locked up these days, the chance of
being one of the few hundred inmates who are killed or seriously injured
Standing Up for Yourself
Because you were convicted of a sex crime, you will not be winning
any popularity contests with your fellow prisoners. At first, the
other prisoners may mark you to be victimized and harassed. If you
don't stand tall and fight back, you'll be victimized your entire prison
term. You must stand up for yourself when you are tested by some
idiot who thinks you're a rape-o, "Chester," "tree
jumper," or "freak." In 1989, I was compelled to
beat a man who attacked me with a folding chair. Besides a little
blood, neither one of us was hurt badly. I did accidentally break
a guard's hand in the melee and I've also had to fight a couple of other
morons who disrespected me, but I haven't had any trouble in
years. It is well worth it to spend a few months in solitary
confinement for defending yourself when the option is being harassed
continually in general population. Another option is hiding for
years in Protective Custody (PC), totally separated from the rest of the
prison, and locked in a cell for 24-hours a day. But only the
weakest prisoners go PC, and I don't recommend it.
For the most part, even for the wrongly convicted sex offender, if
you don't owe debts from gambling or drugs, and if you stay away from
the homosexuals, keep your head down, don't bother anyone, and don't act
like a wimp and whine about your wrongful conviction, you won't have to
worry about prison violence. There is very little chance that you
will be killed or even stabbed. But, if something does happen and
you need to defend your good name, be a man and do it. In prison,
your good name is all you have. If trouble comes your way in
prison, you have to deal with it on the spot. Where are you going
to run? You're in a cage.
Inmates and Convicts
During my years in prison I have found that there are two types of
prisoners inmates and convicts. Inmates will not fight if
their lives depend on it and they will kiss any ass that comes their
way. Inmates are the type of prisoners who go on national TV to
praise prison officials and prison programs for straightening out their
miserable lives. The inmate has no loyalty to anything or anyone
except himself. Inmates will do anything to please their captors
and cheerfully inform and rat on other prisoners for breaking prison
rules. Inmates are not men.
Be aware that you can't always tell an inmate worm by his
cover. The biggest, baddest killer on the tier can be the biggest,
snitch rat in the joint. On the other hand, convicts used to be
very common in U.S. prisons, but are now a dying breed. A true
convict would never rat on anyone, would take no disrespect, would fight
when necessary and would be loyal and live by a code of honor.
Unlike an inmate, a convict is a man.
A convicted sex offender will never be considered a true convict by
other prisoners, but you can live by your own code of honor in
prison. Never whine or complain about your wrongful conviction;
sniveling will only make you appear weak and make you a target.
Other prisoners don't care about your innocence. The prison
hierarchy has you at the bottom of the prison barrel. Your jacket
is that of a sex offender but it's up to you if you wear this degrading
jacket. You will find that the only prisoners who hang around the
sex offender are other wide-eyed, scared, spineless sex offenders.
Even though prison is going to be very lonely for the innocent man
convicted of a sex crime, you don't want to befriend confessed sex
offenders. Also, stay away from the prison chapel. For some
strange reason, confessed sex offenders always find God in prison and
carry their Bibles for all to see to show how repentant they are.
In short, even though no one convicted of a sex beef can be a true
convict, you must strive to be one.
Talking About Your Conviction
You may think that if you don't tell any of your fellow prisoners you
were convicted of a sexual offense that no one will be the wiser and you
won't be harassed. You may think that you can tell people you're a
bank robber and even be a hero in prison. Nice try, but lying
about what you were convicted of will not work. There are no
secrets in prison, especially on why you are there. You're in
prison now, and any possibility of privacy or keeping secrets is long
gone. Be honest when talking about your wrongful conviction and
get ready to defend yourself if it becomes necessary.
All of the convicted sex offenders (innocent or guilty) whom I've
heard tell other prisoners that they were burglars or robbers in an
effort to hide their convictions were eventually exposed. If you
lie about your conviction, you will be exposed. Then, any attempts
to claim innocence will not be believed and your prison time may get
very tough. Don't advertise your wrongful conviction, or the facts
of your supposed crime, but when asked why you're in prison, be honest.
Although a convicted sex offender can never gain full respect in
prison, I've managed to gain some measure of respect by being truthful
about why I am in prison, and fighting when necessary. Sure, some
punk may call me a "rape-o" behind my back, but no prisoner
ever disrespects me face to face. With so many innocent men being
sent to prison these days on false accusations of rape and child abuse,
the general prison population is starting to understand how widespread
the sex crime witchhunt has become, and how many innocent men are now in
prison due to false allegations. False reports of rape and other
sex crimes are so common that an innocent man wrongfully convicted of a
sex crime will not be alone.
The men and women who hold the key to your freedom (the prison
guards) should be considered your enemy. There is a reason that
surveys on job status and job satisfaction often rate being a prison
guard as the lowest job a person can hold. No one respects prison
guards, and they know it. What kind of man or woman would want to
examine body openings for contraband, turn keys, and stand around and do
nothing for a living? Prison guards hate their jobs and blame
prisoners for their unhappy and unfulfilled lives. It takes no
ambition, no talent, no drive, or any creativity to be a corrections
officer. Even police officers know this, and look down on the
lowly prison guard. Think about it. Does any kid have dreams
of being a corrections officer when he or she grows up?
The Golden Rule to remember not only about prison guards, but about
anyone that works inside the prison in which you are held captive, is to
stay as far away from them as possible and avoid even talking to them
unnecessarily. Even if you happen to run across a prison guard who
appears to be halfway human, don't befriend him. Every inmate whom
I've seen develop any type of friendship with any prison employee was,
in the end, betrayed and shunned by other prisoners. Don't
collaborate with anyone other than fellow prisoners while in
prison. Every prison official or staff member is your enemy.
Never forget that. They will gladly shoot you in the back if they
feel the need. Don't make eye contact with the people who work at
the prison because if you avoid eye contact they will leave you
alone. The less contact you have with prison employees, the better
off you will be.
In all my years in prison, I've observed hundreds of prison guards
and only a couple could be considered normal. The typical male
guard I have encountered is not someone you would consider a
winner. He is usually a skinny geek (or is extremely overweight),
is undereducated, has no ambition and is sadistic. His idea of
success is a monthly state paycheck, a trailer home, a 12-pack of beer,
and nightly TV. The typical female prison guard is homosexual,
physically unattractive, overweight, and more masculine than most male
prison guards. She's mad at the world for not being born a man and
she takes her penis envy out on prisoners.
I fully admit my dislike for prison guards because I am convinced
that every prison guard in the U.S. has witnessed, encouraged, and/or
participated in the torture or murder of prisoners. Prison guards
are cowards with a badge who are protected by the state and prison guard
unions. Your only allies in prison are other prisoners.
Never forget it.
One of the most important things to do while doing your prison time
is to keep in the very best physical shape possible. Every prison
has a weight room, and I strongly suggest pumping iron. Being in
top shape not only feels good, but it's good for your head and will help
you think more clearly. By working out, running, exercising, and
eating as well as possible, you will be physically able to defend
yourself in case of any violent situations. You will also be able
to think straight to combat your unjust conviction. All the guys
whom I've seen go insane in prison did not care about their
health. They rotted in front of a TV for years until they were
just a shell of a man. At age thirty-five, I am now in the best
shape of my life and feel great.
Another reason to stay healthy in prison is that medical services are
notoriously horrid. One of my worst prison experiences was when
our prison doctor told me that blood tests indicated that I had liver
cancer. He smiled gleefully as he told me I had only a year to
live. I tried to learn more, but he refused to answer my questions
and ordered me out of his office. For months I thought I was going
to leave this mad house on a slab. I learned later that my blood
test indicated only that I had been exposed to hepatitis in the
past. The good prison doctor told me I was dying for his own sick
Dental services are just as bad in prison. I'm currently
waiting to have a back molar filled. I cracked my tooth on a rock
in some chili in the chow hall. I've been on the waiting list to
see the dentist for over six months now, and will probably lose the
tooth due to neglect. There is nothing I can do about it.
While in prison, stay in shape, work out, run, and try to eat well
even though that's nearly impossible with the garbage that passes for
food in prison. But, although you may get depressed, lonely, and
frustrated in prison, never go to the prison psychologist. Prison
shrinks only want to drug prisoners into submission. One of the
newest fads in corrections is tranquilizers that are given out like
candy to pacify and control inmates. What better way to turn
prisoners into submissive zombies than by medicating them for depression
and anxiety. Don't fall into the medication trap in prison.
You need to be clear-headed while doing time, not in a drugged-out haze.
When you go to prison, settle down and find a positive routine.
After the shock of prison wears off, and the other prisoners figure out
you will defend yourself, you'll be left alone to do your time.
Don't sit around vegetating in front of a TV, playing cards or reading
westerns. Don't waste your time complaining about your wrongful
conviction and what a poor victim you are. Don't turn into what I
call a "prison zombie" who does his time like he's waiting to
die. Your main mission in prison will be trying to get your unjust
conviction overturned. Learn as much about the law and the corrupt
legal system as you can. Get to know the prisoner law clerks in
the law library, and spend as much time in the library as
possible. Study every aspect of your case, and stay on top of your
attorney. Your lawyer is not the one in prison, you are. The
appeals process takes years. Prisoners rarely win a new trial
because the criminal justice system is not about truth and justice, but
you can't win if you don't try. Fighting the legal system will be
frustrating and depressing, but try not to give up hope.
Not only do we prisoners have to stick together, but we men must also
join forces in our fight against feminism. Become a soldier in the
Men's Rights Fight. Contact the antifeminist, pro-family men's
groups in your area, as well as some of the national groups.
Sex Offender Treatment
One of the most profitable scams in the prison behavioral
modification business is the sex-offender treatment industry.
Because you were convicted of a sex offense, you are now fuel for the
sex-offender treatment profiteers. You will be expected to confess
to your crime, end all appeals for a fair trial, dismiss all delusions
of innocence, and participate in sex-offender treatment along with
admitted child molesters and serial rapists. Confession is the
main tenet of sex-offender treatment. It does not matter to prison
officials that you have always maintained your innocence and are in the
process of appeal.
Thousands of people work in the sex-offender treatment industry and
to justify their high-paying state jobs you must confess to your
offense. You are the meal ticket not only of prison guards but
also sex-offender treatment providers. As a wrongly convicted
prisoner, you should have nothing to do with sex-offender
treatment. Be a man, and stand up for what is right. There
will be repercussions for you for not confessing and becoming another
admitted sex offender. You will be denied any good-time off your
prison term and early parole will be out of the question. I have
always refused to even speak to sex-offender treatment counselors.
Not only have I been denied any time off my sentence for good behavior,
but the Oregon Parole Board has labeled me mentally unfit and dangerous
to society because I refuse to confess, show remorse, and beg for
Not only should you avoid sex-offender treatment, but I suggest you
refuse to participate in any behavior modification programs in
prison. Don't admit anything to prison officials or prison
counselors. Those who work in the behavior modification industry
behind prison walls will use anything you tell them against you.
Tell them nothing about your past. Prison counselors are not your
Never talk to any prison psychologist. There is no faster way to be
labeled mentally and emotionally unfit than to trust a prison
psychologist. As a convicted sex offender, innocent or not, you
are the bread and butter of the sex-offender treatment industry, prison
counselors/psychologists, and prison guards. The only way they can
justify their jobs is to keep you in their prison programs as long as
possible. Be aware of their true motives, don't trust them, tell
them nothing, and never doubt yourself. You owe them nothing.
You are an innocent man in prison. Act like one, and good luck
Books of Interest
Columbia Human Rights Law Review. A jailhouse lawyer's manual. Box
B-25, Columbia School of Law, 435 West 116th Street New York, New York
Hogshire, J. (1994). You Are Going to Prison ()(). Port Townsend, WA
98368: Loompanics Unlimited.
Huff, C. R., Rattner, A., & Sagarin, E. (1996). Convicted But
Innocent: Wrongful Conviction and Public Policy ()(). Thousand Oaks, CA:
Intensive Management Units A Survivor's Manual. 2489 Mission
Street, Suite 28, San Francisco, California: California Prison
Long, H. S. (1991). Surviving in Prison (). Port Townsend, WA 98368:
National Coalition of Free Men. Gender and Injustice: Research into
Criminal Justice. P.O. Box 129, Manhasset, New York 11030.
Polk, C., & Maxwell, H. What if they come for you? Arrest, trial,
prison: A citizen's guide. Raton Camp Publishers ($15.00). To order,
call (860) 886-8423.
Prisoners Self-Help Litigation Manual ()(). 75 Main Street, Dobbs Ferry,
New York 10522: Oceana Publications, Inc.
Toch, H. (1993). Living in Prison The Ecology of Survival
Washington, DC: American Psychological
The Prisoner Assistance Directory. 1875 Connecticut Avenue Northwest,
Suite 410, Washington, DC: National Prison
The Rights of Prisoners Handbook (). 125 Broad Street, New York, New
York: American Civil Liberties Union.
Yant, M. (1991). Presumed Guilty: When Innocent People Are
Wrongly Convicted (). New York:
Publications of Interest
Coalition of Prisoner's Rights Newsletter, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Fe, NM
Cry Justice Now. P.O. Box 2525, New Bloomfield, MO 65063.
Fortune News. 39 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011.
Outlook on Justice, 2161 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02140.
Journal of Contemporary Criminal
Justice. Sage Publications, Thousand
Oaks, CA 91320.
Journal of Prisoners on Prisons. Box 54, University Centre,
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB Canada R3T 2N2.
Prison Life Magazine. 1436 West Gray, Suite 531 Houston, TX 77019.
Prison Legal News. P.O. Box 1684, Lakeworth, FL 33460.
Prisoner Advocacy Network Newsletter, 1100 Skyland Drive, #P-2
Columbia, SC 29210.
The Angolite: The Prison News Magazine. Louisiana State
Angola, LA 70712.
The National Prison Project Journal. The National Prison Project,
1875 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 410, Washington, DC 26009.