Book Review: The Ten Prison Coach Commandments
Definitive Psychological Insight into the Prison Systems
The Ten Prison Coach Commandments, by John “Doc” Fuller offers a tremendous public service. There is nothing held back in this stark portrait of our criminal justice system’s end point. Who would have thought that there were so many rules to learn to survive daily prison life? Some of these rules may sound familiar, such as “don’t be a snitch,” but others are quite particular and complex, and not something one would have known before they have crossed the line. For example who could have imagined that the mere act of reaching across someone’s food tray to retrieve a salt shaker could mark them as disrespectful to the point of deserving death? According to the book, “You can be seriously injured or killed for breaking a rule that you did not even know existed.”
Many of the rules or commandments revolve around showing respect. And as Fuller points out, displaying respect is not something that many of those behind bars excel. “Most if not all who enter prison systems do so out of arrogance, greed, and the inability to appreciate what they have in life.” Therefore, it is more prevalent for most new prisoners to come into this frightening environment feigning bravado against perceived weakness. It is just such a haughty attitude that will mark one for a swift attitude adjustment.
It might come as a surprise to some that one of the reasons for the book’s publication was that there are circumstances when one “self-surrenders” to prison. Whether this is the case or an inmate arrives through the normal court channels, Fuller’s main message about this initial vulnerability can be summed up by his statement that, “Prison is a jungle full of nothing but predators… You are the equivalent of a newborn, because you have no experience in your new environment, and there’s absolutely no one can trust.”
Fuller suggests that the ten commandments for those new to prison are:
- Do Not Stare at Other Inmates
- Do Not Trust Your Fellow Inmates
- Respect Your Cell Mate
- Mind Your Business
- Respect the Staff
- Do Not Steal
- Don’t Be a Snitch
- Avoid Prison Gangs
- Stay Away From Drugs
- Do Not Gamble
While it is difficult to test the viability of these ideas, Fuller’s background of “11 years in various prisons throughout the country” is a convincing testament. This alone is probably authority enough, yet his psychological insight into the motivations of inmates is equally definitive.
I hope that this book will someday be required reading before anyone is allowed to step foot inside a prison. They should then be tested to ensure full comprehension. This book is not only for “other people.” In this world, strange things happen, and there but by the grace of God go I.
Book Review by Carla M. Paton