The time has come. It’s judgment day, and your fate has been decided. It’s time to do time. You’re going to The Big House. Club Fed. The joint. But this isn’t just any prison.

For every 100,000 residents in the United States, 698 are incarcerated. That’s more people per capita than in any other nation. Most of the world’s prison population is held in the U.S., China, Brazil, and Russia. And now, you’ve joined this notorious group.

So, what’s next? Should you join a gang? Why is making eye contact dangerous? Outside these walls, an everyday life awaits you. But, to get there, you need to survive by following these steps.

Step 1: Be alert, and trust your instincts

Suppose you’re in Black Dolphin Prison in Russia. In that case, you’ll be in close quarters with 700 serial killers, child molesters, and even cannibals. When it comes to dangers and interactions, trust your gut, and be extra cautious. The first few days, or even months of your prison sentence, will probably be your worst. Learn to control your emotions. If you don’t, other inmates can use them against you. It could give them leverage to intimidate, provoke, or take advantage of you.

Step 2: Do not stare

Be mindful when making eye contact with other inmates. This is especially important in overcrowded and hostile prisons. Imagine yourself in La Sabaneta prison, in Venezuela. It has 25,000 prisoners. But unfortunately, it only has the capacity for 15,000, so you’re packed in like sardines, and personal space is non-existent. The way you look at someone can easily be misinterpreted in prison. As you walk around, keep your eyes forward, and do not stare at anybody. This step might not apply as much in your cell because you must get along with your cellmates, if you are sharing. Be respectful of their boundaries and personal belongings, and try to listen more and talk less. Offer to clean around the cell, and be friendly. Do not ask other inmates why they’re in prison. This can cause anger, and you might not like what that leads to. But if you’re asked why you ended up in prison, answer honestly.

Step 3: Work on yourself

Use this time to study, and get in shape. Exercising will keep you healthy, and staying fit will make you look disciplined and strong. Eat healthy food if you can get it. As an inmate, you will have to eat the meals served at the cafeteria. If the prison has a commissary, try to buy a few of your weekly meals there. Hopefully, you can find some healthier options.

But if you’re in Bang Kwang Central Prison in Thailand, remember that it’s one of the world’s harshest prisons. Not only is it known for shackling prisoners, but it has a class system to get access to food. So, to be safe, you might want to drink lots of water and stay hydrated. You should seek out different ways to improve your mental health, advance your education, or even learn a new skill. This could mean learning how to meditate. Nothing says “don’t mess with me” like someone in the lotus position. OK, maybe you should hold off on the meditation thing for now.

Step 4: Stay away from drugs and gangs

If you’re caught doing drugs, more time could be added to your sentence. You could find yourself stuck in solitary confinement or, even worse, sent to an even more dangerous prison. Do not join a gang. While this may sound like a good idea, you may find yourself involved in violent and severe situations just because you’re incarcerated.

The most notorious prison riot in U.S. history was the Attica Riot in 1971, when 39 guards and prisoners were killed. But you do need to make some friends. So find a few other inmates you feel comfortable with, and hang out with them. But be smart about it. If you get into trouble, this group of friends could be your only help. The 1992 Carandiru massacre in Brazil caused 111 deaths. It’s also known as one of the worst documented human rights violations of the prison system.

Step 5: Keep in touch with the outside world

Keep communicating with your family and friends. This can be uplifting for you and your loved ones. If you’re in a restrictive or less progressive prison, it’s likely that you won’t be able to contact your family. Remember to let your loved ones know of this situation as soon as possible, so they understand your circumstances.

Approximately 600,000 convicts are released from prison each year in the U.S., and your turn will come. We all know that you can’t just hop in a time machine, and go back in time, and undo what you did, but wouldn’t that be nice? Well, it might not work out the way you expect. So how would you survive that? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

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