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Berserker's avatar

Hypothetical question; if you had no choice, which of these would you choose? Homelessness or prison life? Explain why one is better or worse than the other.

Asked by Berserker (33475points) March 10th, 2010

Being homeless for a minimum of a year, or being in federal prison for a minimum of a year?
Nevermind how it happened, just consider which of the two would be worse for you.
Being homeless is tough work, as you gotta spend your days surviving, if you’re in a big city you might get subjected to beatings…diseases, bad hygiene, weather…
If you’re in prison, you’ll have to learn how get by in the society created by the inmates, and maintain maybe a reputation, fight for it and try not to go insane from complete boredom or paranoia…the crime you did might play a part on how you’re treated, too.
On the streets you’re nothing, in prison you’re an item. In both, bad times ahoy.
I saw a documentary on prison life in America yesterday, followed by a documentary about the homeless in big cities like New York and MontrĂ©al, and both are very complex and not quite how we see it if we haven’t experienced neither; so by all means, if you’ve had experience with prison or being homeless, feel free to share.
So you have no choice, you’re either homeless for a year or going to prison for a year; what do you pick, and why? Why is one “easier” than another? (Generally speaking, or in your opinion.)
(Joining the military or a monastery isn’t included. :p )

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27 Answers

Jude's avatar

Homeless. I’m pretty resourceful, so, I’d find a way to survive. For a year, it’d be a challenge (and shitty one at that), but, I think that I could do it.

Prison? Being confined and told what to do and when? Hell no. I’d go nuts. Plus, the chance of being ass raped and/or the possibly of getting my ass kicked (you never know). Nu uh.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Rather be homeless, my reasons is prison would not be just a year. i would rebel in there and get my self in to more trouble. if oppressed my natural instinct is to fight back, so i doubt i would ever get out.

and just because im homeless does not mean i cant earn money, eat and go places. i could just travel around and see the world, washing dishes for food and mowing lawns for bus money.

lilikoi's avatar

I’d flip a coin.

Cruiser's avatar

Homeless for sure! I already have a viaduct picked out. Ya never know when life will throw you a curve ball. Be prepared is my motto and have a bunch of small bills stashed that no one else knows about!

FutureMemory's avatar


I would pick County Jail over being homeless though.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Homeless.I like my freedom.

Vunessuh's avatar

I’d rather be homeless. If anything, I’d learn to value my life more and be grateful for everything that I have.

I would only choose prison if you were my cellmate. I wouldn’t mind being your bitch.

Berserker's avatar

@Cruiser Better be careful! If you find a spot in the city that looks good to sleep in or to shield oneself from the elements with, chances are, someone else found it too.

@Vunessuh I’d make every bit of it worthwhile. :D Nice answer about learning the value of one’s life. Too bad enlightenment seems to include so much suffering though.

@FutureMemory Yeah, there’s a big difference between county (Provincial in Canada.) and federal, but I’m guessing neither of the two are a walk in the park.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Prison – hot food, hot showers and free cable TV.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

Homelessness – Lower likelihood of anal rape.

FutureMemory's avatar

@Symbeline Yeah any form of incarceration is not fun.

I’ve been to County. It sucks being told what to do, but I never felt my life was in danger.

YoH's avatar

On the street I would have choices. In prison,choices would be made for me.

Sarcasm's avatar

There’s a user on here who would have a very interesting perspective on this question. I sent it to him and can only hope he’ll respond.

There was also an interesting IAMA post on Reddit a month or 2 ago, by a guy who was homeless and went to a very cushy minimum security prison for 2 years, said it was the best years of his life. He had food, water, shelter, warmth, books, he got a chance to get his GED, etc. And he didn’t get ass-raped. Now, this is all under the assumption that he’s telling the truth, and not bullshitting the internets.
But this all depends on what prison you get sent to.

If I can’t know within this hypothetical situation what kind of prison I’d be sent to, I think I’ll go with homelessness. I’d rather not go to federal “Pound me in the ass” prison with serial rapists and murderers. The streets of San Diego sound much more friendly.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Homeless. You can be a beach bum and live quite well.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I would be homeless. That way I would not be a burden on the state, and my fate would depend more on my actions than the system. It would be tough either way, but the prison showers are enough to deter me.

tinyfaery's avatar

Prison. I could easily waste away the hours. I know how to get along with people. A bed, food, even a bit recreation is enough for me.

Being homeless would just be too scary. You’d never know what to expect. At least in prison one can form a routine.

Aethelwine's avatar

I’ve spent 36 hours in jail, and that was enough for me. I also lived out of a hotel for two weeks, living each day not knowing if I could pay the next nights payment. At least being homeless I could rely on myself and get outside. I never want to be locked up again.

filmfann's avatar

Jail means convienient toilets, a shower, a bed, and 3 squares. It also means being butt raped.
My grandfather was homeless most of his life. I think I could do that.

wilma's avatar

Homeless for sure. I’d go south for the winter, walking if I had to.
North for the summer. It wouldn’t be easy, but if it was just me, and not my kids to worry about, I think I’d be ok.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I know someone in prison -( Not max security.)
He gets 3 squares, education, excellent free medical care. They have a kitchen available for inmate use where he prepares different ethnic meals. The guys take turns cooking. there is a library with internet they can use for planning employment when they get out.
In the winter I keep my house at 63 F to save heat. His dorm is 69 degrees.

lillycoyote's avatar

Boy, that’s not much of a choice, both pretty bad, pretty tough ways to live for the most part, though some prisons are better than others and the lives of some homeless people are better than others, still, pretty bad choices.. Some of the men answering the question have sited rape in prison as a reason for not choosing that out of two bad options, but it’s probably safer for women in prison, that out on the streets. Still, given the choices, I would choose homelessness I guess. There’s always hope there, not much hope in prison that one day will be any different, let alone any better than another.

Berserker's avatar

I’ve heard that rape in prison is so rare that it’s almost a myth, and in most cases inmates, while not gay or lesbian originally, will fight sexual regression by pairing up of their own accord.
Rape is supposed to be the ultimate punishment in prison, administered to someone who may have snitched on an inmate or whatever is considered the biggest dishonour in that one prison, and the raping is usually done by an inmate who knows he’ll spend the rest of his life in there, so he’s got nothing to loose but his authority and reputation.
Most inmates don’t tell the guards if they’ve been raped for shame and fear; but if they do, the one who did the act WILL be trialed and have his sentence furthered. Therefore, a prisoner with only a few years to serve won’t chance it.
Or so is what the documentary said anyways.
The one with the homeless people said that a homeless woman usually makes herself look as cruddy and shitty as possible to avoid being raped by other bums, or anyone with a mind to rape a homeless woman.
Homeless women who attempt to sell their body usually don’t fare well as there is no pimp in charge of them to face retribution from if you don’t pay her or even mess her up.

jca's avatar

i thought about this and according to the question, it does not say you cannot have a job. if i had the job i have at present and i was homeless i would just stay at people’s houses, or hotels if i had to. however, if i had no job and no money i would rather be in prison. i am a woman, so i think prison for a girl is a little better, probably, than for a man. especially federal prison, from what i hear.

Cruiser's avatar

@Symbeline That was ½ of the reason I chose that spot! Never know when company will want to drop in.

Zuma's avatar

Having been both homeless and sent to prison, I would choose homelessness in a heartbeat. There are so many more options on the street.

First, it is much, much easier getting out of being homeless than it is getting out of prison. Second, prisons are not places you hang out, they are places of punishment. The showers never get up to being actually hot, and are actually cold several days per month. There is no free cable TV, no ice during 100+ degree heat, no microwave, no air conditioning, no q-tips, no Kleenex, no chairs, no place to even sit up straight in some places. The two “hot” meals are often lukewarm, and deliberately made unappetizing.

There are like 8 toilets for 200 guys in some dorms, so everything is unbelievably filthy. There are all kinds of racial tensions, and if you don’t jump in and defend you race when a riot kicks off, your own guys will give you a beatdown. It is not unusual to be on lockdown 24/7 for 6 weeks at a time, in a space 5 feet by 9 feet with another stressed, stir-crazy, often violence-prone guy who has absolutely nothing to occupy his mind but your every fart and annoying habit.

On the street, if you get sick, you can go to the emergency room, and have many other options. In prison you are subject to unbelievable medical incompetence. Where I was the drinking water ran brown from the tap and tasted like fermented cow piss.

I never knew anyone who got raped while I was in prison, but then it isn’t a subject you ask or tell about. On the other hand, you will be surprised what a straight boy will willingly do for a cigarette or a cookie.

There is no 13 months of parole after being homeless—no dickhead parole officer makng you pee in a cup or looking for any reason at all to send you back, and there is no prison record following you around for the rest of your life.

The women in women’s prisons tend to be in on much more serious charges. They are also heavily medicated to keep them from committing suicide—which, by the way, is actually a punishable offense if you don’t succeed (think about what that rule tells the inmate).

Berserker's avatar

@Zuma Very informative, and quite disturbing. After hearing that, I would choose being homeless any day.

wilma's avatar

Thank you @Zuma for the comparison.

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