Cafeteria Etiquette in the Federal Prison Camp

An inmate’s attitude in the cafeteria really comes down to exercising good manners and a little common sense like in the days in grade school. There are a lot of behaviors in the cafeteria that is not tolerated and some that you have to watch very carefully.

Cutting in line was not looked at very well in school and it’s definitely not allowed in prison. The only time inmates are allowed to go before others is if they are escorted by a prison official for work detail reasons are something similar. Even holding a place in line is prohibited.

Never ask or hint for food off someone else’s plate, wait for them to offer it to you. Also, as you are going through the lunch line, you may see they are serving something that you don’t like to eat, like liver. Get it anyway and put it on your tray. Then offer it to someone who does like it. That’s always a good way to earn the respect of inmates.

Be polite in receiving the food servers place on your tray because that simple kind word may get you a better piece or larger serving next time. Complain and you may just get the crumbs or smaller portions next time, funny but it does happen.

When sitting down to eat, always go to an empty table first and if you do have to sit with someone, ask permission. After a while, finding a place to sit with others will become easier and you will be welcomed in table conversation. Again, it is a matter of trust and getting to know inmates.

Caution! Do not, I mean never agree to get something for someone else. It may seem innocent and the nice thing to do but the reasons behind the request is unknown and may have serious consequences.

Taking food out of the cafeteria is usually not allowed according to BOP policy but I have seen this rule bend a little with light snacks like fruits and baked goods.

Another show of good character is when you are done eating and returning your tray to the dishwasher area. Saying “thank you” to the inmate working in that area of food service goes a long way to building trust and respect, not only with him but also to the inmates he associates with in food service and the camp.


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