Article Lead Image

A glimpse at what it’s like to be a geek behind bars

A few self-admitted geeks took to Quora to share their lives from inside the Big House.


Fernando Alfonso III


Posted on Dec 27, 2013   Updated on May 31, 2021, 10:51 pm CDT

TV shows and films like like OzOrange Is the New Black, and Bad Boys gave the world a fictionalized look at what it’s like to be a woman, gangbanger, and juvenile behind bars.

Missing from each of these are the bespeckled keyboard jockeys who were probably busted by the cops while sitting in their boxers.

These are the geeks, people like hacker Andrew “weev” Auernheimer and Pirate Bay cofounder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg who have been imprisoned for their online activities.

Over the past two days, three different geeks have shared their experiences behind bars on the question-and-answer website Quora. Their stories were shocking and enlightening.

“I felt so ashamed of myself that I changed my life forever,” one anonymous user wrote. “I was a middle class white kid with a great education who got obsessed with hacking and document security as a teenager and went down for figuring out how to perfectly replicate the driving license, thus throwing away many of the advantages that luck, society, and my parents had given me.”

One former inmate with glasses named Marcus Thompson couldn’t handle the violence he witnessed.

“I saw brutal, horrifying violence and stabbings at least weekly, often ‘car wrecks’ (your ‘car’ is the racial group you ride with, and woe be unto you if you interact inappropriately with the other cars),” Thompson said. “10 years removed from that hell and I still have nightmares about it. Wake-up-screaming nightmares that leave me unwilling to go back to sleep lest it continue.”

A similar horror story was shared by an inmate who witnessed “syruping,” the act of dumping a bucket of boiling water and sugar onto someones face.

“The dissolved sugar makes the boiling water cling to the skin longer, and the skin peels off leaving the raw flesh exposed,” he added.

For some geeks, prison was no different than their regular lives. That was the case for data scientist Mark Conway who frequented the library.

“[R]eal cons were loathe to step foot in the place, even though their behavior was ignorant,” Conway wrote. “This attitude stems from their school days when any signs of intelligence were perceived as being part of the ‘system.’ But geeks have real value in prison because if you can read, write, type, or research (especially legal work), then you can possibly help them.”

Photo by  miss_millions/Flickr

Share this article
*First Published: Dec 27, 2013, 2:54 pm CST