Most people in prison deserve to be there. Old-time recidivists who are down on a bad beef will usually admit they're guilty of other crimes, perhaps much worse ones than the crimes they're down for.
They're exceptions, but not many. So their burden is of their own creation. But it is never an easy one, no matter how modern the facility or how vituperative the rhetoric about country club jails.
You're a nineteen-year old fish, uneducated, frightened, with an IQ of around 100. At the reception center you rebuff a trusty wolf who works in records and wants to introduce you to jailhouse romance, so the trusty makes sure you go up the road with a bad jacket (the word is out, you snitched off a solid con and caused him to lose his goodtime).
You just hit main pop and you're already jammed up, worried about the shank in the chow line, the Molotov cocktail shattered inside your cell, the whispered threat in the soybean field about the experience awaiting you in the shower that night.
So you make a conscious choice to survive and find a benefactor, "an old man," and become a full-time punk, one step above the yard bitches. You mule blues, prune-o, and Afghan skunk for the big stripes; inside a metal tool shed that aches with heat, you participate in the savaging of another ifsh, who for just a moment reminds you of someone you used to know.
Then a day comes when you think you can get free. You're mainline now, two years down with a jacket full of goodtime. You hear morning birdsong that you didn't notice before; you allow your mind to linger on the outside, the face of a girl in a small town, a job in a piney woods timber mill that smells of rosin and hot oil on a ripsaw, an ordinary day not governed by fear.