One of the biggest fears about being sentenced to jail time is what the other inmates will be like. Media portrayals of jail and prison situations often highlight the violence and cruelty of what it's like to be incarcerated. While these are often based on true events, handling yourself appropriately can help you avoid those rough situations.
First and foremost, try to stay out of trouble. Don't pick fights, insult other inmates or make other mistakes that can get you hurt. Be yourself, and find a group of people you're comfortable with to help protect you. Make sure to also protect yourself; stand up for yourself if someone is harassing you or trying to pick a fight.
In most cases, the group you feel comfortable with will be your own race. Orange County jail is very racist, with most of the inmates racially segregated. When you first arrive at Orange County, you'll likely be approached by members of your own race. These people will take care of you, offering protection, extra food and other things to help make your transition easier. This isn't just out of the kindness of their hearts, however. While they will recognize the need to help keep you safe, they are also operating under the need to expand their own force. The more people like you there are, the safer you'll be.
Whites and Mexicans are the most prominent races in Orange County. The Mexicans are divided into different groups (referred to as “cars”), depending on whether or not they were born in the United States. Those born in Mexico are called “Paisanos” (or “Paisos”), and those born in the United States are referred to as South Fighters. People of mixed race can pick their car, but it's usually best to stick with the same race you spend time with on the outside.
It is possible to make friends with people from other racial groups, but for the most part you should stick to your own race. This is especially true in the event of a fight breaking out, since your race are the only group that will help protect you.
Blacks, Asians and other minorities make up very little of the Orange County jail population. These minorities share common facilities, including phones, toilets and showers out of necessity. Most dorms have 12 toilets, 12 showers and 6 phones. Due to the large white, South Fighter and Paisano populations, 11 of the toilets/showers (and 5 of the 6 phones) are usually split between these 3 prominent groups, with 1 going to the other minorities. At meals, each race stays with its own kind.
Aside from the punishments that can be handed down by guards, the inmates basically run the jail for all intents and purposes. If someone breaks a rule, such as using another racial group's facilities, the leader of the offended group will decide on a punishment for the offender. In some cases this can be as severe as being held and beaten, but you could also be asked to run errands or do exercises as a way to atone.
Though many of the inmates in Orange County jail have gang affiliations on the outside, these tend to disappear while they are serving time. In jail, everyone is just trying to survive, so gang conflicts may be temporarily forgotten – especially among members of the same racial group. Rivalries might pick right back up where they left off when gang members leave jail, but it's not uncommon to become friends with so-called rivals while in jail.