A prisoner's dictionary


[Numbers | A - C | D - F | G - I | J - L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Maxims]


13 1/2: The sum total of 12 jurors, one judge, and one half-chance, often featured in tattoos

114: CDC form documenting reasons for placing a prisoner in administrative segregation.

115: A rules violation report (CDC Form 115) can lead to disciplinary action. It may be classified as either "administrative" or "serious."

128: CDC informational chrono, as in Form 128-G.

602: The prisoner grievance or administrative appeal process (CDC Form 602). This process provides three formal levels of review, beginning institutional levels and progressing to the Director's review in Sacramento. Although the appeals process provides a means to express complaints, there are many problems with the system and appeals are frequently "lost" at the informal levels of review.

6-5: Correctional officer. Used as a warning when an officer is approaching.

5150: A person needing mental health treatment, based upon the California Welfare and Institutions Code section for civil commitment..

A - C

AB: Aryan Brotherhood, a white prison gang. This abbreviation can also refer to the California Department of Corrections' administrative bulletins.

AC: Aryan Circle, a white prison gang found in some states. This designation is not seen in California. More commonly in California, this designation would refer to the "Adjustment Center."

Ace Boon Coon: Best friend

Ace-Duce: Best friend

Adjustment Center: The A.C., a segregated control unit. The name was developed during the prisons adopted language reflecting treatment of prisoners. In theory, the unit was to provide an intensive program. In practice, such units remained (and remain) "the hole." A landmark case challenging conditions in San Quentin's Adjustment Center was filed in 1973 and continues to be enforced as a permanent injunction. Toussaint v. McCarthy

Ad Seg: Administrative Segregation. Placement in a controlled unit for the safety and security of the institution -- including allegations of gang affiliation, investigation of a disciplinary offense, or repeated misconduct.

Aggie: A long handled hoe. (In Texas, field force work squads are referred to as Hoe squads, usually by their squad number such as 1-hoe,2-hoe.)

Ain't Right: A situation, person, or object of dubious correctnessas in "Somethin' ain't right with that Cat-J."

All day: A life sentence, as in "He's doin' all day . . ."

Attitude:The display of annoyance, hostility, contempt, courage, or an unbroken spirit toward others.

Attitude Adjustment: The need for drugs. Also, a physical act by officers, including use by electric shock (taser, stun gun).

AW: Associate Warden. In some western prisons, this may refer to the Aryan Warrior gang.

Badge: A correctional officer.

Banger: A knife. Also called a burner or a shank.

Bastille by the Bay: San Quentin, a term coined by San Francisco columnist Herb Caen. Also, the title of a column in the now-defunct San Quentin News (illustration above).

Beau Coup A lot of one thing: "I got beau coup mud."

Beef: A disciplinary charge, as to "catch a beef."

Be Farts and Cell Partners: Beans and franks. (archiac)

BGD: Black Gangster Disciples (Ohio)

BGF: The Black Guerrilla Family, an African-American prison gang that originted as a revolutionary organization influenced by George Jackson.

Bid: Prison term. Also called "bit."

Big House: Prison.

Big Jab: Lethal injection. Also, "stainless steel ride," "doctorate in applied chemestry," or the "needle."

Big Bitch: Convicted under the habitual criminal act which carries a mandatory life sentence. See also "Little Bitch." (TX)

Billies: White men.

Bing: Segregation unit. (NY)

Bippy: A small paper cone of cleaning powder used for scrubbing cells. (TX)

Bitch Up: To cry or give in. (NY)

Blanket party: Throwing a blanket over a despised prisoner, so he or she can't identify an attacker.

Blind: Area where correctional officers cannot see, as in "Let's go to the blind."

Blood In, Blood Out: To enter a prison gang by committing a stabbling, to leave by being the victim of a stabbing.

Boat: To transfer out of a prison, as in "on a boat."

Bolidos: Whites, perhaps from "billies." (Sp., TX)

Bonaroo: One's best clothes. "I've got my bonaroos all ready for my next visit."

Bone: Cigarette. (NY)

Bone Crusher: A particularly large prison weapon (shank).

Boneyard: Family (conjugal) visiting area.

Boof: Contraband concealed in the rectum. Also, "boofed." (NY)

Books: Trust fund account, "on the books." All money received by a prisoner is placed into a trust account and may be withdrawn for canteen purchases, special orders, postage, and other expenses.

Boss: An officer -- some say in it is "sorry son of a bitch" spelled backwards.

Box: (1) A carton of cigarettes. (2) Segregation or SHU, as in "I don't want to do any box time." (NY)

BP: Federal grievance forms. Different numerical designations identify the level of the grievance.

Brick: A carton of cigarettes

Bricks: The outside, on the outside, as in "on the bricks."

Broadway: The first floor of some tiers. A wide area where inmates come and go -- and occasionally may be housed if the prison is particularly crowded.

Buck: Homemade alcohol (Florida).

Buck Rodgers Time: A parole date so far into the next century, the inmate cannot imagine release.

Bug: A crazy person.

Bull: Guard.

Bullet: One year prison sentence..such as "They gave me a bullet."

Bunkie: The person with whom a prisoner shares a double bunk bed.

Burn rubber: Exclamation meaning "Get lost," "Leave me alone!"

Bus Therapy: The practice of transferring prisoners from one institution to another, to keep them from away from their property, visits, and other contacts. Particularly used in the federal system. Also known as "diesel therapy," "grey goose therapy," or "round robin."

Buster: A term for "Northern Mexicans" used by "Southern Mexicans"

C-file: The central file. The critical information maintained on each prisoner.

Cadillac: Coffee with cream & sugar, smooth, rich and creamy. A fish line. A cushion job on the inside. The best.

Cap pealed: Someone's head, as in "I'm gonna peal his cap"

Call: Time for specified events -- e.g., mail call or sick call. May be known in some jurisdictions as a call out.

Camp: CDC minimum security facilities for firefighting and conservation work.

Carnal: Homeboy. Street Language. (Sp.)

Case Disciplinary violation, as in "to catch a case." (TX) See also "Beef."

Cap: The amount of marijuana that fits into a chapstick cap.

Catch out: Move around, leave an area rapidly. (TX)

Catcher: Sexually passive or submissive, often victimized

Cat-J: A prisoner who needs mental health treatment. Sometimes referred to as a "J-Cat."

Cell Gangster: One who talks tough locked in his cell. Then says nothing when out of cell. (NY)

Cellie: Cellmate.

Chain: Used when an inmate is transferred to another unit. "He left out on the chain yesterday."

Chalk or Raisin Jack: Home made alcohol, or pruno. (TX)

Check In: To be placed into protective custody.

Checking: A fight. When it happens in the fields, it is generally sanctioned by officers. When it happens in the building, it is generally testing to see whether someone new is going to ride or to be a punk. See Hoe Check. (TX)

Cheese Eater: An informer.

Chester: Child molester.

Chiva: Heroin (spanish). Also: scam, gow, stuff, hop.

Chuck: A white prisoner or officer. (MI)

Cho-Cho: An ice cream bar bought in the canteen (TX).

Chrono: Informational notes by prison officials documenting classification decisions, minor disciplinary offenses, medical orders, and just about everything else that might be recorded on a prisoner.

Clavo: A stash or collection. "He has a huge clavo of jelly-beans."

Clica: Spanish for gang, also "ganga." Related verb: cliquear, meaning to cock up or ride with a gang. (Sp., TX.)

Click: When two or more Inmates attack one inmate. "Those Inmates clicked on me." (TX)

Click up: To join a gang.

Clicks: Minutes on the telephone. (NY)

Clipper Pass: A special shaving pass that allows prisoners with medical conditions to shave only once a week or to wear short beards. (TX)

Commissary: Money for buying stamps, toiletries, cigarettes, and other items. The place to buy it.

Convict: A prisoner with traditional values. One who has pride and respect, who maintains integrity. A convict is different from an inmate.

Convict Boss: A prisoner given authority in a prison system. Also, "Convict Guard." (TX)

Code 20: Masturbation (TX, from the TDC offense code).

Corner:"A corner is defined by who a man hangs out with. That's his corner. Lot's of times, even a loner is hooked to a certain corner, so within that you've got `strong corners,' `weak corners,' etc. Once you know all the corners, where they are, and what their guidelines are, then you get an easy feel for the pulse of a prison." -- Dannie Martin, Committing Journalism.

Convict Boss: An officer who conducts his business and does not hassle or instigate trouble. (TX)

Count: The institutional count, repeated at different times in the day. Everything stops while prison staff make sure no one is missing.

Court: Disciplinary hearing. (Ohio)

Cutting Up: Suicide.


D-report: Disciplinary report. (WY)

Date: The release date. Often used with lifers to refer to a date set by the Board of Prison Terms,

Dead: (1) No, as in "That's dead." (2) Deprive of something.  "That officer deaded my rec." (NY)

Debrief: Prisoners who wish to establish that they are no longer associated with a prison gang must provide information regarding gang activities and pass a polygraph examination. The prisoner must give names and identify criminal activity. This is the only means available to a prisoner to establish that they have left a prison gang and should be released from segregation. Having become an informant, the prisoner must rely on the Department of Corrections to protect them. It is an extremely dangerous pact. Prisoners who are wrongfully identified as gang associates may have nothing to offer in the debriefing process.

In Texas, this process may be known as "Attachment B," referring to the forms filled out by a prisoner delcaring that he has left a gang and to request safekeeping.

Deck: Pack of cigarettes. See also "square." (TX)

Dig this out: "Check this out."

Dime: Ten, as in ten years (dime sentence), ten dollars, ten pounds of weights.

Director's Rules: The regulations of the California Department of Corrections, found in title 15 of the California Code of Regulations.

Dis: Disrespect.

Donkey Dick: Sliced cold cuts.

Dragon's Tongue: Slice corned beef, boiled to an unexcelled toughness.

Drama: To cause a disturbance, as "There's gong to be a little drama." (NY)

Draw: Canteen order.

Drop a Dime: To inform on someone. "He dropped on dime on his bunkie"

Dog: Homeboy or friend.

Double Cell: Housing two prisoners in a cell designed for one.

Drive Up: New officer or inmate. Can be used as in "just drove up." (TX)

Ducat: Prison passes for movement in the institution. Assignments for jobs, cell changes, sick-call, and other prison programs. Trust fund withdrawals for canteen draws.

Ducat to Chapel: To set a man up for a murder (from a Folsom hit).

Duffy: State issue, flake tobacco once supplied to California prisoners under the brand name "Bonanza." Coined after former San Quentin warden Clinton Duffy. (archaic)

Due Process: In prison, very little process is due. Under federal constitutional standards, the prison may not even be required to follow its own rules.

Dump Truck: A lawyer who makes an easy deal at the expense of the client

EME: The Mexican Mafia, a Southern Hispanic prison gang, based on the spanish pronunciation of the letter "m."

E.P.R.D.: Earliest Possible Release Date. A prisoner's release date, assuming that he or she earns credits and stays out of trouble. Computing this date can be difficult since it is based on a complex formula. The prison's computation can be reviewed through the Legal Status Summary Sheet.

Eight Ball: A prison click

Ese: Slang for "guy" or "homie." (TX)

Featherwood: A peckerwood's woman.

Felon Fodder: Human beings subjected to incarceration.

Fence Parole: Escape.

Fish: A new inmate.

Firma: When someone or someone is "down" or "hard." (Sp.)

Fish Line: A line used to pull items from one cell to another.

Five-O: An officer. (MI)

Flat Wig: To slam, or put to the floor with force. (TX)

Flavors: Brand name cigarettes or cigarettes received from outside the canteen.

Fogline: When the fog is too thick for staff to keep a close watch, fogline will be called and prisoners will be restricted to their cells or unit.

Foo-foo: Deodorant and after-shave, as in "foo-foo'ed back."

Ford: "Found On Run Dead." This started because of a particularly bad doctor named Ford. It grew to mean any generally antagonistic or unhelpful doctor. (TX)

Free Pass: Let off by prison staff without making a further report.

Freeworld: The outside. Also mass made cigarettes - as opposed to hand-rolled.


Galboy: A person who plays a female role in a homosexual relationship. (old term taken from 1930s Alabama. Aee the Scottsboro Boy Haywood Patterson.

Gassing: Throwing a liquid substance on an officer from a cell.

Germs: Cigarettes.

Getting Rec: Going to the recreational yard or harming someone for no reason

G.I.: Gang investigator. (TX)

GI Approved: Identified as being in a gang, or that a particular event is gang-sanctified. (TX)

Gang Jacket: Validated as being a gang member.

Give A Shot: A disciplinary report or write-up.

Gladiator Fight: Fighting set up for the benefit of others (such as prison staff).

Good Lookin' Out: Thanks a lot.

Good Time: Credits earned toward one's sentence. In California, good time (one day for two served) credits are awarded for prisoners in certain situations, such as those who are willing to work but unassigned.

Goon Squad: The security squad that handles special assignments, a task force of officers.

Green: Money or Marijuana as in "I'm getting some green."

Green Light: To be a target for death.

Greasy: Doing someone wrong, as in "You did me greasy." (VA)

Grey Bar Hotel: Prison.

Gun: Razor, shank, or other weapon. (NY)

Hack: A correctional officer.

Handle Up (On) Your Business: Fight. (TX)

Hard Time: Serving a sentence the difficult way.

Heart: Strong, honorable convictions. "The dude had a lotta heart."

Herb: A weak inmate.

Hit: murder or stabbing.

Hit a lick: Come into a good sum of money

Hoe Check: Group beating given to an inmate to see if he will stand up for himself. Also known as "Check" or "Checking". (TX)

Hole: Solitary confinement, segregation, disciplinary detention cells.

Homeboy: Another prisoner from one's hometown or neighborhood. Seth Morgan's book by the same title remains one of the classic pieces of writing about prisoners and prison culture. Homie.

Homes: General greeting or expression used between various prisoners.

Hooch: Homemade (or cellmade) alcohol

Hook Down: A warning that the officer is coming

Hook-up: (1) An officer has lied or made up a story to get an inmate in trouble or sent to the hole. (2) A concoction of mayo, tuna, dried soup, etc. (Ohio). (3) To obtain someone's address and phone number.

Hot Med: A person on psychotropic medication or anti-depressants.

Hot Water: Warning that officer is coming.

House: Cell.

House Tossing: An officer who has taken a prisoner's belongings and tossed them to the floor, perhaps stepping on them.

Hyna: Girlfriend. (Sp.)

ICC: Institutional Classification Committee; Interstate Corrections Compact.

Ink: Tattoos.

Inside: Behind the walls.

In The Car: To be in a tight circle of friends, "You're right with me, or, whatever I got, you got."

In the Hat: Targeted for death.

"It ain't no thing": "I''ll take care of it" or "don't worry."

IWF: Inmate Welfare Fund.


Jacket: Central File. Label. To be marked as a snitch or informant. "He has a rat jacket."

Jackin' Rec: Wasting time. (El Reno, OK)

Jail: A county facility for pretrial detainees or prisoners serving short terms (less than a year). Distinct from prison.

Jailhouse Lawyer: A prisoner who assist others in filing legal actions. Some are quite knowledgeable, others know enough to get themselves or others into trouble. Jailhouse lawyers are important because most prisoners have limited access to law libraries, little legal knowledge, and there are all too few lawyers able to assist prisoners.

Jailin': (1)Someone who's in the hole (aka in jail). (2)Wives or girlfriends who visit regularly - "That's our lifestyle - jailin!"

"Jailin' was an art from and lifestyle both. The style was walkin' slow, drinkin' plenty of water, and doin' your own time; the art was lightin' cigarettes from wall sockets, playin' the dozens, cuttin' up dream jackpots, and slowin' your metabolism to a crawl, sleepin' twenty-four hours a day. Forget the streets you won't see for years. Lettin' your heart beat the bricks with your body behind bars was hard time. Acceptin' the jailhouse as the only reality was easy time. " -- Seth Morgan, Homeboy.

Jefe: Mother. (Sp.)

Jeff: Joke, play

Jody: The anonymous lover taken by a wife or girlfriend. Also "sancho."

Joes: Cigarettes.

JohnnyL A sandwich in a sack, usually served to prisoners in segregation or lockdown, which may be nothing more than stale bread with a little peanut butter. (TX)

Jones: Drug habit (or any other habit).

Joto: Homosexual, punk. (Sp., TX)

Julip: Prison-made alcohol, fermented juice. From "mint julip." (TN)

Jug: To verbally harass or provoke, generally done by an officer with the intention of getting the prisoner to fight. (TX)

Jump: Homemade alcohol or pruno. (MD)

Kamikaze Move: A hit in front of an officer.

Keeplocked: Locked up for disciplinary reasons. See also "Red Lock."

Keester: To hide contraband in the rectum. Prisoners keester money, drugs, and even shanks

Key: Pack of cigarettes. (NY)

Kick Rocks: Go away or leave alone.

Kill: To masturbate, as in "I got a picture of my bitch in the world I kill to at night." (TX)

Kit: Items for taking drugs.

Kite: Notes or letters. Any message passed to a prisoner.

Knick-Knack: Same as "lame."

KOP: Keep on Person. Medications that a prisoner is allowed to keep with his or her property, to avoide going to a pill line every day. (TX)

K-9 Corrections officer (canine)

Lame: Someone who doesn't fit in with a certain click. Also, lop, rudipoop, or rumkin.

Laws: Correctional officers. (TX)

Lay-In: A pass or chrono allowing a sick prisoner not to work.

Laying the Track: Having sex.

Lemac: A camel cigarette. Also, "little man" (archaic).

Let Me Bounce Your Car: Can I borrow your radio?

Lifer: A prisoner serving a life sentence.

Line: The mainline, or general population, as in "on the line."

Little Bitch: A sentence of fifty or more years. See also "Big Bitch." (TX) Lockdown: The policy of confining a group of prisoners or an entire prison to cells. This is generally done in response to unrest or emergency -- although some lockdowns are instituted for extended periods of time.

Lock Up Unit: Segregated unit; the adjustment center; disciplinary detention.

Lop: A correctional officer who is a poor performer.

LOP: Loss of privileges, a particular kind of cell restriction. (TX)

Luv, Luv Being well off. as in. "living luv,luv."

L.W.O.P.: Life Without Possibility of Parole.

M - O

Mafias: Dark sun-glasses.

Mainline: The general population.

Make Paper: Make parole.

Malasa: Used in segregation units by spanish inmates when an officer comes onto the run. (TX)

Man: An officer someone in a position of authority -- "The Man."

Man Walking: A signal that an officer is coming down the tier.

Mash: Homemade cell wine, also called hooch or pruno. (VA)

MERD: Minimum Eligible Release Date for a specified term in security houseing.

Mexican Round Up: Group harassment of Chicanos, including mass discipline for alleged gang activity. (TX)

Mickey Mouse Ticket: Disciplinary report. (WY)

Missive: Many prisoners commonly use this word to refer to correspondence.

MTA: Medical technician.

Moe: Married homosexual in prison.

Monster: HIV. "He has the Monster."

Much-fake: Making cards out of available materials instead of buying them. (Ohio)

Mud: Coffee.

Mud Check: Confronting a convict to see if he or she will stand up for one's self.

Mummy Dust: MJB coffee.

My Bad: My fault.

Navaja Shank or razor. (Sp., TX)

Nazi Low Rider: A white prison-street gang.

Nester: A member of Nuestra Familia

New Boot: A new correctional officer. (TX)

NF: Nuestra Familia, a Northern Hispanic prison gang.

Nothin' Coming: Inmate not deserving of regular issue or privileges, as in "That little girl stranglin' SOB has nothin' coming."

Nut up: Go crazy, become enraged.

Off the Hook: Crazy, wierd, odd.  "He's off the hook", "This place is off the hook". (NY)

Old School: An old timer. In Texas, this may refer to one who did time before Ruiz vs. Estelle protected constitutional rights and increased privileges in that state.

Old-Timer: A convict who has served a lot of time inside.

On Pipe: A homosexual or "punk" as il "He's on pipe."

On the Bottle: Subject to random or mandatory drug testing.

On the Bumper: Trying to get in the "car."

On the Cool: The meaning depends upon the intonation. Usually means something of a deceptive nature, however, spoken with intent it translates into pure truth. (TX)

On the One: Honest. (George Washington, who was known never to lie, is on the one-dollar bill.) (TX)


P.A. (1) Program Administrator, responsible for particular units in California prisons. (2) In Texas, this may refer to physician's assistants.

Packin': A prisoner who is carrying a weapon or drugs for sale. (VA)

Paid: A favorable outcome of a parole or classification hearing.

Paper: Proof that a prisoner is an informant or "rat." As in "We've got the paper on him."

Paperwork: Prison records.

Parole Dust: Fog.

Passenger: A friend, someone who is "in the car."

Pill Line: Line to receive perscribed medications.

Picket: The central area of tier wings or the hub of a dorm, where the bosses sit and supplies / forms may be available. (TX)

Peckerwood: or "Wood" for short, a white prisoner.

Pelicanizing: The process of implementing further restrictions at mainline prisons, resembling segregation units. Refers to the "super-maximum" prison at Pelican Bay.

PC: Protective custody. Prisoners may be placed in protective custody for a number of reasons -- they may have snitched on a gang, the nature of an offense (such as child molestation) was leaked to others, or there is some weakness that would make them a victim.

PHD: Pre-Hearing detention, or ad seg. (TX)

Phones Off The Hook: The guard is listening

PHU: Protective Housing Unit. Unit assigned to prisoners who cannot program anywhere else in the system and meet certain criteria.

PIA: (1) P`iPon Industry Authority. (2) In Texas, this stands for Parole In Absentia, the practice that allows individuals to parole from the county jail having served their time there.

Pica: Knife (TX).

Pile Weights, as in the iron pile.

Pillow Biter: Prisoner who is a rape victim. (NY)

Pinner: A marijuana cigarette the size of a toothpick.

Pitcher: Sexually dominant, aggressive.

Placa: Corrrectional Officers. (Sp.)

Playing on Ass: Gambling without money -- if a prisoner loses " it's his ass."

Points: Prisoners in California are classified by security level according to the number of points awarded various factors on a scoresheet.

Potty Watch: Special watch when someone is suspected of eating drugs or other contraband items, such as money. Also called, Dry Cell.

Press Your Bunk Punk: Lay down on your bed and shut up

Priors: Previous prison terms, enhancing one's sentence or affecting the classification score

Prize of the Poor: Capital Punishment.

Pruno: Homemade alcohol, fermented juice, the classic prison drink.

Pulling Someone's Card: Finding out about another prisoner.

Pull the Pin: Call for help, sometimes derogitory towards officers.  "He's gonna pull the pin," or "He'd probably pull the pin." (NY)

Punk: Homosexual, generally passive.

Punking Out: A prisoner who perform intercourse by force or free will. Also called riding. (VA)

Put on Front Street: Openly defy, as a prisoner will "put [a guard] on front street."

Put Your Pen to the Wind: By prisoners, to tell an officer to go ahead and write a disciplinary report. By officers, to tell prisoners to go ahead and file a grievance. (TX)

Quiet Cell: A security cell with a double door, insulated from noise. Usually used for punishment purposes and isolation cells. Similar to "box-car" cells at ADX Florence.

R-Suffix: A designation for sexual offenders that limits (restricts) placement decisions. For obvious reasons, this suffix is to remain confidential.

Radio: An old term asking for quiet (Shut up and listen to the radio).

Rag: A bandanna.

Range: Tier, as in "yell down the range."

Rat: An informant. See "Snitch."

R.B.: "Rich bitch." Someone who has usually a lot of items, often top of the line in expense

Reals: Name brand cigarettes. (VA)

Red Tag: Confine to a cell.

Red Lock: A color code used by prisons to indicate that a lock must be shut at all times when unattended. Also designates segregation.

Rest Your Neck: Be quiet, as in "Lay down and rest your neck." Also, "Bite your pillow."

Retired: A lifer.

Ride: To pay commisary or sexual favors to prevent being assaulted by other inmates. (TX)

Ride Out: Transfer to a new prison. "They're riding out tomorrow."

Riding Leg: Becoming friendly to staff to get a favor. "He sure is riding that Lt's leg hard to get a bunk change." (El Reno, OK)

Rip: Hand-rolled cigarette. (FL)

Road dogs: Prisoner/s who walk the track on the exercise yard together, as in the illustration above.

Roll Out: To move to other housing. Originally from rolling one's belongings into the mattress for a move.

Ruca(o): Old Lady or Old Man ... as in, "She/he is my ..." (Sp.)

Rustler: Predator, wolf.

S - U

Safe: Women prisoners may hide contraband in the "safe" (vagina).

Schooled: Taught in the ways of prison life.

Screw: Officer. (archaic)

Sealed Indictment: a disciplinary violation written by an officer without bothering to notify the inmate that it is being written. (TX)

Seg: Segregation (isolated or disciplinary unit), as in "ad seg".

Sending Out: In order to make a point about prison conditions, a weak inmate may be beaten, or sent out of the unit.

Shakedown: A search of a cell or work area. The most common complaint by prisoners is that property is lost ,destroyed, or left scattered after a search

Shank: Handmade prison weapon -- generally a stabbing instrument. Also called a shiv or a piece.

Shooting: Having sex with a punk, as in "shooting at someone." (TX)

Shot: Friend. Disciplinary charge.

Shot out (to the curb): Useless, worn out.

SHU: Security Housing Unit. Segregation, the Hole. Prisoners may be placed in the SHU for limited disciplinary terms or on an indeterminate basis for posing a general threat to prison security (such as alleged gang affiliation). The most notorious SHU unit in California is at the "super-maximum" Pelican Bay, and is characterized by isolation, sensory deprivation, limited access to programs, and the use of force. Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F.Supp. 1146 (N.D. Cal. 1996). Pronounced "shoe."

Skinner: Sex offender (ME).

Slam: Use of force by an officer, bringing a prisoner to the floor and restraining him/her. The prisoner may be thrown to the ground, face first, while in handcuffs. (TX)

Slam down: To place in segregation or to lock up an institution or unit.

Smoke on the Horizon: Increasing tensions and grievances that may explode into violence.

Snitch: An informant. Rat. One who has given up names or activities. In theory, the use of confidential information against a prisoner has certain procedural safeguards. In practice, "prison officials rely upon shadowy information . . . in a context prone to manipulative deception." In re Jackson(1987) 43 Cal.3d 501, quoting special master in Toussaint v. McCarthy.

Speeding Ticket: A rules violation notice for inappropriate behavior in the visiting room, such as kissing or touching.

Split Your WIg: A quick punch to the head. (TX)

Spread Your Shots: Borrow elsewhere. "It's okay for now, but why don't you spread your shots?" Also referred to as "Spread your hustle."

Spun Out: Crazy, stupid, idiotic.

SSU: Special Services Unit, the security (or "goon") squad.

Square: A cigarette. Also, a quantity of loose tobacco. (TX)

Straight: "That's straight, " or "I'm happy with that."

Stay Down: Engage in a fight to prove one's manhood. (TX).

Stiched up: A problem that has been taken care of, generally through a fight.

Stick: Used by prisoners to designate someone as their pal or homeboy. The term is used by the correctional officers when referring to each other or other staff members as in the person who will stick by them in case trouble breaks out. Also called "stick man." (VA)

Stinger: Appliance used to heat water, which may be created by attaching live electrical wires to a metal plate.

Stir: A general term for prison dating from the mid-19th century. "Stir crazy," originated around 1925 to describe a prisoner who had become mentally disordered due to imprisonment. A "stir hustler" mastered the art of imprisonment. "Stir belly" described indigestion caused by tension or fear.

Street: The outside world, as in "on the street."

Stuck Out: Not getting something that was wanted. "You missed chow...you're stuck-out!" (TX)

Sweetie-Gold: Individually wrapped cookie-cakes saved from meals and used for gambling

T-Jones: an inmate's mother; Parents. Used primarily by African-Americans. "I got a letter from my T-Jones."

Tack: Tattoo.

Tack Head: Someone's woman

Tally Ho: Rubber cement found in prison shoes, used as an inhalant.

Tally Water: An intoxicant that is inhaled.

Ticket: A transfer order; disciplinary report.

Tip: Prison gang.

Tailor made: a packaged cigarette, as distinguished from roll your own tobacco.

Taking it to the Square: To call out for a fight. (TX)

Tat: tattoo.

Throwed Off: Anti-social conduct. (TX)

Tipped up: Member of the Aryan Brotherhood.

Traffic Ticket: Minor disciplinary offense.

Transpack: To pack one's belongings for a transfer.

Tree Jumper: Rapist.

T.S.: Texas Syndicate. A prison gang, apparently no longer active in California, but still a factor in Texas.

'Tude: Bad attitude.

Turnkey: A guard who is there just to open doors, who cares about nothing other than doing his or her shift.

Turn Out: To rape or make into a "punk."


Viking: To live the good life, to enjoy a particular bounty of goods while in prison.

Walkalone: A prisoner who cannot exercise on a yard with other prisoners. San Quentin's death row has a yard for "walkalones" to exercise together.

Warehouse: An institution with overcrowded conditions and little or no program. Housing may be in a dorm or a gym converted to living space.

White Ain't Right: Apart from the racial meaning, anyone wearing the mandated white prison garb in Texas will never be believed in a disciplinary hearing or dispute with an officer. (TX)

Wire: A message, or info that comes over the phone, as in "I got a wire today about..."

Wolf: Predator.

World: Home, the outside world, as "When I get back to the world . . ."

Worktime Credits: Half -time (one day for two) earned after California prisoners are assigned to a job.

Writ-Writer: A jailhouse lawyer, or someone who writes a lot of law suits or prison grievance appeals.

Yanked His Coat (or Jacket): Finding out and confronting another prisoner with something he or she may be hiding. Also, "Jam."

Yard: The exercise area. In segregation, the yard may be nothing more than a concrete "dog run" with no equipment. Other units may have a basketball court, recreation equipment, or grassy areas.

X-Cat:Lifer, in need of mental health evaluation.

Zoo Zoos: Canteen goods, such as candy or cookies. Also called "wham whams."

Prison Maxims:

Do your own time: The fundamental prison maxim. Don't bother other prisoners or pry too deeply into their affairs.

Drink plenty of water and walk slow. . .: "The water will keep your system flushed and you're going nowhere fast." Time moves slowly, but there are consequences to every action.

Its mind over matter . . . They don't mind and you don't matter: An official action that lacks any logic.

There are no secrets in the penitentiary: In prisons, rumor and gossip circulate fast.