Lingo

If you’ve ever watched any popular prison docu-series such as 60 Days In, Behind Bars, or Beyond Scared Straight, you understand that life while incarcerated comes with its many life changes, including the communication between inmates. According to Merriam-Webster, “lingo” is defined as “strange or incomprehensible language or speech: such as a foreign language, the special vocabulary of a particular field of interest, or language characteristic of an individual.” These incarcerated individuals use their own “special vocabulary” to not only converse amongst each other, but to also make it a bit more difficult for guards to comprehend what they’re saying.If you’re interested in learning more about how (inmates) communicate in prison, see below for a list of words, phrases, & common terminology.

  • Adjustment Center: Maximum security administrative segregation housing unit for inmates with serious security threats.
  • Ad Seg: Administrative segregation housing unit for inmates at a safety risk.
  • All Day: Life sentence.
  • Bit, beef, term, stint, sentence, time down: Prison sentence.
  • Biker Status : Poor inmate hygiene.
  • Blues: Prison clothes.
  • Bonaru: Awesome, amazing or brand-new. Stylish, pressed or pleated clothes.
  • Bonecrusher: Prison made large stabbing weapon.
  • Boneyard: Visiting area for conjugal and family visiting.
  • Book ‘em: To stab someone.
  • Bunkie or Cellie: A cellmate.
  • Bus Therapy: Severe form of punishment by custody staff when an inmate accomplishes one of the following: Winning a serious lawsuit that brings huge ramifications against the facility or administration. Severe aggravated assault on a staff member. Successfully initiating policy changes within a facility that changes the staff’s preferred mode of operations. Having a staff member terminated or prosecuted for criminal activities.
  • Cadillac: Instant coffee with a piece of a milky-way bar, creamer, and sweetener added.
  • Canteen: Prison market. Main Line ‘Mates usually have the privilege (meaning it can be taken away) to submit a Slip (order form) once a month and spend<$120 (products range similar to a gas station kiosk with extra hair-care products for Blacks).
  • Car: Group.
  • Caught a Case: Convicted of a crime.
  • Cell Extraction: Forcefully removing an inmate from their cell.
  • Cell Slug: person that rarely leaves his cell.
  • Chomo: Child molester.
  • Chow: Dinner.
  • Chrono:  Filed document in a prisoner’s central file.
  • Conjugal Visit: Inmates who are approved to have overnight visits (up to three days and nights) with family members.
  • Convict Code: Unwritten survival rules.
  • COUNT: CO’s must count the prison population four times a day (usually at 5:30, 15:30, 21:30 and 1:30)
  • Dry Snitching: Ratting out another inmate by talking loudly about his bad behavior in front of guards. Giving information without naming names.
  • Ducat: Pass for a scheduled appointment.
  • Escort: When custody officers are escorting a security risk inmate through the facility.
  • Fish: First time inmate.
  • Fishing: Inmates passing items using a weighted string.
  • Fish Kit: Basic hygiene supplies issued to first time inmates: tooth brush, comb, tooth brushing powder, bar of state made soap, towel, razor, two pairs of boxers, two pairs of socks, cup and a roll of toilet paper.
  • Front Street: Designated inmate areas with high observation from correctional staff.
  • General Principles: Rules, actions and routine activities established by other inmates.
  • Getting slung back: Getting tattooed.
  • Gladiator School: Prison or prison yard where violence and fighting are continuous.
  • Green Light:  The go-ahead to kill a person or attack on sight.
  • Grey Goose: Transport buses that transfer inmates between prisons.
  • Has the Keys: Person who controls or calls the shots for a group or gang.
  • Having Heart: To have the ability to endure immense physical violence.
  • Hole: Solitary confinement.
  • Homeboy: Inmates from the same city. An ally for help, protection, backup and instruction to navigate the prison.
  • Hot Medders: People who take serious prescription medication.
  • J-CAT: A crazy or foolish person. “That J-CAT is peeing in the garbage can.”
  • Kite: A hand-written note — often in code — written on a small piece of paper (often rapped in a bar of soap and shuttled between cells on lock-down). “Float me a KITE with your digits.”
  • Lockdown: To lock all inmates in their cells.
  • Locking It Up: When an inmate feels their life is in danger.
  • Lock-in-a-sock: Weapon created from putting a combination lock inside a sock.
  • Main-line: General population, gen-pop.
  • Meat Wagon: Hospital ambulance.
  • Nickel: Five year sentence
  • On sight: To notify inmates that a person or inmate will be attacked immediately without question.
  • OG: Original gangster or older guy. Respect given to older long term inmates.
  • Partner: Close friend, usually cell-mates (no sexual connotation). Also, CELLIE or BUNKIE
  • Phone Call: Someone from another building wants to talk with a ‘Mate outside. “Hey, Shotgun you got a PHONE CALL (meaning you should go to the front door).”
  • PISA: (pronounced PIE-SA): A non-gang affiliated Latinos (usually migrant laborers in the USA).
  • Politics: Race relations and standard on the MAINLINE. “It’s POLITICS man, you can’t sit at this table…. Or share an open packet of food.”
  • Protective Custody (P.C.): Solitary confinement or transfer off the Main Line for the inmates protection.
  • Programmer: An inmate who attends classes and improves themselves.
  • Pruno: A homemade alcohol made from fermented fruit.
  • Punk: Derogatory term for a homosexual or transsexual man that affects feminine traits. The worst insult you can give to a ‘Mate and guaranteed to start a fight. “You’ a PUNK!”
  • Quarterly Package: Care package purchased by an inmate or loved one. This is a privilege (which can be taken away with a rules violation — 115) to order/receive a package of up to 30 pounds from an approved outside vendor once a calendar quarter.
  • Reception (R&R): Facility yards and housing units for inmates new to the prison system.
  • Ride Leg: To suck up to staff to get favors.
  • ROAD DAWG = Good friend.
  • Sancho: The person your wife or girlfriend is with on the outside.
  • Shakedown: When prison guards tear apart inmates’ cells looking for contraband.
  • Shank: Generic for prisoner made knives.
  • Shot: Single service of instant coffee. Means of measuring value. “Got’ a SOUP for a SHOT.”
  • Shot Caller: Leader.
  • SHU: Maximum Security Administrative Segregation housing unit for Inmates at risk to safety and security OR in protective custody.
  • SNY: Special needs yard.
  • Soup: Usually an instant Top Ramen Noodle packet that is valued at 25 cents and used as a basic unit of measure in the prison barter economy. “Soda for 4 SOUPS!”
  • Spread: Communal meal consisting of a mix of leftovers and canteen purchases. Usually served in a flour tortilla. Virtually always only for one’s CAR or race. “Making a SPREAD for Super Bowl. What U got (to contribute)?”
  • Strapped: Carrying a weapon.
  • Sticks: Cigarettes.
  • Take Flight: To initiate a fistfight. “When he came back from the yard, he saw his CELLIE LOCKER SHOPPING in his locker and TOOK FLIGHT.”
  • Time down: Years spent inside prison.
  • Torpedo: Prison gangs are kind of like submarines. You have the captain, the Shot Caller and his faithful enforcer, The Torpedo.
  • Triple C or Triple C M S: A patent of the mental health department. “Don’t sit with that TRIPLE C.”
  • Violators: Repeat offenders with two or more times in prison.
  • Wearing Teal: Referred to inmate informants, aka “Snitches” aka “Rats”. Since an inmate’s uniform is blue, and a custody staff’s uniform is green, the inmate informants “wear teal” because they are working for custody as informants against their fellow inmate population.
  • Wood Pile/Wood: White Racial/Gang identifier. “He’s over in the WOOD PILE (White-controlled area of the YARD).”
  • Yard: Recreation area.
  • 115: Document used to charge a prisoner with an infraction.
  • 128: Form to record minor infractions or positive activities.
  • 50/50 Yard: Yard converted from general population to half general population, half special needs yard.
  • 602: The form document number to file a complaint against a CO. “I’m gonna 602 that mother’ for taking my charger.”

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