Prison Slang

Visit my blog: Behind Prison Walls - written by a currently incarcerated inmate – new blog post every week

Coming Soon
Bookmark this site or check back for the upcoming release of The Prison Slang Dictionary by William D. Hastings–a comprehensive compilation of terms and phrases used in prison–in both ebook and hard copy.

Prison slang term of the week: man down

Prison is a world unto itself with its own unique culture and slang that can be largely confusing for a new inmate. Over a decade ago, William D. Hastings felt like the proverbial fish-out-of-water as he tried to navigate through this new prison world while learning the language of his fresh surroundings. On more than one occasion, he wished there was a dictionary he could consult to make life a little easier and conversations less confusing.

Even though William D. Hastings was new to prison, he had cultivated a love of language his entire life.  As such, Hastings took to learning the slang as a means of survival, but also really enjoyed mentally cataloguing this lexicon that was largely new and quite often confusing to him. Eventually, through years of thorough experience, Hastings became an expert with prison slang. These terms became so second nature to him that they peppered his everyday dialogue—even with his friends and family who had never been to prison and found the slang confusing at best.

Realizing his strangely special circumstances and expert knowledge, William D. Hastings decided to compile a prison slang dictionary. The endeavor began as a bit of a laugh because Hastings figured, at most, he might be able to find a couple hundred terms unique to the inmate. The slang terminology of prison turned out to be much more widespread and diverse than he’d originally thought.

William D. Hastings continues to serve his prison sentence, and his prison slang dictionary continues to grow as he recognizes words and phrases that are commonplace to him, but would be odd or unclear to anyone who has never spent any time behind prison walls. You can see Hastings put some of this prison slang to use as he tells stories of his prison experience at

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A Dictionary by William D. Hastings