C/O – noun: correctional officer, to be read as the letters “C” and “O” so there is no discernible reason why it should be written with the slash between the two letters, but that is how it is written on all incident reports and tickets.

calendar – noun: slang term for a year

call pass – noun: official summons and notice informing an inmate to report to a specific building at a certain time for an appointment. These can be for healthcare, to receive property, for school or any type of movement outside the cell house. They are usually given the night before or morning of the pass

calls the shots – phrase: reference to the individual who makes the decisions for a gang and sets gang policy. This could entail them having authority over the entire gang or a specific area

camp – noun: a prison or penitentiary, but the term is almost exclusively reserved for low security level facilities See also joint

car wash – noun: refers to a communal shower area that has only one or two shower heads but several inmates are trying to shower there in a limited amount of time, usually rushing to wash up after Rec before having to lock up for count. This process is accomplished by having multiple inmates use one shower head by rotating around so a person gets wet then steps to the side to lather up before returning to the spray of water. The rules of the car wash technique are simple:
1. no looking down
2. in keeping one’s head up, there can also be no eye contact
3. feel free to talk

care pack – noun: hygiene items provided by the state when a person newly arrives to the joint. Once this runs out, an inmate is responsible for buying their own hygiene. However, in case of a month or more lockdown, when commissary hasn’t come for a long time, these will be passed out so the powers that be can cover their collective ass and not be accused of depriving inmates of hygiene. Items included are: one bar of state soap, one small tube of toothpaste, one toothbrush measure two inches in length, two single use packets of shampoo

care package – noun: items sent from another inmate such as food and clothing to get you right. Most often given when a person has newly arrived to the joint or housing unit

cassette tape – noun 1. outdated mode of listening to music
2. only avenue available to listen to music in prison besides the radio

caught – verb 1. To get, receive, be given
2. to have

cell – noun 1:a tiny space for confinement
2: a closet with a toilet

cell block – noun: area in a cell house where the cells are located. This term is more formal and less commonly used. See also deck, gallery, pod, block, wings

cell house – noun: buildings full of cells where prisoners are held. See also house

NEW! cell rat – noun: an individual who only leaves their cell for a shower, phone call, and the occasional chow line. They don’t go to any Rec, and most meals are prepared and eaten in the cell

cell with – phrase: to live in a cell with a person

cellie – noun 1:the person or people with whom you share a cell
2: the man, or men, whose shit you have to smell every morning

chester – noun: child molester. See also chomo, diaper sniper, baby raper

chin up chest out – phrase: describes a runners posture, but can also refer to the particular attitude and mindset of a person who meets hardships and difficulties head-on rather than trying to find some way around or out of the situation. Pressing forward through setbacks, losses, disappointments. See also soldier

chomo – noun: child molester. See also chester, diaper sniper, baby raper

chow – noun 1. Institutional meals
2. breakfast
3. lunch
4. dinner
5. soy-based slop

Chow Hall – noun 1. Building where chow is served
2. building where riots are incited

chuck hole – noun: slot in a cell door approximately four inches tall by twelve inches wide and usually covered by a hinged door through which food is delivered. These are utilized especially on lockdowns or more regularly in high security level facilities.

chuck hole gangster – noun: an individual who talks tough, making threats and promises of violence to be meted out as soon as the doors are opened, but once the doors are opened, they retract their previous statements and act with all meekness.

CI – noun: Confidential Informant

clique – noun: specific gang or group of people an inmate is aligned with or affiliated with See also set

coffee ball – noun: a small amount of coffee wrapped in a piece of garbage bag or the finger of a plastic glove. Coming in various sizes and prices depending on market saturation, supply and demand, and the general business acumen of the inmate doing the hustle. With high demand and low supply, the price can run as high as a dollar a shot

comes through – phrase 1. to come through, to do what is expected or demanded of you especially in dire, or at least questionable, circumstances
2. to look out when it seemed more likely that it wouldn’t happen

come up – phrase 1. indicating an improvement in one’s position or circumstances
2. references a business transaction in which one individual got a clear advantage

commissary – noun 1. Prison-operated store where food, hygiene, clothing items all must be purchased. See also store
2. items purchased at the store
3. the one thing that all inmates universally look forward to

commissary restriction – noun: one of several possible penalties for a minor ticket, prohibits inmate from buying anything other than hygiene and write-outs, and only in the amount of fifteen dollars

confidential informant – noun: official title for a snitch

contraband – noun: any item which an inmate is not allowed to have. This can range from the innocuous, like a permanent marker, to the dangerous, like a shank. Depending on the serious or provocative nature of the items found and the temperament of the C/O finding them, the outcome could be merely loss of the items, a minor ticket, or a sting in the Seg

control – noun: control tower, bubble <Inmate Smith, come to control.>

convict – noun 1. A person convicted of a crime
2. amongst prisoners, this means the opposite of “inmate,” and refers to a person having a proper respect and code of conduct. A convict looks out for his own and is neither grimy, dirty, nor a snitch

cool with – phrase: meaning that one individual gets along well with another person

cop – noun 1. police officer
2. a snitch
verb: to cop, when you renew your supply of drugs, generally used when referencing illegal substances See also reup

cop hut – noun: a small, squat building found on the yard in joints with lower level security status where a C/O sits to observe and supervise inmate activity. Usually situated near the weight pile because if a fight breaks out, the possibility of serious injury is greatest right there with the weight available as weapons

count – verb 1. to count, institutional count, times periodically throughout the day when each inmate is accounted for by the C/O in charge of the housing unit.
2. the act of performing an institutional count

count cleared – phrase: when the institutional count has been accomplished and everyone is where he should be. This indicates that the institution can now resume normal activities and movement of inmates.

cover your ass – phrase: refers to taking all necessary measures, no matter how noble or unscrupulous, to ensure that the blame or repercussions for whatever questionable behavior one may have engaged in cannot fall on them. It is an allusion to not leaving the backside unprotected and vulnerable.

cowboy – adjective: having behavior indicative of an unruly outlaw, having little regard for rules or regulations, often flaunting their disdain for authority, and prone to violence
noun: an individual who behaves recklessly, wildly, violently with little to no reason or provocation.

cowboy up – phrase: to face down a difficult situation with poise and a level head. See also man up, soldier

crackhead – noun 1. a person who is addicted to smoking crack cocaine
2. an individual who exhibits characteristics and behavior similar to those of a person addicted to crack cocaine such as erratic mood swings and behavior, obsessive tendencies as well as a propensity to take all activities and areas of their life to the extreme

crimefighters – noun: tighty-whities, briefs, references the style of costume worn by superheroes such as Superman and Batman (circa 1966-1968 TV show with Adam West) where costumes consisted of underwear on the outside of tights

crispy – adjective: new, clean, fresh, in excellent condition, pristine

dayroom – noun: an area found in medium and minimum security facilities where inmates can congregate to talk, play cards, play chess. There is usually a communal television and often an ice machine. In some joints, dayroom time is restricted to a few hours per day, and it is at these times only when inmates have access to shower and laundry facilities

Death Row – noun: cell block or housing unit which is segregated from the general population and set aside to house inmates sentenced to be put to death

deck– noun 1. a division of the cell house where cells are located. See also gallery
2. the population as a whole of the specified area of a cell house
3. playing cards used as a tool for working out. a card is turned over and that number of repetitions is performed for a specific exercise. Face cards are ten, aces fifteen. Once the repetitions are achieved, another card is turned and the process repeated

Department of Corrections – noun 1. government entity tasked with the responsibility of housing offenders convicted of a crime and sentenced to a period of incarceration
2. government entity which consistently chooses to do away with programs of a positive and rehabilitative nature, thus ensuring a consistently high rate of recidivism

diaper sniper – noun: child molester. See also chester, chomo, baby raper

dirty – adjective 1. Having the presence of drugs show up in a piss test. See also dirty drop
2. being guilty
3. deceitful, of low quality character See also grimy

dirty drop – noun: failing a piss test

district attorney – noun: lawyer who works for the office of the state’s attorney and is responsible for prosecuting individuals accused of a crime committed within their particular district. This is only a title used in larger metropolitan areas where crime is so prevalent that just a portion of the city can keep the prosecutor’s caseload full. See also prosecuting attorney

do the rest of parole time – phrase: to serve the remainder of the parole time in prison. If the term of parole was for two years, and a person stayed in the world for one year before violating parole, they would have to serve that second year in prison.

DOC – noun: Department of Corrections

doc in a box – phrase: refers to the psychiatric doctor used in the prison to assess inmates and prescribe meds. These assessments are done via a video conference so an inmate only ever sees his mental health provider on a TV screen while that doctor is safely many miles away. This leads to a questionable, if not poor, quality of care. This system becomes frustrating for the patient as it often leaves him feeling unheard or feeling that his concerns have been summarily dismissed.

dope – noun 1. heroin
2. psychiatric medications <He’s on that good dope.>
3. any drug

dopeline – noun: slang term for medication line, usually used as derogatory. See also medline

doing big things – phrase 1. a reference to an individual being a baller See also on something
2. used facetiously, it can simply mean a large quantity

doing time – phrase: serving a prison sentence

NEW! dome – noun: a person’s head or skull
verb: oral sex, fellatio

NEW! dome shot – phrase: a punch to the head

NEW! double barrel – noun: a packaged meat product available in most commissaries that consists of two meat sticks of dubious quality and origin

NEW! double barrel with cheese – noun: though the name suggests two meat sticks plus one cheese stick, this packaged product which is available in some commissaries is, in fact, one of each – a meat stick and a cheese stick

down – verb 1. In referring to a prison bit, usually a previous one, but not necessarily
2. ready, available, willing to participate
3. to move from a higher position to a lower one

drop one flush one – phrase: describes the expected and accepted protocol for defecating when a toilet is not on a timer

dude – noun 1. informal term used to reference a male human being with whom the speaker isn’t well acquainted
2. term used in reference to a male human being whom the speaker knows well
3. a male human being. See also guy, man
interjection: a spontaneous exclamation of wonder, excitement, or disbelief

dust – noun 1. money. See also loot, scratch, paper
2. often denotes a large amount of money

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Essays From Behind Prison Walls

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