necessary – noun: slang term for commissary, often specifically meaning hygiene items but also meaning commissary as a whole

not cool – phrase: behavior that is improper or unacceptable

NEW! off the bus – phrase: meaning to have just arrived to the prison, though not specifically denoting an inmate’s first time ever being down

officer – noun: C/O, correctional officer

on a timer – phrase: meaning that a toilet’s flushing mechanism is calibrated in such a way that it can only be used at certain intervals – generally on a five or ten minute clock. This is a tactic employed in some higher security level prisons as precaution against inmates flooding the deck, however this policy more often than not results in cellies having to endure the stench of a mess left in the toilet by an ill-timed flush executed before bowel evacuation was complete

on count – phrase: meaning to be affiliated with and considered to be in the ranks of a gang, whether actively involved or not

on nothing – phrase 1. indicating an individual is a lame, weak, or unable to defend themselves
2. not worth getting in trouble over
3. being poor, having little
4. being innocent of accused wrongdoing

on something – phrase 1. to be in the middle of performing a task or accomplishing a goal
2. being successful or affluent to a degree that it’s obvious by all outward appearances. There is an unspoken implication that the affluence is from ill-gotten gains See also doing big things
3. a reference to unspecified illegal activity
4. describing a person who is under the influence of drugs

on the farm – phrase: to be at a minimum security work farm

on the new – phrase: fresh off the bus to the joint. Often yelled out on the gallery to afford people an opportunity to get a look at the newbies.

NEW! on the nod – phrase: being high on heroin. It refers to the action of the heroin user as the drug effects them and their head drops to their chest, as if they were drifting into a doze, before they jerk it back up. This is an action repeated often throughout the duration of their stupor

one of them cases – phrase: meaning that the person in question is in prison for having sex with a minor. This includes, but is not limited to, statutory rape. See also sex case

out date – noun: day of the month on which a person is to be released from prison. See also release date

own – noun 1. Your own, our own, his own: a reference in broad terms to those who are one’s friends, companions, associates, people you hang out with
2. an individual’s race, creed, ethnicity

package – noun 1. mail received that consists of more than just a letter, generally books and magazines
2. AIDS <He went to Healthcare and they told him he’s got that package.>

pair it up – verb: create single file lines parallel to one another

paper – noun 1. money. See also loot, scratch, dust
2. an arrest warrant
3. parole

paperwork – noun 1. all the filling out and filing of documents it takes to write a ticket or incident report
2. any or all legal documents which show what crime an individual is locked up for

parole – noun 1. Period of one to three years following the completion of one’s sentence when a felon must continue to check in with a parole officer and abide by certain restrictions like curfews, random drug tests, mandatory anger management or drug counseling
2. a program in place which makes it nearly impossible for the average inmate to surmount the odds against them and complete the prescribed term successfully without violating the rules
3. a stipulation for release that is despised and dreaded by inmates who are close to their release date
4. a stipulation for release which is looked forward to with hope by inmates with a distant release date
5. a stipulation for release desperately wished for by inmates who have no release date, or no viable release date (i.e. eighty years or more left to their sentence)
6. see also paper

parole board – noun 1. Group of administrative types whose job it is to decide whether a parolee should be violated back to prison. Their decision is based on as little information, testimony, or factual evidence as possible
2. those who possess the rubber stamp formality necessary before a parolee is officially violated

parolee – noun 1. Inmate kissed by the blessed opportunity of the freedom which parole affords
2. individual most likely to become an inmate again

parole officer – noun 1. official of the legal system with an unjustified and overdeveloped sense of self-importance who generally feels a sense of relief in violating a parolee because it means one less for their already too-heavy case load
2. the individual who decides whether to send a parolee back to prison

passing time – verb: engaging in homosexual activities while in prison but claiming not to be homosexual. The rationalization employed is that they are merely satisfying sexual urges with a man because there are no women available.

PB – noun 1. parole board
2. peanut butter

PD – noun: public defender

piss test – noun: taking a urine sample and testing it for narcotics. These are random and mandatory while on parole. While incarcerated, they are just as mandatory, but less random – often initiated on the word of a snitch

pistol – noun: improvised device that uses a modified extension cord to create a dangerous electrical circuit in order to heat up water for cooking. See also stinger, heater, banger

PO – noun: parole officer

pod – noun: gallery, deck

pop a socket – phrase: to pop a socket, popped a socket, popping a socket, refers to the potentially dangerous practice of using two pieces of metal, such as paperclips, and inserting them into the slots of an electric wall socket in an effort to create a spark that can be captured with a wad of toilet paper in order to start a fire in lieu of having matches

popped off – phrase: to be caught or found out

population – noun: See general population

porter – noun: housing unit janitor, in a max facility, there are generally four types: a breakfast porter hands out and picks up breakfast trays, a shower porter cleans the showers, a laundry porter is responsible for doing inmate laundry, a gallery porter is responsible for sweeping and mopping the gallery. In lower security level institutions, inmates generally walk to breakfast and do their own laundry so these positions become null and void.

prison blues – noun 1. uniform of dark blue pants and light blue shirt worn by all gen pop inmates. See also blues, state blues
2. a general feeling of melancholy and malaise that comes and goes at varying times, to differing degrees, and is an inevitable consequence and by-product of being incarcerated

problem – noun 1. a difficulty
2. a troublesome circumstance
3. a severe and insurmountable argument or disagreement which culminates in violence
4. a beef resulting in the two parties resorting to fighting one another

property – noun 1. personal property, refers to the building where property is received, such as when new to the joint, as well as the specific office within that building which deals with all property issues
2. actual items in the cell or property box of which an inmate possesses ownership

prosecuting attorney – noun 1. State’s attorney
2. person who most inmates blame for their incarceration
3. subject of many inmate revenge fantasies

prosecutor – noun: prosecuting attorney, state’s attorney

public defender – noun 1. court appointed legal counsel
2. person who cuts a deal with the prosecuting attorney, not always in their client’s best interests
3. person who serves their court appointed client up to the prosecuting attorney on a silver platter
4. subject of many inmate revenge fantasies

put some water on it – phrase: occasionally a request between cellies, though more often yelled between cells or onto the deck when an inmate is doing their business and the resulting odor is horribly pervasive and offensive. It is a demand for the offending individual to flush the toilet. See also agua

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Essays From Behind Prison Walls