rat – noun: an informer, one who provides information against another individual to Internal Affairs or another authority figure. See also snitch, Confidential Informant
verb: to rat, ratting, the act of ratting on or ratting out someone else, to provide information against another to authority figures. See also snitch, tell

Rec – noun: recreation. Any time afforded for gym or yard.

real food – noun: food consumed while on a visit

release date – noun 1. day when an inmate’s period of incarceration has been completed and they are freed from prison
2. a date much coveted, hoped for, and daydreamed of
3. a date much dreaded due to an apprehension toward all the unfamiliar and unknown circumstances that will have to be faced. See also out date
rep – noun 1. repetition, the performance of a specific type of exercise a single time
2. one’s reputation
verb: to represent, to be associated with and/or speak for a gang, clique, or set

reup – verb: this is the word “up” with the prefix “re” attached to it and should be pronounced as such. The “up” comes from stocking up, so it means to renew your supply. Originally used in reference to drugs, but is also used in much broader terms

ride – verb: to ride with or ride out with, meaning to go along or take sides with a person in a verbal argument or physical fight.
noun: a person who will take your side and have your back in all circumstances.

riding the circuit – phrase 1. a special disciplinary measure for cases of particularly difficult and/or violent inmates, it entails putting said inmate on the bus and shipping them to another joint every five to seven days and leaving them isolated in Seg. Moving so frequently means their property and mail never catch up with them, and they’re never in one place long enough to get a visit. They are forced to live in an uncomfortable jumpsuit that becomes filthy and ripe from rarely being able to wash or exchange it for a fresh one. All other laundry is done by hand in the sink with a bar of state soap
2. a cruel and unusual punishment which is fairly legal

rig – verb 1. to rig, to alter or change, usually denoting an improvement
2. using various disparate items and objects to improvise a repair or create something useful
3. a heroin addict’s attendant accoutrement needed to administer their drug.

right – adjective 1. indicating direction
2. correct
3. financially sound, having necessary food and hygiene items to feel secure and comfortable See also straight, good

ripe – adjective: to smell foul, musty

robocop – noun: C/O who is so strict and firm in how they enforce rules and perform assigned duties that it is almost as if they are more machine than man. See also crank, by the book

road dog – noun: a close friend who can be counted on to have your back in a fight or any difficult situation. See also ride

rock – noun: crack cocaine

run that – phrase: a request or demand for an individual to relinquish certain items

run the cell – phrase: meaning to have one cellie who is calling the shots and controlling how the living situation in the cell is arranged. Generally , this is a form of bullying, and not always tolerated, instead becoming a point of contention between cellies

running the streets – phrase 1. reference to a large amount of gang-related activity previous to incarceration
2. calling shots for the gang while in the world

safety and security of the institution – phrase: blanket excuse used by the prison administration to justify any infringement upon an inmate’s already limited freedoms.

sarge – noun 1. Sergeant, individual between C/O and lieutenant in the prison hierarchy of authority
2. person who you often have to speak to first before approaching a white shirt
3. person who will get very angry if referred to as a C/O. Because they wear the same color uniform as a C/O except for the blue stripes on their sleeve, this mistake is understandable, though will not be met with understanding

scatter your shots – phrase: an admonition for an individual to look around for assistance and/or charity from different sources

scrape – verb 1. To take advantage or get over on
2. to steal See also sting, got over on

scratch – noun: money See also paper, loot, dust

Security Threat Group – noun: prison administration’s official term for any gang. Labeling gangs thusly elevates any suspected gang activity to that of representing a threat to the safety and security of the institution. This allows any miniscule suspicion of gang affiliation to be met with extreme scrutiny and a stint in Seg for the accused inmate while an investigation into the claims of gang membership is carried out.

Seg – noun 1. Segregation, cell house designated for the housing of offenders serving disciplinary terms for infractions of the prison rules
2. punishment, a place you don’t want to go. Popularly known in the world as the hole or solitary, but neither of these terms are actually used in prison. SHU has occasionally been used (pronounced “shoe”) and it is an acronym for Segregation Housing Unit.

Seg candy – noun: cough drops. Since they are technically medicinal in nature they are one of the few commissary items allowed to be purchased while in Seg, but in Seg they are consumed for their cherry flavor rather than their medicinal qualities

send the deck up – verb phrase: to incite unrest and create a unified front against the established authority. To riot

set – noun 1. A type of exercise, or group of exercises, repeated to achieve a specific number of repetitions
2. the gang or group a person is affiliated with See also clique
3. derived from settlement; meaning neighborhood, city, town, or geographical area. See also land
verb: to put something somewhere
adjective: fixed in place

set him out there – phrase: to air someone’s dirty laundry, put their secrets or personal business out for everyone to know

sex case – phrase: meaning the inmate is in prison for some type of sexual misconduct. This includes rape, child molestation, statutory rape, sodomy, incest, bestiality

shakedown – noun 1. periodic check of the cells where one or more C/Os search for contraband of any kind including altered items
2. a nuisance that necessitates an inmate spending half a day putting their meager possessions back in order.
3. a ready-made excuse for a C/O to give his inner jerk free rein.

shank – noun: improvised weapon for stabbing or slashing made from any number of common items such as pens, pencils, toothbrushes, razor blades, pieces of metal scrounged from the bed or heating vent. See also shiv
verb: to shank, to stab with a shank

ship – verb: to ship, to send an inmate from one joint to another

shiv – noun: improvised weapon for stabbing or slicing. See also shank
verb: to shiv, to stab using a shiv

short-timer – noun: an inmate who has a short amount of time left to serve on their prison sentence. Generally this refers to a period of less than one year. However, this term can also be somewhat relative because someone who has served a stretch and only has two or three years left can also be considered a short-timer.

short-timer’s disease – phrase: affliction characterized by behaviors such as being overly restless, anxious, and excited due to having a short amount of time left to serve on a prison sentence. Individuals with this condition tend to talk in annoying excess about their plans for when they get out, focusing on the future too much instead of dealing with the present, which then tends to cause drastic mood swings from contentment to depression. These people also tend to workout to the extreme in an effort to undo their years of sedentary living, and to make themselves as appealing as possible to the fairer sex

shorty – noun 1. A young child, generally post-infancy and pre-adolescence
2. a simple and readymade nickname for any young or small in stature inmate

shot – noun 1. referring to coffee, it means a single cup of coffee – usually one heaping spoonful if measuring for a coffee ball
2. the discharge of a gun
3. a chance, an attempt
4. an injection
5. a small amount of liquid
verb 1. a punch. Often denoting a playful bit of horseplay, but not necessarily
2. to be hit by a bullet fired from a gun

show out – phrase: to show off, make a big production or display of your ability or status. Grandiose bragging. See also stuntin’

SHU – noun: Segregation Housing Unit

skittles – noun: slang term for medication, it is in reference to the different and varied colors of psychiatric medication

slab – noun: a bed that is solid steel, as opposed to having springs, to lay one’s mat on. A slab is guaranteed to bring lower back, hip, knee, and shoulder pain after months or years of sleeping on its unforgiving surface.

slammed – verb 1. to be given a severe penalty, usually excessive or extreme See also knock upside the head
2. a violent and thorough fight that is grossly one-sided and amounts to a beating

sleeping mat – noun: mattress covered in tough water-resistant plastic and consists of cotton wadding as the internal padding. An average mat measures three inches thick, three feet wide, six feet long, and weighs close to fifty pounds. As time passes, the padding shifts and breaks apart so that the mat loses its dimensions and becomes smaller, flatter, harder. Most sleeping mats provided for an inmate on the new are old and in a state of dubious quality. thin mat for sleeping on. See also mat

slick – noun 1. Smooth, well liked, a ladies’ man. Usually meant as complimentary
2. sneaky, manipulative, deceitful. Usually meant as derogatory

slickmeat – noun 1. Some type of anonymous meat of unknown origin that usually comes in a circular shape similar to bologna, but has a distinctive, slimy quality from which it derives its name and can range in color from iridescent purple to a darker, unnatural burgundy. It has a signature buy unidentifiable sour flavor and odor.
2. the meal you avoid at all costs if possible
3. the meal you only eat if you have absolutely no other option
4. the meal you are guaranteed to be served at least once a week, and much more often on lockdowns or when the Department of Corrections budget is being tightened.

slide – verb: to slide or let slide. To get away with something of which a person is guilty.

sling – verb: to sling, slang term for selling drugs

slingin’ – verb: the act of selling drugs

slip – verb 1. To slip, slipped, slippin’. Meaning to falter or make a mistake
2. to be less than diligent in taking proper precautions while carrying out unlawful or illegal activities and thereby leaving an opening to get caught by a cop or C/O
3. to forget something
4. to be forgetful

sloppy – adjective 1. Slick, wet, unappealing
2. disorganized or poorly organized
3. describes a slick, wet, greasy, unappealing, disorganized mess of food. See also sloptastic
4. a good description for much of penitentiary cuisine. See also mush

sloppy joe – noun: a dish guaranteed to be served at least once weekly in prison, and though it really isn’t all that bad, over time a convict comes to loathe it. See also sloppy ho, sloppy hooker

sloppy ho – noun: derogatory term for sloppy joe. See also sloppy hooker

sloppy hooker – noun: derogatory term for sloppy joe. See also sloppy ho

sloptastic – adjective: combines sloppy and fantastic to facetiously describe meals which are particularly unappealing, greasy, disgusting, and generally an unidentifiable puddle of mush

snitch – noun 1. An inmate who provides information against a fellow inmate in return for a favor or preferential treatment from C/Os and other prison staff
2. an inmate void of integrity, self-respect, and scruples. Someone to avoid if at all possible
verb: to snitch, the act of providing information against a fellow inmate, an ever more commonly accepted practice

soft – adj. 1. something that is supple and tender to the touch
2. weak, easy to manipulate or take advantage of; wimpy

soldier – noun 1. a loyal member of a gang who has proven himself to be worthy of rank and able to mete out violence if called upon
2. someone capable of carrying a heavy emotional burden stolidly
verb 1. To soldier, to carry a burden dutifully without complaint
2. to press on through weakness, adversity, and pain. See also cowboy up, man up, chin up chest out

spin off – phrase 1. to leave quickly, most often denoting a brief absence with the individual intending to return shortly
2. easy way to direct a conversation to its conclusion See also fall back, fall back and hit my head

spitting a script – phrase: to spit a script, weaving an elaborate story that is pure fabrication. Lying through one’s teeth

spot – noun 1. a person’s position in line
2. short for drug spot, place where one goes to get more drugs. Almost exclusively used in reference to illicit drugs

spray cologne – phrase: to spray cologne, sprayed cologne, spraying cologne, facetious reference to the act of farting.

square – noun 1. Cigarette
2. uncool individual
3. an inmate with no gang affiliation. See also lamer

stand up guy – phrase: a trustworthy individual who can be counted on not to snitch

state blues – noun: dark blue pants and light blue shirt issued upon arrival at a new joint as required attire, except during the scheduled recreation periods of gym and yard when sweatpants purchased from commissary can be worn. See also blues, prison blues

state shot – noun  1. a meal provided by the prison administration and served to inmates as part of their daily dietary requirement See also state tray
2. used to refer to the bare minimum or most basic amount necessary

state soap – noun: bar of coarse, odorless soap that leaves a person feeling gritty, greasy, and generally dirtier than when they started washing

state’s attorney – noun: elected official responsible for prosecuting individuals accused of a crime. See also prosecuting attorney

STD – noun 1. short-timer’s disease
2. sexually transmitted disease

STG – noun: Security Threat Group

sting – verb: to sting, to steal, to steal from See also scrape, got over on

stinger – 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 heater, banger, pistol

stomach’s in my back – phrase: a state of extreme hunger

store – noun 1. commissary
2. when an inmate keeps a stockpile of commissary items and offers them for sale at a mark-up or as a two for one or three for two

straight – adjective 1. heterosexual
2. doing well – financially, physically, or emotionally See also good, right

street name – noun: a nickname used while running the streets. Often, but not exclusively, given as part of gang membership or affiliation. Common examples are: Flaco, Shorty, Slim, Mack

stretch – noun: a lengthy prison term, generally twenty years or more

struck – adjective 1. to be broke, having no money
2. to be extremely sad, upset, distraught

stuntin’ – verb: behaving in such a way as to make it known how much money you have or how talented you are at a specific sport or task Often used in a spiteful manner

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Essays From Behind Prison Walls

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