talk it out – phrase: when two people who are at odds or in the midst of a disagreement have a back and forth conversation and exchange of opinions and ideas until a mutually agreeable outcome can be reached. More often than not this is a conversation that is forced on the two parties

NEW! talk shit – verb 1. to talk shit, good-natured ribbing that is void of animosity. A display of camaraderie between friends.
2. to talk shit, talking shit, the act of farting loudly. A display of camaraderie between friends
3. to deliberately say something sure to cause animosity on the part of the hearer
4. to speak rudely, belligerently
5. to disparage a person’s character
6. to speak with much bravado and arrogance. See also talk tough, woofing
7. to have an entire conversation that has absolutely no substance to it whatsoever
8. to exaggerate, or outright lie, in order to inflate one’s own ego

tall – adjective: a large quantity

tape – noun 1. see cassette tape
2. adhesive agent for binding papers together or boxes closed. This is accessible, but contraband

target board – noun: piece of plywood meant to receive the first gunshot as a warning in the event of a riot or uprising in the chow hall, measures approximately four feet by four feet

target on your back – phrase: allowing the person with whom you have a problem know that you have a problem with them, and in so doing, presenting them with the opportunity and incentive to strike first and to do so decisively.

tasty – adj: choice, preferred, top shelf, top of the line, top notch, of superior quality, the best

tell – verb 1. to talk to another, the act of telling
2. snitching, providing information to authority figures See also snitch, rat

these people – phrase: broad term for prison authorities, police officers, or authority in general Also known as those people, them people, they

threads – noun 1. clothes
2. more specifically, usually meaning flashy, expensive clothes

three for one – phrase: price gouging, business arrangement where the individual running a store provides one item in exchange for three of that same item to be paid whenever commissary comes. See also three for two, two for one

three for two – phrase: business arrangement where the individual running a store provides two items in exchange for three of that same item to be paid whenever commissary comes. See also two for one, three for one

ticket – noun 1. the summons and written record of an infraction of the rules, usually written by a C/O but any staff member of the prison can write one (i.e. teacher, food supervisor, nurse) <I caught a ticket for having too many shoes out.> See also write up
2. to hear a ticket, a panel consisting of one or two white shirts who read the allegations on a ticket, determines guilt and hands down a punishment. <I heard my ticket today and they’re talkin’ about knockin’ me upside the head.>

tip – noun: slang term for one’s own cell

touch down – verb 1. to arrive
2. to go home or get home
3. to have something arrive

touchdown – noun: a score in football that earns six points

tower – noun 1. guard tower, placed around the perimeter of prison property as well as strategic points within the compound where large groups congregate like the yard or the walk to chow. An officer armed with a high-powered rifle is stationed here
2. control tower, area where an officer runs the day to day operations of a cell house such as distributing mail or cleaning supplies. From here, electronic door locks are controlled and announcements made. See also bubble, control
3. gun tower, room high above the chow hall area with a good vantage point of said area, where an officer is armed with a high-powered rifle to quell any potential riots. Some older, higher security institutions still have gun towers right in the cell house. In those instances, it is still the area where day to day operations are controlled, but the presence of a gun makes it a gun tower.

transfer bus – noun: vehicle used to transfer inmates from one joint to another. See also bus

trip – verb 1. Trip, to lose one’s balance and topple over or nearly topple over
2. to trip, to worry excessively or freak out over a situation
noun: a journey or excursion

tube – noun: television, a television set

turnkey – noun: derogatory term for a C/O, it denotes that their job isn’t taxing or difficult in any way – neither mentally nor physically

two for one – phrase: business arrangement where the individual running a store provides one item in exchange for two of that same item to be paid whenever commissary comes. See also three for two, three for one

up top – noun: slang term for a visit

under investigation – phrase: catchall excuse used to place an inmate in Seg based on claims and accusations which have only the barest of evidence to corroborate them, or even no evidence at all. A person can sit in Seg for days, weeks, or months before finally being told that the investigation was inconclusive. At that time, the inmate being accused is put back into general population without any further explanation or compensation.

video – noun 1. a movie or film
2. somebody’s own personal business or actions  

Viking – noun: an inmate or cellie with incredibly poor or nonexistent hygiene habits who is content to have a filthy body and even dirtier cell

violate – verb 1. to violate, breaking the stipulations of parole and in so doing, being apprehended by the parole officer to be returned to the custody of the Department of Corrections
2. to be violated, when a parole board finds an inmate’s infraction serious enough to warrant a revocation of their parole privileges and reinstitution of a prison sentence. These infractions include: committing another criminal offense, failing a piss test, failing to report a change of address or job, failing to attend drug counseling or anger management classes, failure to be home by curfew, jaywalking

violation – noun 1. when a gang member breaks the rules of the gang
2. the act of carrying out a punishment for breaking the rules within a gang, this usually entails a beatdown from multiple fellow gang members

visit – noun 1. A period of time spent in the company of people from the world
2. a rare blessing and opportunity to interact with family and friends, have an intelligent conversation and real food
3. the person or people coming to see an inmate

visiting room – noun 1. Room set aside for inmate visits, it is equipped with vending machines for food to be consumed only while on the visit, which is the closest thing to real food available
2. a place of refuge and respite from the inescapable onslaught of tedium, insanity, and general bullshit that prison life entails
3. best bet for the place to get a heterosexual kiss

walk – verb: to perambulate
Noun: the areas between buildings and yard that are designated as approved lanes of movement

Walkman – noun: an archaic electronic device that plays cassette tapes and local radio stations

warden – noun 1. Top official in the prison hierarchy of authority, though there can be three distinct wardens. Arranged in descending order, they are: head warden, assistant warden, warden of operations
2. person you rarely see, but when you do, you know something bad is most likely going to happen

watch yourself – phrase: be careful

weight – noun 1. Blame, penalty, punishment
2. significant amount of illicit drugs
3. device used for working out by moving it repeatedly in a pushing or pulling motion
4. one’s body weight, a thing some inmates calculate and obsess over worse than an anorexic teenage girl

weight pile – noun: area on the yard designated for weight lifting. See also iron pile

we’re cool – phrase: meaning there is no longer any ill will or animosity between two individuals

white shirt – noun: slang for Lieutenant, refers to the white shirt they wear while all other officers wear black or brown uniform shirts <Watch yourself: white shirt coming this way.>

wifey – noun 1. a wife
2. a woman who has been with or been dating an inmate for so long that they’re practically married

window panes – noun: a pair of glasses that only have clear lenses and aren’t actually used or needed to aid or improve one’s eyesight. These are an affectation some inmates wear because they think it makes them look smart or sophisticated.

wings – noun: see gallery, deck

work camp – noun: a minimum security joint which is solely a work farm even though it isn’t attached to any max prison. The work that’s done is landscaping and upkeep of the surrounding prison grounds and community. Most often there is some industry done there also.

work farm – noun: minimum security level portion of an institution where only inmates with a low security status can live, most often completely separated by Gen Pop. Inmates on the farm do the work of upkeep for the maximum security facility that the work farm is attached to. Such tasks include delivering food to the inmates behind the wall as well as all janitorial-type duties for the facility

world – noun 1. life outside of prison
2. more specifically, news from your city, neighborhood, or family

writ – noun 1. An official summons initiated by the court that necessitates an inmate being present for a court appearance
2. court writ, the period of time being transferred from prison to a court appearance
3. the period of time spent at a joint located closer to the county where an inmate needs to be present for a court appearance. This is generally a period of limbo where few privileges are afforded, inmates are segregated from the general population, and minimal hygiene items and legal documents are the only property allowed

write-out – noun 1. pre-stamped envelope, used as easy currency especially in higher security institutions where moving large quantities of food and hygiene between cells as payment can prove to be difficult
2. one of the non-hygiene items approved for purchase in Seg or while on commissary restriction

write up – noun: a ticket, written record of a rules infraction
verb: to write someone up <White shirt wrote me up for breaking line movement.>

X-house – noun: a popular cell house configuration where there is a centralized bubble or control tower with four wings radiating out in the shape of an X. Each wing has a number designation: one through four. In a prison compound with multiple X-houses, the building will have a number designation while each cell block will be assigned a letter

yard – noun: exercise yard, consisting of an open area set aside for recreation. Typically there is grass covering the area with weights available for lifting and other activities like football and basketball available as well. Some yards are more like parking lots with no grass and nothing to do. Two to seven days a week this privilege is available, depending on the security level of the institution.

yard bird – noun: title used to refer to the tough, greasy, low-quality, and often undercooked pieces of chicken served in the chow hall

yard restriction – noun: penalty for a minor ticket that entails the denial of yard privileges for a specific and set amount of time

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Essays From Behind Prison Walls

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