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Prison Lingo Debunked

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If you ever find yourself locked up in the US like the participants of The Jail: 60 Days In, you’ll quickly learn that life in the slammer is a world away from what you’re used to on the outside, replete with a code of conduct and its own language to translate too. Say the wrong thing and you could find yourself in trouble; decoding the lingo is vital if you want to get by inside. Here’s what you need to know.

All day: slang for a life sentence. Add ‘and night’ to that and you’re talking life in prison without parole. Bitch: a derogatory comment that carries far more weight inside that in it does out. Call someone a bitch and prepare to back it up. Bug: an untrustworthy or unreliable member of the staff. Bum beef: probably not what you’re thinking; the term’s used for a false accusation or wrongful conviction. Car: the group of people you associate with inside. This could be defined by mean anything from race or sexuality to gang affiliations. Catch a ride: the phrase to know if you’re looking for drugs. Ask a friend if you can catch a ride and you’re asking to get high. Chi-mo: child molester. Also known as ‘chester,’ ‘short-eyes’ and ‘baby-raper.’ Cowboy: a new correctional officer. Spell it backwards and get an acronym for ‘Young Obnoxious Bastard We Often Con.’ Dance on the blacktop: getting stabbed. Drama: code for a fight or assault. If you hear about drama, it’s usually a reference to violence. Dry snitching: basically informing indirectly, when an inmate tells on other inmates either by talking loudly about them in front of the guards, or talking to the guards about inmates, without naming names. Duck: a correctional officer who informs on other staff and officers to the inmates. Fish: a first time inmate. Hot one: slang for a murder charge. Jacket: an inmate’s file that contains all their basic information, including what they’re in for. Lame duck: a vulnerable inmate who is considered easy prey for the other prisoners. On the leg: used to describe any prisoner that is friendly with the guards. Not something you want to be known as. Papers: slang for drugs, usually used in reference to coke, heroin or meth. Pruno: AKA hooch. Any kind of booze that has been made by the prisoners in their cells from sugar, fruit and yeast that has been left to ferment. Anything from old bread to sweets can be used to concoct pruno. Race traitor: a name for anyone that socialises with inmates outside of their own racial group. Square John: could refer to someone who doesn’t know the ropes, a chump, or anyone that abides by the law and does things by the book. Turned out: generally refers to using someone for your own purposes. More specifically, it can refer to either persuading a guard to pack drugs for you or forcing someone into homosexual acts. UA: urinalysis. A urine test that detects drugs in your system.