Special Reports

13 commonly used prison slang terms

Did an inmate smuggle a cellphone? Here's the unlikely way prison officers investigated.

When prisoners hide contraband, sometimes they get creative with hiding places. A former officer recalls how guards uncovered a cellphone hidden inside an inmate's body.
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When prisoners hide contraband, sometimes they get creative with hiding places. A former officer recalls how guards uncovered a cellphone hidden inside an inmate's body.

Buck fifty - A cut on the face that requires an inmate to get at least 150 stitches.

Cell block - A group of cells that make up a section of the prison.

Check off - An inmate who asks for protective custody.

Dry cell - A prison cell with no plumbing, such as a toilet. Often used when prison officials suspect an inmate will try to flush contraband.

Gassing - When inmates throw urine or feces onto an officer or into another inmate’s cell.

Kite - A note, often secret, that inmates slide along floors and under cell doors. They’re called kites because prisoners sometimes attach string to them and fling them from their cell doors.

Letters - When a prisoner is doing life rather than a fixed number of years, his fellow inmates sometimes say: “He’s got letters.” Such inmates have little to lose.

Shank - A homemade knife made by inmates and used for attacks and self defense.

Shot caller - A high-ranking gang member with the power to order hits.

Soldier - A low-ranking gang member who must do the leaders’ dirty work.

Suitcasing - When an inmate hides contraband in his rectum.

The hole - The cell block where inmates on solitary confinement are put.

Unit manager - Supervisors who oversee a large group of inmates.

Ames Alexander: 704-358-5060, @amesalex

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