The Unique Dialect of Prison Slang

Prison SlangAll cultures and subcultures have their own unique phrases and meanings in their various dialects. Nearly all languages contain an abundance of informal phrases or slang terms, which are often used with such regularity that they have evolved into a standard form of communication. Inmates in different correctional facilities have also developed and incorporated an abundance of prison slang terms into their everyday communication. Prison slang is unique because it incorporates not only terms associated with the correctional setting, but also because it is often used in an attempt to confuse correctional staff. Below is a list of common prison slang terms that are used with regularity within United States Correctional institutions.

Prison Slang:

  1. All Day: An inmate convicted of a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
  2. Banger: A small prison made weapon that is easy to conceal.
  3. Bate: A person that is probating for a prison gang. This term is usually used by Caucasian prison gang members and associates.
  4. Beehive: This term refers to a correctional facility where the majority of prison gang members are assigned.
  5. Big Homie: A bona fide prison gang member. Nonmembers and associates will often refer to a prison gang member as a Big Homie. This term is typically used by Mexican Mafia prison gang members and associates.
  6. Black: Black tar heroin
  7. Bone Crusher: A prison made weapon that is extremely durable and has the ability to cause significant damage when used on a victim.
  8. Brief: German word for letter. This term is typically used by Aryan Brotherhood prison gang members and associates.
  9. Broke Weak: An inmate that requests protective custody. “He broke weak and left the yard.”
  10. Brother: A bona fide prison gang member. Nonmembers and associates will often refer to a prison gang members as a Brother. This term is typically used by Aryan Brotherhood prison gang members and associates.
  11. Bruder: German word for brother. This term refers to a bona fide prison gang member. Nonmembers and associates will often refer to a prison gang members as Bruder. This term is typically used by Aryan Brotherhood prison gang members and associates
  12. Butt Picker: An inmate whose assigned job detail is to clean the yard of all debris. This includes the removal of cigarette butts.
  13. Camarada: An inmate who conducts illicit activity and aspires to be a Mexican Mafia member.
  14. Carnal: Spanish slang for brother, which refers to a bona fide prison gang member. Nonmembers and associates will often refer to a prison gang member as a carnal. This term is typically used by Mexican Mafia prison gang members and associates.
  15. Cell Warrior: An inmate who acts tough or aggressive towards staff or inmates when confined to their cell, but cowardice when out of their cell.
  16. Celly: An inmate’s cellmate.
  17. Chante: Spanish slang for house. Spanish speaking inmates will often refer to their assigned cell, or living area as their chante.
  18. Checked In: An inmate that requests protective custody. “He checked in last night.”
  19. Chin Check: A form of inmate on inmate discipline that occurs when an inmate violates inmates rules.
  20. Chitolean: A term used to describe a homosexual inmate.
  21. Chomo: An altered word variation for child molester. Also refers to any inmate that has committed a sex offense.
  22. Chow Hall: The dining hall were inmates eat their food.
  23. Cops: Correctional Officers, or other Correctional Staff.
  24. Deuced Up: An inmate that requests protective custody. “He was assaulted because he deuced up on a different yard.”
  25. Dirty: A compromised staff member.
  26. Dry Snitching: An action which includes unintentionally providing information to correctional staff about inmates, or incidents. Or the action of providing vague details to correctional staff about incidents that occured without naming names, or providing specifics.
  27. Esquina: Spanish word for corner. This term is typically used when referring to a Mexican American inmate that is willing to assist the Mexican American population, or the Mexican Mafia with illicit activities.
  28. Fish: An inmate that is new to a correctional system.
  29. Fishing: This term refers to the activity of passing contraband, messages, or other items between inmates. The act involves a prison made string, or line that is passed by one inmate to another inmates cell, with the aforementioned items attached to the line. The line is then pulled into the other inmate’s cell with the attached item(s).
  30. Flags: Postal stamps that can be used as a form of currency.
  31. Flick: Photographs.
  32. Gas: A nasty concoction of urine, feces, saliva, and other bodily fluids that is thrown on staff by an inmate who is confined to their cell.
  33. Get on the Phone: A term used by inmates when they ask another inmate to communicate through a vent, or drain pipe. Oftentimes the intent is to have a secretive conversation that staff cannot monitor.
  34. Greasing: A concoction of hot water and a grease like substance, like Vaseline that is mixed, heated, then thrown onto an inmate, or staff member with the intent to cause significant injury.
  35. Grey Goose: The prison transportation bus which transports inmates from county jails to various correctional facilities, or from different facilities within correctional departments.
  36. Hard Candy: A prison made weapon that has been concealed in ones rectal cavity, then secreted for the purpose of committing assault. The candy reference is due to the feces that may be present on the weapon after secretion and the hard referring to the hardness of the prison made weapon.
  37. Headquarters: This term refers to a correctional facility where the majority of prison gang members are assigned.
  38. Heat: The attention that is brought to an inmate or a group of inmates by the action, or actions of an inmate or group of inmates.
  39. Hooch: Prison made fermented alcohol
  40. House: A term used to describe an inmates assigned cell or housing unit.
  41. Huesos: Spanish word for bones. This term is often used as a form of personal accomplishment, meaning the inmate has earned a positive reputation for himself in prison.
  42. Ink: A term used when referring to an inmate’s tattoos.
  43. Jale: Spanish slang for job or work. Hispanic inmates will typically refer to criminal missions inside prison as jale.
  44. Juice Card: An inmate’s influence with correctional staff or other inmates. Inmates also use this term when referring to ranked correctional staff who have the ability to take care of certain issues. E.g. drop petty tickets, change cell locations, or move inmates off a correctional facility.
  45. Keister: When an inmate hides contraband in their rectum. Also referred to as, “putting it in the safe.”
  46. Kite: Notes or letters written by inmates. Kites are primarily utilized by inmates as a means of undetected communication between inmates.
  47. La Hooda: Spanish slang for Corrections Officers, or Correctional Staff.
  48. La Pinta: Spanish Slang for prison.
  49. La Raza: Spanish word for the race. Hispanic inmates will often refer to their people as La Raza.
  50. Llavero: A Spanish term meaning key holder. Hispanic inmates will often refer to the Hispanic inmate with the most influence as the Llavero.
  51. Lleyo: Spanish slang for cocaine
  52. Main line: A term used to describe a prison yard containing general population inmates. Correctional facilities such as, max custody, protective custody, or sex offender yards are not considered main lines.
  53. Man Purse: An inmate’s rectal cavity.
  54. Ninja Turtles: Correctional Staff that are assigned to tactical units.
  55. No Good: An inmate that has been deemed by the inmate population as being a sex offender, informant, or prison gang defector.
  56. Pico: Spanish slang for a prison made weapon.
  57. Political: A status term of an inmate that actively participates in prison gang activity, or aspires to become a prison gang member.
  58. Pops: A bona fide prison gang member. This term is typically used by Aryan Brotherhood probates when referring to their sponsor.
  59. Pruno: Prison made fermented alcohol.
  60. Punk & Bitch: These two terms are considered derogatory and are considered the two worst labels an inmate can be called. Both terms imply that an inmate allows other inmates to take advantage of them sexually, or by taking other items from them. If an inmate calls another inmate a punk or a bitch a fight will generally ensue. If an inmate does not immediately begin to fight an inmate that has called them a punk or a bitch, then the inmate population will permanently label the inmate as a punk or a bitch.
  61. Putting in Work: This term often describes missions or illicit tasks completed by inmates. E.g. assaults, drug sales, earning illicit funds, etc.
  62. Rig: A prison made, or actual hypodermic syringe.
  63. Sacks: Cold meals, served in either a brown paper bag, or wrapped in saran wrap.
  64. Shank: A prison made weapon.
  65. Skittles: Psychiatric medications, or other medications.
  66. Snitch: An inmate that has provided information to staff, testified in court, assisted law enforcement (informant), or defected from a prison gangs.
  67. Snitch Jacket: The label placed on an inmate who has been deemed a snitch by the inmate population.
  68. State Raised: An inmate that has spent the majority of their life in prison. Especially one who has spent ample time in juvenile institutions then transitioned to adult institutions.
  69. Stinger: A prison made heating device which is used to heat water. A stinger is typically used to heat up foods, but can also be used to heat up water, or some other concoction with the intent to assault staff or other inmates. The stinger is often made from a cut electrical cord with two pieces of metal fashioned to the cut end. The cord is then plugged into an outlet with the metal fashioned end placed into the liquid, causing the liquid to heat up.
  70. Super Cop: A Correctional Officer with an authoritarian management style.
  71. Team America: An inmate who is either an active or former law enforcement informant.
  72. The Hole: Max custody units where inmates are placed for disciplinary reasons, or based on their classification.
  73. Through the Vent: A term used to describe two or more inmates communicating through a vent or drain pipe.
  74. Tio: Spanish word for uncle. Also a bona fide prison gang member. Nonmembers and associates will often refer to a prison gang members as a Tio. This term is typically used by Mexican Mafia prison gang members and associates.
  75. White House: This term refers to a correctional facility where the majority of prison gang members are assigned.
  76. Wila: A term used by Hispanic inmates when referring to kites. See Kite definition.
  77. Wino Time: A prison term that is only a couple of years in length.
  78. Wood: Wood is derived from the term peckerwood. Caucasian inmates will often refer to other Caucasian inmates as Wood
  79. Wood Pile: A term used to describe a small or large group of Caucasian inmates on a prison yard.

 

This article has 12 Comments

  1. I remember a common Chicano prison slang saying that, were kind of picked up by all the races, but it was a Chicano saying, I am unsure of spelling correctly, phonetically it sounded like:

    “Chingow” esé —
    What is the first word’s correct, or commonly recognized or known spelling, and definition? As I barely recall it was used to say a number of different things, depending on the circumstance, the context.

    I know what the esé means, but the first slang word, I do not know how to spell it good enough to find any definition on the Internet yet. My last contact with this kind of language/slang was in the 1970’s, so my memory fades in some ways. But I still have a lot of old prison slang that goes through my mind at times. I may even curse with “Mexican, Chicano; Black, or White prison slang that I picked up through an indirect osmosis.

    I just caught myself saying, exclaiming this prison slang phrase “Chingow” esé to my dog, I usually just use it as an exclamation, like saying “Jesus Christ, man”.. In context a had just laid to rest an attacking Opossum that had jumped on my dog when I took her outside to poop. It happened lightning quick, my dog was leashed to me, but each time I pulled her back from the attacking critter, it kept attacking viciously.

    My dog could have killed it, but I feared diseases, and did not want my dog hurt any more. She got a small facial wound, that I cleaned well. In those instants. The fear of Rabies, together with my self-defense generated adrenaline, I struck at the possum with my bamboo walking cane a few times before administering the coup de grace. I think when I determined that the possum was not playing possum,

    I said that phrase out loud to my dog — “Chingow” esé! As an exclamation.
    Again I recall Chicanos saying it when they could have said things like:
    •Watch what you’re doin’ man
    •What’s happening man?
    •How are you doing dude?
    •WTF man?
    •Jesus Christ dude.
    •What’s up man?I’m trying to find out how best to spell it ,and some good examples of what it means, how and when it is used. I am writing a book and would like to accurately use this phrase.
    Thank

    1. A variation of the Mexican Spanish word “chingado”, the past participle of the verb chingar, meaning to rape, violate, or fuck. Literally, chingao means fucked up.

      2. Chingao is also used as an exclamation of suprise, lament, or as a basic gap filler. The use of this particular prononuciation of the term chingado, is most common in North Mexico and in the Southwestern U.S. from Eastern Arizona down to South Texas.

  2. The word you’re looking for is “chingado”… a lot of non-spanish speakers leave the ‘d’ out when saying it. You are correct for the most part as in what context it would be used. It’s not only used in prison though. It’s used as you would use “shoot” or “sh*t”. Or as an exclamationto show excitement, “ah chingado!”

  3. In prison…or county even
    As men…you don’t say goodnight to other inmates
    You either say nothing at all…or if you are in middle of a card game or conversation and nighttime Lockdown is called..
    “Next Day”
    So I’ve heard anyway…and hopefully you will add to this…because without glorifying the Prison Experience…this wika is fascinating

  4. On the flip side….there is a 3 word statement…that even said in a joking manner amongst fellow inmates “friends”…if you say it to a certain person….
    You had better be prepared for a fight. And even if that person does not wish to fight…he has too

  5. Re: #49 – “La Raza” is specific for Mexicans/Chicanos/Pochos, not a blanket term for all Hispanics. Most non-Mexican Hispanics would never use it and find it offensive.

  6. A “dry snitch” is someone who is an informant that “rats” on others without receiving any form of compensation, or any external reward for the act, such as simply for their moral stance on the issues.
    A prison bus is also called a “Bluebird”. Derived from the company that manufacturers busses for schools and institutions.

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