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Ever noticed that when a group of people is hanging out with each other for a while, they create special words and phrases that make sense to no one else but them? This can happen in schools, hospitals, offices, workshops, and of course, in prisons. You’ve probably even made some up with your friends. In this blog article, Cell Block Legendz will refer to Prison Slang To Know How To Relate To The Incarcerated. We realize that slang is used in jails as well and some slang words are universally accepted and spoken.


However, unlike some slang words, prison slang might be harder for novices to understand. If you ever watched the popular series Prison Break, then you probably felt lost during the first few episodes. This may be because prison slang contains lots of Ebonics and give words and phrases different meanings than we are used to –which is what makes a good slang word or phrase if you think about it! 


So, if you’re planning a visit to a prison ward or you have some incarcerated loved ones or close friends (“homies”), then knowing prison slang can help you flow with the conversation – and maybe keep you from getting laughed at. With this list of some prison slang and its definitions below, you can easily communicate with the incarcerated without any confusion.

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·         All Day

What comes to your mind when you hear a prisoner or a jailer say, All Day? Do you think ‘Oh, he will be carrying out a chore all day or he’ll be staying in his cell all day’? If you thought either of these, you’ll surely be surprised to hear that All Day is prison slang for a life sentence. So if someone says, “I’m here all day”… you know what that means. 


·         Beef

When you hear the word Beef in prison, then the speaker could be referring to two things. It could be a misunderstanding with another prisoner –which is the most popular meaning of the slang (e.g. “Me and him, we got beef”) or it could be a criminal charge (e.g. “I caught an assault beef in da Bronx”). 


·        Brake fluid

Brake Fluid is prison slang for psychiatric medication. Most wonder why inmates equate medicine with something that sounds so vile. Well, most prisoners hate the psych ward and medicines, so, understandably, they choose to call it something equally displeasing.


·        Bug

When you hear prisoners refer to a fellow convict as a Bug, they mean that he or she is untrustworthy or a snitch. Remember in action movies, how bugs are often planted to reveal plans and plots? That’s basically what a bug in prison also does.


·         Buck Rogers Time

This prison slang has been in existence since the 20th century. It refers to a release date that is so far into the future, that it’s depressing. For example, a prisoner jailed in 2019 and is to be released in 2025 might consider it Buck Rogers Time. 

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·          Bum Beef

What some people who are not in jail or prison may simply refer to as a false accusation, prisoners call it Bum Beef. When you remember that “Beef” means a prison charge, then you can easily recall what Bum Beef means.

·        Cell Warrior 

A cell warrior is a prisoner who’s only tough when locked up in a cell. They bluster and make enough threats behind bars, but when released into the yard with other prisoners, they become cowards. 


·        Chin Check

A chin check is like a provocative action. It’s when a convict punches another convict in the chin to provoke him to retaliate or to see if he will. Chin checks often result in full-blown prison fights. 


·        Cowboy

Cowboy is one of the most interesting and quite creative prison slang out there. It’s used to refer to a new and strongly disliked correction officer. When spelled backward, you get yobwoc; young obnoxious bastard we often con!

·        Da Coup/The Box/The Hole

If you hear someone use these slang terms, then they most likely are referring to solitary confinement, which is the isolation of a prisoner in a separate cell as a punishment.


·         Doing the Dutch

When an inmate is considering Doing the Dutch, he wants to commit suicide. If the Dutch Act has been carried out, the inmate has committed suicide. So if you hear an inmate talk about Doing The Dutch, talk to them or get them help!

·        Dry snitching

Are you wondering how snitching can be dry? Isn’t snitching just… well, snitching? Well, this may depend on the context and circumstances that one is presented with and their views on snitching. Well, you can expect inmates to be extra creative with their slang words and phrases! Dry Snitching is snitching indirectly. For example, speaking loudly about another inmate’s actions or plans and drawing attention to them. Acting suspiciously in the presence of correction officers or even giving officers information on cell activities without mentioning names may be considered dry snitching.

·        Duck

An inmate who snitches on fellow convicts is a Bug and an officer who shares information on other prison staff to prisoners is called a Duck. Everybody gets a name in prison!


·         Four-piece suit

A Four Piece Suit is a complete restraint set that includes handcuffs, waist chains, leg irons, and security boxes. Full restraints are often used to punish prisoners for certain actions, not just to keep them in control because they are uncomfortable and prisoners, or anyone really, hates to be restrained so thoroughly for hours!

·        Fresh Fish/Fresh Uptop

New inmates may be referred to as Fresh Fish/Fresh Uptop. So, if you hear someone refer to a new inmate with these slang words, then you know that they are newly arrived at the correctional facility.

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·         Grandma’s house

“Now wait a minute, what’s a grandma doing in prison?!” Don’t think this out loud amid prisoners if you don’t want to get laughed at! When you hear the incarcerated say, Grandma’s House, they mean a prison gang’s meeting place. A place where they all gather to make their plans and to chill. It could also mean a gang leader’s cell.

·        Half A Man 

This term is not referring to someone's less-than-stellar significant other when it's used in prison. It actually refers to $50.00 that may be put on an inmate's commissary account.


·         Heat Wave

When you hear inmates talk about a Heat Wave, it means that an inmate or several inmates have gotten into big trouble, attracting attention to all inmates, or a group of them. For example, “David and Jack were caught fighting with weapons and now the entire prison is facing a heat wave!”


·         5K1

If you’re already familiar with what a snitch or rat is, then you may easily get that 5K1 is slang that may be used in federal prisons.


·        Mook/Mo/Gump

A prisoner who is known to engage in prison as a homosexual is referred to as Mook or Mo. In federal prison, they may be referred to as Gump.

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Learning prison slang words and phrases can make it much easier to relate with the incarcerated. The slang words and phrases that are used will depend on the prison culture, geographical state, and/or correctional facility where a prisoner is located at.

Some prisoners may also put their spin on slang words. You can observe the newest Cowboy or spot who was convicted based on a Bum Beef. You can also watch your favorite prison movie with ease! 


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Read more on Prison Slang by clicking on the titles of the books below: 

(Disclaimer: Affiliate Advertising. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.)


The Book of Prison Slang!: From AB to Zu-Zus Kindle Edition by Cicero "Unchained" Johnson


Federal Prison Slang: for the Square Guy. Kindle Edition by J. Bourne


Prison-Ese: A Survivor's Guide to Speaking Prison Slang Paperback – July 1, 2002 by Gary K. Farlow


Prison Slang: Words and Expressions Depicting Life Behind Bars by William K. Bentley


The Criminal Alphabet: An A-Z of Prison Slang Kindle Edition by Noel 'Razor' Smith