Friday, June 13, 2014

Things that sound completely normal in prison but make everyone else think "WHAT?!?!"

Greetings, future prison librarians!  Many professions have jargon that only people "in the know" can understand.  Prison is no different, however, what makes complete sense to us oftentimes has outsiders scratching their heads and thinking, "Did they just say what I THOUGHT they said???"

Since the radio is our main mode of communication in prison, that is usually where you will hear these things.  Since it is frowned upon to use unnecessary words on the radio, I will provide the examples, as well as a translation so that when you hear it, you will not have to say "10-9?"  (Note: 10-9 means "Please repeat, I did not hear and/or understand what you just said."  Often asked with the inflection going up at the end of the nine to denote a question.)

Example 1:
"Unit 6, push your offenders down the stairs."
In our facility, Unit 6 is an upstairs unit, so to get the offenders out into the yard they need to go down the stairs.  There is no literal pushing here, but you do encourage them to go out the door, so I think that is where that phrase came from.

Example 2:
"Unit 2, we need your body to feed."
No, this is not a reference to cannibalism, but merely a request to have another officer posted in the dining hall (sometimes referred to as the chow hall in the pre-warm and fuzzy DOC) to monitor the meal service to discourage behavior like stabbing your tablemate with a spork-shank and also to assist in life-saving maneuvers like the Heimlich.

Example 3:
"I need someone to report to the clinic to sit on this offender."  Also sometimes heard as "I was on hospital duty sitting on two offenders."
Basically in this case "sitting on" an offender is a fancy way of saying you are babysitting people because you are just supposed to watch them to make sure they don't go anywhere or do anything stupid.  The visual image always makes me chuckle though every time I hear it.


  1. I've been enjoying your blog - it has been very informative! As someone who is in library school, I would be really interested in seeing a post about what a prison library looks like. What sorts of resources are available? What is the library layout like?
    Thank you!

    1. Thank you, I am glad you like it! And that's a great idea! Stay tuned...