Ghetto Penthouse: Prison Lingo to Keep You Alive on the Inside

To keep from dancing on the blacktop, you may need to sell some wolf tickets.

Joshua Lott/Reuters

Criminal culture is a rich source of, among other things, old timey and subcultural slang. Here are some choice bits of prison lingo we've gathered from slang dictionaries, true crime stories, prisoners' memoirs, and correctional officers.

All day: A life sentence, as in "I'm doin' all day."

All day and a night: Life without parole.

Back door parole: To die in prison.

Beef : 1. A criminal charge, as in "I caught a burglary beef in Philly." 2. A problem with another convict, as in "I have a beef with that guy in Block D."

Brake fluid: Psychiatric meds.

Bug: A prison staff member considered untrustworthy or unreliable.

Bug juice: Intoxicants or depressant drugs.

Buck Rogers time: (early to mid 20th century) A parole or release date so far away that it's difficult to imagine.

Bum beef: A false accusation/charge or wrongful conviction.

Cadillac: An inmate's bunk. Also, Cadillac Job, an easy or enjoyable inmate work assignment.

Catch a ride : A request to a friend to get you high.

Cell warrior: An inmate that puts on a tough front or runs their mouth when locked in their cell, but is submissive or cowardly when interacting with other prisoners in the open.

Chin check: To punch another inmate in the jaw to see if he'll fight back.

Cowboy: A new correctional officer. Cowboy spelled backwards, is yobwoc, or a "young, obnoxious, bastard we often con."

Dance on the blacktop: To get stabbed.

Diesel therapy: A lengthy bus trip or transfer to a far away facility, or even an incorrect destination, used as punishment or to get rid of troublesome inmates.

Ding wing: A prison's psychiatric unit.

Dipping in the Kool-Aid: Attempting to enter a conversation the person has no place in or is not welcome in.

Doing the Dutch:  To commit suicide.

Dry snitching: To inform on another inmate indirectly by talking loudly about their actions or behaving suspiciously in front of correctional officers; supply general information to officers without naming names.

Duck: A correctional officer who reveals information about other officers or prison staff to inmates.

Fire on the line: A warning -- "correctional officer in the area."

Ghetto penthouse: The top tier of a cell block.

Four piece or four-piece suit: A full set of restraints, composed of handcuffs, leg irons and waist chain, and security boxes to cover the restraints' key holes.

Grandma's: Or Grandma's House, a prison gang's headquarters or meeting place, or the cell of the gang leader.

Heat wave: The attention brought to a group of inmates by the action of one or a few, as in "Joe and John got caught with contraband, and now the whole tier is going through a heat wave."

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Matt Soniak is a writer at Mental Floss. His work has also appeared in Scientific American.

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