William D. Hastings' Prison Slang Dictionary Will Answer All Your 'OINTB' Questions

Orange Is the New Black has sparked a considerable amount of popular interest in the U.S. prison system and prison culture, which is great because it means we have a new crop of people asking questions about a frequently flawed criminal justice system. Alongside this new concern for inmate's rights and prison reform comes both a wave of empathy for inmates and a desire to understand their world — which is where William D. Hastings' Prison Slang Dictionary comes in. Hastings, a currently incarcerated inmate who both maintains the online dictionary and updates a weekly blog called Behind Prison Walls, offers valuable insight into life within the prison system and the culture that goes along with it.

Cultures, especially ones that develop in relative isolation the way that prison ones do, invariably develop a lexicon of highly specific slang used to differentiate between people who are in the know and people who aren't. Hastings explains that his desire to document the linguistic idiosyncrasies of the prison world stemmed from a longstanding interest in languages. As his blog notes:

[Hastings] had cultivated a love of language his entire life. As such, Hastings took to learning the slang as a means of survival, but also really enjoyed mentally cataloguing this lexicon that was largely new and quite often confusing to him.

The dictionary is fascinating, and it's easy to lose yourself reading through it all. Here are some interesting phrases that I had never heard of before checking out the prison dictionary

1. "Major Weight"

Noun: extremely large amount of illicit drugs, kilos rather than pounds. Example: Dude was a baller in the world, he only moved major weight.

2. "Seg Candy"

Noun: cough drops. Since they are technically medicinal in nature, they are one of the few commissary items allowed to be purchased while in Seg (defined as "Segregation, cell house designated for the housing of offenders serving disciplinary terms for infractions of the prison rules"), but in Seg they are consumed for their cherry flavor rather than their medicinal qualities.

3. "Flood the Cell"

Phrase: meaning to intentionally clog one’s toilet and flush it repeatedly in order to cover the floor of the cell with water. This can be done as an attempt to get removed from the cell; as a protest over some perceived slight; or simply because an inmate is bored, confined, angry, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. This is nearly impossible with a toilet on a timer.

4. "White Shirt"

Noun: slang for Lieutenant, refers to the white shirt they wear while all other officers wear black or brown uniform shirts. Example: Watch yourself: white shirt coming this way.

4. "White Shirt"

Phrase: 1. behaving within acceptable protocols for a given situation, displaying an appropriate amount of deference and respect. See also come correct, or, 2. the act of checking or calling someone on their inappropriate or disrespectful behavior by causing them physical harm. Example: I heard he had to give his guy some of that act right.>

Images: JoJo Whilden/Netflix; Greeblie, Eszter Bolla/ Flickr (2)