This ongoing list is created from information provided by correctional nurses working in a variety of facilities across the country. Some terms may be specific to particular regions or facility cultures. Special thanks to my good friends over at for their invaluable assistance. Add new Shop Talk terms using the comments section on this page.

Ad-Seg – Administration Segregation. Separate unit with increased security and decreased privileges. Separate from general population. In-custody penalty for fighting, cause disturbances, or danger to others.

AWO – All the Way Out. Release from the facility

Books – An inmate’s money account at the prison to buy certain items at the store, stamps, co-pays for medical

Breakfast – Legal speed, like coffee, Mt. Dew, yellow jackets (Always ask them when they come in around 10am and are tachycardic!).

Catch a Case or Get a Case – Purposefully getting into trouble (for example to prolong a death sentence). Can also mean receiving an internal penalty for wrong behavior – like being somewhere without a pass. Can impact parole hearing later.

Chaining Out/Chaining In – Going to or coming from another location. The process that accompanies transportation across the security perimeter. In a medical situation it means a review of any new medical information, for instance if they were transported to an acute care facility (whether associated with the prison or not).

Cheeking – Hiding medication in the mouth for use later – stockpiling for overdose or, more usually, for use as barter among inmates

Chow – as in Chow Hall – Where the inmates eat

C.O. – Correctional Officer or Custody Officer.  Never refer to these individuals as ‘guards’. The correctional hierarchy follows the military or police format with officers, captains, sergeants, etc.

Code Brown – Code for having to take a poop

Code Red – Lock Down No Movement

Contraband – any item unacceptable for inmates to possess. Sharps, alcohol wipes, rubber bands, cell phones are examples. Different listings for different populations

Count or In Count – Times of day when all traffic stops and an accurate count of inmates is taken. Everyone must be accounted for and in an approved location. CO’s call in their count to a central location. Count has to match numbers of inmates assigned to their housing assignments. If an inmate is not where they are supposed to be according to their pass (i.e. medical or education or library) they are regarded as being “out of place”, and can Get a Case (see above).

Dirty-dickin’ – Rubbing penis over something staff put in their mouth- coffee cup, unused envelope flap

DOT – Direct Observation Therapy – Inmate must come to a medication line and receive each dose of medication directly from the nurse and a custody officer checks that the medication is taken and swallowed (Oral search)

Gen Pop – General Population. The primary inmate community with the least limitations on movement and independence. GenPop inmates receive medications through a Medication Line process, usually can obtain KOP medications, and access healthcare services by submitting a request.

Keister – To put contraband up one’s rectum. Important to know because these guys often come to medical for x-rays, etc.

Kite – a sick call request written by an inmate to ask to see a healthcare provider. Also called  ‘a slip’ as in ‘drop a slip’ to see the nurse

KOP – Keep on Person – Medication distributed monthly to inmates and they can self medicate. Usually chronic medications. Pain medications, TB medications, and psychotropics are rarely deemed KOP at a correctional facility.

Lockdown – Severe restriction of inmate movement for an urgent security need

Mandown – Custody term for an inmate suffering from a medical issue that requires medical/nursing assessment/treatment in the yard, housing unit or cell

ODR – Officer Dining Room – where the staff is served. In many facilities it is considered a prime place to work for inmates. Only inmates on good behavior and free of communicable diseases are awarded this post.

OPM – On Person Med. See KOP above

PC – Protective Custody. Same as SHU, SNU. See below.

Punked – The receiving end of a homosexual relationship or an inmate who has been raped.

Racking Them Up – All inmates sent back to cells or pods/bunks (if they live in a dorm) until further notice. Can happen prior to a Lockdown, if a Count was off and could not be explained by the records, for an out-of-control situation or security risk.

RTC – Return to Custody. Inmate returns from an outside event such as specialty appointment or hospital.

SHU –  Special Housing Unit. Protective area for older inmates, openly gay, sex offenders, people who drop from gangs – anyone who would be at risk of injury/retaliation if placed in general population)

SNU – Special Needs Unit. See SHU above.

STG – Security threat groups. Another term for gangs

Sweets/Sisters – Openly homosexual inmates who are feminine. They are often sexual with a lot of other inmates- they come into the clinic for testing every 3 months or so.

Taking a Sit-Down – Having a bowel movement

Ticket – A report writing up an inmate for breaking the rules

Yard down – medical or custody incident on the yard requiring , so inmates have to get down on the ground, either sitting or prone depending on your institution