The Incarcerated InkWell

Federal Inmate in a Canadian Prison with a Life Sentence writes about prison life


The terms of this glossary shown in left column are Anchored; that is, you can refer to them in HTML.
The format of the anchor is the first six characters stripped of everything but letters.
If the anchor is less than 6 characters long, the final characters will be underscore marks.
For example: If the term is B.C., then the anchor would be ‘BC____’

Aboriginal Wellness Committee

The new anglicized, politically correct name CSC has prescribed for the Native Brotherhood. Policy states as follows:
‘Aboriginal offenders may form a wellness group or committee, in order to pursue their cultural needs and interests. The prospective committees must submit, for approval by the Institutional Head, a protocol document outlining the terms and objectives with regard to their role within the institution. The protocol document must be consistent with correctional principles as set out in the CSC Mission statement and this policy. Protocols submitted will be reviewed within 30 days by the Institutional Head and institutional Elders/Spiritual Advisors, and if approved may be operative for two years.’ – Commissioner’s Directive 702
George Orwell would have loved this. It’s cut-and-paste out of his, ‘Politics and the English Language’.


Prisoners are permitted to purchase clothing, food, and other cell-effects out of their own funds. These funds are held in a ‘savings account’, a ‘current account’, and a ‘hygiene account’. There are onerous regulations about how, where, and when these accounts can be accessed.

Administrative segregation

when a prisoner is segregated for his own safety. This can be by his request, or a tool used by administration if they have information that the prisoner is in danger.


slang for a prison sentence

Box Thief

a prisoner that makes a practice of going into other prisoners’ cells and stealing items from them when they are not there.


acceptable slang for prison guard


euphemism for a transfer – usually involuntary; also referred to as ‘greyhound therapy’

Butterfly net

slang for a straight jacket


Slang for safecracker


Corrections and Conditional Release Act. This is the body of law that governs all things having to do with imprisonment and parole.

Change of Seasons

a quarterly festival with spiritual overtones designed to unite an Aboriginal community and pay homage to mother earth and tribal ancestors.


to request protective custody.  The prisoner requesting has to sign an ‘Annex A’ form stating that they are voluntarily requesting to be segregated for their own protection.  Signing this document is ‘checking-in’ and once an inmate has done so, he is referred to as a ‘check-in’.


an informant (rat)


prison informant (i.e. rat)

Community Visit

A special six-hour visit that the prison permits a couple of times per year – usually at the time of a Federal Holiday (Christmas, Eater). A prisoner’s family can come in, have a meal with him, spend some time in a setting other than the visiting room (usually the gym and a small exercise yard)

Community-based minimums

CSC operates minimum-security facilities in urban centres across Canada. Prisoners housed there are usually on some sort of release program, such as passes or day parole. These facilities are also used to house prisoners that require palliative


slang for convicted person. The prisoners use it as a title of respect among themselves. The guards use it as a term of insult to describe inmates.

Con Coddling

slang for a philosophy that promotes human rights and rehabilitation for prisoners. Those who believe in these principles are often referred to as ‘con-huggers’, or ‘con-lovers’ by the more militant guards.

Con Hugger

a belittling term used by prison guards to describe anyone that displays humanity to prisoners.

Condition other than normal’ (COTN)

the official term for being under the influence of contraband substances.


slang for a prison guard, sheriff, or policeman. Also can be said as, ‘Copper’


earned early release from prison. Until 1992, a prisoner could earn one day of ‘good time’ for every two days of his sentence that he stayed out of trouble while inside. Prisoners referred to that earned day as ‘a day’s copper’. It could be lost as easily as earned. Early release is now mandated by statutes of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), and is referred to as ‘stat.’


A special operating agency of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). Its mandate is to provide employment and employment training to prisoner, and in special cases, continued training when a 0prisoner is released on parole.

Correctional Intervention

A euphemism for being threatened with segregation or transfer to a higher security penitentiary. Sometimes they just throw you in the hole or ‘back up the bus’ and transfer you without a warning.

Correctional Plan

An analysis of a prisoner’s social and psychological shortcomings – the things driving his anti-social behaviour – and a list of the ‘intervention’ programs that the prisoner must participate in, in order to be eligible for release.


The Crown prosecutor. An attorney that works for the provincial government to prosecute criminal offences in Canada.


Correctional Service of Canada – Canada’s federally operated prison system where prisoners serving a sentence of two years or more are incarcerated.


Correctional Officer 1. This is the lowest security position in CSC.

Daisy Dudes

hyper-short, skin-tight, faded-denim cut-offs – worn by a guy.


Slang for segregation. 23 hour per day lock-up


Slang for child molester

Drag Queens

male to female prisoners with gender identity disorder. They are usually on hormone therapy designed to produce female breasts and other feminine features, but they still have a penis.

Drug Interdiction Strategy

CSC’s declaration of war on drugs reads: ‘The Correctional Service of Canada, in achieving its Mission, will not tolerate drug or alcohol use or the trafficking of drugs in federal institutions…. Administrative consequences shall be based on consideration of a persons’ safety, institutional security and/or operational requirements. They are intended to manage the risk presented by the inmate and may be applied when there is a clear link to the use and/or trafficking of drugs.’ (Commissioner’s Directive 585) A visitor testing ‘positive’ in an Ion Scanner test is accepted as evidence of a ‘clear link to the use and/or trafficking of drugs.’

Drug-free range

a special place set aside in the prison to give extra support to prisoner’s who request it. The only prisoners who have access to that tier are those who have qualified for placement. There are extra counselling services available and also extra urinalysis required to prove compliance with the rules for the tier


Slang for cell


a medium security federal penitentiary in central Alberta, Canada


slang for murder

East Hastings

Canada’s poorest, most drug and misery infested community, on the downtown east side of Vancouver, B.C.


Emergency Response Team

Fifth Estate

A hard hitting investigative journalism program that is an icon of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Popular amongst prisoners.


a bag with bedding, a towel and a minimum amount of toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, soap, deoderant) that every prisoner is given upon arrival to prison or jail.


originally a piece of coloured tape placed on the front cover of a prisoner’s main file. It indicates special needs or concerns for that inmate: ; suicidal, sexual predator, escape risk, etc. Now, most prison records are electronic, so the flag is a coloured notification on the prisoner’s electronic file


a fund-raising event hosted by the Inmate Committee. Prisoners can order from a pre-approved outside restaurant using their own funds. Food drives usually happen once or twice a year.

General population

the ‘mix’ that all prisoners go into when they first arrive, unless they require protective custody (P.C.). Also referred to as ‘G.P.’ At one time, G.P. status was the norm. Now so many offenders are asking for protective custody that ‘G.P.’ status is worn as a badge of honour among some of the prisoners. Like so many things in prison though, the status is a fallacy. Today, all prisons across Canada are integrated with offenders of every category. Prisoners who would at one time have been designated ‘P.C.’ are now incarcerated right along with G.P. prisoners. They just keep the nature of their offence quiet.


a grossly offensive term in prison. Guards refer to inmates as goofs, and vice-versa. But when one prisoner calls another prisoner a goof, it immediately leads to violence. Men have both killed and died over that word. If a guard or another inmate calls a prisoner a ‘goof’ and that prisoner doesn’t do anything about it (‘takes it dry’), then the rest of the prisoners will assume that the prisoner is weak. That will inevitably lead to violence later.

Green Bales

before tobacco was banned in Canadian federal prisons, prisoners could purchase two types of tobacco: Export A and NO. 7. Both were sold in 100 gram pouches. The most popular – and expensive – was Export A. It comes in a green pouch, and for over a hundred years was the accepted currency of the penitentiary.

High-medium security

One step below maximum security. Typically, there are a lot of drugs, violence, and headline making news in these facilities.


23-hour-a-day segregated lockup. You are permitted a shower and one hour of exercise in a 20 x 20 foot concrete ‘bull-pen’ with a chain-link fence ceiling that permits you to see the sky.


slang for members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.


Slang for cell

Indian Princess

slang for a drag queen of first nations (aboriginal) heritage.

Inmate Committee

a group of prisoners elected by the prison population to represent them in dealing with prison administrators. The group is usually comprised of a Chairman, a Vice-Chairman, and a Secretary / Treasurer

Inmate Pay

in Canadian Federal prison, inmates receive ‘incentive pay’. The level of pay (from $5.25 to $6.90 per day) depends on a prisoners performance measured against his correctional plan. The money is deposited into a ‘current’ account, and a ‘savings’ account. It is then used to purchase clothing, hygiene items, and telephone time, as well as save for eventual release.


A four time per year glight that transports prisoners gbvetween the five separate regions that the Canadian Correctional System is divided into.  (Pacific, Prairie, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic).


Slang for the prison or all the prisoners in the prison


Slang for Correctional Manager

Keeping six

slang for keeping watch to see if the guards are coming. The term dates back to the early 20th century when a keeper or correctional supervisor was a ‘six-bar’ guard. A con who keeps watch is called a six-man


A maximum-security penitentiary in Agassiz, British Columbia


a covert written message, sometimes between inmates and sometimes between inmates and guards


Life sentenced – with a minimum time in custody before parole eligibility set by the court. In Canada, those eligibilities are anywhere between 7 and 25 years.


when all prisoners are confined to their cells for 24 hours per day


more than 60 days in the hole.


mascara worn by a male drag queen.

Maximum security

a prison with highly restricted movement, and guards armed with semi-automatic weapons. Typically houses some of the most dangerous prisoners in the correctional service.


12 fluid oz. bottle of hard liquor

milk powder

used as a buffer to cut drugs, such as heroin and cocaine

Milk run

The transfer of prisoners from a cent5ral reception prison to their mother institution. Usually an all day affair – with many stops along the way. Because you are handcuffed, shacked and jammed into a locked cage inside the transport vehicle, it ‘s a ride-from-hell


The last step before release to the community on parole. These facilities are often open settings without a fence or armed guards


Packing contraband (usually drugs) into a prison for payment


when a visitor or inmate packs contraband into the prison for someone else

N.G.O. (Non Governmental Organization)

A non-profit organization that contracts government social work.

Native Brotherhood

A cultural group whose membership is open to all prisoners. It exists for the purpose of promoting First Nations’ culture and identity. It came to birth in the 1960’s in Prince Albert Penitentiary when First Nation’s prisoners organized themselves for the purpose of being able to practice their form of spirituality and culture. It eventually spread to all Canadian federal institutions, and is generally seen as seen as a positive by administrators.

Observation cell

also called a dry cell. It is a cell in the segregation unit with extra cameras, no toilet and no running water. Usually it is the cell closest to the guards post and is typically used for inmates who are suicidal, experiencing psychosis, or suspected of having ingested drugs

On the lam

flight from the law


slang for volunteers, visitors, staff members, or educators that come into the prison regularly and then leave.


Parole Officer. There are Institutional Parole Officers (IPO’s) and Community Parole Officers (Street P.O.’s). The IPO’s

Parole assistant

National Parole Board policy allows a prisoner to bring one assistant with him to a parole hearing. The assistant is allowed to speak on behalf of the prisoner and help him if he doesn’t understand the questions being asked. The assistant can be anyone as long as the board members approve them first.

Peer Counsellor

In the mid 90’s, CSC began a pilot project wherein serving prisoners were trained and certified as peer support workers. The training covers suicide prevention, dynamic interviewing techniques, conflict mediation, and principles of confidentiality. Those who excel in the training qualify to be institutionally employed as ‘Peer Counsellors’. Final approval for employment comes from a panel comprised of prison staff, and current members (prisoners) of the Peer Counselling Team.

Phone Card

A credit-card embedded with a computer chip. Used on a specialized inmate telephone system that allows calls to pre-cleared numbers. Each prisoner has his own card, with his/her PIN number. In Canadian Federal Prisons, prisoners fill out a form once a month, transferring funds from their main savings account into their telephone account. Because a prisoner’s phone card is unique to his allowable calling list, phone cards are useless as black market currency.


slang for home made knife


Slang for a piece of art – usually stolen, or in the cross-hairs to be stolen


Beat with a weight bar, baseball bat, or some other hard weapon.


slang for getting stabbed

Pow wow

First Nations traditional community gathering. Includes cultural dancing, food, clothing, drumming, and ceremonies. 

Program’s Building

a building set aside for programs.

Program’s Officer

Guards with specialized training. They facilitate programs, and write reports on the progress of prisoners


Psychotherapeutic group sessions that prisoners attend to address their ‘issues’ – whether those issues are substance abuse, violence, sexual deviancy, or cognitive thinking errors.

Protective Custody

inmates are segregated from the General Population due to the nature of their crime, or by choice because they feel in danger of another inmate.


an hourly tour of an assigned prison area done by the guards. During the tour, they are required to rub an electronic reader against radio-frequency chips imbedded in the walls of the assigned areas. Thus the name ‘punch’. The reader records the time they did their tour and issues a report at the end of a shift.

Quote on ‘Wisdom’

The Gospel of Matthew 11:9

Rain-coat brigade

slang for sex offenders and garden variety perverts of every sort.

Red Road (The)

the respectful term for Aboriginal spirituality, encompassing a traditional healing process based on Aboriginal culture and beliefs. The term stands for a life-long spiritual, emotional and/or psychological journey whereby the follower strives to be in harmony with all living things. The telling of stories, sharing of traditional teachings and participation in sacred ceremonies is an essential feature of the Red Road.

Restorative Justice

a healing approach to corrections, incorporating tools such a s victim / offender mediation, alternative dispute resolution, healing circles and other practices that seek to balance victim support with offender accountability.


street slang for crack cocaine


a con that’s been in the system a long time and knows everyone; usually known by everyone else too; not always a term of endearment

Sacred Sweat Grounds

the area where First Nations and other aboriginals practice their spirituality. It is considered sacred because sweats are conducted there, and ceremonies consecrating the grounds for the pursuit of aboriginal spirituality have been performed by First Nations elders and other holy men.


a home made prison knife


stabbed with a shank


a porn magazine

Skinners, skinhound

slang for persons convicted of sexual assault


One of the practices of “Red road” (Aboriginal) spirituality. Typically it involves a smoldering rope of dried sage. The practitioner waves smoke from the burning sage over his body in a purification ritual.

Special Hadling Unit

also know as the Shoe (SHU), it is a prison that holds tthose who pose the most serious and persistent risk to the safety of the staff and other prisoners. Movement and association are restricted to the level deemed necessary for each prisoner. In Canada, there is only one Special Handling Unit prison. In Ste.-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec.


Statutory release. Most prisoners that are serving a sentence (other than life imprisonment) are released with conditions after serving 2/3 of their sentence. This enables them to reintegrate gradually and with supervision prior to complete expiration of their sentence.


Anything outside the prison or from outside the prison


a feature of First Nations’ spirituality. A small, dome shaped hut called a ‘sweat-lodge’ is erected, using bent branches and heavy blankets. Once the ‘sweat’ participants are inside the structure, a fire-keeper extracts super-heated rocks from a fire-pit burning outside the sweat-lodge, and passes them inside through a doorway flap. The doorway is then sealed, and the participants inside pour water on the rocks, creating a super-heated environment. Prayers and tobacco are offered to the spirit world. The sweat is typically presided over by an Elder form the First Nations’ community.

Sweat Lodges

One of the practices of “Red road” (Aboriginal) spirituality. A sweat lodge frame is typically built from malleable tree branches and tied together with animal sinew. Then the frame is covered with tarps, or more traditionally, tribal blankets. Then practitioners enter the sweat lodge and super heated rocks referred to as “grandfathers” are passed inside the sweat lodge by a “fire keeper” who also controls access to the lodge door. Adherents inside the sweat lodge are guided in prayer and meditation by an Aboriginal Elder.


a long hallway the prison system calls a living unit with around 20 cell doors

Transfer List

many prison administrations now distribute a list of incoming prisoners. They do this a few days prior to the new prisoners’ arrival, so that if there are potential conflicts between prisoners, these can be identified before it turns into a security situation.

Unit Manager

The former title of the “Manager of Assessment and Intervention.” The job entails overseeing every feature of incarceration, from security issues to parole to decisions on what prisoners can and can’t have in their cells. The managers report directly to one of the four Deputy Wardens.

Warden’s Court

part of an internal disciplinary system. Since 1992, it’s official name is disciplinary court, and is presided over by an independent chairperson appointment by the minister of public safety. Many times the chairperson is a lawyer, or sometimes an ex-judge. The name “warden’s court” dates back to a time when the warden was judge, jury and executioner of penitentiary discipline.

Warrant of Committal

The legal authority to incarcerate a person in Canada. When a prisoner enters through the front gates, he must be accompanied by a hard-copy warrant of committal. The last day of their sentence, when they are released, is referred to as ‘warrant expiry’.

Yard Dog

a frequent walking companion when doing laps in the exercise yard. The best ones are those that don’t talk too much.


obscenely amorous old convicts that have been in for a long time, and will stick their penises into almost anything.


  1. ptz camera

    Hey can I copy and paste this post on my web site? What references must I give? You might give this info for other people too.

  2. Timothy Soprano

    You’re wrong about the origin of the term ”keeping six”. The term comes from the armed forces, where 6 is what’s behind you, and so something you cannot see. 12 is what’s in front of you. Yeah, it.s like a clock.

    1. I.M. GreNada

      Thanks for that, Tim. Always looking for someone to teach me something about the world I live in. If this wins me any chocolate bars, I’ll send ya half.

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