Folsom's 93

The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison's Executed Men

Do You Know Your Prison Lingo?

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I hope not. However, should you find yourself in the hoosegow, refer to this list of early prison lingo. I imagine the list has grown and changed since the 1920s, but at least you won’t look appear too much like a fish . . .

Fish: newcomer at the prison

Shive: knife, dirk

Coppers: credits for good behavior. Full credits shortened a 50 year term to 29 and 10 months.

Harness Bull: uniformed policemen

A Snitch: Person who tell tales to guards

Stool pigeon: a convict spy

Butcher: surgeon

Hole/Down Below: Dungeon

Croak: to kill

Stiff: corpse, a fellow convict

Pill: shot of dope

Bug house: insane asylum/hospital

Screw: insane inmate

Snowbird: Morphine user. Morphine was called “snow”

Gun: hypodermic needle

Jacket: strait jacket

Hooks: handcuffing a man by the wrists and hoisting him up so only his toes only touch the floor.

Jolt: a term in jail

Sleep: a one year term

Prowler: burglar

Sneaks: rubber soled shoes

Lump: lunch

Blowin’ a Pete: blowing a safe

A grand: $1000 (this may seem obvious now, but it originated in the slammer)

At the Springs: in the strait jacket

Straighten the screws: treat the mentally ill

Author: April Moore

I am the author of two books: Folsom's 93, a historical nonfiction about the men executed at Folsom State Prison; and a women's fiction, Bobbing for Watermelons. I'm also an illustrator and I love collaborating with other writers and artists. Catch me at

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