ESU is a safe alternative for inmates and mental health patients, providing a humane alternative to eating with fingers.
— CSP-SAC prison authorities in Folsom, California

Beyond shivs and shanks: A look at lesser-known prison weapons

November 19, 2016    /    by: BY KERI BLAKINGER, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS    /    News
In “Orange is the New Black,” Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) uses a cross as a weapon in a fight against Piper.

In “Orange is the New Black,” Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) uses a cross as a weapon in a fight against Piper.

(NETFLIX)

When people think of prison weapons, they tend to think of shivs and shanks — but in women’s prisons those aren’t always the most common.Though “Orange is the New Black” reveals a lot about the world of women’s prison, the show doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining weaponry — but here’s a quick look at some of the unconventional things women use to defend themselves behind bars.Can TopsIn New York’s female prisons, can tops are the weapon of choice. Although — bafflingly — state prisoners are not allowed to have things as clearly not dangerous as Q-Tips, they are allowed to purchase canned food through the commissary. With metal cans, of course, come can tops.Even on the outside world, it’s easy enough to cut yourself with a can top accidentally — but when it’s folded over and a cloth grip is added, a can top becomes a formidable weapon.They’re also used for less nefarious purposes, like cutting vegetables. That means that there are often a few can tops hidden in common areas of the unit. They’re typically hidden as cooking utensils but, since they also double as weapons, that effectively means that dangerous weapons are always hidden on the unit.

Can tops are one of the more dangerous weapons commonly used in New York’s women’s prisons.

Can tops are one of the more dangerous weapons commonly used in New York’s women’s prisons.

(TIMARBAEV / ISTOCK)

Lock in a Sock

One of the more dangerous easy-to-make prison weapons is a lock in a sock.

In many correctional systems — including New York State — prisoners are assigned lockers to hold their belongings and, since it’s prison, there are locks.

In high school, the only threat clunky combination locks pose is that you might not be able to open them properly, but in prison they can be a pretty dangerous weapon.

When shoved into the bottom of a sock, a lock can be used to administer a pretty good beating.

Strategically it makes a good weapon because neither the lock nor the sock is contraband, so would-be prison bullies don’t have to worry about getting caught with items they’re not supposed to have.

Chewed-on Spoons

While some facilities use metal silverware for meals, others play it safer with plastic cutlery. But, even plastic can be made into a weapon — and one that has been known to draw blood.

With a little skill and determination, plastic spoons can be chewed into makeshift weapons.

With a little skill and determination, plastic spoons can be chewed into makeshift weapons.

(JUNCE / ISTOCK)

With sufficient determination, a plastic spoon can be chewed into a sharp-ish point and used in a shank-like fashion.

Fecal Matter

Sadly, this is not a typo. In New York’s state prisons, one way that women occasionally rid themselves of unwanted bunkies or problematic people on the unit is to leave a hot, steamy present on the bunk.

Typically, if one inmate is a problem, just politely asking that they be reassigned to another housing area doesn’t work. While getting in a fight will get the unwanted individual moved, it also tends to land both combatants in solitary.

A poop present, however, is more anonymous but yet equally effective in eliciting a housing reassignment.

Planted Pills

Arguably the most dangerous weapons in the arsenal, planted pills can start world of trouble for the victim.

NR

Planting pills on someone can be a really evil to seek revenge in prison.

(JOSE LUIS PELAEZ/GETTY IMAGES)

Inmates found with contraband drugs can typically expect to be thrown in solitary confinement, but in theory they can also face additional criminal charges. Both of those things typically lead to more time behind bars; inmates who get in trouble a lot don’t usually make their parole board.

That means that planting drugs — or any other contraband — in someone’s cell or slipping it in the slot of their locked locker can be one of the strongest and most unequivocally evil weapons there is in prison. After all, the one thing everyone behind bars holds sacred above most anything else is the possibility of getting out.

Jolly Ranchers

Jolly Ranchers are sweet and colorful, but they can also be dangerous.

It is possible to melt down Jolly Ranchers and remold them as a sharp weapon.

It’s not the best weapon option because candy-sharp tips break easily and it requires a lot of Jolly Ranchers — and a lot of time at the hot plate — to put together enough layers even for a short-lived shiv.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

Jolly Ranchers are not just a food item; in prison, they can be fashioned into a form of weapon.

(SUSAN WATTS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Given those limitations, they aren’t the most commonly used prison weapon, but they can, in theory, be used as weapons.

For the most part, though, their sculpting possibilities are reserved for less harmful artistic pursuits. Around the holidays, Jolly Ranchers mini-wreaths pop up as a festive, edible decoration.

ESU in the News

  • Tapping the Prison Market

    Like most law-abiding citizens, Peggy Cross never expected to find herself in a penitentiary—let alone a prison . . .

 

 

Trade Shows & Events