Shanks, Shivs, and Sliming

female prison dorm


Life behind the bars and miles of looping razor wire of our country’s prisons and jails is not an easy existence. Not only do the inmates have to deal with the emotional stresses associated with being away from their families and homes, they have to adjust to living inside a six-by-nine concrete box. Sometimes, they even share that claustrophobic enclosure with one or two other prisoners.

Tensions can run high as the men and women in these institutions struggle to survive.  Sometimes, they find themselves fighting for their very lives. To assist them in their efforts to stay alive, inmates make weapons out of whatever materials they can find.

Prisoners are quite creative it comes to making their weapons. They’ve used material such as, toothbrushes, metal of any kind, rocks, glass, wire, newspaper, plastic, nails and screws, ping-pong balls filled with lighter fluid, bars of soap, padlocks, and even human feces.

A weapon made from a nail and electrical tape.



A large spike wrapped with tape and string.

Three nails and a piece of steel make for a nice punching/stabbing weapon.

A shank made from a piece of plastic. Tape is wrapped around the handle.

Stabbing, cutting, puncturing, and striking weapons.

Inmates often fill toothpaste tubes with feces and urine. Then they squirt the foul mixture on passing guards, or other enemies. This is known as sliming.

3 replies
  1. Lorena McCourtney
    Lorena McCourtney says:

    Several years ago a prisoner wrote to me about my books, and when I replied, I included a bookmark from a recent book. Didn’t go through! I guess the authorities figured some kind of weapon could be made from it (but I’d hate to try to defend myself with a bookmark). But I’ve been thinking, since my current mystery is “Dying to Read,” maybe I should come up with “The Bookmark Murders.”

  2. Janis Patterson
    Janis Patterson says:

    The ingenuity of the human mind never ceases to amaze me. If so inclined, a person can make a deadly weapon out of almost anything to hand. During the Second World War members of the OSS were taught how a single sheet of newspaper could be made into a killing instrument. Wonder how long it’s going to be before the government starts attempting to make people register to buy nails, or newspaper, or plastic, or electrical tape, or …

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