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  #1  
Old 10-15-2002, 02:24 PM
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Question Terminology - Use of the term "inmate", "prisoner" and "convict"

What is the difference between a "convict" and an "inmate"? Most of my pen pals are lifers, for murder. A new pen pal, who is doing a short term for burglaries, told me in his letter that he is not an inmate, but a convict. He has been in prison before. Is that the difference?
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Old 10-15-2002, 03:34 PM
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Mike, from what my husband tells me, an "inmate" is someone that is on his first time in prison or hasn't been in very long this time. However, a "convict" is someone that has not only been in before, but was in when time was easier. That means that it wasn't quite so hard to get a DR and other infractions. My husband is on his 4th trip, and he is 50 years old, so he is considered a "convict".
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Old 10-15-2002, 03:54 PM
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The word convict can also be used to describe a way of thinking and/or handling situations. Certain behaviors a certain way of dealing with issues. On the inside and out. An inmate may be someone who has less experience dealing with prison life and commiting crimes, or someone who never learns how to adjust to it. However, a convict has usually become acustom to prison life and the "rules" of that society. They are more aware of their surrondings and at times they bring it home with them...some of the thought processes. My guy is a convict. Out here, He never trusts anyone immediately and tends to assume they are trying to "get over" on him/me. He is very lery of people and always suspects an alterior motive. However, he is very loyal to his friends and tends to take the younger guys under his wings (these too traits he developed inside). There are probably 20 more examples I can give but I'm sure you get the idea.
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Old 10-15-2002, 05:05 PM
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Mike,

Good answers above, but you might want to check out this thread... http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/sho...&threadid=1482

This is a couple of pages back in the General Prison Talk Forum but has some good answers to your question and a lot of opinions around the use of the words.
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Old 10-15-2002, 08:38 PM
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Thanks everyone for your answers. They make sense. He said it in the context of, that he knows about the games inmates play with people, and that he knows a lot about the prison system. I also took it to mean that crime and prison have been has whole life, the past 20 years, as opposed to those who commit one crime, do their time, then stay clean.
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Old 10-16-2002, 04:55 AM
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Mike,
From a prison guard's view
Inmate is a person that is in everyone's buisness. Causing trouble for the officers and prisoners. Usually is moraless enough for being a snitch and most times will snitch. Is usually a non-loyal homosexual that has as many lovers as packs of cigarettes. Sells all information for a price. Causes disturbances with their stupidity. Creates rumors for attention.

Convict is a person that has settled into the System's routine; institutionalized. Has lost most "freeworld contact" whom is of relation/kin. Hustles without needing outside support except after a disaster such as "box" theft of all store goods, but usually borrows from other convicts through reputation and respect developed. Will not snitch nor get involved in "police work". Aids others when needed or asked without expecting gratuity. Creates disception/ illusions when hiding contraband; "Right under your nose." Carries self with dignity, speaks of only things of personal knowledge, and does not involve self in the other's buisness unless asked.

Prisoner is someone whom has been placed in captivity against will. Abides by the rules for self-gain, and peace of mind. Content with environment because no other situation is better. Will escape from captivity when given a chance because support remains or still believes that there is hope on the outside. Can hustle without needing outside support through legitimate buisness transactions such as hobbycrafts, leather goods, and artistic talents. Usually knowledgeable of the Constitutional laws and institutional rules. Usually abides by the rules without giving argument, but will voice opinion if asked. Quiet. Clean. Well groomed. Neat. Careful. Intelligent. Easy leaner. First time incarcerated usually a spir-of-the-moment crime such as murder, manslaughter, crime of passion type crimes, and "white collar" crimes. Liked by the officers and staff because minimum supervision is required. Very adaptable to any environment.

Inmate, prisoner, and convict are all words used when referring to the incarcerated. Some inmates are so busy with daily havoc that they never realize nor hear someone referring to them as such. Prisoners do not react toward name calling unless it reflects upon them. Convicts will kill you, if they believe you were being derogatory toward them and quick correcting the speaker.

We live in a society that now listens to every type word spoken and decides rather they like it or not. Everyone is a judge which sensors conversation, humor, and other actions. Some people speak out about what they dislike and cause a commotion. Some people disregard or ignore the disliked behaviors except when it pertains to them. The situation is usually the main factor that provokes a judgement and an opinion.
I once used the words interchangeably until I learned the difference through observation. I avoid the word inmate when speaking with a prisoner from fear of offending. I use the word inmate occasionally when referring to a prisoner or a prison situation, but never intend on the word depicting a person's character. I do not use racial slangs that provoke anger because of my need for receiving respect; the give/receive school of thought. I never declared an incarcerated person any of the three description and usually called them by name when their name was known. I guess I became a "prisoner" as I learned more about human nature, prison life, and incarcerational function.

Digression: The modern terms such as Correctional Facility, Correctional Officer, resident , etc. were developed as the psychologist became more influential in the penal setting. These experts thought that developing more "humane" words would set the stage for a less threatening environment. They believe that harsh environments breed misbehavior, violence, and more aggressive people; the incorrigible. They suggested that changing the terminology would begin the process of swinging the pendulum toward rehabilitation. The Federal Government got on the campaign and passed laws that changed job descriptions, job titles, and penal names. The officers were no longer prison guards nor were the incarcerated considered the "convict-ed". The words inmate, correctional officer, correctional counselor, facility, resident, and other less intimidating words evolved. The people within the prisons began changing, guards, staff, and the incarcerated, but some may never change. Some people only know violence, aggression, reputation, status, and other more threatening behavior. Some prisoners refuse because "It came from the ones whom think they are in authority or are the authority." Some guards and other staff refuse because they believe , "They are the authority. Live a higher status and place the incarcerated below them. They believe that they must create intimidation, fear, and thoughts of bad consequence from fear of loosing control, decreasing their reputation, and many other down right evil thoughts. Some inmates and prison undesirables including staff only know evil thoughts and behavior. Like my grandmother would say, "They have the devil in them and will never change until they see theirself and realize how they are acting." Some people never get the chance of changing because they are killed or cause their own death by acting so irrational and non-concerned. These are the people that make the correctional employment and living environment a totally different world which "less threatening" words were created....................... In my humble opinion, 38 Special. ....



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Old 10-16-2002, 07:38 AM
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Thank you. This particular seemed to take pride in being a "convict" and insinutated that my other pen pals were just inmates. I used to think "convict" was derogatory, and "inmate" was a "nice" word. But now I see the opposite is true.
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Old 11-07-2003, 08:23 PM
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The terminology is the same, no different from what you may call a carbonated drink. Some say "soda", some say "coke", some say "pop", and some say other things. The word convict is short for convicted, and all persons in prison are referred as inmates. Whether you choose to call someone one or the other is a matter of preference. Some think "convict" is too strong, yet a hard-core inmate likes that term. Officials refer to everyone as inmates, so it is really a debatable issue.
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Old 11-07-2003, 10:25 PM
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Another great thread resurrected from history...I think of Eric as a captive, or perhaps a hostage. In 38 specisl's lexicon "prisoner" would be the best fit. Interesting stuff
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Old 11-07-2003, 10:50 PM
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There was a thread about this that was started by Ken awhile back. I enjoy reading his posts I found them all to be very informative and well written.

http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/sho...vict+vs+inmate
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Old 11-08-2003, 05:28 AM
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Very interesting to hear what others have to say about this.

After spending nearly 19 years on Death Row and now faced with L.W.O.P. Tony always uses the word 'inmate' and when I asked why he didn't like being called a 'convict' his reply was that prison staff and others use the word convict so he won't. All the other inmates I've met when on visits refer to each other the same way.

I admit to having never used the word 'convict' myself as I find 'inmate' much less offensive.

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Old 11-08-2003, 09:48 PM
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I just got out of SJ a few months ago, my first time being incarerated. We were called Offenders...??
My brother has been locked up most of his life, he is in again for the 6th time. From the first time, at age 19, until his fifth time, in which he served 10 flat years on a 25 year sentence, he consiered himself a "convict". He said that society saw him as "the convict" that he was. I told him I didn't see him that way, it never occurred to me to think of him that way, even though he'd been locked up most of his life. Well, he was only out 13 months when he went right back, at the age of 46.
You know, I couldn't even imagine how he could be locked up 10 flat years, and since the age of 19, you probably couldn't get a full 5 years of freedom, then turn around and go right back. I thought, well, he's institutionlized....he'll never be able to make it on the outside until he learns to live on the outside...so off he went....huh.....guess what.....it wasn't long until I was locked up...I was only there six months, which may as well been 20 years, because that's what it felt like to me. I just wasn't cut out for prison..I just wanted to go home...
I've been home for a little over 2 months...it hasn't been easy......but I'm going to make it.....
My brother told my Mother something, that through me for a loop, until I gave it some thought. He told Mother, "I'm not a "convict" any more"....she ask him what he meant by that....all he would say, was, that he used to be a "convict" because he had to be, to make it in there, he says now all he wants to do, is his time and come home.......he made his parole..he gets out in February, 2004....I don't believe he'll ever go back.........Today, I look at things some what differently....I didn't think I judged him one way or the other, I guess I just didn't think he wanted to even try....it kind of sounded like BS to me...I now understand some of what he felt like. It's not bad enough that society, friends and family members look at us as though we're useless and dangerous.
Or pity us for not being able to make it in a society, that's designed for "normal" people. Or whisper to each other and recollect that, it is such a shame that he/she used to be such a smart little thing or how could they put they're parents through that....they're better off locked up.....no..that's not the bad part...the bad part is feeling the same way about yourself, and not knowing how, or what to do about it.
I NEVER want to go back to jail, believe that, but since I've been home, the way I've felt about myself and the things I've put the people I love through, and just being scared of being out here, not knowing if I could go through another day of being turned down for a job, because of a felony record (hell, didn't working for the same company for 10 years and being clean and sober for 10 years account for anything? NOT!). Having to ask someone to take me here and there, because of vehicle seizure (wonder why they thought it was purchased w/drug money? duh! it honestly wasn't, but, it rather appeared as if it could have been). Not having a drivers license, because society (thank God) has strong opinions about people who drive drunk.....The list could go on and on.....I know how he felt...I've even made the statment since I've been home, I'd be better off in prison???!!!! Ok Ok .... that was on one of the really bad days...that day I didn't have enough strength left in me to get off the PITY POT! I still know how he felt. We (alcoholics and addicts, regardless of what we're addicted to) drink, do dope, lie, steal, cheat, etc...to change the way we FEEL and it gets us trouble. The point is (bet you didn't think there was a point)...until my brother made the decision not to be a "convict" anymore, he didn't have a chance out here. Out here being a convict isn't acceptable, in there it is, and the way I understand it is, it is a way of life...and where out here, he was look down upon, in there, he was looked up to and repected. He had to go back, because as bad as he didn't like being locked up, at least in there he felt better about himself and he had to have some relief. That's my take on it. When he went back this last time, it finally occured to him that "convicting" wasn't the answer. He said this was the hardest time he'd ever done. He's made a choice not to live like that anymore. He's in some programs now, that's teaching him to look at himself and his behavior, and the affect it has on himself and other people, and is learning that our thinking is what gets us in trouble.
I guess I'll put a lid on this one...sorry....I could go on and on, but thanks so much for listening.
We are going to make it......the inmates, offenders, first timers, youngsters or whatever they choose to call themselves and however they choose to live, is going to keep the prisons going......My husband is back in again, also.....he said his "convicting" days are over, too. He'll be 50 in Dec.....
There's not many "convicts" left...they're a dying breed...the ones that are left are getting older....and they're tired...they're tired of trying to live up to a reputation that they built so many many years ago.
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Old 11-08-2003, 10:05 PM
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shytxone, thank you for sharing with me.
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Old 11-09-2003, 06:25 AM
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I most often like to use the term "prisoner"
Since a prisoner is someone kept under involuntary restraint. Ofcourse there is reasons they are there....
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Old 03-17-2017, 08:03 PM
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i just want to add that i did 7 years in the fldoc and 38 special is spot on but ill elaborate my personal opinion. inmates are everyone who is new and wet behind the ears. There is a whole other way of life inside the fence that most normal people have no clue about. Inmates do not know the system and normally make other prisoners life around them harder. most of the time just because being new and not knowing how things are. convicts are a dying breed as new rules encourage others to snitch on others to get out of things they have done as wrong. 24 months in to my sentence i went to close management cause i would not snitch on a roommate. i consider myself and inmate turned convict due to time and the experience i went through. too many prisoners in the system these days do not stick together and are only for their own gain. you have to look out not only for officers these days but inmates.
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