I was telling my cellmate about the blog I wrote yesterday — the one about honor, and about inmates who put things on their word. He pointed out to me that I neglected to discuss something very relevant: how some people’s “word” means a lot more than other people’s.
In prison, you have solids and you have lames. This is typically defined by a person’s crime. A “lame” is a sex offender. A “solid” is pretty much anyone else. In here, murder is considered a solid crime. So is aggravated battery, robbery, manslaughter. Any drug offense is solid.
The word of a solid inmate is going to mean a lot more to the other solid inmates. A lame’s word may mean something, but perhaps very little. It won’t have nearly the power that a solid’s word will have.
Lames are typically more intelligent, more mellow, and more mature. Therefore, lames typically don’t require someone to put something on his word. Lames will just believe something one of his lame friends tells him. Putting it on your word is more of a macho thing, more common amongst the solids.
Solids also get to decide when their own “word” means something and when it doesn’t. An inmate was once overheard saying, “Fuck that lame. My word don’t mean shit to that guy. I steal from him all the time.” So you can put something on your word to a lame, and it’s ok if it’s a lie. But it would be a cardinal sin to put something on your word to a fellow solid. Lames don’t deserve honor. Solids do. Lames — well, they can hang out with the other lames and talk about lame stuff.
I’m perfectly content being a “lame.” It has been said that SOLID stands for “Sex Offender Living In Denial.” Many times this turns out to be true (when a former “solid” shows up to day one of your Sex Offender treatment program. He will often insist that a clerical error was made, and that he doesn’t belong there. He will swear he’s not a sex offender). The only thing worse than being a lame? Being a solid and then suddenly turning into a lame. A lame who lied about having a solid crime is the worst kind of lame.
This adds a complexity to the rules of honor in prison. How one actually acts and treats others is still of minimal importance. What’s important is that: 1) You put things on your word, and 2) you’re not a lame.
Categories: Stephen Newman