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What are the most dangerous makeshift prison weapons?

One thing inmates have a limitless amount of is time to think


A prison worker at the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, Calif. displays plastic tubes containing flammable welding compounds on Thursday, Oct. 22, 1999. Day labor inmates had access to the welding compounds, as well as blasting caps and personal information about prison staff, for almost a year before prison officials learned of the security problems.

AP Photo/Dan Krauss

A recent post to Quora asks, “what are the most effective makeshift prison weapons?” Check out the response from Will Steel, an ex-felon, below, and add your own response in the comments.

This is a good question. In order for my response to make more sense I suggest that you try and adjust your thinking. Instead of seeing the answer based on your current surroundings and what you know. Instead picture your surroundings as completely minimal.

Now think about the idea of viewing time in a different sense. One thing inmates have a limitless amount of is time to think which creates boredom and above all creativity.

Inmates are surrounded with as little metallic materials as possible, other than metal used for bars and doors. You don’t see a lot of metal ornamental decoration, exposed aluminum, molding strips, nails, etc. Basically a lot of immovable solid piece construction with any metallic pieces having welded seams. Smaller items will be nonmetallic, blunt and for the most part lightweight.

First thing to understand is that everything you can lay your hands on is a weapon. This is why prisons and jails treat just about any object not issued to an inmate and found in their possession as if it is a weapon. If you have an item not given by staff, not purchased off the commissary or something you carried away from a work detail you will be charged with a contraband shot and usually it will be escalated to a weapons shot. A shot is a charge in the Federal prison system.

Over the years I saw many items made into weapons and even had to make one myself during the 10 months I sat in a city jail waiting transfer to prison.

Let’s address the obvious 1st. Any piece of metal such as a piece of aluminum covering from a vent, a nail pulled from a law library bookshelf, I t-shirt ripped into pieces then braided to make a small rope, a plastic tray or coffee cup turned so the edge is used to strike someone, a mop or broom handle, chemicals used to clean cells, and my favorite; which I had the need to use on one occasion for self defense is a sock filled with bars of soap, batteries or lock. I had to fend off two young jerks who wanted to fighting me because I was white and they were not.

Their mistake was that they told me they were coming. I quickly removed my socks, put one inside the other and filled it with 3 bars of a ivory soap which I had hidden in plain sigh, only one bar allowed. All it took was for me to step out with the soap filled sock dangling beside me and me telling them to “make up their mind which was getting his head cracked”, and then say “come on and lets get started”. Like I said they were young jerks and scared easily.

I saw guys use lids from sardine cans folded in half to make into a knives. During a 2 week lock down over a gang war between the Latino and black gangs I saw guys taking tooth brushes and melting the end so they could shape into a point, sharpen against the concrete blocks.

While it was not very effective at all it sure looked neat, I saw a guy use a razor blade from a disposable razor to cut the elastic waist out of his underwear and then use a magazine, roll up pages after pages of paper until he had fashioned a bow out of it. He then made an arrow our of paper from magazine and tipped it with a paperclip he had managed to secure from legal mail. I guess if he could accurately hit someone in the eye it would slow them down but the likelihood of that was zero and he would have had his head beat in while trying to get an arrow across.

You make due with what you have but know that one copy of Time magazine, a bar of soap, and a few tablespoon of white rice from your dinner tray offers endless opportunities.

By the way, rice makes an absolutely wonderful adhesive/glue. Can substitute for floor mixed with soap, water and shredded paper from a legal pad or magazine. To make a paper mâché.

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