Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms for Event Type:

Hunger Strike: A protest that involves prisoners refusing to eat. It can involve just a single individual or thousands of individuals acting in concert.

Food Strike: An event in which prisoners deliberately do not show up to chow hall for at least one meal.

Work Stoppage:
An event in which prisoners deliberately do not report to their assigned jobs. This can mean the halt of production of commodities for those working in manufacturing or it could mean the halt of upkeep of the facility.

Commissary Boycott: A protest that involves prisoners refusing to participate in the prison economy by not purchasing items on commissary. Commissary boycotts involve several individuals coordinating their boycott efforts.

Disturbance: Any other event inside a prison in which prisoners disrupt the everyday operation of the facility. Disturbances either do not fall neatly into other categories of events, or they are events in which we do not know exactly what occurred.  Sometimes corrections departments will use this term to deliberately obscure the specific details of a more complex uprising or protest.

Fire: An event that includes prisoners setting one or multiple fires. This could include burning barricades that were built during an uprising or burning any other part of a facility.

Protest: An event in which prisoners plan to demonstrate collective and organized dissent. Protests include, but are not limited to, situations in which prisoners present lists of demands, refuse to return to their cells en masse, engage in sit down strikes, or hold marches and demonstrations.

Uprising: A collective act of rebellion in which a group of prisoners act in a disruptive way. Uprisings exceed the usual scope of a protest and are often destructive, violent, chaotic, or unpredictable. They are also clear collective attempts at expressing either specific grievances within the context of incarceration (food issues, rights–based issues, working conditions, etc) or with incarceration as such. They often follow a series of protests or other attempts at addressing grievances and can involve a stage of relative calm in which prisoners make plans together, issues demands, call the media, or take other actions to further their cause.

Attack on Guards:
A physical assault on a prison guard or multiple prison guards.

Hostage: An event in which prisoners take a guard or other non-prisoner captive for an extended period of time. This is often done to aid in bargaining with an administration or department of corrections. Most hostage situations are part of an “uprising” event.

Escape/ Escape Attempt: An event in which a group of two or more prisoners either successfully leave the grounds of the facility at which they are incarcerated or an event in which prisoners plan to execute such an escape but are caught in the process (for example, completion of a tunnel would be an escape attempt).

Riot: An event in which prison guards lose control over part or all of a facility. The term “riot” is used to describe a wide range of events and its use is highly politicized, contentious and imprecise. We have included it as a tag in order to reflect its common usage.

Legal Action/Petition: An event in which a large group of prisoners organize a show of solidarity in the form of writing, such as distributing a petition to the media.