Slang City Mail

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August 3, 2006

Slang of the Week: joot balls (noun phrase)
ground up leftover food served to prisoners

Michael had felt pretty comfortable in prison at first, but after three weeks of joot ball dinners, he wrote to his wife and asked her to bake him a cake with a file in it.

Celebrity quote:
“Rats scurry on the floor of the dark cell and my skin crawls. Joot balls...are slid in the slot in my door. We had stew yesterday and minced and compressed it smells like dog food.”
-Author and former gang member Colton Simpson

While reading Inside the Crips, Colton Simpson’s account of his life as a gang member in Los Angeles, I found a description of this prison food. I thought it would make a nice complement to the pruno (prison’s most popular homemade alcoholic beverage!) I wrote about in May.

Joot balls are the prison equivalent of “mystery meat” in high school cafeterias, but they are far from the most dangerous things Colton encountered during his many stays there. Gang warfare between the Crips and the Bloods continued on the inside and Simpson also experienced set tripping (fighting between subsets of a gang) in prison as well.

At first glance, it seems that the book should be called Inside California’s Prison System, since the author spent more of his time inside than he did on the streets. Jumped into a set at the age of nine, he quickly entered a life of violent crime. And he was ready for it—the ritual of being jumped in usually involves being beaten (and in Simpson’s case, also shot at) by the other gang members.

Though he was released from prison while still in his thirties and got an honest job working for rapper and actor Ice T, Simpson was later accused of another crime—in which, ironically, prosecutors used passages from Inside the Crips to establish his history of criminal activity.