The Pen vs. The Pokey

Today, we’re going to shatter some misconceptions…and destroy a pet peeve.  The topic of this post has been misunderstood for years by the media, the population at large, popular culture, and certainly by your drunk Uncle Steve.  (Right now some of you are thinking of your friend’s Uncle and wondering if his name is Steve.  I’ll never tell.)

Let’s talk about where you go when you get caught by the Po-leece.

Here’s the picture.  You and your new “lady-friend” go to the local Lover’s Lane to get more acquainted.  What you, in your horny all-the-blood-has-left-your-northern-dome kind of way have forgotten is that we, the police, are well aware of Lover’s Lane and patrol it frequently.

Your “lady-friend” (a real nice guy named Brandon) is also well-known by the police. Ol’ Brando doesn’t care if he/she gets arrested as he/she is what we affectionately refer to as a “frequent flyer”.  You, on the other hand, have a wife, a job, and real-life responsibility.  Unfortunately, you did a little too much blow and your brain ain’t processing risk vs. reward the way it should be.

*Not actually Brandon

So.  There you are about to became intimately familiar with Brandon’s biology when a spotlight puts in stark relief what a dumbass you are.  To add insult to injury, when the police arrest you for soliciting, they naturally search your person.  Guess who forgot about that last vial of narcotics?  You did, you gloriously coked up horndog, you.

What started out as a simple cite and release scenario has now entered the fun-filled world of incarceration.  Where do you go from here?  The hoosegow?  Lockup? Jail? The clink? The slammer? The pen? The pokey?

This is where there is a lot of confusion. Believe me when I tell you that the Wife is a saint because I am always critical of every cop show we watch and I am hyper-critical of the media. These terms are thrown around like they are meaningless, but I assure you there is a distinction.

Let me make this perfectly clear. While there are a number of synonyms for being incarcerated, they often mean very different things. Jail is where you go when you get booked for a crime. Prison is where you go when you get convicted of that crime.

“Pen” is short for Penitentiary; a gentle euphemism for prison. Most other cutesy nicknames like “Slammer”, “Hoosegow”, and “Pokey” are more in line with a jail setting.

There you go, Hollywood. Although you didn’t pay me for my consulting, a real life police officer just made your show more legit. Too bad HM just whines about the crappy EMS shows. I’m over here making a real difference.

You’re welcome.

Oh…and stop doing blow and picking up drag queens.

What about you? Is there something society at large often misconstrues or just straight screws up about your job?

Featured Image Credit: Flickr and gloomy50

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

32 thoughts on “The Pen vs. The Pokey

  1. Thanks for the clarificaton, I thought (from long ago HS class) that prison was where you go if remanded for less than a year and the Pen was for anything one year or more.

  2. It isn’t a bus. It is an ambulance or a truck. Really though, most of them are built on VAN chassis.

    We do not transport everyone(or hardly anyone) lights and sirens. Ever. You don’t need a fucking ambulance, why would I risk a bunch of lives trying to get you to the hospital.

  3. Thanks MC! I do the same critique of any show having to do with anthropology, especially human evolution. I can’t take it when they get things wrong and continue to perpetuate misconceptions and stereotypes, even if it is only supposed to be entertainment. Is it really that hard to do a little research and get it right? Keep up the good work!

  4. As a computer guy I always love the various things that the computer proper is called. The actual tower itself is often referred to as the CPU and hard-drive. Which to me is like calling a car an engine.

    This is extra funny when I freelance and someone calls and asks if they should bring over the computer or just the CPU. I envision them removing the Central Processing Unit from the motherboard and sliding it through my mail slot. I assume they mean “do I need to bring my monitor or just the cat hair filled beige box.”

    My marine buddy called me one day and asked what the voltage of the “switch” should read. All I could picture in my head was the switches that live in data closets that ethernet cables plug into in a LAN. Turns out he was wanting to know when he pressed the power button on the front of the computer what charge should a mulitmeter read. Leave it to a diesel mechanic to think it was the button on the machine that was causing the problem and not the PSU (Power Supply Unit).

    So what do I call a computer proper? Usually just a machine.

    • Mine is frequently referred to as a “toaster.”

      “ARGH, Excel crashed again !”

      “That’s what you get for trying to run it on a toaster !”

      toddlers always putting bread and other food items into the optical drives.


    • And again, that’s something movies & TV usually get incredibly wrong – with the hero using an axe/hammer/gun to take out the computer monitor, thinking that will destroy the computer and stop the countdown. Admittedly, it is more impressive looking to destroy a monitor than the computer, especially CRTs.

  5. I am a driver and a clerk. If you call me a librarian, in front of a REAL librarian, she will likely shoot you. Or me, just for spite. This, apparently, is a very territorial profession.

  6. I work in a medical lab and the medical/crime dramas piss me off. There aren’t any magic tests that will tell you everything about somebody by taking a drop of blood and pressing a button. 30 seconds later they have everything they need. Total BS, test results take hours if not days to get done, and it takes multiple tests not just one. And people wonder why they don’t have results right now.

    • So it’s gonna take longer than 3 minutes worth of shouting to find out who my real father is on The Maury Show? Dammit !!!!!

  7. Well I’m a programmer and given the most recent indicents of computer crime in the media, I’ve sort of given up being fed up with them and just ignore it, its better for my blood pressure.

  8. “Pokey” might be the best crime-related word ever. Even if I now know I’ve been using incorrectly.

    I work with adopted families and folks will use the following:
    1. gave up for adoption – it implies there’s no value
    2. natural parent (as if an adoptive parent is creepy and odd.)
    3. real parent (again…)

  9. If Brandon and I are going to the Pokey pleeeeease tell me he’s going to be in a different cell. After all you have one for the “ladies”, don’t you?

    • At the agency where I used to work, if you got hooked up, and “Tammy” turned out to be Brandon instead….you might well go into the same holding cell until you both get processed by a classification officer after being booked in.
      Keeps things interesting, y’know.
      And the Correctional Officers get ticked at being called “Jail guards” or “prison guards.”

      • Andrew I have a feeling that “Interesting” would be an understatement. All the more reason to remain on the right side of the bars.

  10. How about the EMS/medical shows where “CPR” means rubbing the patient’s chest gently? Or defibrillating someone back from asystole?

    That, and legal shows where the attorneys say “objection” (sitting down, and not saying what they are objecting to and on what grounds), and the judge rules on it instantly.

  11. Been doing linework for about 20 years now, I am a lineman by trade, meaning I work on high voltage lines not protecting a QB. One thing that always pissed us off was when someone hit and broke one of our poles and knocked down our lines, the law enforcement would call it a “telephone pole.” I realize there are indeed telephone poles out there, meaning that on that pole is only telephone wires. A “power pole” on the other hand has at the top of that pole energized conductors that supply neighborhoods with their electricity. There could possibly be telephone lines on that pole also but they (the telephone companies) usually lease or rent space from the local power company. Just to clear things up. If all else fails call it a utility pole that would cover all. Above all consider all downed lines energized and possibly dangerous. Keep safe and keep up the fantastic blog. If you are ever in Phoenix, look me up would love to have lunch and talk shop.

  12. I’m an ER nurse. If it’s on TV or in the movies and it’s emergency medicine, it’s wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. We don’t yell out orders to each other in traumas or codes. We already know the orders. We don’t in fact yell at all. If you’ve been shot in the chest you aren’t going to get loaded up into an ambulance wearing only a nasal cannula with no IV access and one paramedic accompanying you. If you are in the ICU in a coma you are not napping quietly in your bed with your blankie nicely folded down and absolutely no monitoring equipment on you, no vent, no IV access, no meds infusing. Labs don’t result 10 seconds after you arrive in the ED. We don’t shock with paddles. Codes aren’t run with one doctor and one Random Other Person standing there. And Doc didn’t paralyze that guy when he took off the c-collar to intubate him. (I was really just there to watch Bosco.)

  13. One of my biggest peeves is when someone in a movie sets off a fire sprinkler and ALL the fire sprinklers off. It doesn’t work that way. Or when the hero goes crawling throught the air ducts and they can get to any room they want.

  14. Well, I try to avoid shows and movies about teachers, though the trailer for “Bad Teacher” with Cameron Diaz is not as far from the truth as one usually thinks. SO, I will go on a non-media tangent for a moment.

    Your perfect little angel versus a perfect little angel that is designated as a “special needs” student

    Your perfect little angel can cuss the teacher once and get suspended for three days. That is what the student handbook with all the rules in it says. So why is that other kid getting away with so much in the same class with the same teacher?! That’s not fair!! The teacher hates that perfect little angel but likes the other kid. That other kid NEVER gets suspended for A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G!!

    YEP! The teacher does not hate your kid and the teacher is not playing favorites. The two perfect little angels doing the exact same misbehavior have two different sets of rules. The second set is the unpublished ones that 90% do not know about. That is due to federal and state laws and school district policies. That special needs student can basically torture everyone in class and if there is an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that states the student has a certain disability, then neither you nor me nor the principal nor Jesus Christ can do very much about it. You ask in the parent teacher conference why that other kid does the same thing but gets away with it, and you feel like the teacher is stonewalling. YES, that teacher is! You know that! By law teachers are bound by confidentiality such that no one can even say, “well that student is special ed.” much less go into any little anecdotal comment about even the smallest detail of a special need that another student has.

    I am not saying that students with special needs get away with everything. This is just an oversimplification for the sake of brevity. Nevertheless, do not always assume the teacher is not consistent in punishment when (not if, when) two students do the exact same thing and get different punishments, like a firm lecture from the vice-principal instead of that 3 day suspension. It could be a “special” requirement that the teacher has no control over.

    That is where the teachers instead get to say, “THAT’S NOT FAIR!” I can’t get a 3 day vacation from this kid, please?!?!

  15. I’m a programmer/analyst, and generally take a pass on all films featuring computer hackers. The whole thing started with War Games back in 1983 – and it just doesn’t work that way, Ace.

    You provided a nice illustration about the pen and the pokey, by the way. I guess the way to stay out of either one is to give up getting a nose full of Bolivian Marching Powder while drinking most of a 12 pack, and then taking the rest of the 12 pack along with you while you go out looking for Brandy/Brandon, whom you invite along for a little road party – driving and playing with your gun collection on your way to the ubiquitous Lover’s Lane.

    Whattaya think?

  16. Doesn’t this vary by state? Here in Pennsylvania, jail is the county facility whereas prison is the state facility. If you’re sentenced to a year or less, you go to county jail, no matter if it’s a misdemeanors or felony. Any sentence over a year means state prison.

    • Same here. You can serve a sentence in county jail if it’s less than a year. You can also be incarcerated in the county jail if you’re still on trial. You don’t go to prison until after you’ve been convicted (and again, you can serve your term in jail if appropriate).

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