Different Types of Prison Shanks

A stint in jail is never a pleasant experience. Your freedom being taken away should be enough to convince you not to do anything against the law, but aside from this, there are actually scarier reason why you wouldn’t want to end up there. For one, there’s always the possibility of a violent fight or riot breaking out, and finding yourself in the midst of one may send you to the infirmary or straight to the morgue. Many inmates are well-aware of this, and thus, they will try to find a way or a means to get the upper hand when the unexpected does happen. In many cases, a weapon is the advantage that can spell the difference between victory and defeat.

In a place surrounded by cops and guns, it can be very difficult for convicts to obtain a regular weapon for their personal use. Creativity and ingenuity are required to invent their own weapons, and the easiest weapon to make while in prison would likely be a shank.

What’s a Shank?

What is a shank? Is it the same as a shiv?

Before heading further, it would be best to clarify the difference between these two terms. True, they are pretty much used interchangeably in regular day to day conversations, but there are differences worth knowing.

In the simplest sense, a shank is primarily designed for ‘stabbing’ and will thus have a pointed tip. On the other hand, a shiv is crafted for ‘slicing’ much like a knife, so it will have a bladed edge, but may not necessarily have a pointed tip.

To further illustrate, consider a popular item that convicts often use in making a weapon – the toothbrush. Some convicts will fashion a shank out of this seemingly harmless item by grinding and sharpening one end. Alternatively, they can make a shiv by attaching a razor blade at the tip of the toothbrush instead of sharpening it.

Kinds of Prison Shanks

Different kinds of prison shanks

Different kinds of prison shanks

Prison shanks come in a variety of types and styles, although there really is no formal way of classifying or categorizing them. The easiest way to do so could be by categorizing the shanks by the different materials used in creating them. Aside from the toothbrush, there are certainly more regular items which can be patterned and constructed to become stabbing weapons.

Any piece of wood, for instance, can be made into a shank. Wood may not be the material of choice for many inmates since it can be difficult to sharpen without a knife (after all, if you already have a knife in prison, why would you need to make a wooden shank?)

Metal spoons and forks are also popular items which can be turned into shanks. Metal may be more challenging to sharpen, but a little time and diligence will make sure that a reliable shank is ready when required. With all the free time available to inmates, they would likely be able to find the time required.

Basically, it doesn’t matter what material it’s made from as long as it meets the following requirements: long and elongated with a very sharp point.

Prison or correctional facilities are indeed frightening places. They are home to hundreds (sometimes thousands) of hot-tempered and violent people who can viciously confront anyone they don’t like at a moment’s notice. Weapons like shanks can be critical for such interactions and inmates always seem to find ways to create shanks using only the very limited resources available. Time spent in prison often creates new perspectives of materials that we usually just throw away. This just goes to show that even in a place full of police officers, no one is safe.


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