Among inmates, there is the constant push and pull between the need to “con” others and, at the same time, the need to be streetwise enough to avoid being conned. Naturally, this constant and contradictory set of expectations completely impedes the ability for inmates to develop any sort of true trust; they must always remain vigilant for the potential “hustle” within the prison system. The term hustle refers to any action that is designed to deceive, manipulate, or take advantage of another person. Further, consider that the very term convict includes the word con, which implies that the individual cannot and should not be trusted. Thus, convicts are, stereotypically, always on the hustle, so to speak.

Inmates who are able to “get over” on others and or “skate” through work or other obligations in the prison system are considered particularly streetwise and savvy among their peers. In fact, some prison systems, such as the Texas prison system, have a term for this concept, known as “hogging.” Hogging is a term that is used to imply that a person is using others for some type of gain or benefit, manipulating others into doing work, or fulfilling obligations on his or her behalf. When inmates are able to find some means to manipulate others into doing their dirty work, they are active in the art of the con. The process by which they encourage or manipulate a person to provide such a service is all part of the hustle.

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