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The following terms appear in various places throughout the Warden Game. In the game, clicking each term where it appears will bring up notes about that term in the game’s sidebar. For reference, all the in-game annotations are also presented below:

anti-sexist education

In 1977, Mead co-founded “Men Against Sexism” at Walla Walla state prison. MAS used peer education and direct confrontation in their effort to stop the rape and abuse of gay and effeminate prisoners. See Mead’s reflections in Prison Legal News, Earful of Queer’s interview, and Daniel Burton-Rose’s essay about the group. Some additional information can also be found in the book Concrete Mama: Prison Profiles from Walla Walla, which was published in 1981 and will be republished in 2018 by the University of Washington Press.

carbon paper

Thin paper coated with carbon or another pigmented substance, used for making copies of written or typed documents.

custodial approach

a model of imprisonment that emphasizes confinement of incarcerated people over programming, education, or other forms of prisoner activity.

every major prison in the state

In 1987, about when the Warden Game was designed, Washington imprisoned 6,131 people across eight facilities. As of September 2017, the state imprisoned 17,307 people across twelve institutions, plus more than 2,000 others confined in work release camps or other state facilities. (These numbers do not include the populations of local jails or immigrant detention centers.)

freedom song

Most readily associated with the Civil Rights Movement, these are songs that celebrate resistance, perseverance, and solidarity in the face of oppression. Activists often sang them while incarcerated for their protests to nurture each other’s spirits.

goon squad

Pejorative reference to the prison’s security unit; guards brought in to quell particular disturbances or shake down people’s cells.

Inside-Out group

“Inside-Out” is a generic name for coalitions between incarcerated people and supporters who are not incarcerated.


written messages, sometimes passed secretly among prisoners, or from prisoners to staff (more info)


a situation where prisoners are confined in their cells indefinitely

maximum security prison

Prisons are arranged into different levels of security, the most common being minimum, medium, and maximum. People incarcerated in maximum security institutions typically have the least access to educational or other programs and the most restrictions on their physical movement or contact with the outside. People are sent to maximum security facilities based on their sentencing charge or their conduct in prison. Since Mead wrote the game, the United States has also opened several “supermaximum” security prisons that build on the long-term isolation “control units” that began at several maximum security prisons in the 1970s.

segregation unit

a wing or tier of the prison where people are held with limited access to communication, reading material, or programming as well as further restricted mobility. Placement there is often a punishment for violating prison rules. There are different levels of and names for segregation units.

the hole

slang for a solitary confinement cell, where people are held in near-total isolation for 22-24 hours a day

trailer visit

A colloquial expression for a program that allows certain prisoners held at select facilities to receive an extended visit from a spouse or other immediate family. The visit, which can last up to 48 hours in Washington state, takes place in a private trailer on prison grounds.

transfer out of state

Most people incarcerated in the United States are convicted and imprisoned at the individual state level. However, “inter-state compacts” allow officials to transfer prisoners from one state to another. Such compacts have been used to reduce extreme overcrowding and to punish dissidents.

U.S. intervention in Central America

When Mead designed this game in the late 1980s, the United States was providing financial and political support to paramilitary organizations or military dictatorships in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Such actions provoked a series of major demonstrations around the country, although there are no reports of such events happening in American prisons.

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Updates from the University of Washington Bothell's Project on Mass Incarceration in Washington State