Evidently, inmates have a lot of time to be creative. Brett Yasko did a fantastic photo gallery of crude but nonetheless deadly weapons made of various instruments. Some examples from Yasko’s gallery:
Materials: Shard of plexiglas; handle wrapped with electrical tape.
“Unbreakable” plastic comb; three single-edge razor blades inserted into teeth; wrapped with copper wire and shoelace.
During the 1980s, a modest stipend of $1.10 per day was deposited into each working prisoner’s personal account. The comb and shoelace used here were available from the prison commissary at that time. By completing an order form, prisoners could make purchases and tailor a shiv to their own design specifications.
Less gruesome than the above and a lighter take is how inmates used the rumble packs on N64 as tattooing implements.
More examples: check out Prisoners Inventions, a website conceptualized by an incarcerated artist named Angelo to feature inventions made by inmates to adapt to the prison environment.
Angelo’s work was featured on a Wired story about how prisoners use ingenuity to cope with their surroundings.
In the movies, “prisoners only create things to escape, get high or kill each other,” Fischer notes.
Angelo’s objects show a more banal, more human side of locked-down life: one where soda cans filled with rocks become crude alarm clocks and inmates cool their drinks in toilet bowls.
Imprison the body, and the mind adapts.