|Copyright © 2007
Phylon - T Gonzalez ®
All Rights Reserved
|This story was related by prisoners who know and understand the set-up process. They were inmates who, at one
time or another, had been implicated as conspirators in several illegal contraband cases involving prison staff
members. They would not discuss their own individual techniques of modifying prison personnel behavior, but they
did relate events of the set-up process implemented by one of their cohorts, citing the procedural as typical. The
authors cannot attest to the validity of their statements; however, the individual being discussed does indicate
consistency between his behavior in the situation and expected manipulative pattern.
The prison jargon term “duck” refers to an institution employee who can be manipulated or easily
Cracking the Shell Takes Time and Effort
You have to go about developing a duck in a manner that creates very little suspicion. A man would be a fool to just
walk up to a joint cop and ask him to bring in “grass,” booze or money. You have to go slow, which takes time and
effort. The dudes who get caught are the ones who get over-anxious and move too fast. The first thing you gotta do
is watch. You know, things like the way a person acts, walks, stands, sits, or dresses can tell you a hell of a lot about
them. Things they laugh or smile at; what makes them sad or angry; their likes and dislikes; this is all important
information if you really want to develop a duck. You gotta start small if you want to get a person to a point where
they’ll do just about anything you say. The last duck I developed was natural. Naïve, shy, friendly as hell, a do-
gooder who could be made to believe anything. You see, prisons don’t know how to warn their people. They gotta
say, “Be friendly, be nice,” but they don’t know how to tell them when they’re going overboard. So I’m gonna tell this
story like he was my duck. At any rate I started my duck with nothing more than getting him to give me pencils and
paper in excess of what he was supposed to give. Here’s how I developed him.
Developing the Duck
I watched this cop for a long time. He had all the traits. He was uneasy around his boss, pushed the nice guy bit so
strong on us he overlooked violation of some small unit rules in other words, he didn’t take care of business. He
couldn’t put across his orders with any kind of firmness, and the cons were givin’ him a rough row to hoe. When you
find a guy like this, you can pretty well figure you got a duck--but you can be too hasty, you gotta be sure.
I sent some friends of mine to get him involved in philosophical discussion to find out where his head was and to
push him a little to see how far he’d let things go. They talked about how bad other cops treated them and how they
hoped he didn’t become like all other cops. He agreed, and told them about things he’d seen the other “bulls” do that
supported their reason for disliking cops. While the talk was going on, some of the guys broke rules like stepping
inside another con’s cell, putting marks on the wall, suggesting playing poker--all minor rule violations. The officer
said nothing. Each time he started to leave and tell some guy to knock it off they’d praise the hell out of him and he’d
get back into the conversation. Me, I just watched. The guy was very easily distracted and we build on the nice guy
image. He didn’t look like a cop--sloppy dresser, half done jobs, and he’d come unglued if someone said he did a
poor job, or if someone didn’t particularly like him. When this happened he’d get in a “downer” conversation telling
the cons how no one understood him. They’d agree, and build his ego. They got him on a first name basis--it’s
harder to tell a guy “NO” when you’re that friendly.
When I was absolutely certain that this guy was the one I wanted to develop, I had his unit orderlies do a sloppy job
so he wouldn’t pass inspection. The sergeant gave him hell. When the sarg left, I went over to the guy and said, “You
know what, Pete, you didn’t have that coming. The sarg doesn’t know you like we do. Out of all the cops in this joint,
you’re the only one the cons trust. Remember, we told you where to find the convict home brew. He didn’t remember
you made that bust. I’ve been talking with the other cons in this wing and we’re going to make you look good from
now on.” My duck kept raving on how that sergeant has been on his back; that he just can’t seem to do anything
right. So I told him, “I got extra time each day and I’ll fix this place so you’ll not only pass inspection, but you’ll get a
commendation for the cleanest wing in the joint. I ain’t gonna let no crummy sergeants talk to you that way
anymore.” The cop said he would be grateful.
As the days and weeks passed, I worked my tail off for this joker. He began passing his inspection with honors. He
had the habit of leaving his lunch box open or his cigarettes laying on his desk so I began helping myself. I didn’t
over do it, and he said nothing, so I asked him for a couple of full writing pads and a few pencils. He was supposed
to give only one pencil, usually used, and only a couple of sheets of paper. With a long explanation and unsteady
voice he turned me down. Saying “No” was hard for him. I looked hurt and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking. I
thought you knew I liked to relax and write after working at my regular job, then cleaning this unit for you. I only
asked you because most of the guys in the wing told me you understood things like that--that you like to see us
doing constructive things. Oh, well, it ain’t no big thing.” I tried to let my expression say my feelings were hurt, I was
sorry he didn’t trust me, and I guess he was like all the other cops. With my head down I sauntered to my room.
Shortly Pete was at my cell door. He made sure no one was looking then slid a dozen new pencils and three new
writing tablets under my door. I said, “Pete!, you’re the greatest! Just like all the guys say, you really try and help
convicts stay out of trouble.” I worked extra hard that next week winning Pete praise from the sergeant who formerly
cussed him out. Pete was pleased and said, “Thank you, Terry.” He used my first name, a sign I was developing him
Several months had passed now and we had become good friends. I sought personal, financial, and marital advice,
which he freely gave. And since he liked baseball, I liked baseball. He disliked hunting, so I disliked hunting. Now
you gotta be careful with this too. If you have too much in common, that’s not good, so you let him talk you into
believing as he does. For example, he asked me if I believed in God. I seemed hesitant and confuse. I let him
convince me there was a God. You gotta remember when developing a duck that you’re always the student and he’s
the teacher. You appear to be fascinated by his knowledge. You make him think you kneed his help; that he’s making
you a better person; and that you wanta be like him. I had this joker bringing me candy, magazines, cigars and he
mailed a couple of birthday cards for me. I always told him he shouldn’t do things like that ‘cause he could get in
trouble and then I would hint around for something else I needed. Pretty soon he’d bring it, but I made him feel I
was looking out for his welfare. Then I figured it was about time I got a little more serious with this guy.
One day a fight broke out in the wing and my duck tried to stop it. He wound up facing a couple of cons with knives
who said they hated cops and were going to kill him. He was scared spitless. I let him stay in that situation for a
while and finally rushed in, got between the cop and the cons and talked them out of hurting him. I never saw a guy
so grateful. Right at that time this duck said he’d do just about anything for me. I told him friends needed to stick
together; that no one should expect favors for doing what was right. That night I used Pete’s own cigarettes to pay
off the guys who staged the fight for me.
Sometime later I showed this officer a letter from my sister stating the wife of a guy in our wing had been killed in an
accident. The con was a friend of mine so I asked my duck to tell the guy. He couldn’t do it because he gets too
emotional he said, so I wound up telling the inmate my self.
When your grooming a duck you are limited only by your own imagination. Here are two situations that I set-up to
learn something about the dude. The fight told me fear and friendship could get me what I wanted from this cop,
and the second added sympathy to the list.
Everyone in the wing was sad over the loss of this convict’s wife, especially the cop, so the next day I brought my
duck a sympathy card signed by most of the cons in the unit and told him they had taken up a collection for the con’s
kids. I told him I knew it was against the rules, and that convicts ain’t supposed to have money, but this was
different. This would do a lot of good. “There ought to be some rules we can break,” I said. “Most of us convicts have
spent a lifetime taking things from people, and the one time we want to give, there’s a rule against it. It just doesn’t
seem right!” The cop was concerned over the amount of money with the card and that he might get caught. At about
this point my personality began changing a little. I had to let this guy know he had already done some dumb things
that could get him into trouble--to do so in a way that showed we were still good friends but that I meant business.
So I reminded him of a few past situations. For the first time, he didn’t quite know how to take me. I immediately got
nice again. I said, “Ah, come on, it would do us a lot of good to give for once in our lives, you can’t deny a person
that kind of inner satisfaction. Any doctor will tell you it’s good therapy. Besides, the penalty for taking a letter out
with money in it ain’t no greater than the ones you’ve already taken out. Don’t get me wrong, I would never tell, but I
have had some trouble keeping some of these other cats in the unit from telling the sergeant that’s always on your
back.” He was beginning to feel the pressure. The confusion on his face was obvious. He wasn"t sure where I stood.
As I continued talking, I slid the envelope into his inside jacket pocket. “There ain’t no way you’ll be caught. They don’
t search cops like they do inmates. Gosh, man, you can’t let little kids starve just ’cause their old man is in the joint.
Those kids ain’t done no wrong. There ain’t a con in this place who would understand the deep hurt a person goes
through when someone you love gets killed. I thought you were different. You don’t have to worry, we took care of
those people who might have snitched to the sarg. No way are we going to let you get in trouble. Besides, I’ll never
ask for a favor like this again. It’s just that those kids…” I walked away and left him to think about what I had just
I had been my old friendly self for a few days so my duck could become comfortable over taking the letter and
money out. Then I told him some relatives of my friend--the deceased woman’s husband--would be sending a
package to his house. The package would contain nothing but prayer beads for the grieving inmate. “Don’t open the
box ’till you get here,” I told him. “we need the address to thank these people, and they were really grateful for that
money.” He agreed. When the package came, I told the cop I’d show him the contents later and he said never mind
he didn’t want to know. His voice told me I needed to butter him up a little because we both knew he was over the
barrel. I had him right where I wanted him. But I still had to develop him more deeper. I knew he was in debt on the
streets so I got the training officer’s clerk (an inmate) to add extra time on the dude’s pay records. The cop
appreciated the extra money and said nothing. Because I let him know I was responsible for the little favor, he
became more friendly, but he was still cautious with me. By this time I was about the only friend the cop had.
Sometime back his real friends began telling the guy he was being too friendly with convicts. I couldn’t let that go on,
so I started a rumor that this cat was living with an inmate’s wife. He came under investigation. Cops like to go with
winners, not losers. This guy was a loser so left him alone. He had to talk to someone, and I was the only person
available. I had the guy right where I wanted him, for sure! It took time but you gotta develop a duck carefully if you
want it to pay off. Now the guy was ready for the big one. He had to do anything I said or I tossed him to the wolves.
Turning the Duck into a Golden Goose
I had done a lot of time in my life and was tired of prison. I wanted to get out. I’d been thinking about this for a long
time now. Getting out had become an obsession with me. My duck and I were about the same size so I got him off to
the side and said, “You don’t know it yet, but I’m going on parole, and you’re going to help me get there!” My voice
was stern and commanding. He looked confused, but he knew I meant business.
“I want you to bring me a cop’s uniform!” We had joked about this kind of thing before and he hoped I was still
kidding. With all the hatred I could muster I shouted, “Look you stupid S.O.B., you ain’t got no choice! Every convict
in this wing will snitch you off. You took out letters, money, you brought in things we still have stored to use as
evidence against you, and you’ve been accepting money from the state under false pretenses. Now you bring in that
damn uniform or you’re dead, sucker!” I stood glaring at him and let what I had just said sink in for a moment. Then
I handed him a letter from the people who had received the money in the letter he had taken out. It stated they were
willing to testify against him. He had no choice. He had to so as I told him. “Listen, you rotten bastard,” I continued,
“you bring a shirt tomorrow, trousers the next day and so on until I have the complete uniform. DO YOU
The duck brought a piece of the uniform each day in his lunch box. As I received them I rolled each new item and
neatly placed it in the bottom of the foot locker. Then I told this dumb cop to call me off my job when ever the
institution search team came into the wing. “Make some excuse like I didn’t clean my room” I told him. I knew if I
were on hand when my room was being searched, I could talk the searcher out of going to far into my locker.
Some cops do their job and look at everything in the room, but most of them don’t like searching and can easily be
talked out of looking in places where a lot of work is involved. You know, there’s a psychology behind handling a
searcher. One of the first things convicts learn when they first come to a joint is how to beat the search team. Like, if
you want to hide a major contraband in your room, then you leave a minor contraband item so it can be discovered.
The dude searching will usually abandon the search when he finds the piece you salted, and he leaves feeling he’s
done a fine job. You got to be just a little bit smarter than they are to survive in prison. On the other hand there is
that occasional sharp cop who can’t be fooled. When this happens, you’re in trouble. So the way you handle this guy
is you get all the cons in the area to complain about how the guy dumps stuff on your floors, tears your bedding, etc.
If the complaints keep coming about the guy, joint big shots take the attitude that “where there’s smoke there must
be fire,” and they give him a job change. Can you beat that? The dude gets punished because he’s doing a better job
that anyone else.
One morning my duck called and said the search team was going to be in his unit. I rushed and stood nonchalantly
by my cell door. A cop was already in my room searching. I was polite, joked with him, pointed to an area in my
room he failed to search. I even complimented him on his thoroughness. When he came to the foot locker I said,
“Man, I’m sorry, it’s going to take you hours to get through all the junk in that box.” By seeding this thought he gets
tired just looking at the job. They’ll usually just give the box a once over lightly and quit. I pointed to a master list of
things in the footlocker that was taped to the underside of the lid. I said that because the box was so full the list
might make the job more bearable; that it was packed military style; and it took me hours to do it. “But you got your
job to do,” I emphasized, “and I don’t mind repacking, even though it will take me most of the day--go ahead on.”
The dude was impressed by my politeness and complimentary attitude and he was convincing himself that a con who
encourages a thorough search is probably clean. I did ask him, however, that as he took things out of the foot locker
to place them on the bed--if he didn’t mind; and that he could glance at the list to see how orderly I kept my things.
By this, I knew two things would take place in his mind: his eyes would check the list as I suggested; when he
consistently found things in order, he’d feel he’s wasting his time; and the old buddy association I was developing
would help convince him I was hiding nothing. So I figured after removing a few things he would conclude the
It happened just as I thought.. He removed the top row of clothing and about half of the next, then said, “O.K., you’
re clear,” and he moved on to the next cell.
“Whew.” Breathing a sigh of relief, I decided this searcher came a little close and I had better put my escape plan in
action soon. Tomorrow morning, I thought, was as good a time as any.
My duck comes on duty at 7:45 a.m. At 8:00 a.m. the night shift goes home, and at the same time there is a major
work release for prisoners: the corridor is always crowded at that time. I figured I had 15 minutes to get out of my
room, slip into the broom closet, get into the uniform then melt into the crowd unnoticed. I would go to the exit door
next to the control room where a sergeant is supposed to identify everyone leaving and stand with the group of
officers waiting to go home. The procedure for releasing officers from the security area at the joint is done like this:
The sergeant at the control room looks at everyone wanting into the sallyport (a sallyport is a holding area in
between two locked steel doors). When he’s satisfied he’s only releasing staff, he pushes a button which opens the
first of two electronically controlled doors. Everyone enter and the first door closes. Before the second door is
opened, an officer looks at everyone to assure the sergeant made no mistakes. Once the second door is opened they
cross a patio to the administration building where another sallyport exists, and the procedure is repeated. When
everyone passes through the administration building, there is a final sallyport where a tower man and a sergeant
make sure the proper people enter and leave. In each of those sallyports, the employees who opened the doors were
nightshift people and I had suspected that because they were tired and sleepy, they released people not on the basis
of positive identification, but because they were a uniform. Well, at any rate, tomorrow morning I would find out how
correct my suspicions were.
The night passed slowly. I had a difficult time sleeping, so I spent most of the night going over and over every detail
of the escape plan. Finally it was 7:45 a.m. I heard the lock door snap, and I knew it was my duck letting me out. I
grabbed the uniform and rushed to the broom closet. The uniform fit like a glove! It’s funny how clothes can make
you feel. I suddenly felt clean, almost like I wished I were on the side of the law and not a criminal. Then I thought
of my stupid duck and decided I was better of as a hood.
During morning work release, the day shift officers stand in the center of the corridor as inmates pass up and down
the long hallway on their way to job assignments. Staff members going home walk along one wall to the control
room and they are usually looking into the units being released; their faces are away from the corridor officers in the
corridor, so it would not be suspicious if I did the same. I started out of the unit. As I passed the officers’ stations, I
took my duck’s lunch box for realism. He started to object and I said, “Don’t say it, you dummy, or you’re dead.” I
slipped into the crowd and made my way to the control. The sergeant was peering through the mirror identifying
people. Then suddenly the bolt snapped and the electric door opened. Everyone stepped into the sallyport, and the
door closed behind us. I kept my head down slightly so no one could get a direct look at my face. The officer looked
everyone over from a small unbreakable window, and he was being careful. I thought it might be over at this point.
The officer’s phone rang, some people were turning in and drawing keys, and in his momentary distraction, he
opened the second door.
When I was crossing the patio to the administration building, an officer coming on duty stopped me and asked me
for a match. I felt panic surge through my veins. If the group got through the first door without me I would be alone,
and alone, an unfamiliar officer was certain to be challenged. I searched my pockets quickly and said, “Sorry, guess I’
m out of matches, too.” I hurried and caught the group just as the first door opened. The desk officer was flirting
with a little blond secretary and just let everyone pass because they were all uniform personnel. The last sallyport was
about 75 feet in front of us and the hardest one to get through. An officer in the tower by the entrance building--
main gate as it was called--would identify the people leaving. If he recognized everyone, he would open the first gate.
Once we’re inside the sallyport, the main gate sergeant checks everyone a final time before the gate to freedom can
As the group approached this final sallyport my heart was in my throat. I began to think for the first time there was a
possibility of my making it, even though I knew this would be the hardest hurdle. Everyone had now reached the
gate. I kept my head low without being obvious about it. The tower man was scanning faces. Then he shouted, “You
there, look up!” I didn’t know if he was talking to me but assumed he was. I shadowed my face with my hand like I
was trying to keep the sum from blinding me and looked up, slightly waving my hand at him to indicate I recognized
him. A long moment passed, then the door slid open. While waiting for the final check, I noticed a large group of
officers standing in the main gate sergeants’ station ready to be admitted after the night crew were identified and
released. I heard someone in our group say they were new officers going on an orientation tour. The gate sergeant’s
eyes were scanning the group. I was trying to be inconspicuous by looking slightly away from him. It seemed an
eternity of silence was being lived in those few moments. Then, my world fell apart when he shouted, “You, the
officer with his back to me, come over here. I approached the window he was looking through and this time I looked
him right in the eye. I felt disappointed and angry over being so close and getting caught, and had about decided to
suddenly hit the fence even though I knew the tower man would shoot at me. I was mad enough to take that chance.
The sergeant asked, “What are you doing there? You’re supposed to be with these new officers out here.”
Thinking quickly, I replied in an apologetic voice, “I’m sorry sarg. But I thought the training officer said to meet him
in the administration building.”
“Who the hell let you in anyway?” The sergeant sorta growled in a tone indicating he was irritated with me. He
opened the gate, and as I entered the gate house, he stood in front of me and demanded, “Now you stay with your
“Yes--I will--sir. But do I have time to run to my car before the training officer gets here? I forgot my I.D. card.”
The sergeant looked disgusted. “There’s one in every group. All right, make it fast, the lieutenant doesn’t like to be
I hurried to the far end of the main parking lot. Behind the last row of cars was a fence separating a corn field. I
dropped to my knees behind a car and crawled on my stomach and slid under the barbed wire fence to the safety of
the tall corn stalks. Keeping low I made my way to the main highway. I saw a car parked on the highway shoulder.
No one was in it so I assumed the driver had run out of gas. I decided to stand in front of the car and hitchhike. My
thinking was being in uniform and in front of the parked car, drivers would think it was mine and I had experienced
car troubles. It worked! I had been standing about two minutes when this car pulled over. The driver motioned me to
hurry when I noticed he was wearing the same kind of uniform I had on; my heart dropped. What was worse I
recognized him as one of the wing officers at the joint I had just left. I was caught. “Get in.” he said sharply. I almost
confessed “O.K., you caught me, I’ll go peacefully but I didn’t. The lump in my throat wouldn’t let me.
“Where to?” he asked with a half smile. “The first town you come to so I can get some gas,” I managed to
answer. The town was bout 20 miles away. As we drove, I gathered my wits. He said he’d help me get the gas and
run me back to the car. He asked if I was a new employee at the joint and I was glad to confess I was. Then I said,
“You don’t need to return me to the car. I’ll call my wife and she’ll pick me up.” “O.K.,” he said, “it’s no bother--
you know, you sure remind me of someone I’ve met before!” “Really? Well…no! I’m sure we’ve never met,” I
said. He dropped me at a service station, wished me well, and drove away. I was free! About three days later,
I was miles away from that prison. I was hungry and tired so I decided to rob a store near the outskirts of the nearby
city. During that robbery, I killed three people, but managed to keep from getting caught for over a year. Never mind
how I got the gun. I was eventually apprehended, convicted and returned. I hated that stupid cop I ducked, and
while I was on the streets my obsession to get a message to authorities so that cat would be fired was the thing
which led to my apprehension and new conviction. Eventually I had to testify at his trial. Of course I couldn’t tell
them much except that I had developed the duck and then the details of the cop’s violations. “Anything else you folks
would like to know?” I asked my interviewers.
“Only one thing. Now that you are back in prison, are you trying to acquire, or have you acquired another duck?”
I leaned back on my chair, fixed my eyes on the petitioner as I thought about the question, took a stick of chewing
gum from my shirt pocket, unwrapped it, and slowly slid it into my mouth. I stood to leave the room, paused at the
door, smiled, and said, “They don’t sell gum in these joints…later, man!”