‘Bubba’ – the huge, hulking, sexually lascivious prisoner who wants the new arrival for his own. Or her own.
How else does a screenwriter show that a particular prisoner is a smart strategist, other than by him (I don't think it's ever a her) playing chess?
The Mr Big who has all the power and controls the drugs, contraband and corruption. Invariably has a key prison officer in his pocket, too.
The cell-mate. The wise old-timer, showing the new fish the ropes. Or better: the transvestite, showing the ropes.
Rape in prison is always lurking in the background. In the showers, laundry.. at least five assailants to the one victim. How else do you demonstrate that life in prison is unpleasant?
The mess hall. The politics of who you sit next to and who you don’t. Extra marks for enamel cups (suitable for banging on tables), and confrontations with the prisoner behind the servery (particularly if the food is dished out on the tray with venom). Upturned trays for special effect.
The sadistic Prison Officer. Well, there may be more than one, but this one is particularly nasty, spiteful, manipulative, powerful and vicious.
The prisoners’ welcome for new arrivals. Spitting is good. Slow handclapping, catcalls. Leering, particularly at the young new receptions, or the ‘new fish.’
The stabbing. Could be in the mess hall, or on a cellblock tier, but preferably in the exercise yard – at which point everyone just moves away and no-one sees a thing. Shivs or shanks are preferred over other more conventional weaponry.
The strip search (or other ritual humiliation) upon reception into the prison.
The beautiful Warden's daughter who falls, improbably, for one of her father's prisoners. Goes back to The Honor System (1917), if not earlier.
The Governor / Warden / Chief Officer laying down the law to the new arrivals. “You can do your time hard or easy. You do it our way, and we’ll get on just fine. Do it your way and we’ll show you just how unpleasant prison can be.”