When people think of innovation, they usually think of optimism, progress, and improvement. But sometimes innovation can be downright depressing.
Not that it’s a bad thing that somebody thought of inventing a flexible pen, specifically designed so that prison inmates could not use it to murder one another. But the fact that this invention is needed at all is kind of depressing.
It’s called the Prison Pen, and it’s a flexible non-lethal ball point pen. The pen itself is a fully functional writing implement, but it has a non-rigid design that makes it helpless to penetrate skin: it bends rather than pushing through the skin.
Pens are often used as weapons in prisons throughout the world. Aside from their pointiness and rigidity making them an obvious choice for a stabbing, they have the added benefit that they are widely available behind bars. Because much like the slightly-less-stabby toothbrush, pens are one of those items that even prisoners need on a daily basis, as anyone with a prison pen pal will know.
As the makers of the Prison Pen state on their Amazon page: “You go to great lengths to confiscate any potential weapon when taking a prisoner into custody, so why would you want to hand him one afterwards? This pen is now in use in most U.S. federal prisons.” Good point.
Don’t believe that a pen would be useful in hand-to-hand combat? Take this opportunity to learn about pen-based self-defence, which might save your life some day if you’re ever attacked while writing a letter to your prison pen pal:
And for a more memorable (and graphic) example, let’s not forget the infamous pen stabbing scene from Martin Scorcese’s Casino:
It should be said that the Prison Pen isn’t the only such product on the market. There’s also the Greenhead Stab-Resistant Prison Pen. But it’s not just for prisons. As they point out on their website, “you never know when someone might decide to rudely shank you with a pen.” Indeed.
It seems that these things really do work as advertised. Case in point: this video, in which a guy repeatedly tries to stab himself with a stab-resistant pen, and fails to draw blood:
So if you’re reading this article while incarcerated, take heart: some people really are trying to make your environment safer. Because, all joking aside, we really could be doing a better job of protecting our prisoners and keeping them safe from each other.