I read in a book about this effect, and I just can't remember the term for it. It describes the effect with a name, something like: "shadow of jail about him" or something. This is seriously driving me crazy. I've tried and tried to remembered, and googled, and I still can't remember it.

It describes people who have got out of jail, and they seem to have the aura of jail still around them. I know it is actually a phrase, not something the author coined. Can someone please help me? And sorry for the vague kind of guidelines.

If you want to know, that book was something I read years ago when I was younger, called

Jo's Boys

  • 1
    do you remember if the term was immediately obvious, obvious from context or you had to look it up?
    – Unreason
    Jun 8, 2011 at 8:22
  • 1
    Jo's Boys. Jun 8, 2011 at 11:19

2 Answers 2


There are a few metaphors that occur in Jo's Boys that resemble what you're talking about.

pp. 263: "They'd see and smell and feel the prison taint on me..."

pp. 327: "He longed to go home, but waited week after week to get the prison taint off him and the haggard look out of his face."

pp. 338: "All the old prison gloom seemed to settle like a black cloud on Dan's face..."

pp. 343: "... and to help wear away the first sharpness of the prison brand."


A person who has done time is often called a "jailbird", an "ex-con", an "old lag"...

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    The feeling I get from "jailbird" is someone who keeps returning to the "cage" (to continue that metaphore). The feeling I get from "ex-con" is that it wasn't necessarily a recent departure. I've never heard the term "old lag" before. Jun 8, 2011 at 6:44
  • I know what they're called, I'm just wondering why they have that sort of atmosphere around them.
    – Thursagen
    Jun 8, 2011 at 6:56
  • @Ham - perhaps you should re-title your question, then, because I believe I did answer "Term for a person who got out of jail, and an aura of jail seems to hang around him". No, I haven't answered what that "aura of jail" is called - I'm drawing a blank on that - but the question in your title...
    – MT_Head
    Jun 8, 2011 at 7:49
  • Also, I did a quick re-read through Jo's Boys - I also read it as a kid, and it's available through Project Gutenberg - but the phrase you remember didn't come from there, I think.
    – MT_Head
    Jun 8, 2011 at 7:52

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