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Handball is a popular sport in many North American prisons; typically it is a simplified version of American handball. The popularity of handball in prisons can conceivably be attributed to its ease of play (requiring only 2 or 4 players to start a game), availability of suitable areas to play (prison courtyards almost always include at least one brick or cement wall to play off) and the low cost of the racquetball required to play (often supplied by the institution).
Each team has two players. They are alternated in a row facing the playing wall, i.e. from the left you have a player of team one, second to the right is a player of team two, third to the right is the second team one player, and farthest right is the second player of team two.
Service is started when the far left player from team one throws the ball to the playing wall. Unlike American rules, the ball is thrown directly to the wall, not requiring a bounce before service. The only requirement of a serve is that it contacts the playing wall before bouncing off the floor. Service must be to the opposing player directly beside the server. (The two center players serve to the outside players). If the serve is faulty – too low or out of bounds – the server is allowed to re-serve.
Play continues until a player faults. Usually a limit is designated on the wall by a landmark to determine the out of bounds limit. Players can fault by failing to reach the play wall after striking the ball, or by hitting the play wall outside of the boundary. When the ball returns from the play wall, one bounce anywhere in the playing area is allowed before the receiver returns the ball.
Only the serving team can score a point when the opposing team faults during the rally. If the serving team faults during the rally, the opposing team gains the serve, but no points.
Games are usually played until one team scores 15, this is often lowered when there is a limited amount of time.
Sometimes there is a condition that if you receive the ball, and are able to strike an opposing player (without bouncing) on your return strike, your team receives two points and the serve. This helps to prevent opposing players from standing in front of the receivers.
Commonly fixtures such as sconces, windows, and doors on the playing or side wall are not considered out of bounds. If the ball bounces off this type of feature and continues in a reasonable way play continues. In some cases the feature might cause the ball to go out of bounds or move in a way making unplayable, this is usually grounds for a re-serve.
Because prison courtyards are often open-air and without any ceiling, or the walls are of limited height, there is the risk of the ball going over the wall. In many cases there exists a rule that any player who sends the ball outside the yard (irretrievable) must do push-ups or some similar punishment.
In Texas Prisons, while serving, the server must bounce the ball on the ground before hitting it towards the wall. He or she, "AK", must serve behind the line, hit the ball above the line on the wall, and make the ball bounce back past the servers line, and on the receivers half of the court. If the server is short, i.e. if the rebounding ball comes short of the serving line or does not reach the opponents half but is within bounds, he gets one additional try. Being short twice awards a point to the receiver, who then has the right to serve. A crack ball – a ball that bounces in the crack between the two walls – is counted as short on the first, but not on the second serve when the server can serve again. A point must be scored by the serving team, otherwise the serving right passes to the opposing team, the teams swap places and no point is awarded.