IamA Correctional Officer at a maximum security prison. AMA!
I had some requests to do an AMA a couple months ago so here I am! Throwaway is obviously being used and proof has been submitted to the mods. I'll be here for the next couple of hours to answer any of your questions so ask away!
Edit #1: I'm trying my best to keep up with the questions. I'm not the fastest typer so be patient with me!
Edit #2: Taking a break to play the FIFA 15 demo. Be back shortly. :)
We used to have a severely unstable individual that would do some of the craziest shit you could only dream about. For starters the guy was a prison baby. His mom went to prison while she was pregnant and had him in prison. You can imagine how fucked up his life must have been.
Now for the good stuff. Sometimes these guys get a hold of staples in their mail which they aren't supposed to have. Well this guy got one in his mail and decided he was going to shape it like a fish hook, rip part of his sheet off, and tie the staple to it. He swallowed the staple and pulled it back up towards his throat and it lodged in just like a fish hook would. We walked by his cell and he just stood at the window pulling on the string and ripping his throat.
This same guy also loved shoving stuff up his dick hole. Chicken bones, pens, pieces of his toothbrush. It got so bad they actually had to do emergency surgery to remove all the objects in his bladder, which leads to my next story. After his surgery he decided it would be a good idea to rip out his stitches and play with his intestines. So thats exactly what he did. It got so bad he had to be kept in 4 point medical restraints for 23 hours of the day. Every appendage was free for 15 minutes. The doctors finally decided they couldn't keep stitching him up and the last I knew he had a colostomy bag at the age of 24. Its estimated he cost taxpayers $20 million dollars in medical costs. That's just one person.
How'd that throat ripping work out? Could he eat/talk afterwards? Does your facility provide mental health care?
He had to be tube fed while his throat healed. The last I knew he was able to eat and talk normally but he is at a different facility now so I'm not sure how is doing currently. Yes, the facility provides what mental health care it can. We are severely under equipped to do so though.
God I feel sorry for him. Did he ever get mental health care? Or just care to make sure he didn't die?
They gave him as much mental care as possible. They ended up just heavily medicating him to ensure he didn't harm himself anymore. He is at a different facility now so I don't know the status of him right now.
Have you ever taken sound financial advice off one of the prisoners? Has any of your prisoners escaped by digging a tunnel behind a poster?
Yes to both questions. And they always have a gentle spoken black man as their prison mentor. Coincidence?
What's the most significant good and bad aspects everyone else may or may not assume of the job?
What's your background before this?
What advice would you give to someone interested in the job?
What's something you've witness you just couldn't believe or laughed about?
Thanks for the AMA!
Good aspects. Excellent pay, benefits and retirement. The work isn't very taxing. I've worked much harder jobs but this one carries the most risk. As far as the bad go. My co-workers are usually worse to deal with than the inmates. It's like being in high school all over again.
I was a college student studying political science. I hated what I was studying and it was getting harder and harder to afford it. I decided enough was enough and applied to be an officer.
If I were to give advice to someone who is interested I would tell them to choose the kind of person you're going to be on the job before you ever step foot in the prison. Consistency is what offenders respect most.
One of the funnier things I've witnessed was an inmate standing in front of his cell doing the "meat spin." I could have written him a ticket but I got such a good kick out of it I gave him a break and just told him to put his clothes back on.
How are you treated by the prisoners? Do most of them threaten you, or do they mind their own business?
The prisoners are, for the most part, respectful. Depending on which cell house I am working in at the time. That's not to say I haven't received my fair share of threats. It's a hostile environment.
have you ever had poo thrown at you?
Have you ever had anyone come ridiculously close to escaping? Any cool stories in regards to the creativity and persistence that inmates display attempting to break out?
I have never personally experienced an escape. We did get an inmate that was kept in another institution that was known for his escape attempts. In fact the state I work in spent $20,000 just to build a special cell to house him in. It's apparently impossible to escape from but if anyone can find a way this guy will. We also have an inmate that knocked out an officer at a different facility and wore his uniform in an escape attempt. He was one door away from freedom before someone noticed him.
What are the most/least realistic things you see on TV/movie versions of prison?
That is a hard question to answer. I've never watched Oz, Prison break, Orange is the New Black. 12-16 hours of my day is spent locked in a prison. I try not to let my personal life revolve around prison as well haha. Sorry I couldn't be of more help!
What has been your favorite experience so far?
Getting maced in the academy. It was by far the most painful thing I've experienced but fuck I laughed my ass off the entire time. Its hard to explain really.
IMO it is a waste of money from a rehabilitation stand point. No matter what these men are violent offenders. Very few, if any employers will give them a chance. The offenders get released and turn back to illegal activities to try and make their lives worth living. It's a vicious cycle. From an officers stand point I like the programs. It gives the offenders something to keep their mind occupied on a day to day basis.
Can you please explain about the scope of Correctional Officer, what is your day-to-day work?
The day-to-day work of a CO (Correctional Officer) largely depends on what shift you are working and where. The low ranking officers are the men and women that interact with offenders daily. We run lines to yard, chow and rec. We get individual inmates out for their education programs or doctor visits. We do the brunt of the work. The Majors and other administrators don't have nearly as much inmate contact. The majority of their work is done in office space.
Is psychiatric care readily available to prisoners in need?
That's a tough question. Kind of? I'll try and explain. In my state we only have two maximum security mental health facilities. That means there isn't nearly enough bed space to accommodate the mentally unstable offenders that should be there. As a result of this they started putting them into prisons since they couldn't be released into society. Prisons aren't equipped to handle them. While the institution I work at has mental health staff including psychiatrists, counselors, etc. there just isn't enough staff to make it work. Therefore they do the next best thing which is to heavily medicate them to minimize the danger to themselves and others.
In my opinion there is far too much focus on the criminal aspect and not enough on the mental health. There should be far more mental health institutions open to accommodate these offenders instead of relying on prisons to take care of them.
Hello, everyone likes to give prison food a bad name, would you say that is an accurate portrayal or would you say that the food is actually pretty good?
It's actually not as bad as most people would think. It isn't gourmet quality by any means but I occasionally grab a tray of the food from time to time if I get hungry. I refuse to touch the cock in a sock though.
cock in a sock?
It's some kind of sausage. The casing on it makes it look like there is a condom on it. The inmates call it a cock in a sock and it doesn't look very appealing.
I notice in some of your other answers that you don't seem to take much stock in rehabilitation of prisoners. Given the huge percentage of our population that goes to prison at some point in their life, it seems as though there needs to be a way for prisoners to build a life that doesn't require reverting back to crime. What changes would you suggest? What programs would you want to see in place? What jobs should former inmates pursue?
I don't take much stock in rehabilitation of the prisoners at the institution I work at. The institution houses the worst of the worst in the state. Murderers, child rapists, etc. It is sad to say but offenders like that will never get a chance from any employer. That's not to say it couldn't work in the lower security units that contain non violent offenders with a 2 or 3 year sentence.
The state I work in already has programs in place that I think are the proper ones. Most of the programs are trade based. Plumbing, electrical, carpentry, etc. In fact most of the work is done by inmates that are in a type of "apprenticeship." They come out of their cells daily and spend the majority of their day out with journeyman union trade workers learning said trade. These are the skills the offenders need to learn. I believe learning a trade will be more valuable to their life after release than a college degree ever would be.
I assume your authoritative role is similar to ones in the military, the troops/inmates will test your assertiveness and if you arent assertive they consider you weak and dont respect your authority as much and they try to get away with more. Would you agree with this?
I would agree with it to an extent. I show respect to the inmates at all times but they also know that they don't have anything coming from me other than what they are allowed. Consistency is the most important thing when it comes to dealing with offenders.
Have you ever met someone who REALLY should not have been there? Or someone who's conviction had been overturned? Any Scumbags you didn't think should have ever been released?
I have yet to meet anyone that I feel doesn't belong there. There are plenty of people there that have made a bad mistake and are now paying for it. Those offenders are by far the easiest to deal with. They understand that they must be punished for that mistake and have come to terms with it. There are plenty of scumbags that should never be released. I have a deep hatred for the child rapists. However, I do not let that affect my job duties. I treat all of them the same.
Have you ever seen a violent outbreak between inmates and/or COs? If so, what was the scenario?
I've only been involved a few times. The majority of attacks are between inmates. Usually rival gang members that have a score to settle. I've never been directly involved in a staff assault but the last major one we had was about 2 months ago. Seven inmate kitchen workers decided to attack a CO and take his isper jet. An isper jet is basically a fire extinguisher full of mace. Its used for riot control. He was able to keep possession of the jet and hit his emergency button on the radio. All in all 3 staff were injured with broken ribs, a broken wrist, and a concussion. The inmates turned out a little worse.
Have you ever been on Lockup?
What state do you work in? What kind of programs does your facility have? Are TVs allowed in cell? How's the SHU there?
I'd rather not disclose the state I work in. As far as programs go we have quite a few. Trade school programs such as carpentry and plumbing. Education programs to let offenders get their diplomas or take college classes. TV's are certainly allowed in cells. However, the TV itself is quite costly although the cable service is free. The segregation unit is pretty rough. I worked there for a little over a month. It is very hot, it smells, the rooms are small, and they have solid doors in front so there is barely any air flow.
What color uniform do the inmates wear? What's the deal with street clothes? do you have FRP/conjugal visits? Ever worked a wall tower post? What weapons are you qualified with? Do you have any intentions to transfer to a medium?
The inmates have a couple different things they can wear. When they go to chow or chapel they wear blue pants and a light blue shirt. When they go to yard or work they can wear grey shorts and a white t-shirt. Med furlough inmates must wear yellow jumpsuits and segregation inmates wear tan jumpsuits. Always white shoes or state issued boots. No street clothes at all.
No conjugal visits. Gen pop inmates are allowed 2 hour visits unless or are allowed longer if the officer working the visiting room is ok with it. They can hug and kiss within reason. Segregation inmates are allowed non-contact visits. Your typical prison visit with glass and a phone.
I've worked in every tower in the prison. Some are within the grounds, others oversee the outer perimeter or chow halls and chapel. I'm qualified with a pistol, a .223 caliber rifle, and a 12 gauge shotgun that shoots .00 buck shot. I was an avid marksman before I got hired so the qualification was easy enough for me.
I may eventually transfer to another facility. It all depends on where I decide to move to. If that time ever comes. Transfers can be long drawn out processes.
Do you ever feel scared or fearful during any tasks of your job?
How much abuse do you take on the job?
I've gotten over the fear, but the first couple days on the job it was the most terrifying thing I've experienced. Especially when we run the chow lines. It would just be myself, another officer, and a small can of mace trapped on a gallery with over 100 inmates convicted of murder and other violent crimes. That was the first time I experienced true fear
In your experience how often do you see inmates actually rehabilitated?
So far...never. Just a couple months ago we released an offender on parole. Less than two weeks after he was released he brutally murdered two women and was right back in jail.
How accurate are shows like sons of anarchy's portrayal to prison? Have you ever seen other guards involved in corrupt activities?
I've never personally seen any corrupt activities but there was an officer that was caught bringing in cell phones just a couple years ago.
Is your facility state run or private?
It is state run
While you probably do not have any sympathy for the convicted felons, do you empathize with them?
This is may be the most frequent question to COs doing AMAs are asked, but do you think there are innocent people locked up behind bars?
What do you think about Oz, a prison drama? Are there any Abedisi's located there?
Sympathy is something an officer can't have. Empathy is something that they all should have. Of course I have empathy for them. They are people that either have, or will be spending the majority of their lives behind bars. I've talked to many that freely admit that they had a few too many drinks at a bar and made a terrible mistake in the moment. They have come to terms with their actions and have accepted their punishment.
As far as innocent people behind bars, I think it's inevitable that there are, but I have absolutely no way of knowing unless their conviction is overturned. I've also never seen Oz so I can't really say.
Oz gives perspective of people in and out of the prison as well as the COs and other staff (priest, psychiatrist, doctor, etc.). It's a fantastic show, I highly recommend it.
I saw it on Amazon prime. I'll be sure to check it out tonight!
How long do you plan on being an officer?
I'm not sure yet. This wasn't my career choice. It was necessity. I had student loans closing in quick and had to have a job that allowed me to pay for them and live comfortably. I may spend the next 30 years as an officer or I may find something better in the future. I'm still actively looking but I wouldn't be opposed to being an officer for my career.
Can someone put the question if correctional officers put people in jail or not to rest?
We do not put people in jail. Jail and prison are two different things. Jail is where people awaiting trial are usually detained. Once a conviction is given then the inmate will be transferred to the appropriate prison to serve his or her sentence.
Have you watched Oz and of so is it accurate?
I'm sorry I haven't
Is Orange the new Black? if so does Orange crack?
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How do "political" prisoners, such as animal rights/anarchists/sovereign citizens, fare in your institution?
They don't. We only house violent offenders.
Well considering the prison I work at only contains murderers, rapists and other violent offenders I couldn't tell you. I do know of a man that raped his 7 month old niece multiple times. He deserves more than his humanity taken from him.
My comment went straight over your head. I work in a MAXIMUM security facility that houses only VIOLENT offenders. Yeah, there are tons of drug offenders in the prison I work at, but they aren't there because of the drugs. They are there because they decided to murder someone when a drug deal went bad. Our medium and minimum security facilities are there for drug offenders that are serving minor sentences. Since I work in neither I can't tell you an honest answer to your question. I can tell you that being incarcerated in a minimum or medium security facility is far from having your humanity stripped from you.
Craziest thing that has ever happened on the job?
Gotta figure you've got some good stories.
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