I worked as a Georgia Corrections Officer back in early 2000. I was 18 when I started and did it for almost 2 years. Since then I've left corrections and went on to be a police officer.

I worked at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, the only Georgia prison that housed death row inmates. I worked in death row, segregation/protective custody, and two "death watches" prior to scheduled execution.

The only proof I have is a uniform I kept (AMA is over, deleted for my safety) Ask away.

Edit: Thanks for the great questions everyone. Was a fun 3 hour AMA. I gotta get some sleep now. I'll try to answer a few more later. Inbox me if you have any direct questions. Good night reddit.

Comments: 2971 • Responses: 69  • Date: 

perpetual_fail859 karma

Saddest thing you've ever witnessed?

gendarme_1455 karma

I heard a rape I couldn't do anything about. This was when I was working in the larger cell house with around 260 inamates. I heard the screaming coming from one of the cells but couldn't find it in time. When I finally did I knew something had happened but the inmate wouldn't talk.

[deleted]462 karma

Were you armed? And were others with you?

Terrifying to make it to the cell only to become seconds :/

gendarme_919 karma

We were not given anything at all to protect ourselves. Still today they don't have any weapons, not even OC spray. The idea of that is that the inmates could (and very easily because of being outnumbered) get it and use it as an offense.

LL_KooL_Aid406 karma

I know 18 year olds that are scared to take pre-made dinners over to the county jail with the entire god damn church group, and armed guards all around. And these inmates are in there for stealing cows and missing child support payments and other silly shit. You've got balls of steel, sir.

gendarme_720 karma

I thought I had balls of steel too, until the first time that big door locked behind me. Took me a long time to find my balls again. I'll never forget that first time.

Millertyme2069182 karma

Did you guys have much hand to hand combat training?

gendarme_421 karma

Very little. COs are very under trained, under staffed, and no weapons. I still have great respect for correctional officers.

Millertyme206940 karma

My uncle has been on a prison staff for quite some time. I'm not sure how much you got paid, but around here they make damn good money. He has tried to get me to apply for the CO job many times, but I know what that position holds. I'll always have respect for them, especially the one like you, who were very young going in. Would you say that after your first day or so that you thought, "I'm in over my head."?

gendarme_87 karma

Yes. The first time that door closes behind you is a feeling I'll never forget. I was so close to turning around and saying "OK, let me out now".

thrashing_death771 karma

What was the worst crime that someone was executed for while you were working there?

gendarme_1593 karma

While we weren't given any information on the inmates, sometimes certain inmates would stick out in my mind that I'd go home and find the information. The worst I found was one guy that killed a child, skinning it while it was still alive. I tried not talking to him anymore.

pears-are-underrated769 karma

Did most of them turn to religion towards the end?

gendarme_995 karma

Yes, nearly every one of them in there held on to religion. I think it was a great coping mechanism for them. It gave them a chance at peace for what they had done I guess.

residenthalo706 karma

What were some of the more unique or interesting last meal requests that you know about?

gendarme_1179 karma

The prison actually had a set cost. I believe it was $60. Speaking to veteran guards there the request was usually fast food followed by ice cream. They say you don't realize how much you miss ice cream until you absolutely can't get it anymore.

Longstockings308 karma

As of 2011, Texas death row inmates can no longer request last meals after an inmate ordered a large extravagant feast then declined to eat any of it. The meal?

Two chicken-fried steaks with gravy and sliced onions; a triple-patty bacon cheeseburger; a cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and jalapeños; a bowl of fried okra with ketchup; one pound of barbecued meat with half a loaf of white bread; three fajitas; a meat-lover’s pizza; one pint of Blue Bell Ice Cream; a slab of peanut-butter fudge with crushed peanuts; and three root beers. 

gendarme_313 karma

Damn, poor Texans. Our prison had a price limit, I want to say it was around $60. Plus, none of it could be imported, it all had to be found locally.

[deleted]667 karma

Anything paranormal happen during your time?

gendarme_1188 karma

Absolutely. I've seen "inmates" outside of their cell. Heard officer keys at night when there was no one but me. Had a friend working a tower that saw the old school inmates with the black and white stripped uniforms and old school prison guard as they were cleaning up the side of the road next to the tower. Didn't believe in paranormal stuff prior to working there, but afterwards I'm convinced there is something there.

adobong_manok373 karma

Elaborate on your experiences seeing "inmates" outside of their cell?

gendarme_1025 karma

Saw figures standing at the end of ranges and when I got to where they were there would be nothing there. It was impossible for an actual inmate to get out, and if he was out and standing there, it would have been impossible to get back in. Sometimes other inmates would call me down because they had someone standing in front of their cell. Once one asked me why I came back to his cell after a short period. I hadn't been there in over an hour. He says an officer was just standing in front of his cell 5 minutes prior.

Just got chills writing that and remembering the fear on his face.

matike835 karma

I'm sitting in my backyard having a cigarette in the dark because I don't want to wake my neighbors. Half way through reading this I heard a raccoon jump on my fence. Completely shit myself. Just thought you should know.

gendarme_1112 karma

Not long after writing that, my dog knocked over a floor fan. Just thought you should know I screamed like a little girl.

UserEighteen23 karma

What was your reaction to seeing an inmate outside of their cell?

gendarme_72 karma

Have a mini heart attack, try not to piss myself.

ComeAtMeFro615 karma

was there ever anyone who was allergic to peanuts or shellfish and ordered it for their last meal to try and commit suicide from it

gendarme_840 karma

The doctors are well aware of their allergens and had to approve their last meal before it was delivered. They gotta be smarter than that.

deprivedchild590 karma

Do any of them try to fight their way out of it, or are they just content with it?

gendarme_886 karma

We did have an attempted escape. They tried to tunnel out the back where the pipes and stuff run. They made it to the final exterior door before they were caught.

Death row inmates though were usually the best behaved inmates in the prison. They were the most secured too though so it's not likely they would have been able to attempt anything should they have tried.

Nutchos1114 karma

What if they had outside help.. say a brother who happened to be an architect of the prison.

gendarme_720 karma

Was an avid viewer of that show. One of the few I've watched all the way through!

michaelsamcarr457 karma

You should try breaking bad. I thought prison break was the best until I had seen breaking bad.

gendarme_623 karma

Watching Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy now. My two favorite shows.

Ninjaboop412 karma

You are now my favorite prison guard! I don't know anyone else...

gendarme_381 karma

Thanks! I'm so glad I'm your favorite guard you know!

ardbob549 karma

When an inmate is given their injection, what people are watching? Just the guards? Are the inmate's family allowed to watch?

gendarme_815 karma

Inmate's family (usually doesn't show), the victim's family, one local media from the county the crime happened in(must be in attendance to witness and confirm), and the local sheriff of the county the crime happened in is invited.

ardbob507 karma

Does the victim's family usually show from your experience?

gendarme_798 karma

Yes, there is usually at least one victim family there. Guess they see it as some type of closure.

squeaki428 karma

What do they do after? I mean, like... go get hammered or something? I can't imagine it's like a wake at a funeral or anything like that. What's the norm? Just leave and try to put it out of their mind? It's as much a torture for the observers, especially if it's family. Are they counselled or anything?

gendarme_413 karma

I really don't know. I do believe the state offers counseling, but outside of that I don't know how they mentally handle that.

CherrySlurpee541 karma

What are your opinions of the death penalty?

gendarme_1428 karma

I have mixed emotions about it. Part of me supports it, as those that are on death row deserve their punishment. The other part has that worry that they have the chance of being innocent. Ultimately, I'd rather every man be allowed to live then one innocent man being put to death.

CherrySlurpee257 karma

was there anyone on death row that you thought was truly innocent?

gendarme_388 karma

We aren't given any information on the inmates we are watching. We have to do our own investigating through media to figure out what they are in there for. With minimum contact with the inmates and no other information to go off of, you don't really think about it. They didn't talk about the reason they were there.

AppleDane164 karma

Don't think about them, or try not to think about them?

gendarme_440 karma

I just treated everyone the same. Made it easier to deal with people if I didn't know what they were in there for.

mcanning449 karma

I got a few questions:

What was it like going to work everyday?

Did you ever get attached to an inmate?

What was your favorite/least favorite part about your job?

Thanks for the AMA!

gendarme_815 karma

What was it like going to work everyday?

It was very interesting. Dealing with people in that type of setting is an experience I'll never forget. We were also outnumbered 300 to 1 so that lack of complete control was offsetting at times.

Did you ever get attached to an inmate?

There was a young guy, around 18, that I felt bad for. He was placed into protective custody because he just couldn't handle the prison setting. He was your average dude that got caught up in some bad shit. I can't remember now what he was in prison for, but I remember that I just had some pitty on him.

What was your favorite/least favorite part about your job?

I like talking to people. Talking to prisoners and learning about their life was fascinating to me. Most of them just wanted someone to talk to listen to them anyway. Least favorite was being stuck back there with them. When those gates closed behind you it was a horrible feeling because you knew if shit went down, you wasn't getting out.

HogBacon380 karma

Are you the subject of a lot of hate from the inmates because you are seen as who is sentencing them because you are authority? And were you ever attacked by an inmate?

gendarme_986 karma

The only hate we got from inmates were those trying to establish a reputation. None of them held us personally accountable for the reason they were there. They knew we weren't cops and we had nothing to do with their sentence. The only time we were tried up was as an attempt to gain some type of fear or control over the cellblock. That never worked though.

I was almost shanked (stabbed) by a former cop in protective custody. I let my guard down because he was a former cop, thinking he wouldn't try to hurt me. He almost stabbed me through the meal slot. I was able to catch his arm and ended up breaking his elbow. Learned a lesson that day.

originalredditor385 karma


gendarme_560 karma

He was just having a bad day. I don't know what made him want to do it. He was in there for child molestation, guess he thought things couldn't get any worse.

Gassing happens. I was gassed and one of the reasons I decided to leave. Not a pleasant experience. Mine was in the form of a "water balloon" though.

originalredditor625 karma


gendarme_524 karma

Jesus, that's horrible. I'm glad I got out when I did.

ASOTATW280 karma

Please elaborate on this "gassing"

gendarme_539 karma

Threw a bag of piss at me from a second story cell. It busted at my feet, getting all over my uniform. Thankfully he missed his target. That being the top of my head.

reddasi53 karma

What type of punishment did he get for doing that?

gendarme_113 karma

Wasn't much more we could do to him. I was working the segregation unit then, so he was already locked down. He was placed in a cell with a door instead of open bars, basically further isolation.

The_Pride_of_Vadnais354 karma

Inmate who has had the biggest impact on your life to this day? Whether or not it was a small or large change

gendarme_993 karma

The inmate I watched the night before he was put to death. Before leaving my shift of death watch we had to wake him up at 6am. When he awoke, as I was leaving, he told us to "have a good day". This, even though he was going to die that night. Was a powerful thing.

enderxzebulun533 karma

..how do you respond to something like that, "you too"?

gendarme_942 karma

Honestly, I almost did. Was able to catch myself. Said "thanks".

Stuffandstuffer30 karma


gendarme_47 karma

Saw many inmates on the other side. They usually don't hold hate for COs, it's the police that lock them up they grudge over.

Metjoeblack343 karma

Hi. Thank you for doing this. Have you ever gotten to know any of the inmates before they were put to death? And dii you feel bad for any of them?

gendarme_653 karma

Never got to know any of them personally. We were allowed minimum contact with death row inmates. During the hourly checks we were separated from them by another cage whereas we walked down a sectioned off alleyway looking into the cells. I do remember one guy who had been on death row for 24 years. I was 18 at the time. It was fascinating talking to someone who had been in that cellblock longer than I've been alive.

sharika338 karma

So why are some inmates held for so long on death row, while some so little time? Is it priority?

gendarme_604 karma

By their own appeals process. Some slow it down, other accept their fate and don't fight it.

theoneandonlytisa319 karma

Hey. Do you also have to escort the inmate in his last moments? Prepare him for his sentence? How do the inmates act on such occassions? Are they allowed to talk to you and what do they talk about?

gendarme_585 karma

Executions are handled by a special unit of officers called the execution squad. They are with the inmates in the last 12 hours of their life. No other correctional officer gets to interact with the inmate.

What I was part of was "death watch" which is the night prior to their execution. He didn't talk much and kept to himself most of the night. They are allowed unlimited phone so he talked to his family for most of the time we were there.

Daroo425324 karma

how does one get to be part of the execution squad?

gendarme_597 karma

Know the right people. Back then, being young and stupid, I wanted to be a part of it. Now I'm thankful I never was. I'm sure that would have fucked with my psyche more than anything else.

Daroo425255 karma

are they all prison guards? they must have some doctor with them as well?

gendarme_499 karma

Yes they have doctors in the chamber with them, but the "execution squad" are specially trained corrections officers. Think a darker version of SWAT.

beskgar202 karma

Tell me more!

gendarme_455 karma

Specially trained and was paid a special salary to kill a man. James freakin Bond.

fuckinscrub249 karma

James Bond usually works alone and doesn't kill people in chains.

gendarme_268 karma

Yeah, good point.

Drizae289 karma

What made you want to get into a Corrections job at the tender age of 18?

gendarme_553 karma

Wanted to be in law enforcement, but couldn't until I was 21. Used this as an experience gainer.

Daroo425243 karma

that was pretty smart of you, why didn't you do some criminal justice at a college? A lot of big police departments require college hours or military.

gendarme_410 karma

I did criminal justice while in college, but then became a cop and realize I didn't need a criminal justice degree. Ended up studying computer forensics.

Drizae278 karma

I can't be the only one who pictures the green mile when we talk about this. Are there many similarities (realising that the old one WAS set back quite a few years)

Also, were there any cruel guards?

gendarme_385 karma

There were guards that wanted to be cruel, but when you're outnumbered 300 to 1, you don't disrespect the power of the inmates. You're in their house, they are just allowing you to survive there.

There are a few similarities, the major one being the walk to the execution chamber (the green mile). That's still being done today here.

originalredditor133 karma


gendarme_256 karma

Everyone in there had the "gang mentality". Respect in the prison is regarded to what we do as trust on the street. If I'm doing a business deal with you, I need you to trust that I'm good on what I say I will do for you. Respect is the same thing. If you don't gain any respect you're regarded as a coward, prey. It really is a dog eat dog world in a prison. You're either a leader or you're preyed upon.

AppleDane259 karma

When you watch movies about or set in prisons/death row, what parts make you complain out loud about inacuracies?

gendarme_476 karma

The freedom the character has. Prisons are incredibly controlling, unless you're in a minimum security prison. The stuff I see them get away with in shows makes me laugh.

mickswisher41 karma


gendarme_55 karma

It's like that, but with the down time they are free to do what they want. It's a constructed freedom. They get to have freedom with the prison allows it.

js3ph219 karma

Would you expand on what the "death watches" were?

Edit: Typed nine words and managed to misspell one of them.

gendarme_285 karma

They are placed in a cell alone located in the medical ward. Here they are watched by two guards at all times. They are allowed tv, unlimited phone, radio, cigarettes, and some food usually restricted. It's basically a way to segregate them before being put to death.

grex88179 karma

Unlimited phone? Did any one of them try to contact their victim's families?

gendarme_259 karma

If they had, the phone would have been taken away. They didn't want that to happen. Each call was screened before being sent out.

azhockeyfan154 karma

Do they have TV while on death row or for some of them if the the first time they have seen TV in years?

gendarme_272 karma

Yes, color TV. Death row lived very comfortably. It was the only thing keeping them sane.

nextzero182198 karma

Have you ever had a death row inmate commit suicide before his execution date?

gendarme_353 karma

The way execution is handled is that the governor signs the execution warrant. It is given to the warden. The warden decides when the execution will take place (usually days later). The death row inmate is immediately placed under "death watch" prior to his execution. Here they are by themselves and watched by two guards at all times. The day of the execution they are placed in a cell beside the execution chamber where they are watched by four "execution squad" members at all times. Basically, they aren't given a chance to kill themselves. At that moment, the state is determined to be the one to handle his death.

Lobin180 karma

That sounds like a pretty quick process. Why, then, do inmates sit on death row for years? Are they all simply slogging through appeals, does it take the governor forever to get around to signing the execution warrant, or what?

Thanks for this AMA. Fantastically interesting.

gendarme_314 karma

Lawyers find new evidence, request a new trial. That alone can take 2-3 years. The appeals process slows it down even more after the trial. One thing about the death penalty, they give the person plenty of chances to prove their innocence, especially now. Back in the day it probably wasn't so good.

Taddare195 karma

Are the actual injections done on site, or is it like Rockview, PA where they are shipped in to the death house shortly before. If it is on site do they still do the 'pound' in the rest of the prison that night? The only person I have met said they did back in '62 for the last PA execution by electric chair.

Thanks for doing this AMA.

gendarme_321 karma

They do executions there on site. There is a building where the executions are handled and the cell that they wait in is held. They walk to the building (where the term green mile came from). Veteran guards said back in the day during the electric chair times the power would flicker in the prison during the execution and the inmates would chant or something. There is a little noise now when they are walking to the "red door" that leads to the execution building but the prison is shut down do not many inmates get to see the process.

[deleted]168 karma

Do you feel desensitized to other real life situations as a result of working in death row or have any different outlooks on life from it?

gendarme_348 karma

The prison system didn't desensitize me. If anything, it made me enjoy my freedom more. After doing that, there's no way I'd intentionally do anything to end up in that situation.

PvR12144 karma

Have you ever had any women on death watch? If so, did they act differently?

gendarme_262 karma

Women are housed in a different prison. I believe there is only one woman on death row here. Georgia has never put a woman to death.

wikkedwhite137 karma

was rape major in prison?

gendarme_261 karma

It wasn't major but it absolutely happened. It's not as near as bad as they portray it in the movies though.

sambchops133 karma

Were any of them proud to be on death row? Or did they all seem apologetic for the crimes that got them in there?

gendarme_245 karma

Neither, they just seemed content. They didn't talk about why they were there. Nearly all of them were heavy in to religion though and focused mostly on talking about that. It was a surreal feeling.

lol2U124 karma

What age were most of these death row inmates at?

Were they all charged with murder?

gendarme_176 karma

We was not given any information on the inmates, but I'm assuming they were all charged with murder. The median age was in their 40s. Some of those had been on death row for 10-20+ years.

anangrybanana123 karma

In your post on the other thread, you mentioned an inmate that was pretty happy because his lawyer told him his execution was going to be stayed.

Was it? Or was he misinformed?

gendarme_155 karma

Yes he was granted a stay. Don't know if he was executed later or not, but he at least made it through that time.

Not_Jack_Nicholson117 karma

Was there ever an inmate you genuinely thought might have been innocent?

Also what is the funniest thing an inmate from death row has done/said if anything?

By the way thanks for the AMA!

gendarme_228 karma

Didn't know enough about any of their cases to decide if I thought they were innocent. I treated them all as if they were guilty. It kept my emotions from getting involved.

Walking the death row at night and one of them started screaming that they saw an inmate outside his cell. Ghost. I was pretty sure that prison was haunted anyway. Freaked me out.

Hawaiigal111 karma

I am assuming you worked in medium and minimum security at a certain point, as well? If so, of the three, which was your favorite and least favorite to work, and why?

Also, how do you feel being on the opposite side of the same team now? Do you feel getting to know some of the inmates makes you better able to deal with the suspects you arrest now?

gendarme_316 karma

Correct, though the prison was a maximum security prison, we had trustee inmates that were a "minimum threat". We also had the "diagnostic threat" inmates. Since it was a classification prison, every inmate in the state came to this prison first before being assigned to a minimum, medium, maximum prison. So we really didn't know what kind of inmate we were dealing with in these cellhouses.

Actually, the protective custody inmates were my favorite to work with. They were the "soft" prisoners that couldn't make it in a real cell block so they were kinda the nicest. The least favorite was the diagnostic inmates. They were new to the system and trying to be "hard" all the time. Death row was the quietest block.

Yes working in the prisons made me a much better cop. I learned how to talk to people first, instead of using force. In the prison we were outnumbered 300 to 1. With those odds you think before trying to put your hands on someone. I've been a cop for almost 8 years now and have only had to use physical force three times. They were all drunk and talking wasn't going to do anything. The prison taught be how to talk my way of just about everything else.

UncleTogie197 karma

Yes working in the prisons made me a much better cop. I learned how to talk to people first, instead of using force.

Would you support a law making a stint as a guard mandatory for all LEOs?

gendarme_262 karma


Brodis1190 karma

Do you think that working as a prison guard has really helped you become a better law enforcement officer?

gendarme_300 karma

Yes. It taught be how to talk to people. It also taught me how the criminal mind works in a controlled setting before being shown it out on the streets in an uncontrolled environment. Since being outnumbered in a prison, you're not so quick to put your hands on people. It taught be how to be tactical without using force. I believe all cops need to work in a prison or jail setting before being put on the road.

Son0vaGun60 karma


gendarme_129 karma

Cell phones were usually brought in by corrupt officers and happened a lot. I remember hearing one ring one night. Wasn't expecting that.

The weapons made were always incredible. They have so much time on their hands they can make seemingly innocent stuff into power weapons. Also, braided stuff. Some of those inmates had incredible artistic abilities. It was a shame seeing it wasted on prison art.

durandal66649 karma

Did you have any particularly bad acts of violence between inmates? How prevalent were makeshift weapons?

gendarme_88 karma

They were everywhere. I was always amazed at the stuff inmates could make out of things you would think would be useless. Finding them was like a game to correctional officers. They were then a trophy if you ever found anything really big.

_kvl_48 karma

Have you ever had to deal with intense hostility from members of the public when they find out your previous employment?

gendarme_107 karma

Current employment yes, previous employment no. No one really resents prison guards, they are just kinda there.

420Qween46 karma

Did it seem to you (I'm keeping in mind you were a CO and not a psychiatrist) that the people who were executed were all of sound mind, fully aware of what they had done and what they were facing?

gendarme_87 karma

Yes. The ones on death row never complained about being there. They were the nicest of inmates in the entire prison. Most had turned to religion and were accepting their punishment. Some of them were welcoming the execution because they knew they had done wrong.

[deleted]38 karma

If someone were to escape from prison, how would you recomend doing it.

gendarme_91 karma

Somehow get to a citizen hospital. Either through a bad injury or faked illness. Usually have 1-2 guards, easier to take out.

xgeorge37 karma

What's the strangest thing you've seen an inmate do? Judging by what you've been saying most of them seem pretty pacified, but did any of them 'snap' in ways you wouldn't have seen coming?

Thanks for the AMA btw, this is has been absolutely fascinating. One of the best AMAs I've read.

gendarme_111 karma

When I first started I was helping on the mental ward. I was on the second story and had an inmate demanding some pills. I refused, he threatened to jump off the rail. Being new and stupid I said do it...to a guy in the mental ward. He did. Broke his arm. I got in trouble. Think we both learned a lesson that day.

ThisIsSoWrong28 karma

Which stories from inmates made the biggest impression on you? Any specific lessons learned from things that they told you?

Thanks for doing the AMA!

gendarme_48 karma

Man so many. Death row we didn't get to talk to much, but everyone else was so eager to tell you about their lives. At this point they are already found guilty so they will tell you anything you want to know. I learned so much about the drug trade. It was nice being there for them to release that burden from them too. It was like they felt better being able to talk about it to someone that was genially interested in listening to them.

Note: Learned about the drug trade, never got involved in it for obvious reasons...