Being a prison guard has to be one of the toughest jobs on the planet. Danger lurks around every corner and you’re locked in day after day with people who have committed horrendous crimes.
AskReddit users who also happen to be prison guards shared their stories about the inmates that left a lasting impression, positive or negative, on their lives.
“One guy wrote a request slip and gave it to me, policy is we have to read it. So i read it. Maximum security prison that has cats running around the compound. The request reads “Hi can i talk to mister NAME in charge of the cats, i like to pet cats and maybe can play with them too. i like the cats”
24 year old guy mentally ill in for the rest of his life for butchering a mom.”
“Had one black guy murder some kid when he was 10/12 years old in Alabama in the 1970s, he’s been in prison since the day he was arrested. If you saw him you would crap your pants, 380lbs of muscle and 6ft9in. But if you mention women he will burst out crying for minutes because he’s never touched a woman and sees it on tv.
I was conflicted until the first two weeks of working there, when you see guys throw a fit/assault your friends and partners. It becomes an every day battle. You see on interviews of soldiers they say that they become brothers with their team. You don’t understand until you get jumped from behind and can’t call a signal on your radio but 1 of your 2 other officers, vs 300 offenders, hears a commotion and you look up to see him sprinting down a cell house range toward you.”
3. The rabbit hole
“Used to work in a county jail in a small county, relatively speaking, but was fairly large for the region. One day, a local prominent, fairly successful attorney was lodged for driving under the influence of drugs. Turns out he had a major addiction and this was just the beginning of a long slide. He got a light sentence but reoffended while on probation, missed some court dates, and violated his bond. When the dust settled, he was sentenced to a year in our facility. He was an affable guy and easy to talk to. I would talk with him when I was assigned to yard detail and his block was out and learned a lot about his past. There were no red flags in his history. He was just a guy who had everything going for him. He just couldn’t shake the addiction. When he finally got out, he folded up his practice and left town. I heard a month or two later that he moved to Chicago and died of an overdose.
Out of all the crazy things I saw, that one stuck in my mind over everything else. It just struck me how drug addiction doesn’t care how rich or poor, smart or stupid, successful or incompetent a person is. Any of us could fall down that rabbit hole given the right circumstances and a single lapse of judgement.”
4. Problems with the system
“My grandad was the captain of the guard at the prison he worked at for 20+ years, retiring shortly after I was born. He had a very strong stance on inmates: “I don’t like you, and if I were to ever catch you with my daughter I’d probably kill you. But you are human and deserved to be treated as such.” He demanded that the men under his command not act like a-holes to the inmates and was as fair as could be possible in the prison system at the time.
When he died of cancer when I was 8, the inmates went into voluntary lockdown as a sign of respect for my grandpa so that as many guards as possible could attend the funeral. This has left a lasting impression on how to treat people, and the problems with the American prison system in general.”
5. Good people
“Worked parking authority with a guy who only did 1 shift a week. He was a prison guard and i kid you not, every damn time i walked with him, different former inmates would run up to him, ask how he is, and never were afraid to ask for numbers or resources.
At the time he told me he needed a retirement job, everyones theory at work was he needed to check in with them.
Some good people in corrections.”
6. Serial killer
“Basically, I worked in the front office and took care of the inmate’s personal money (receiving it in, making sure it hit their account, making sure they got paid, getting money orders out for them, making sure their money left with them when they left, etc.)
One day I’m going through the facility and an officer calls me over because an inmate has a question about his money. He’s in the segregation unit, which I had never been in, so it was a bit odd, but no big deal.
It was an older guy (at least to me), quiet & respectful, which was nice. We talk a little bit about his money and the processes for it, nothing major.
I was curious after I got back to my office and looked the guy up and it turns out the guy’s name is John Edward Robinson, and he’s locally famous serial killer in the Kansas City region.
It’s not a world shattering impact on my life, but it occasionally hits me that I’ve had a conversation with a true, honest to god serial killer. It’s a little trippy.”
“Wow! I can answer this.
I was in the job for 2 years. I was having a TERRIBLE time. Hated the entire experience. Not fights or finding drugs but the whole sadness of it.
Then on one of my last days an inmate tried to burn himself to death. I went with him in the ambulance and held his hand as he lay dying. He looked up at me and said _”How’re you doing son?” I started crying and told him i couldn’t do it anymore and he smiled and said _”You can leave.”
As far as I know i was the last man he talked to as he was put into an induced coma as soon as he got to hospital.
His last thoughts and words were concern for me. I left soon after due to getting nearly killed by another inmate.”
8. I truly believe…
“Worked at a women’s prison and there was one inmate who would constantly brag about what she did ( killed and tortured her step daughter). I looked up what she did to confirm the story and it was way worse than I could have imagined. I never looked anyone up again. Although that person will be in prison for life it has really made me think twice about the death penalty, and how I truly believe some people just shouldn’t be alive.”
9. The system
“Work in the setting, people adjust to it pretty easily when they know they are stuck for 20+ yrs. I’ve worked with some individuals that would rather stay then leave because of the ease the system provides. As a prisoner you can still experience happiness you just gauge it differently, much like I imagine a kid in say a tribal village experiences happiness when if I were there I’d be lost without my PS4 and HDTV… if that makes sense.”
“Nurse/paramedic here. Jail prisoner had a 75 mcg per hour fentanyl patch applied to his skin by the jail nurse. 15 minutes later, the guards find him unconscious and barely breathing. EMS called. They find the fentanyl patch in his mouth when managing his airway. He peeled the patch off and chewed on it, releasing 5.4 grams of fentanyl in seconds. All the Narcan in the world couldn’t bring him back.”
“Buddy of mine was a corrections officer until an inmate broke his back about 6 years ago. Apparently Michigan has some rough facilities. Worst story he ever told me was about an inmate that was generally a “good guy” never causing any problems. They were closing down for the evening and this guy wasn’t going back to his cell. Was just leaning over the railing like he was in pain. When my buddy went up to him to see what was up, he just looked up and said,”I think I messed up, boss” then (to hear my buddy tell it) he pooped out the entirety of his insides.
If they ever found out the cause, they never told my buddy. Guy lived but lost a lot of his intestines and was on a bag for the rest of his life.”
12. Pain and loss
“I don’t work in a prison but a county jail as a correctional deputy. For me, it was the guy that I had to tell that his daughter had died spontaneously in her sleep. She just stopped breathing and they couldn’t bring her back. I will never forget the pain and loss in his cries. He was only in jail on a probation violation. I ran in to him a couple years after and he told me that his daughter had saved many other kids with her donated organs. He was a kind soul, just had a substance problem. I hope he is doing good.”
13. Focus of attention
“I was an IT tech for a county sheriff’s department while in college. Most of my work was in stations or admin buildings, but I did get tickets for work in one of our 8 or so jails somewhat regularly. The biggest take away was that I never want to end up in jail. It was sometimes kind of scary in there, even though I was separate from the inmates and always had a guard escort.
However, the most memorable job was the one time I had to go to the women’s prison. It was a very open layout, minimum security prison, so there was a lot of visibility. Everywhere I went in there, every inmate stopped whatever they were doing and stared at me until I was out of sight. I got used to inmates in the other prisons shouting obscenities and threats when I walk by, but being the focus of attention for that many women at once was pretty unnerving as an awkward 22 year old nerd.”
14. All humans are the same
“I work at a juvenile prison. Most of the kids I work with are gangsters and violent offenders. All of my clients have made a big impact on me, but more impactful than individual clients have been the moments I get to see of them as a group, just being kids. A few weeks ago I walked onto my unit and initially thought there was a fight, because I heard a lot of noise and yelling.
When I opened the door, I saw 10 or so teenage boys singing the cha cha slide at the top of their lungs and dancing like fools. They were from different hoods, some didn’t even like each other on the unit, but they came together for the cha cha slide. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much. Moments like these are more impactful for me than individual youth, because it reminds me of the simple ways in which all humans are the same. Everyone wants to dance. Everyone just wants to have fun.”
15. Max security unit
“I worked as a CO roughly 4 years for a Max security unit in Texas. Wild times. I can think of tons of stories and conversations with inmates but one always stands out. I was 19 years old at the time and I got assigned to be one of 3 officers in food service for about 6 months. Laid back gig, working nights supervising the inmates as they cooked the 3am breakfast meal. I had a pretty good crew. One night I was making rounds around the kitchen and two of the newer guys assigned to my crew started to try and ask personal questions as a way to “run game” as we call it. Or as a way to try and find out how much they can get away with.
I asked them to return back to their work and don’t ask me any more questions personal in nature. They tried to argue and ask why I didn’t want to be homeboys with them etc etc etc. I told them to leave me alone and return to work. I went back to walking around and one of my older cooks on shift told me that he had overheard that conversation. He told me”Ya know, I been here a long time and seen officers come and go.” I looked at him kind of confused. He told me he was sorry that I wouldn’t be able to stick around a long time because the way I handled the situation with other other 2 guys.
That kinda made me uncomfortable and I asked him what made him say that. He told me that every day I came to work I didn’t come in wanting to start trouble, or harass anybody and that I never talked down to any of my officers or inmates. ” Good officers don’t make it out here, the bad ones make the job a nightmare for people who want to be professional.” And I learned that to be true. I enjoyed my time there for the most part. I learned a lot and what he told me was true. I know you will never see this, but I apologize for not taking you seriously at the time, Fish. Hope you’re well.”