The day a person is taken away from society and into a cell is chapter one of what will be a rough life. But what about the guards? When is the last time you thought about the sort of things that they saw on a daily basis? Often, it's not pretty. Sometimes, it's ridiculous. Guaranteed, it's hard to relieve from your memory.
Using Reddit as a therapeutic venting ground, employees of the system shared some of the more unforgettable moments of their career. These are the most intense nights a guard spent in the house.
"A family member and I used to work at the same prison and the prisoners knew we were related. My family member got into a minor car accident and had a few weeks off work to recover. Word got out about it to all the prisoners and I constantly got asked how I was coping because they all heard it was super serious. It wasn't. One was asking me what happened when we had a lock down code, so everyone had to go back to their blocks.
I came to find out in the incident report that a fight had started because two prisoners heard two different stories about what happened to my family member. They couldn't agree, started a punch up, and got the whole block of about 80 guys brawling.The whole place was locked down for about 10 hours, all because my family member can't drive."
"One of my former teachers used to provide mental health services in the county jail. She said the worst thing she saw was an inmate who went insane. He was quiet and polite, and doing a small amount of time for a minor crime.
Then, he got in one small fight, was moved to max and something in him snapped. He decompensated so quickly that, by day four, he was smearing feces on the wall and singing nursery rhymes. He was taken away by ambulance and was never seen again."
"I have a family member who worked as staff at a state prison in California in 2010. The job required them to work inside the prison. There was another staffer who worked there, whom I'll call 'Samantha.' Samantha was an attractive, 30-year-old who was happily married and had two kids. She was generally well liked and nobody thought her behavior was strange or different.
One day, the prison started having a major issue with cell phones being smuggled in - LOTS of cell phones. The prison launched a huge investigation complete with shakedowns, squeezing troublemaker inmates, the whole nine yards. In one of the sweeps, they found a love note between one of the inmates and Samantha.
Prison guards and staff are absolutely prohibited from any physical relationships with inmates. It is a serious crime that is prosecuted on a frighteningly regular basis. It turned out that Samantha was not only having a relationship with the inmate who had the letter, but with six other inmates. She was messing around and exchanging long love letters with a total of SEVEN inmates simultaneously.
One of the inmates had convinced her to smuggle in cell phones through the dry cleaning inmate work program. They estimate she smuggled in at least 50 phones this way. One of the other inmates she was involved with had been having his illicit substance dealing proceeds from the street deposited into her personal savings account on the outside so they had money to run away together when the inmate got out. The inmate was serving a 17 year prison term.
When this was discovered, there was major fallout for the staff and inmates at the prison. Security was tightened considerably, the dry cleaning work program was suspended, and Samantha was arrested and eventually sentenced to just over three years in prison. The craziest thing about the whole situation? Samantha’s husband stayed with her. She got out of prison several years ago and they are a seemingly happy family once again."
"Between fights, suicides, attempted suicides etc., the worst one that got me was when I cut down a hanger. He went into fight mode swinging at us. We got him to the ground, hand cuffed him, and pinned him on the floor. He started to cry begging us to kill him as we tried to keep him from banging his head on the floor. That was my first hanging and it stuck with me ever since.
As for another story, once I was working a pod and had someone throw a melted down shoe heel in a soda can at me. Think hot melted rubber. It mainly got on my shirt, so I was fine, but I started fighting with the guy. I had him pinned on the ground with 64 offenders around me. I had lost my cuffs in the fight. They fell out away from me. Another offender I had known for a while assisted me by handing me my cuffs and holding the guy's legs down.
I was able to drag that one offender out, due to the fact the offenders on the pod were throwing stuff at us. The offender who helped me got his time reduced and I wrote him a letter for the parole board and spoke on his behalf. He got out. Now, he has a good wood working job ($24 per hour) and writes to the prison with updates on how he is doing. He has a girlfriend and a baby on the way. That's the happiest story I have from that place."
"My dad was a physical education officer in the prison service for a couple decades. He has a few stories.
One that I always remember was about this one kid who was about 16, but he was about 6'4" and built like a tank. He also had a bit of a temper. One day, when my dad was supervising the gym workout, he looked over toward the bench. The kid picked up a 34kg dumbbell, lifted it above his head, and started to swing it down onto another inmates head as he was lying on one of the benches.
My dad managed to sprint over, grab the kid, and pin him against the wall just in time to stop him from killing the other inmate. At that point, my dad thought, If this kid wants to fight, he is probably going to win. Luckily, he had a good reputation, so the kid didn't fight, but other inmates alerted other guards.
If he was able to carry through with that swing, that inmate's head would, literally, have exploded. There is no other outcome to that. It was straight-up attempted murder. Nothing ended up happening with the kid. The prison head didn't deem it to be much of an issue because no one was hurt. My dad brought the 34kg dumbbell into the meeting to show her. She didn't care and ignored it because it made her prison look better on paper."
"My prison had three areas: general population, STC for the somewhat mentally unstable, and the X-House (shaped like an X) for seriously mentally ill guys whom would throw poop, cut themselves, etc. I was working in the X-House.
I was on the seg wing. Even though most cells in the X-House were like seg anyway, this area had another officer to watch it specifically. I was called over to watch a guy who had been placed on continuous suicide watch. He was completely naked with nothing else in his cell. I had to stand just outside the door and watch him. He was trying to do everything to get a reaction out of me. But, I was a Stoneface Phillips, documenting what he was doing every five minutes.
He climbed up on the bed, took his member in one hand, and started stroking. He took a finger from his other hand and wet it in his mouth. The wet finger went behind him, right into his rear. Then, he started yelling my last name over and over again.
After he was done doing that, he was walked up to the door. These were steel doors with just a window for seeing into the cell. We were basically face to face with this window between us. Just below the window is a 'chuckhole,' which is a tiny door for passing food trays through. Thankfully, it was closed, because I looked down at the chuckhole to see yellow liquid coming out from the sides of it. I took a few steps back and continued my watch. I wasn't gonna let him get a reaction out of me."
"I have many stories, and many about one particular prisoner, but one stands out to me the most.
I was doing a count one day - every day stuff. It involves looking through trap windows to make sure everyone is present and breathing. I got to this one prisoner's cell, I will call him 'Prisoner X.' X had a long history of abuse from his childhood. As a result, the amount of times I had to have conversations with him while he was going to town on his ham bone are innumerable.
As I was doing this count with a female officer, she looked through the trap and immediately recoiled. All I could hear was a loud buzzing sound and the sounds of furious stroking. I decided to check the trap, against the warnings of my offsider. I should have listened.
As it turned out, he was using the unit's hair clippers. But he had them wrapped in a glove, turned on and shoved squarely up his rear. All I could see was the cord plugged into the wall leading into his loudly buzzing rear and him giving his old feller the exercise of its life."
"I am currently a corrections officer. I work in one of the 'reformed' mental health facilities for my state. Basically, we're a prison with a strong focus on mental health rehabilitation. We deal with some of the state's finest (worst) cases.
I've seen a man with a literal hole in his body from his chest to below his belly button. He put it there. It started after he ripped his intestines out and bit through them. He, then, proceeded to enlarge the hole slowly over time. He is the longest four-point restraint inmate in the state's history.
I'm not kidding when I say this guy is an absolute freak of nature. His hole was only through his abdominal (stomach) side but it created a window straight into his gut. Depending on the day, you could even see his rib cage and lower portions of his chest bones. He had this specialized plastic vaccu-seal thing over it. It was pretty neat until his bowels perforated and his feces began oozing into his gut area. The dude was literally crapping out of his chest.
How is he not dead from sepsis? NOBODY KNOWS. He should have died of infection long ago but this dude has the immune system of the Gods. Anytime we'd make progress with his wounds and his mental state he'd come off of 4 point restraints and undo all the healing that had just taken place. Every. Single. Time. He's no longer at our facility but he is still alive and doing well from what I've heard. Still requiring near round the clock medical care but alive none the less. You could write a book about that dude.
I have another story about a guy who has been locked up since the early 80s nicknamed P-Town. Nobody messed with him. One day, while he was serving time in one of the more secure facilities in our state, he asked to be seen by a nurse for something on his genitals. This was a common way for an inmate to get a female to look at his member. Seeing as how he had cried wolf before for this situation, the nurse paid him no mind and began walking away from his cell. P-Town straight snapped.
There was some commotion in his cell. Then, something hit the nurse in the leg. She and the officer turned around to observe a human, male reproductive organ laying on the gallery floor.
'Will you look at it now, baby?!' P-Town exclaimed.
The best part? The doctors sewed it back on. I didn't even think that was possible. The better part? He cut it off a second time months later. Even better? They sewed it back on again. It still works, he claims. Freaking P-Town.
I also saw a guy shove a 4" headphone extension cord through his member and into his bladder not once, not twice, but five times now. He also gouged his eye out. I have stories like these for days."
"I was told this story by a kitchen supervisor working in a minimum-security prison. He was supervising on the morning shift when he went to use the inmate bathroom in the kitchen. The other supervisor was using the officer bathroom and he really had to go. The inmate bathrooms had doors, full metal ones, and stalls unlike the rest of the compound, which just had open stalls, but without locks on them.
The inmates who worked in the kitchen would get themselves off in them and had dirty magazines hidden under the sink. So, he was always careful to knock beforehand, not wanting to walk in on someone mid-stroke. That day, he was in a bit of a rush and forgot to knock. He walked in to find an elderly inmate inserting a banana into his rear end while sucking off another banana."
"My husband is a guard. He was doing count one night. There was an inmate who was bleeding, so they went in to see what was happening. The inmate had bitten the inside of his wrist and forearm and pulled the skin off down to the muscle and tendons. He was also chewing on something.
When he was told to spit it out, he did. It was a chunk of his flesh. He then immediately ripped off another piece with his teeth and, according to my husband, 'slurped it up like spaghetti.' They rushed him to medical. He ended up having to be in the psych building (clearly) after he recovered."
"I am a correctional officer, but still in training. I was told this story by my instructor, who was a CO for 15 years. He was working in segregation, which is essentially solitary confinement, but not that extreme in the sense that the inmates there do get to converse with other inmates and did get to populate outside during recreational time for only two hours each day. One of the inmates also had mental health issues. After 15 days serving in Segregation, psychological issues can form.
Three weeks had passed and this inmate, who already did not have a sane mind, went absolutely crazy. To provide context, I will mention that razors are allowed within the prison for shaving. It’s not uncommon to see them taken apart and the blades just kept around the cells. The blades are not firm steel, they are very flexible and bendy. Unless welded to a shiv and secured to not bend, they are useless in harming others within seconds.
The inmate took a razor blade and started to cut open his arm until he got to the vein. He cut it out and threw it at the door window, smearing it in blood so the COs couldn’t see inside the cell. Once that happened, they had to suit up in protective gear and enter the cell with body sized shields. After pulling him out and sending him to medical to get treatment, he was then sent back to his cell after the stitches were sewn.
Two hours passed. The inmate took another razor blade and started cutting open his stomach. These blades were not the strongest, but they were very flexible. It took time to actually force it straight enough to cut if removed from the shaving device. He began to cut and spent hours until he cut open his stomach and began to pull out his own intestines. It was a cycle of him going to medical and getting stapled up and going back to his cell to open his wounds back up until he was put in a straightjacket. These types of experiences aren’t abnormal for mental health patients being put in segregation."
"I was working in the towers (LA County Towers). My first week in, we had a lock down situation. A rival gang member managed to get a hostage with a shiv. He managed to wedge the door shut and we all watched as he slowly decapitated his enemy. It's pretty messed up still remembering the look on his face as blood poured out of his jugular.
The gang member was charged with first degree murder and was switched out to isolated confinement. He had been planning it. I was not in charge of investigating, so all I really remember about the door jam was a well-timed pillow on the automatic door shutting."
"I was a mailroom employee at the unit in Texas that houses death row inmates. For security reasons, most death row inmates had their mail constantly 'scanned' or read, while other inmates just had them searched for contraband. This whole process was a knee jerk process out in place after a governor was threatened from death row.
Bringing the mail to the inmates, telling them we read it and found some stuff was terrifying because they obviously never liked that and often threatened violence. The stuff we read was freaking insane. I read plenty of neo-Nazi plots to help bring in the new world order, stuff that was completely encoded in their own little systems, and all sorts of absolutely depressing stuff.
There were a few, who were typically either infamous or gang/cult leaders, who received plenty. I think I was pretty comfortable reading the stuff. I was mentally strong enough to 'not take it home with me,' so to speak, leave work with work, and forget about it, which is vital in the criminal justice system. One who I talked to plenty and was a very well known inmate who received a bunch of mail was the tourniquet killer. He was executed right after I quit. I was one of the two people who delivered the letter telling him he had 90 days until his execution, too.
The worst one I ever read had to have been the one of an inmate who was scheduled for execution the next day and was sending a bunch of insulting letters to the victim's family. As if they hadn’t been through enough.
It never reached the family most of the time, I imagine, unless they filed a subpoena for it. Inmates were typically not allowed to write their victims. On each screening process, there are blocked addresses the inmates cannot send to. Typically, the victim is on that list, or their family. As far as mail inspecting, opening other people's mail in the US is a felony. However, when you are in prison, there is too much risky stuff that must be searched. Maximum security and death row is a very secure environment when they can help it."
"I did a bid in Florida about four years ago. While I was inside, they let my cell block come into the common area to watch the iHeartRadio awards. I never would have watched it on my own, but it was nice to have the distraction. This was the summer when Ariana Grande had that 'One Less Problem' song and she performed it right before JLo came to the stage.
I was in with MOSTLY Puerto Rican inmates, so JLo being on was a big deal. Some dude just lost his mind during the Ariana Grande song (some of the dudes said he was into little girls or something) and threw a very lightweight plastic chair at the TV. We didn't think it would do much damage, but it busted the LCD. Stuff. Went. Down.
They dudes weren't going to get a chance to see JLo's booty, and they wanted blood for it. I ran my gringo behind back to my cell and a 60-man brawl ensued. All of this to say, in the midst of the insanity, one guy bit another guy's thumb off. And swallowed it."
"One of my colllege professors used to teach at a prison in Brazil. She was a Portuguese/literature teacher for them. This was in a very impoverished area, and she told us all the inmates were illiterate before she started with them. She was teaching the all male inmates about poetry. It was close to Mother's Day, so she told them to write a poem about their own mothers.
One of the inmates wrote a beautiful poem about his deceased mother, who was killed right before he was arrested when he was much younger. He was arrested for killing his father, who murdered his mom. All the inmates started clapping and whistling, because it was so beautiful and heartbreaking. But, then, the guards went nuts, thinking they were messing around and started beating the inmates so they would shut up. Classes were cancelled after that.
My professor said it was all very shocking. It was a pure scene with people bonding and learning and the guards resorted to violence without even thinking. She never went back to teach at a prison again."
"I was a corrections officer years ago at a maximum security penitentiary for 14 to 24-year-olds. It was insane to me that such young kids could be locked up with adults. We had a lot of construction going on in the prison and they would bring in older convicts to do the work. One day, a young guy started talking crap to an older one and the older guy hit him in the face with a coffee pot. He had lots of cuts and lots of burns.
Another time, one of the construction guys snuck a welding rod back into the prison and used it to stab another inmate through his throat. I’ll never forget that. I couldn’t tell who the victim was because of the amount of blood. Surprisingly, he survived.
I was personally involved in two extreme situations. One came my first night being alone after training. A group of five inmates jumped me. The first one hit me in the back of my head and I went blind for a second. I couldn’t get my bearings, but I knew I needed to get to the unit door so the guard upstairs could let me out and lock them in. I ran for the door, covering my head and, luckily, got out. When I was trying to shut the door, which was a large steel door with bolts that shot out to lock it when it got close to being closed, I shut one of the inmates feet in it. It crushed his foot. I don't know if they were able to save his foot. He was transferred from the hospital to another facility.
Then, one other time, a guy didn’t want to go back into his cell, so he tried to fight me. We were on a balcony about 12' up. Imagine a second floor outdoor hotel. There was a line of cells on the first floor with stairs on each end that led up to a line of cells in the 2nd floor. Anyway he was trying to push me over the railing. We wrestled for a bit but, when he tried to push me off, I started hitting him. In the scuffle, he ended up trying to run and jumped over the railing. I think he wanted to kill himself, but he landed on both feet, which broke both of his ankles.
Prison is real lame for all involved. I wanted to help them. I wanted to be a positive part of their day. Most of them liked me and stood up for me. I tried my best to treat them all with respect. I grew up saying 'sir' and 'ma'am' to everyone. When I worked there, I would get in trouble by my supervisors for saying 'sir' to inmates older than me. I wasn’t cut out for that job and I’m glad I left it when I did. It’s just a sad system. Hardly anyone is there for rehabilitation. Most are not violent offenders, but end up becoming violent from living in a violent place."