Most people don't volunteer to go to jail but some people actually choose to work in the big house for a paycheck. From gross-out stories to prison riots, these prison workers share their most brutal and memorable stories from behind the bars.
"First night in prison, 19-years-old. Let me set the scene for you civvies. Took all day to drive up there, get booked, strip-searched, and thrown into a cell in receiving. The year is June 2002, in Southern California. So it’s like 100° inside and out with no ventilation.
This prison was surrounded by cows, so the stench was thick in the thick hot air and filled with flies. They had those bug zapping lights everywhere, so dead flies would just rain down. We waited in a chain-link cage, wearing XL orange prisoner pants and a shirt. I was 110lbs, so I was swimming in that fabric.
So the first night, I finally walk into my cell with my little net bag of hygiene stuff and a nasty moldy blanket. I awkwardly met my other bunkmates. But there was this one weirdo who stuck out to me.
This huge woman, like 6’2, 200lbs, about 50-years-old, with a short butch hair cut, acne scars, pit marks, saggy bitties with no bra, and no teeth.
But anyway, here’s me, a 19-year-old, 4’10, 110-pound girl. I proceed to make my bed on the top bunk and lay down. The lady guard introduces herself. She talked like a child and almost sounded like she was hearing impaired. She clearly had mental disabilities. But she was nice. Could be worse right?
Well after we introduce ourselves and got cozy in our beds, there’s like a 20 minute moment of silence. Suddenly out of nowhere, with no warning at all, my weirdo bunkmate starts punching the underside of the top bunk, with me on the top side. She’s repeatedly punching the bed under me and whispering in a completely different and deep voice, ‘I see you demon! You can’t hide from me! Shutup! Leave me alone!’
I laid as still as I could thinking this is not happening to me right now. My eyes were bulging out of my skull. I just stared out the window, hoping she didn’t confuse me with the demon she was seeing. She then got up and began punching the air and arguing with herself and the demon, I guess? Like they were having a full-on argument, right in front of me?
I don’t remember if I slept at all that night and how long that particular behavior lasted, I just tried my best to blot out the memory and make it through my first day. That lady had issues, and I was nothing but nice to her. I eventually learned to ignore her outbursts. She would be normal for a while, and then she would just jolt her head sideways and talk to demons in that deep whisper voice, during the day anyways.
The punching of the bed continued every night. I felt sorry for her really. She wasn’t all there and she needed help, but was just thrown in prison instead. She told me she was homeless and was picked up in LA for dealing and addiction problems. Showed me her needle scars from shooting up. That stuff brings tears to my eyes still. Hope she eventually got help, I doubt it tho, with the way the system was and is.
I only bunked with her for a few weeks before they moved her to the yard to do her time. Bless her soul, even though that crazy lady scared the heck out of me. And thank you Jesus for watching over me. I was never really that religious before prison, but let’s just say there’s a blessed cross hanging above my front door right now."
“My grandfather and father were both jailers. Thankfully my father had a very uneventful jailing career but my grandfather had a much more interesting one. He was an MP during the Vietnam War and served part of his time as a jailer for a Military Prison.
At some point two prisoners had managed to get ahold of a chain and got around his neck, pulling him against the bars of their cell. He was about to lose consciousness when the third dude in their cell, a giant of a man who I was told was ‘7 feet tall and built like an Ox' barreled into the two and beat them unconscious to save my grandpa. This guy never talked much but when asked why he saved him, he told my grandpa 'I like you' and shrugged.
After that my grandpa did what he could to help the guy out. Keep him comfortable as possible. They became as close as you can when your new friend never speaks a word unless ordered and then barely speaks at all. Guy was supposedly a John Doe. No one knew how he got there or why only that he got violent when they tried to release him so they were basically just keeping him to keep him happy. Never learned his name either, my grandfather just referred to him as 'My Boy' when talking about him.
One day my grandpa had to leave the prison to participate in a soldier’s burial service, I remember him laughing about how all of their white gloves got stuck in the adhesive around the coffin so they buried him with them sticking out of it and thought it was a good send-off since he was supposedly a jokester. Anyway about halfway through one of his officers pulled him aside and told him 'Your Boy has gone crazy, they need you to go calm him down.'
So he got a plane and flew back to the prison to find the whole place basically locked down. Turns out 'his boy' had gotten into an altercation in the yard and brained the two guys who tried to kill my grandpa with a baseball bat (this was a few years after that event) and basically broken into and barricaded himself in a shack on the yard. Apparently, no one wanted to shoot the guy but he wasn’t letting anyone close to him, so my grandpa stepped out into the yard, finger whistled, and pointed to the ground right in front of him as you would to a dog. The dude walked right out, calm and serene, and walked right up to my grandpa, gave him the bat and hugged him before breaking into tears.
After that, I don’t know how much more contact my grandpa had with the guy because that was the only story I got about him.”
“I was locked up nine days after my 18th birthday and did a total of 12 years. There are too many gross stories to pick from and I really don't remember any funny memories, but I'll give you an interesting one.
I was in a medium-security and the setup was mostly huge dorms. This consisted of two floors with hundreds of bunk beds all within 3 feet of each other and a few cleaning supply closets on both floors. There was one guard per block and their desk was on the first floor.
At this time I had been locked up about seven years and my bunk was on the second floor. It was late at night and I was on my bunk reading and drinking something while most people were asleep. I ended up spilling my drink and had to go downstairs to the only unlocked supply closet to get a mop.
I did notice the female third shift guard wasn't at her desk and assumed she was doing her rounds. When I got to the supply closet I opened the door and immediately saw the guard having full-on shagging with an inmate. I had taken a step or two inside before my brain registered what was going on.
The guard and inmate looked at me and froze. I backed out, shut the door and went back to my bunk without saying a word. A day passes by and then another. On the third day, the inmate I had seen came up to me and out of the blue gave me a quarter ounce of weed while telling me how cool I was to keep my mouth shut. That guard worked there for another two years and I was in the same dorm as the inmate for another four. During that time I never brought up the subject with the guard or inmate and I was never without weed or a third shift guard that would look the other way when I needed it which was great.
On a similar note, a while later another inmate busted a woman guard hooking up and the inmate threatened to tell if he couldn't get some. The guard immediately called for backup and had him sent to the hole for threatening her with abuse. He hollered at the top of his lungs that he had seen her getting busy while he was being dragged to the hole. It didn't matter, none of the other guards believed him.”
“This story has a moral at the end.
My dad was a prison guard and stands at a not very intimidating 5’ 8'. Not that many guards work at his prison in Texas too so he often does his rounds solo. So everyone is in the rec yard doing whatever, and my dad calls for count time (inmates must return to their cells/bunks in their dorm for accountability). That’s when my dad met Mr. Hawkins.
My dad said Mr. Hawkins was that inmate that everyone respected. He looked like John Coffe from Green Mile. And he was lifting weights. Now, all the inmates started going to their cells…except Mr. Hawkins, who continued to work out.
'Mr. Hawkins, it’s Count Time', my dad reminded him.
Hawkins stopped, towered over my dad and says, 'I ain’t going to bed, boss.'
This was all in the rec yard. The next guard is three dorms over. If a riot were to break out, or if something happened to my dad, nobody would know except the inmates, who all stopped to see what Mr. Hawkins was about ready to do.
My dad slowly reaches in his back pocket for his pad and pen, and says, 'Mr. Hawkins, if you don’t go to the bed, I’m going to have to write you up.'
Mr. Hawkins changed up. 'Oh, I was just kidding boss man, I’m just playing!' and he went with the other inmates back to their dorm.
My dad said that was one of the most intense times he ever had as a CO. He had to have the mental fortitude to think about writing him up versus trying to force the situation (‘I’m the officer, you’re the inmate, you do what I say’).
Oh yeah, the moral! Pen is mightier than the sword!”
"I worked as a guard in a prison in Melbourne, Australia. The unit was divided between Pacific Islanders, Muslims, Asians, and White folks. One day a new young Asian man entered the facility and decided it would be a good idea to play basketball with the islanders. Being a new guy, he obviously didn’t know the rules of the land here.
The other Asians were outraged by this and decided to educate this young buck about who you can and cannot fraternize with during yard time. The next day I clocked on for my shift at 3 pm (afternoon to evening shift) and went outside just as the prisoners were coming in from doing their domestic duties.
Well as I passed the basketball court I saw this young man hanging upside-down feet tied to the basketball ring. At first, I thought no biggie I'll just help him down. When I got closer I saw his bottoms had been torn off and he had slash marks all over his butt. Kind of like when someone takes a razor blade to you.
What's even worse is that once we got him down he asked to go to medical because he had a sore stomach. Not wanting to rat out the other Asians he said it was because he wasn't used to the prison food. Well, it turns out the Asian gang also stuck some items up his butt; items they had obviously collected from around the yard.
You can imagine my horror when the medic told me that he had said to them ‘I think they shoved a bird up my a**.’ After three days he spent in the medical Ward...can confirm a dead sparrow was jammed right up him and had to be fished out....in bits..."
"I worked at a county jail in Oklahoma. I was 19-years-old and scared to death by inmates (although I did play checkers with a murderer), and I absolutely dreaded the job. However, one night we had a dude come in on suicide watch. I was in the tower, watching him on camera, and I noticed he started taking off all his clothes.
Without a shred of clothes on, my dude climbed to the top bunk and stood on it. My eyes widened at what this guy was about to do. This guy was gonna try and jump off the high bunk and break his neck or something. I smacked the panic button and alerted all guards to the cell asap.
‘This guy’s gonna jump! We have a jumper!’ I said over the radio, ‘Let’s go!’’
Three guards run in just as he jumps off the bunk. He was aiming headfirst but got the angle wrong and his shoulders hit the floor first, essentially pulling off an incredible tuck and roll that only knocked the wind out of him. The detainee and the guards scrambled on the floor as they tried to restrain him and get him into a straight jacket ASAP.
After getting his breath back the prisoner starts struggling. Once again, I may add, this guy has nothing on. So he starts flopping around and going nuts, and one poor guard had the gross misfortune to be down by his twig and berries. The guy goes spread eagle then starts flopping like a wild tuna, and when he did, just the tip of his broadsword grazed the tip of the poor guard’s nose.
The guard recoiled like he’d been shot in the face, and scrambled back against the wall slapping at his face like he was getting swarmed by wild bees. I saw the whole thing on camera and grimaced at the sight. Just gross. I knew that crazy guy had to have smelled terrible too. But my god was that hilarious to see!
Call me messed up, but if one day Alzheimer’s chooses to rob me of my memories, I would want that 45 seconds to survive more than the memories of seeing my firstborn swaddled in my wife’s arms. Yes, I said it. It was by far the most hilarious jaw-dropping thing I’ve seen in my life. We rewound and played that tape back so much it eventually messed up the film.”
"I’ve been out of prison for a decade as of Jul 5, 2021. Once was enough for me, even if it took five years to realize it. I was young, barely 18, and ended up on one of the gladiator camps in Texas, the Roach Unit. From there, I ended up in administrative isolation for close to three years, until I got discharged for my entire sentence after a freak prison riot.
Isolation is nuts. On a best-case scenario, you spend 23 hours a day completely alone, and an hour in a small cage that is open to the sky. That rarely happens, because staying out of trouble with the guards is.. hard. Realistically, you just spend 24 four hours a day a lone for years on end like a crazy person.
I saw some absolutely crazy things during my time in isolation. The guards are often corrupt and malicious. With the rate of illegal contraband alone, you can't really argue it. One of the sergeants decided not to feed two guys for no reason. At first he skipped them for a meal; then a full day.
Both of these guys had life sentences, one for a robbery that lead to someone dying, one for murdering his children. They were all out of cares to give. They coordinated with the rest of the people in our cell block to make noise all night. So, we all pounded on our doors, yelled, whatever, basically all night.
The guards can't really do much to stop something like that other than yell. While we all made noise, these two guys jumped on the steel tables bolted to their walls til they busted off. Then, they used the tables to hammer on their door frames at the bottom, breaking them off the tracks.
Nobody noticed, because again, the guards basically just ignore your existence back there. So, lunch time comes! The sergeant shows up with two COs. An inmate on the second floor called them to his cell door; while they talked to him, the other two guys pushed their doors open. The whole cell block went into action like clockwork.
The sergeant saw them coming up the stairs, and must have realized how close to dying he was, because he jumped over these two guys and tumbled down the stairs and ran out of the run, and slammed the door shut. He locked his two men in with these guys, and it went bad. The guards didn't die but he might as well have sealed their fate right there. The two guards weren't who the prisoners were after, but they got messed up bad alright.
Eventually the teams showed up and shot so many tear gas grenades into our run that the nurses couldn't come into it for two weeks from the residue. The sergeant got fired for abandoning his guys, the two guys got beat half to death, and the rest of us choked on tear gas for two weeks. It was like living in a zoo. Just savagery.”
"I was a college instructor teaching in state prisons for several years. At first, I was a bit anxious about being in that environment. After all, I was in a room with about two dozen convicted murderers, child diddlers, and dealers. It wasn't exactly a welcoming place.
But, after about a month, I realized that I had nothing to worry about. I was surprised to find that these guys were willing to put themselves in harm's way to protect teachers like myself
I had just started my lecture one day when a lockdown was called. Our room was locked (from the outside) and we could not move until it was over. The guards essentially sealed me, a civilian, into that cage with the other prisoners. It was a wild time and I was legitimately scared.
Upstairs we could hear a real struggle going on. Clubs, shouts, screams. There was a riot breaking out
‘Teach, get in the corner,’ one of my guys said, practically pulling me off my feet and pushing me into the corner furthest from the classroom door. I was so shocked I just did what I was told.
The guys then proceeded, without saying a word to each other, to barricade all of the classroom desks in front of the door and stand between me and said desks. These guys knew what they were doing. They were creating a barrier to keep me safe.
It turns out that the riot we heard was not as big as we feared, so the lockdown only lasted about an hour. Afterward, once we got the okay and the room was put back in order, I asked the guys why they did what they did. I thought I was just a nobody to them.
‘Some prick hurts you,’ one of the guys said, ‘all the teachers will leave. We don't want to lose our education because some idiots can't control themselves.’ My outlook on prisoners changed from that day on.
"I've worked in a prison for some time in medical. What surprised me more than anything else is how many inmates have serious mental illnesses and below-normal IQ. Like, no matter how bad and common you may think it is, it's REALLY bad and even more common.
A lot of them don't even belong in prison. They definitely shouldn't be out on the street, but they and society would benefit a lot more from keeping them in an environment where they can get real treatment. Prison makes them so much worse.
I'll tell you a story.
One time, one such inmate was having a fit and asking to speak to someone from Behavioral Health. Well, it was night shift and we didn't have any BH professionals on duty at the time. So I agreed to go talk to him. He was a black male in his 30s. Past violent offender.
It turned out that he was angry because he had gotten moved from one cell to another and his radio had gotten damaged and some of his stuff was missing. He was frustrated and didn't feel like he was getting an explanation. The inmate thought it was because everyone hated his music.
'They always be complaining about my music and that's why they broke my radio!' he said. And to emphasize the point, he turned the radio on full blast with one of Duran Duran's songs playing.
When he turned it off after a few seconds, I remarked, 'Well, I think that's outrageous. Who would have a problem with Duran Duran?'
That got him. 'You like Duran Duran?'
'Oh yeah. My sister was their biggest fan in the 80's. Played them all the time, which means I was listening too.'
The inmate's mood changed and he showed me his property form that had everything and asked me to verify that the radio was recorded as undamaged on the form. As I looked at it, I noticed that he had a box of crayons listed among his property. I asked him what sorts of things he draws and colors.
The inmate pulled out a folder containing some blank coloring pages that he had of various things. I saw one picture of an owl and mentioned that I like owls. He told me he'd color it for me.
'I'll tell you what then. If you will promise to color that owl for me, I will come back tomorrow and visit you to see how you're doing. Deal?'
He agreed to it.
The next day, I showed up and the guy was absolutely jubilant. The owl was perfectly colored and he insisted that I take it.
He couldn't stop talking about it either and he remarked somewhere in the middle, 'All my life, my folks told me not to trust white people, but you did what you said you would.'
It was such a small thing, and it mattered to this man to the point that it made him question the negativity that may have led him to the hard place he found himself in. I will never forget how happy he was right then.
For my part, I still have that owl picture hanging on my refrigerator."