Confessions Of A Prison Guard

prison guard confessions

For many Americans, the recent hit TV series "Oz" on HBO along with Fox's "Prison Break" were the first insights into what it's like to be a prison guard. Of course, as is the case with any drama, it's difficult to tell whether the actors' portrayals of corrections officers are the real deal or simply tired stereotypes.

In the U.S., nearly half a million people were employed as correctional officers, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2010, the most recent available. With median pay of about $39,000, working as a prison guard is among the better-paying occupations that require no more than a high school diploma. Further, for many it's a secure job that promises years if not a lifetime of employment.

But it's also dangerous and stressful work, with one of the highest rates of on-the-job injuries -- which usually result from confrontations with prisoners. According to, a website dedicated to the profession, correctional officers have the second highest mortality rate of any occupation. Further, the site notes that prison guards on average live to be only 58 years old.

More: Ohio Jail Fights Women Guards' Discrimination Suit

So what's being a corrections officer really like? Job seekers who want to know will probably want to look beyond "Oz" and "Prison Break" to get a real taste. There's no shortage of first-person accounts on the Internet, including several recent postings on Reddit's IAmA, a website where Reddit users can ask questions of anyone who's offering to talk about his or her career and life. The answers frequently offer some fascinating real-life insight into any occupation.

One such thread, excerpts from which appear in the gallery below, features answers from Reddit user ziggymilson. He describes himself as a correctional officer at the Eastham Unit maximum security prison in Houston County, Texas, notable for once housing Clyde Barrow of Bonnie and Clyde fame -- the Depression-era duo who became infamous for a murderous string of bank robberies.

Among his responses, ziggymilson addresses some of the challenges that he faces on the job, which include outdated software and poor communications between staff. Still, the 20-year-old appears content with his job, adding that "day-to-day operations seem to run pretty smoothly in my neck of the woods." For more, check out the gallery below.

(Editor's note: Reddit's "Ask Me Anything" feature uses anonymous sources, which can't be verified. Excerpts that appear in the image gallery below have been minimally edited for style and punctuation.)

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I as a woman did that job for twenty plus years in NYC and let me tell anyone who has no regard for this profession, go take the test then take the job. After the inmates finish with you then come back and post your negative remarks. But if you are an ex-inmate your comments are definitely without merit. Do not blame the people that keep your sorry but locked up, blame the fact that YOU committed a crime and deserved to be there.

September 06 2012 at 2:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This article sounded interesting until I read "some of the challenges that he faces on the job, which include outdated software and poor communications between staff."
Not a job I can handle. How do they do it? Prison Guards with outdated software! Whew. Toughie. Oh, wait...didn't this Prison Guard just describe every job ever worked by anyone in America?

September 06 2012 at 2:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

First off, how is that a 20 year old can be any sort of authority on what it is to be a CO. NY requires one to be at least 21 to take the job (due tothe fact that we are Peace Officers in order to carry weapons). I have been on the job for 15 years now in maximum security prisons, one where we fight a lot and another where it is much calmer, and I can tell you, we don't get paid for what we do, we get paid for what we may have to do. Much the same way police are paid. 364 days of quite routine and in one day we can earn our entire years salary and then it is still not enough. We have to worry not only about the shivs and shanks but also AIDS, HIV, Hep-C, and a miriade of other diseases that we could be infected with and then take home to our families. Not to mention inmate friendly administration that tie our hands routinely in inforcing the rules they set for the inmates. By the way, we live by the credo, Fair, Firm and Consistant. Deny the inmate nothing he is due without due process and give him nothing extra without extra effort on his part.

September 05 2012 at 8:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

There is a book titled on the inside looking out (diary of a corrections officer) by Lacy Thomas that really tells some good stuff that goes on behind those fences. You can get it at Amazon .com

September 05 2012 at 8:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

@philito - well said...

September 05 2012 at 8:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

@chefambrose2 - if you think that being a prison guard becomes routine I hope that you are not employed as one...becoming routine in that atmosphere can get you killed. My brother is a CO with over 20 years time worked and he would be the first to tell you that.

@aaron - your ignorance is showing with the statement you just made. Be glad that some folks chose to take the job as they keep you from having to deal with the perps behind the bars they are guarding...judge not lest ye be judged...

September 05 2012 at 8:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to raven92456's comment

You are right there. I worked 29 yrs in that field. We always warned new officers against letting things getting too routine. If they did, then their guard goes down and I have seen many a officer get hurt badly. That is one career that is anything but routine and can get well out of hand at any given moment.

September 06 2012 at 12:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The only difference between working behind the fences and living in my old neighborhood was that the inmates had fewer weapons.

September 05 2012 at 8:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
D H.

I stopped reading in the very first sentence because the author wrote: "For many Americans, the recent hit TV series "Oz" on HBO"......

This hit show (which I Loved) went off the air NINE YEARS ago. What part of nine years passing makes this a recent hit?

September 05 2012 at 8:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Aaron obviously has had experience with fat screws.Oh and he failed to mention the other element of the correctional equation the convicts. I'm sure glad those who were convicted by a jury of their peers are considered in his eyes as superior to the screws.

September 05 2012 at 8:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, what's it like to be fat, lazy and stupid.

September 05 2012 at 7:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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