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 Corrections.com, 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.
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Among his responses, ziggymilson addresses some of the challenges that he faces on the job, which include outdated software and poor communications between staff.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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