Friends and Neighbors:
The average citizen has no
idea about what goes on inside a prison. They only know
what they see on television, which shows little of the
real world inside. Seldom does a person feel concern for
their safety from the convicted. Only on occasion, when
an escape is reported, does the public stop to think
about what might have if their path crossed that of the
fleeing criminal. Then, once the person is apprehended,
the thought is gone.
I know a
little about fear. I work in one of our state prisons six
days a week. When I walk through the gate into a world
behind an 8 ft. fence topped with razor wire, I don't
know if I will walk out at the end of my shift, or be
carried out on a stretcher.
Correction Officer, I must realize that I wasn't forced
into this profession. The job didn't select me. I chose
it. At this point in my life I often stop to question my
sanity for being in this position. Why do I put my life
on the line every day? It certainly isn't for the money,
nor the benefits, nor the glory of the job.
It is a
position which not everyone can fill. Could you? Do you
believe that under highly stressful, under staffed,
unsafe conditions, you could perform your best? Could you
walk amid murders, robbers, rapest and child molestors 9
hours a day, listen to them call you every everything
except a human being, and keep your cool? Could you walk
amid these people, knowing that you are their target.
Knowing that at any given moment you could be subjected
to whatever the inmate population decided was your
just a few of the anxieties that we, as Correction
Officers, face daily. Is there any wonder that our
profession has one of the highest rates of divorce, heart
attacks, depression and suicides? According to a study by
the US Department of Justice, it rates as the No. 4 most
violent job in the United States.
that, at present, there are more than 151,000 convicted
men and women locked away behind the fences of the state
supervise these offenders are approximately 35,000 TDCJ
employees. On paper, that doesn't seem so bad - a ratio
of 1 officer for each 5 offenders. In reality, that just
isn't the case. I work at one of the smaller units. At
maximum capacity we will house 174 offenders. To be fully
staffed we need to turn out 13-14 officers per shift.
That is a 13:1 ratio of offenders per officer. In reality
the ratio is 16:1 on a good day, however, some days it is
a 20:1 ratio, and many days it is 100:1.
consideration limited or no air conditioning, sweltering
Texas heat that pushes upwards to 100 nearly every day.
Add a mixture of several different races and cultures. To
that add gangs. Stir all of these up and place in a
building that is 2-3 tiers high with 100+ offenders on
each run. As if that isn't enough, add a noise level that
is loud enough to burst an ear drum. What do you have
now? On a good day you will find these conditions in
almost every TDCJ penal facility across the state. On a
bad day, you may have an inmate fight, an attempted
suicide by hanging, an inmate killed or a riot. On a
really bad day, you will find officers being assaulted,
beaten, or even murdered.
the anger that is inside these offenders. Take away all
the Correction Officers and see what would happen. It
seems that the general opinion is that Correction
Officers employed by the State of Texas have an easy job.
People seem to believe that we don't deserve a pay raise
or better working conditions. If that is how you feel,
come walk nine hours in my shoes.
is for certain, your life will never be the same as it
was before. Only then, your education regarding the job
performance of a Correction Officer be almost complete.
It will not be 100% complete until you have been spit on,
throwed on, or assault by one the offenders you told
friends and neighbors, the next time you lay down and
place your head on your pillow at night, say a prayer for
the men and women in Corrections who supervise the
convicted felons across Texas. Without them, your worse
nightmare might come true.