After two months of incarceration, it was clear that correctional officers were part–time inmates. Although they went home after their shift, a considerable part of their life was spent behind bars. They were not in the cells, but they also stared at dark walls and barbed wire. A recent article in the Nation concluded that correctional officers were also victims of “The Prison–Industrial Complex.”
The report focused on the guards who worked on death row at The Allan B. Polunsky Unit in Livingston,Texas. Correctional officers in this unit suffered from nightmares, high blood pressure, and other health issues. Another study about correctional officers by the Desert Waters correctional outreach center in Colorado reported that more than 25% of prison guards have post-traumatic stress disorder compared to less than 4 percent of the general population. Corrections officers commit suicide at more than double the normal rate for the general population.
On the other hand, there will always be guards who enjoy having almost absolute power over other human beings. It is not hard to see the smirk on certain officers who liked degrading another individual. I will always remember the officer who smiled as he ordered an older inmate to squat over and over during a strip search after visitation.
There will also be a minority of correctional officers who see every inmate as an individual deserving basic respect unless proved otherwise by the inmate’s actions. They do not smirk or give the hard eye look at every inmate’s request, but will try to help if possible. One Texas guard felt that the constant strip searching of inmates was dehumanizing to the officers as well as the inmates.
At the end of the correctional officer’s shifts, they leave an unnatural environment for the outside world. But the next day, they are back in prison.
By Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com