Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Hard Time

It's not easy being a Correctional Officer, and I'm not talking about the duties one must carry out in a career behind bars. No, the truly hard part is that it is very difficult to hold your head up high and tell folks that you are a Prison Guard. Let's face it, most people's reality of prison comes from the movies. Hollywood has been good to to the Police, Firefighters and Military in that its portrayal of these people tends to weigh much more on the hero side rather than villian. Then think of how Correctional Officers are presented on-screen: the poor, hard done convicetd murderers playing football against those evil Guards in "The Longest Yard", cheering for the maximum security inmate to get away in "Escape from Alcatraz" or the just plain nasty Officers in "The Shawshank Redemption". Overall, Correctional Officers are painted as narcisistic knuckle draggers.

Now don't get me wrong, when a Guard tells folks what his/her occupation is at a party, folks are usually all ears for the tales we can tell. I guess that is human nature. Most folks say "I don't know how you can do what you do" and are often gobsmacked by tales so seemingly far fetcched that they are too absurd not to be true! A colleague of mine has coined a perfect statement in such instances: "I'm serious, you just can't make this kind of stuff up" when recounting some of the crazy policies and activities inside.

As a Correctional Officer in Canada you are classified as a "peace officer"; that's the same designation given to City Police and the RCMP. In my job I often am in a secure post, armed with a 9mm AR-15 carbine and tasked with what to do when shit hits the fan which could be the difference between fellow Officers getting out of a jam safely to utilisation of lethal force. I personally have been a millimeter shy in a trigger pull from shooting an inmate, have seen brutalised murdered corpses, been up to my knees in blood, put out fires and been in the middle of a few riots, once evactuated under the cover of gunfire. I have been in a situation where I assisted city policie in a high risk takedown with helicopters, etc. just off Institutional property. I have waited, completely unable to do anything, while a colleague and very good friend was taken hostage. I have put out fires wearing nothing but a SCBA.

Where am I going with all of this? The Liberal Party in the run-up to the federal election next week stated that they intend to set up a "Hero Fund" for first responders (i.e. Firefighters, Police, EMT's, etc.) that would contribute $250,000 to the families of those who were killed in the line of duty. Canadian Correctional Officers were not included in this group.

So, the next time an inmate torches his cell, rather than respond as we usually do, perhaps we should call the Fire Department. If there is an inmate fight, we'll diall 9-1-1.

At the end of the day, I guess that I am writing this out, partly to vent, but also to perhaps reach one or two people who don't know me and have taken their time to read this missive. I have a t-shirt with a list naming all the Fallen Correctional Officers in my country, and it reads like a war memorial. I'm not trying to take anything away from other law enforcement professions, but rather let the voice of the justice system's bastard child be heard. I work for an employer who deemed that wearing a stab proof vest for my personal pertection in a maximum security prison was "intimidating" to inmates and didn't foster a "trusting" atmosphere, and the same was said of handcuffs. We won the rights to wear cuffs, should receive our vests in the next 2 years, but are still fighting to wear OC spray and carry collapsable batons for our protection. Our reason: approximatley 90 staff assaults in Canadian prisons for 2005.

As for the knuckle dragging, like any organisation there is a vast demographic comprising its ranks. On the whole, you'd be suprised. I have a couple of university degrees and am not the exception.

In the end, we keep the bad guys locked up so that the rest of society can breathe a bit easier. I'm not looking for a pat on the back, but rather the opportunity to have a sense of pride. Sadly, all I feel is futility.


  • At 1:53 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    anonodroggout: You hurt because you care. You vent because heat generates pressure inside. It's like the blues and boogie-woogie, they say, "It's in him and it's gotta come out!". You can't stop caring without becoming one of "them"; and if you do I won't vote for you.

  • At 8:29 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    There are very few people in today's society that would wish to trade places with you. You and you co-workers should be very proud of what you do for us all. If the government we have now can not see the need for us to impliment the tools that will protect you and your families, then I say, " GET THEM THE HELL OUT"


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