Memoirs of a Correctional Officer - On My Own
It was a beautiful Spring Sunday after the Daylight Savings time change. I was scheduled for my first day flying solo at my assigned correctional institution after a combined 10 weeks of training both in the classroom and on the job. I had begun my employment with the State in the midst of the political turmoil that has made headlines both locally and internationally. I was hired as a Utility Officer, which meant that am to cover different posts when the regular officers are absent.
I was assigned to the institution’s Segregation Unit where offenders are locked up and kept away from the general population for violating institutional policy among other reasons. This is the area of the prison that gives me an actual and real feeling of incarceration. Otherwise, it’s a medium security institution where the inmates have rooms and keys to access them; very similar to a college dorm.
It was a slow day with not much to do except for phone calls and library book exchanges for the inmates. This Segregation Unit is divided into two sections known as wings; A and B. I was in charge of the B Wing while another officer manned the A one. A Sergeant sat at a desk supervising us and monitoring the phone, cameras, doors, and controls.
“Are you going to be okay down there with them?” asked Officer Holton. “Yeah, I got this.” I assured him with a confident nod and proceeded down the wing. Making my way down the corridor of steel doors with my phone call list, the voices grew louder and barely discernible. They all called to me, “C.O., C.O., C.O!” That’s the inmates’ way of addressing us, which is an abbreviation of Correctional Officer. They collectively must’ve been thinking that they could get their way because of me being a new officer on duty that day.
Approaching their heavy and secured cell doors, I placed my ear as close them as possible. They were curious as to who I was that day and wanted to know as much as possible about me. It was my duty to not get too personal with them, but still give them the courtesy of acknowledgement. After all, they’re still human beings despite their status as offenders. Some just wanted someone to talk to with an innocent intent. After all, they sit inside those cells 24 hours a day and 7 days a week except for escorted showers and recreation in fenced in enclosures. However, there were those who wanted me to break the rules by asking for things to be done that their Segregation Handbook clearly states are prohibited. Rejecting their requests with a polite no-can-do, it was obvious to me that they’d test and try me for many days yet to come.