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Updated on October 6, 2011

For anyone who has worked in corrections, currently works in corrections, or plans to work in corrections, there are many things that put your life at risk. Whenever you work in the prison environment, you take a chance every time you report to work. Although we can't control everything, there are many things we can do to better prepare us for any situations we may find ourselves in. It is a very dangerous profession, but you can drastically reduce your risk by paying attention to the tips below. Not all inmates are bad citizens. However, there is a small percentage that doesn't care or have regards to your life. Most of these inmates are locked up in segregation, but every now and then, they can fall through the cracks. Plus, any inmate can change while he or her is locked up. Preparing yourself is crucial.


Inmates are always watching you. Even if it doesn't appear that they are, they are. This is part of inmate social activity. They don't have much to do in their spare time. They have plenty of time to think though. Your main quality working in corrections is consistency. They will watch you and by doing this, they will pick out your weakness. Anything they can use against you, they will. You are a new book to them. They begin to judge you by what they see on the outside. They will determine if you enforce the rules, if you show favoritism, if you are laid back, or if you are a hard worker. Anything they can learn about you from your physical actions, they will take in.

When you are in this environment, you have to pay attention to how you show your body labguage. You have to understand that they are great observers. Make sure you are consistent with your body language. By showing a relaxed body language, you invite the inmate to become friendly with you. Be firm and consistent. Pay attention to your body language and show them you are professional. When doing do, make sure it is permanent. It is important you show the same strong body language everyday so it will become a normal reaction while you are working inside the facility.

Remember, they are always watching. Be consistent with your body language. Do not show weakness to them in any way. They react to weakness because they get an advantage over you this way. Inmates are always a judge of character. By showing consistent positive body language, you show the inmates that you are professional.

Inmates pay close attention how you react with other inmates. Once again, you have to be consistent. In corrections, everything requires consistency. Treat each inmate the same. You have to be fair with them, but firm. Even when you think they are not watching you interaction with other inmates, they are. Inmates talk among each other and they will take advantage of any advantage they can get. Do not be their pawn. Use a good firm tone when speaking to inmates. You don't have to scream, but show firm vocalization. Remember, be firm, fair, and consistent.


As you have already learned, inmates are always watching. They can also try to use you as a pawn and in corrections this is known as "inmate games". Inmates games are when an inmate tries to take advantage of you by involving you in a planned scheme. There are many inmate games. It may not always involve you physically. They can play mental inmate games on you as well. For example, they may tell you that they need to go to medical because they don't feel good. Once your attention is on this one inmate, another inmate may try to sneak food or other items to another inmate, which is known as contraband, Contraband is items that are not allowed inside a correctional facility or items that are illegal to have. Although food is served, it can be classified as contraband if it is found on the inmate or in the inmates living quarters. An example would be whole onions from the kitchen. Another game they could play is the favorite game. They will try to act like your best friend, in return, they are hoping they can get extra benefits from doing do. Do not show them any type of favoritism. Be consistent. Pay attention to what they are asking or what they are saying to you. You have to watch them just as much as they watch you. Always look out for inmate games.



It is very important to watch your surroundings. Know what is going on around you at all times. Inmates will always try to keep things from you. You should keep in mind that there are usually "bosses" in pods or housing. A boss is an inmate that runs the housing unit or is the main speaker for the race group or entire housing section. They often will tell other inmates what to do. They are usually the brains of all operations for their race or housing sections/pod. Once you get to know an area and their behavior at a certain housing section, you should be able to tell when something wrong is going on. At anytime you sense something is wrong, tell your supervisor.

One characteristic of something wrong is going on is "noise". Often, it will be less noisy then usual or you may see that certain races are divided. You may also see less conversations between inmates. Also, inmates are likely to go to their assigned room. All of these are signs of something going on. Notify your supervisor immediately!

This can also be true on the outside recreational yard also.Inmates are more likely to have occurrences out on the rec yard because there are usually less staff and it takes them longer to react. If you are assigned to the yard, be on high alert.

It will be normal to not know all the signs. You will learn most of them in your training course. Remember, you can't control everything. But, you always want to be prepared for the worse. Most inmates will not bother you or cause you problems. Yes, they are an inmate, but it doesn't classify them as a bad person. They made a mistake and they are now paying for it. Even so, you still have to be on high alert with every inmate. Just because they have been well mannered or never caused you a problem, it doesn't mean that they won't. Always pay close attention to your surroundings.


Never underestimate an inmate. Anything can happen in a correctional setting and it could involve you. Never let your guard down. Inmates have nothing but time. You don't see many bad crimes in detention centers because they are awaiting trial or they may be going home soon. Most of them do not want to get anymore time added, so their behavior is usually good. However, inmates that have life or long sentences will tend to be more violent in some cases. They look at things in an entirely different way. They may think they have nothing to lose. They are already in prison anyway. Either way, don't let your guard down.

Anything can happen in the correctional environment. Always be prepared for the worst. Do not take any situation for granted. You will get plenty of information in your training class and by the time you go into corrections, you will be well prepared. Once you're in the correctional setting for so many years, people tend to put safety on the back burner. Don't forget your training. Your number one job is to provide safety for staff and safety for inmates.

I have personally seen many correctional officers that disrespect staff and inmates. Do not disrespect any staff or inmates. You will have managers, administrations, officers, maintenance, and food service personnel working alongside you. We all are responsible for the safety of each other. Don't let your position go to your head. You will run into people like this is the correctional facility. They get promoted and they try to use their power or they try to throw it around. Don't follow that route. You can bet that an inmate or two is watching that person close. Sometimes, talking to their boss doesn't help either. In such cases, take you a notebook and keep a daily log. Write down everything.

Your safety is top priority. Always be prepared for the unexpected. Some facilities are more dangerous then others. Just remember or refer back to your training and you will be fine. Pay close attention to inmate behavior. If you can do so, you may be able to pinpoint when something is going wrong. If you even get the slightest hint, tell a supervisor or take action. Responding accordingly can be the difference. Prepare yourself and refer back to your training. You will be trained to respond to any correctional emergency that may present itself. Training is key.

Your training is not meant to scare you, it is meant to prepare you for the worst situation that may occur. This is a dangerous job, but you can do all the necessary work to eliminate a high percentage of it. When you go in, be safe and learn everything you can. Study inmate behavior and be consistent, firm, and fair.


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    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 6 years ago from West Virginia

      HBN, it is like that in there. I knew some correctional officers treat dogs better them the inmates and that is asking for trouble. I always respected them. Like I said, they messed up and they are doing their time. Just because they are in there doesn't mean that I am better. Now, in my kitchen, dough cutters were not tied down. Knifes were and the can opened were, but not them. At another prison, everything was tied down but still, they could find ways. You always have to keep eyes and ears open.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 6 years ago from South Carolina

      I'm glad the other inmates stuck up for you. Shows they did respect you. One of my current friends has a son who's a kitchen manager in a correctional facility. Seems to me that would be pretty high risk given all the cooking utensils, hot liquids, etc. that are in the kitchen.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 6 years ago from West Virginia

      HBN, thanks for checking my article out. Wow, he was fortunate. This is another example of why it is important to treat them with respect. They are paying their debt off. It doesn't make them a bad person either. Think about it, they just were the ones that got caught. Glad you husband was able to get out of that situation. I was threatened once, but other inmates beat him up. I rewarded them with cookies!lol True story, I was a kitchen manager.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 6 years ago from South Carolina

      My husband once taught reading and math to inmates in a correctional facility that housed juveniles who had commited violent crimes including murder. You are so right in everything that you stated in this hub. He did get attacked once in the classroom and said that if the others in the class had joined in on the attack against him he would have been a goner by the time security arrived. He felt that since the others respected him enough to stay back that he was able to defend himself. Even so, he did get injured. I was very relieved when he left that job.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 6 years ago from West Virginia

      Hey there Femme. That is funny. I am watching that movie as we speak on TMC. Interesting. Take care.

    • profile image

      femmeflashpoint 6 years ago

      lyric - I enjoyed this. :) I haven't ever worked in corrections, and don't plan to, but found it to be a very interesting read regardless.

      "Brutal" from The Green Mile kept coming to mind while I read it. :)

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 6 years ago from West Virginia

      Thanks for the comment and for coming by Alastar. That is more then often true. Whenever lights out time is, it is quiet. Not to bad after breakfast, but other then those two times, constantly busy and noisy. I thank you for your time Alastar and I shall see you soon friend.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Very informative and interesting Hub on what and what-not to do as a correction facility guard. Firm, fair and consistent- be prepared for the worst, and so many other important things you've written on. Excellent advice for those employed in prisons. One guy told me the noise level is ungodly in the county lock-ups with 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM being the only down time on the shouting. Good info and read thelyricwriter.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 6 years ago from West Virginia

      Hey Gypsy. thanks for coming by and reading. There is a prison somewhere out West that is on Elm Street. Be good.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 6 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Spooky and acary definetly not for me. Freddy from Elm Street fame is probably lurking somewhere in those hallways.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 6 years ago from West Virginia

      Hey Lesley. Thanks for reading. You make two great points. One, you do have to get on their level. You have to set your mind to think like an inmate. Of course, not all are bad and everyone makes mistakes. 80% of our population was crossing the border or drugs. That is bad, but for inmate populations, they are usually Angels. It's just certain ones, probably less then 5% of housing population. Two, body language is like a book to an inmate. They can find out 70% of your personality just by your body language and appearance. They really don't see it coming most times. It usually ends bad. Perfect points. Hope all is well and Leslie, I will see you soon.

    • profile image

      Lesleysherwood 6 years ago

      This is such interesting information. I will probably never work in a prison but I found it fascinating to read how the person working there needs to be as shrewd as the inmates. Body language goes a long way and I think half the time humans don't even realise they are weighing each other up and putting people in line of the pecking order.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 6 years ago from West Virginia

      Hello Dallas. You hit the nail right on the head Dallas. It is dangerous just knowing how easily they can point out your weakness. They are master minds when it comes to managing the system. I never thought about that Dal, but you are right. "Needs and wants" Inmate behavior is ideal to adapt to whatever kind of system it is. One way or the other, they will manage the system.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      I have respect for thoses that do what I do not want to do! Our diversity creates our strength. Our chosen career paths reflect a dynamic balance of needs and wants.

      Inmates reflects us. Their behaviors reflects the things we have colntrol over: our impulses, our "negative," hurtful, selfish thoughts we somehow manage to not act upon...

      Thanks for sharing. Flag up!

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 6 years ago from West Virginia

      Thanks for the visit Nell. I appreciate your time my dear. It sounds a lot worse then it really is, but it is still a dangerous job to have. By learning this way, you are better prepared for the job.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      Hi, After reading this, I know for a fact that I could never do this job, apart from my build, mentally I don't think I would be up to doing it. But this is a great guide for anyone taking on this difficult job, I have watched prison programs over here, showing American prisons, and they seem so tough. I have every respect for the men and women doing this job, amazing hub, and very useful, cheers nell


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