I get asked all the time by friends and family (and sometimes strangers):

“What’s your job like?”
“So how is it working in a prison?”
“You’re a correctional officer, what is it you do, exactly?”
“What made you decide that job?”

After telling the person that I wanted a career, not just another job, I find myself pausing for a bit; not because I don’t know what I do. I just tend to think back on everything.

When I first started working at a prison, I had no idea what to expect. In truth, before I got hired I had never been inside a prison before. The whole experience of being a correctional officer was extremely new to me. Exciting in some ways, but I didn’t want to seem to eager, lest I do something stupid. My two months spent as a cadet shadowing officers was spent observing and asking as many questions as I could think to ask. I got a crash course in how a prison was run day to day, and another crash course in how to talk to inmates.

Finally BCOT started. 5 weeks away from the prison, spending time on a college campus. We marched like soldiers, were treated like inmates, learned how to handle ourselves (and in my case, fire a weapon), and somewhere along the way we picked up the skills necessary to do our job effectively at our institutions.

I didn’t want to stand out at BCOT. Having high test scores would have been nice, but it wasn’t my goal. I went into BCOT like I went into the cadet portion of my job; with my eyes and ears wide open, hoping to learn any and everything. I didn’t want awards or recognition, I wanted the skills to be a good officer.

I graduated. It was the first time I had walked with my class to get my certificate. I didn’t even do that when I graduated college (I was in London, but that’s a different story).

I had a moment of panic when I accepted my badge and shift placement from my supervisor right after graduation. Standing there with my fellow officers, I wondered if I would be able to do the job required of me.

Observing how a dorm is run and running a dorm are two different things. Day shift and night shift are two completely different animals when working in a prison. As a cadet I spent 8 hours shadowing an officer; as an officer I spent 12 hours on post. My first two nights were hell, but not because I found the job hard. I wasn’t used to working a night shift job at all ever, let alone for 12 hours.

Five inmate counts a shift, every shift, a total of ten counts a day. Accountability/Count is the most important thing in a prison. If you don’t know where your inmates are when you come on post, you’ve had a bad day. If your accountability is right from the start, everything else falls into place.

I remembered what I saw and experienced as a cadet, which by comparison didn’t seem like enough when you’re handed a clipboard, equipment and a dorm of roughly 100+ female (or male) inmates for the next 12 hours. You quickly learn things BCOT didn’t teach you and no one can really prepare you for.

You’re taught not to judge or ask questions about why they’re incarcerated. You learn to not be nosy. You learn to field personal questions, or give broad answers to not give away personal information. You learn that inmates love to talk, and that if you listen long enough, you’ll learn everything about their life. You learn to judge when you’ve heard enough and when you need to hear more. You learn how to pull an inmate aside without attracting attention, how to talk to your fellow officer without being ear hustled, and how to get information from snitches without them being discovered.

I learned how much paperwork it takes to run a prison. As a cadet you see officers filling it out, but rarely did an officer take the time to show you what forms needed to be done each shift, every shift.

You can’t be prepared for how a dorm will react to seeing you for the first time, and there’s no easy way to describe it. Inmate’s attitudes are different every day; and while they preached being fair, firm, and consistent, it can be difficult. I’ve been hated simply for walking into a dorm, and respected for the exact same reason; and not because of anything I had done, but because I wear the uniform of authority.

They don’t teach you pill call at BCOT, but pill call is an important part of the shift. A dorm of 96 inmates is guaranteed to have 1/3 on some sort of medication(s) that are taken at least once a day. Some are on heavy anti-psychotics. Even if you don’t know half of your inmates by name, you can expect roughly 35 out of your dorm to go to pill call. You can’t be prepared for having to run pill call, either. Nothing can prepare you for what you’ll see when an inmate opens their mouth to show you they took their meds. You learn to not think about it, but somewhere in the back of your mind you know you have a good idea of what meth mouth looks like.

Incidents at a prison are a dime a dozen. A shift that doesn’t have at least one fight, verbal or otherwise, is considered too good to be true. Inmates will fight over anything and will argue over even less.

They don’t teach about passing out mail, or laundry, or all the forms inmates will ask for. They teach you defensive tactics and how to cuff an inmate, but they don’t prepare you for your first inmate escort. They don’t teach you about everything that can happen that will require a witness statement. (They teach you how to write a witness statement, but until you have to write one, you never knew how to do one properly.)

They tell you about recidivism and the turnover rate of officers. You hear this, but you experience first hand officers resigning or being fired because they were more corrupt than the people they supervised, or because they couldn’t handle the job. Losing fellow officers is hard because 9 times out of 10 you walk into roll call barely able to fill every post. But you suck it up and learn that it is what it is, and if an officer leaves because they were corrupt, it’s better to work short staffed than have a full shift of officers you can’t trust.

Training doesn’t really prepare you for that trust, either. You learn that as you go. You want to look on the officers you went through training with as the ones who have your back first and foremost, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes the one you can depend on the most to help in a situation is the one you least expect.

They don’t teach you how to pack and inventory property at training, yet as an officer it’s part of the job. They don’t teach you how you’ll adapt as an officer, or how you’ll reflect back on when you were a cadet to where you are now, and take stock of what you do and put up with on a daily basis without fear or a second thought.

Not everyone knows what a correctional officer does, and if you ask us, sometimes we can’t form the sort of response you want to hear. This isn’t because we don’t know, we know all too well what we do on a daily basis; but because we do so much in a shift we can’t begin to tell someone who hasn’t worked in our place.

Like I said, all the training in the world can’t prepare you for how you’ll run a dorm of 100+ inmates, and unless you’ve done it, you’ll never be able to imagine it. Everyone wants to know what you’ve seen or been through, but they don’t realize that shift to shift we go through a lot, sometimes before we get our post assignment in roll call and after we’ve handed over our post to the next shift.

I’ve been cursed, called every name under the sun, and been yelled at by disgruntled inmates, just because I came on shift and accepted my post. I’ve had inmates threaten to hang because they weren’t getting their way, and had inmates so needy you couldn’t give them enough to keep them quiet. I’ve had to run to assist fellow officers restrain an aggressive inmate, and strip search inmates going into lockdown or a safe cell. I’ve pat searched kitchen staff, and confiscated all sorts of contraband. I’ve been trained to detect changes in behavior, gained a “6th sense” about situations and my dorm, and had to diffuse verbal altercations I just knew were going to turn violent.

I’ve had inmates test my authority and my ethics to see what I would and would not let them get away with. I’ve had inmates try to get me to pass for them, and had to stand my ground and say no, I’m not that officer. I’ve had inmates try to bend the rules so they could see their girlfriend, or volunteer for a detail so they could stay up past lockdown.

I’ve heard all manner of filth come from an inmate’s mouth, in normal conversation. I’ve had to make sure girlfriends didn’t lag behind everyone else for that extra “together time”, told inmates to “get somewhere”, and caught inmates in middle of their…business, toilet or otherwise. I’ve opened inmate mail and read the filthiest things you can (or can’t) imagine.

I’ve had inmates flood their cell, throw a tantrum that would make a toddler pause and take notes, bang their head, and refuse their medicine and had to assist in force medicating via a shot. I’ve had to put inmates into restraints to curb aggressive and self-injurious behavior.

I’ve heard more gossip than you could find in a high school lunch room, and played counselor to inmates needing to vent. I’ve been disrespected by some and respected by others. I’ve been thanked for listening and been cursed for being too busy. I’ve made more rounds than I can remember and counted my dorm over and over again. I’ve had an inmate be at the end of her life, fall out in her cell and be taken out in an ambulance, only to die in the hospital a few days later. I’ve been yelled at and lectured by fellow officers, made mistakes and learned from them. I’ve been expected to have all the answers or at least find as many answers as I could before my shift was over.

I can’t accurately tell you what I really do as a correctional officer. Our job description is safety: protecting the general public from the inmates and the inmates from themselves and each other. But that’s just part of it. These things that happen day to day, shift to shift is part of the job. So don’t be surprised if a correctional officer pauses the next time you ask what our job is like. It isn’t because we don’t know, it’s because we’re remembering everything we do and we have too many stories to tell.


I’m so terrible at keeping a regular blog.  I say something similar to this every time I post.

Anyway, I was going back to college to get a degree in Criminal Justice and focus on a Bachelor’s in Cyber Crime.  Well at the tail-end of August, beginning of September, I landed a job.  I’m now a Correctional Officer in training.  This means that yes, I’ll be working in a prison.  Naturally I’m really excited. I’m also nervous, but I don’t think that’s an overwhelming emotion at the moment. I start tomorrow (October 3), which is perfect because my unemployment is about to run out.

I start my new job on Monday, and Wednesday I’ll be going to a concert in Atlanta.  I’ve been excited for this concert since it was announced in July, and it literally feels like I’ve been waiting forever for the tour to begin.  Well, now it’s here and I couldn’t be more excited.  I’ll be seeing Imperative Reaction, System Syn, and God Module.  I’ve been a fan of Imperative Reaction and System Syn for roughly 5 years now, and I’ll confess I only just started listening to God Module (around the time the tour was announced, but I love everything already), and I’m amped for the chance to see this show.  There’s also going to be online friends I’ve connected with through our mutual love of these bands (and Combichrist), and Lisbeth, wife of Ted (frontman of Imperative Reaction) will be there to sing on stage for a few songs.  My friend and I have VIP passes, so we get to hang out for a little bit before the show.

So, all in all, I think this winter will be much better than my summer (which I posted about).  Now I just need to survive the correctional officer training. 🙂

Additional post.

I’ve also heard about what happened in Norway. I honestly didn’t get clued in until this morning. I don’t watch much TV, so I’m often times not in the loop.

My heart goes out to the families of those lost. There’s no words to express how death and murder isn’t right. I’m not a believer in one god or religion or anything, but I am an advocate for peace, acceptance, and human rights. This isn’t okay. Just because your ideals don’t mesh with another person’s doesn’t give you the right to kill for the sake of it.

We all share this planet, so why do we have to hate so much?

Link to story here. (Note: only after posting this did I read through the linked story. This link is to a Norwegian news site reporting the story. Some of the pictures posted could be considered graphic, please use your best judgement.)

Also BBC coverage here.

I will never understand the senseless violence of mankind.

RIP: Amy Winehouse

I confess, I wasn’t a fan of Amy Winehouse. Her music was fine, but not to my taste. Mostly I pitied her because of her behavior. Amy obviously needed help. It’s tragic that she’s died today. She was only 27. May she find peace.

Ms. Winehouse. Clicking picture takes you to a news story.

There’s been a lot of tech news going around lately. Since I was able to get in on some of it, I thought I’d talk about it.

Google rolled out a new social networking site, Google+. It’s still in testing from what I can tell, and as far as I know, you still need an invite to get in. I won’t go into detail about what it does or doesn’t do, plenty of you either know or can figure it out by, well, Googling it. 😛

I have friends that love it, I have friends that are in the middle, and I have a cousin that hates it. I follow people that are still trying to figure it out. Personally, it took me 2 days of playing to figure out what did what, and I’m completely used to it. I hold no opinion of whether it’s a “Facebook killer”, because as of right now, each does something the other doesn’t. Until G+ begins rolling out new features, I will only say that I like it, and it has lots of potential.

Google also released the Google+ app for iPhone today. Those with Android got the added perk of already having a native app, while those enslaved to Apple (i.e. me) had to wait. Well, now it’s here. If you can find it in your phone’s app store, that is. As of yet, I still can’t find it.

Don’t get me, wrong, it’s already on my phone. I had to take the long way around to get it, though. First, I had to go here. (This link was shared to me on Google+ via a friend.) Then I opened it in iTunes, downloaded the app, and synched my phone.

Since being alerted to the app and getting it, I’ve been occasionally searching the app store on my phone for it. Still no luck. It has yet to show up in the new apps, or when typing ‘Google’ into the app store search bar. Yet it shows up in the iTunes app market on my computer. Weird.

Edit: According to a tip on Twitter, searching for Google Huddle on your phone takes you to the app.

Anyway, the app is pretty snappy and streamlined. I have yet to see any problems with it, although I haven’t tested Huddling. I’m getting notifications in the app faster than the email is getting pushed to my phone, so maybe I can finally turn off the email notifications. Even though I was enjoying the 60 emails a day. /sarcasm

Moving on:

Spotify, up until a week ago, has been a European music service, much like iTunes. Unlike iTunes, Spotify allows full song streaming and sharing of songs to friends. Free profiles are ad supported, and ads play between some song plays, but it’s a small trade-off for full album streaming.

Invites for Spotify have been like unicorn spotting, but I managed to get in. :3 So far, I love it. I’m enjoying it more than iTunes, more or less.

I only have one complaint about Spotify. After roughly 5 hours, Spotify stops playing. I can hear some of you already: “Really, 5 hours and she’s complaining? Madness!” Let me explain. I’m the sort of person that listens to music while they sleep. I’ll generally choose a playlist and it’ll play all night.

Spotify stops after 5 hours, normally around 3 – 4AM if I go to bed around 10:30 – 11PM. Most people wouldn’t be bothered by this, but I’ve been waking up when I realize there’s no longer music. I suppose I’ll switch back to iTunes for my nightly playlist.

I’ve also had a friend tell me he can’t listen to the songs I’ve shared to him, which is odd because I haven’t had any problems listening to anything shared to me.

I have nothing to share (or complain) about, so I’ll end this post. Enter in a new wave of people looking for Spotify or Google+ info as I tag my post with both. :3

It’s hard to put together a decent post when your brain feels like a bowl of tangled spaghetti. There’s a part of me that wants to rant and whine and complain. I suppose it would make me feel better if I did, in some ways I might even be entitled to a bit of complaining. Trouble is, I can’t form a decent complaint in my head. In truth, I can’t really think at all.

I guess my “Horrible Summer ’11” started when I lost my job. I can’t even remember when that was. April? That’s sad that it hasn’t been that long ago, and yet I can’t recall the date. :/ I applied for school, but that doesn’t start until August. In truth it’s not that long of a wait, but keeping with the grand scheme of science, time is dragging its feet. I’m glad June is finally over, but July might last forever.

Anywho, everything seemed to be going well, as far as being unemployed goes, when my mom goes to the hospital. She was having horrible abdomen pains, which she thought was Diverticulitis. (She’d had this before and had surgery to correct it.) The nurses ran tests, did scans, took x-rays, and saw a mass on mom’s ovaries. Surgery time, because naturally everyone thinks cancer.

It wasn’t cancer. The mass wasn’t even on her ovaries, it was on her pelvic wall. But mom’s ovaries were swollen, and her fallopian tubes were twisted and necrotic. In short, everything was a mess, and the dead tissue from her fallopian tubes could have killed her. Without even waiting for consent, her doctor did an emergency hysterectomy. He saved her life.

She’s home and healing, everything is going fine where she’s concerned.

Moving on:

My younger half brother called me last night and informed me that our dad (my biological dad) had a stroke and was in the hospital. Further information over the course of last night/this morning was he had actually had 3 strokes back to back, two smaller ones and a big one. The left side of his face is paralyzed, and they’re not sure if it’s temporary or permanent. He promised to keep me updated.

I just saw him at the beginning of June, and I remember him telling me the doctors were having a hard time getting his blood pressure down. No matter what they put him on, it wasn’t working, like there wasn’t a dosage high enough.

I’m not extremely close to my real dad, but I do love him and his side of the family. They’re family. And I certainly don’t want anything bad to happen to them, so this…this is bothering me. I don’t know how to be right now, I can’t process what’s going on inside my head. This summer has been absolutely horrible. I know for certain there have been some fun times, but right now it’s all being overshadowed.

I can’t wait for school to start. I need something to take my mind off everything. Because I just can’t think.

I blogged a while ago about a product I received from Mobile Fun UK, where my penpal Natalie works.  Today I received an email from them asking if I would mention their new promotion in a blog post.  I am happy to comply.

Mobile Fun is running a new promotion to correspond with the release of a new product, called StuckBuddy, which can be found here.  The StuckBuddy is a universal suction cup, which can be used for anything.

The photos on the page show it being used to prop up a smartphone or tablet/e-reader, or as a portable hook to hang light things.  From the Mobile Fun Blog:

The StuckBuddy is a small suction cup which can be used to easily and sturdily prop up any smartphone, tablet or similar device.  It’s a simple idea that makes a big change – not only can it hold your device in either landscape or portrait mode, it will also stop it slipping and sliding around on the desk and is portable enough to carry wherever you go.  There’s really no need to lug around a bulky, expensive stand when this low-cost solution can slip easily into your pocket or handbag!

This looks like a very versatile product, since it is small enough to carry with you.  The price of the StuckBuddy is £4.99, or about $8.26 with U.S. currency conversion.  But fear not, Mobile Fun is giving these away with every purchase.

By using the promotional code ‘BUDDY‘ in the rebate code box (when you check out), Mobile Fun will send you one for free.  I periodically browse the site for accessories that don’t require plugs, because of the difference in UK/US plug ends, and I’m very interested in getting one of these myself, to test out its versatility.

Note: This blog was written as a favour to Mobile Fun.  I am in no way paid for my opinions or this review.