The job of a prison guard is undoubtedly one of the tougher vocations out there.
Violent prisoners and gruesome encounters are par for the course for hardened employees of maximum security penitentiaries, and their experiences generally only become public knowledge when something goes badly wrong behind bars.
To give the world a window into the guarded gates, one Reddit user by the name of u/Woodduck_Chuck decided to put the question out there:
Prison guards of Reddit, what’s the most disturbing thing you’ve dealt with?
What follows are a string of stories from Reddit users claiming to have worked in prisons, and these are some of the most disturbing tales you’re likely to encounter.
“CO in a behavioral health unit. had an inmate who was unhappy being in his body as he identified as a female. he wrapped 17 rubber bands around his genitals and proceeded to cut halfway through it all (with a tin can lid he stole from the kitchen) trying to turn himself into a female before giving up and asking for medical attention. once he was out of the hospital and back in the unit, he was placed under closed observation for his well being. i was in the middle of a tier check when he shouted at me through his window. i approached his cell and looked in the window to see him standing on his sink. once he noticed that he had my attention he took a deep breath and proceeded to swan dive into his toilet bowl breaking his neck in the process. he’s still alive today.”
“Two inmates were fighting in the cafeteria. It was getting pretty ugly. At one point one inmate bit off the other guys ring finger and spit it out. All the other inmates watching started shouting to get the finger and put it on ice so it could be reattached.
In order to prevent this from happening, the original inmate then picked up the finger and he ate it. He fucking ate it. Put it in his mouth and swallowed it without chewing. It was nasty, but kinda impressive.”
“We had a juvenile inmate whom was attracted to younger boys, and often gave them food and treated them nicely to groom them into agreeing for a little “gay for stay” sexual stuff. This particular inmate was also known for believing pee was more sanitary than soap-and-water, and loved trying to get people to shake his hand. One day, he whipped out a bible and went to a verse where Jesus was talking about how it was okay to eat fresh grain on the sabbath, but getting very fixated on the “its not what you put into your body, its what comes of your actions.” So he basically goes on to tell me that no matter what he inserts inside himself, its not a sin, only what he does to others. Using this loophole, he thought it would be okay to give blowjobs to children and still go to heaven.
A very short black youth tells me one day that he really respects Hitler. Wants to be just like him when he grows up. Two weeks later, he tells me he can’t eat the food because it isn’t kosher. Then tells me he’s jewish. I ask him about the comment he made about liking Hitler. He said “I have a vision. I’m going to lead the Jews like Hitler led the Germans, and then we’ll put all the non-jews in concentration camps and do what they did to us.”
One day, a fellow staff member throws a tantrum that the cafeteria staff would not sell him a dinner, stating they needed to wait and see if they had enough for the rest of the units. He flips out. “THATS BULLSHIT!” He suddenly whirls around, and points at the first kid sitting there. “You done with that?” The kid nods, and pushes his half-finished plate of spaghetti forward. The staff member scoops the spaghetti plate and the spork the kid ate with (whom had a reputation of giving anyone interested a bj) and started gulping down the food, screaming with his mouth full, “FINE! FUCK IT! I’LL JUST EAT THEIR LEFTOVERS FOR FREE AND GET WAY MORE FOOD! FINE! THIS IS BULLSHIT!” He throws the empty plate on the table and moves to the next one, eating a half-chewed breadstick. He moves his way down the table, eating everyone’s leftovers. A staff.”
“Ex-Kansas Department of Corrections officer = This guy.
One time, we had a guy in segregation try to kick his door down. He wouldn’t calm down, so he was forced into 5-point restraints to keep him from hurting himself and others. Basically, each ankle and wrist was secured to a chair, and he had a thick leather belt around his waist.
Sitting still isn’t good for you though, so we had to let him get up to get his blood circulating every two hours. He was also allowed a restroom break at this time.
So I walk in with five or six other officers. This guy is about six feet tall, maybe a bit under, and well over 250 lbs. Probably close to 300. He is all rage. He starts telling us that if we uncuff even one limb, we won’t get it back.
Well, we have to at least try. A near-retiree hands me the leg restraints, says, “in case he changes his mind, you put these on and we’ll make sure he doesn’t try to kill you.”
I, meanwhile, am 5′ 8″ and 125 lbs. Standing directly in front of this guy. They release his right arm and he tries to hold it behind his back. It takes five people to pull his arm out from behind, hold it in the restraint cuff, and secure it. I spend this time standing in front of him holding the leg restraints, laughing to myself that he’s going to have a hell of a time if he needed to pee. After all, he has to wait another two hours now that he refused his bathroom break.
The thing is, when they got him cuffed back into the restraints, he tried to stand up. I could hear that leather belt around his waist cracking under the pressure. He stared me right in the face with the most fearsome, “I’m going to fuck you into oblivion” look I had ever seen. It occurred to me, “He is hulking out. He is about to become the Incredible Hulk.”
To this day, I do not know how I kept a straight face, but I honestly believe that, if I had smiled, he would have turned green, broken free, killed everyone else, and fucked me into oblivion.
He was a rapist, btw.”
“Alright, so I got a couple of things.
First off I was a Correctional Officer (Un-certified at first, then later became certified) in the Florida Department of Corrections at Reception and Medical Center at Lake Butler.
During my shorter than average tenure there (I was an officer for just under a year) I witnessed numerous things that I felt were personally disturbing.
1: During my first day of training (my first day ever to put on a CO uniform and be inside the facility itself) I was left (alone) with keys that maintain control of over 140 inmates who could have offenses from unpaid parking tickets to multiple MIPS. I was told “It’s like baby sitting except with adults.” Nothing of merit happened that day thankfully as I would not have had the slightest clue of how to handle a situation.
2: I was told multiple times by people ranking from Officer all the way up the ladder to Captains and Majors that the only way to stay in this position long term was to maintain the inmates respect, which you get by beating a couple senseless and then scaring the rest of the inmates that you will beat them, and they if they report it you will have it covered up/thrown out/hurt them further.
3: I witnessed a CO Sargent tell a black inmate that “Wow, you’re hands are so black that you could leave fingerprints on a piece of charcoal.” Now I have been around the block a couple times. We all know that sometimes people joke about off colour things that you and a friend might find funny, this was not one of those times. The inmate was pissed, the Sargent racist, and me uncomfortable.
4: There was the time I was rounded up by the yard Sargent and the “yard dogs” and was taught about “taxing”. Taxing is the willful and purposeful extortion of inmates that they will take to a point because these officers let them get away with things that they wouldn’t otherwise. Basically, they thought they were in the movie training day.
5: The worst by far is the time that a “jit” (short for jitterbug, a Youth Offender, someone under 18 that was tried and sentenced to prison. They do not share space with normal offenders and are always the most difficult to work with usually) was put into “lock up”. This is the same building as solitary confinement, but not the entire building is JUST solitary confinement. He was put in with someone much older than him, and the jit stabbed him 7 times in the neck, chest, arm, leg, and hand. I was on guard while he talked to the internal investigation officer and when asked why he did it, it was simply because he knew he had no chance outside of prison, so he wanted to have respect in the prison. “Otherwise, he was an alright guy”.”
“Stories from my wife, a former CO at a county jail in California.
We had a female inmate tell me that she was having severe stomach pains and asked to see medical. As I was walking her to medical she said that she and her boyfriend had sex three days prior and that she had a tampon in during. When she tried to remove the tampon the string broke. Department policy requires me to stand in the exam room while the nurse goes over the inmate. The nurse used forceps to remove the lodged tampon. The smell caused the nurse and I to gag. The pungent odor of old blood and humid, infected ass stuck with me for days, haunting every inhale.
Homeless man brought in by PD, we proceed with the intake search. As he was taking off his socks, the skin from the bottom of his feet came off with it. He then shook his sole out of his sock. He was later transferred to the hospital after the nurse found maggots in his feet, one of which was amputated.
Single cell, two CO move female inmate (read: violent), who refused to take a shower during day-shift. I did my first night check on her I noticed she was covered in blood in her pelvic area through her jumpsuit (ass, thighs, vag, everything). Sgt ordered us to forcibly remove her from cell, take her to shower so the cell could be cleaned and new clothing for her. I checked on the inmate 5 min later, she was laying on the shower floor, covering the drain hole, fully clothed attempting to flood the showers. Sgt killed the water. 3 Male COs and I enter the shower, I attempted to stand her up, my dipshit coworker decides to grab her feet and then he dragged her wet, bloody body across me.
Cell search in high sec block containing a majority of mentally ill male inmates. I found a chess board and pieces that appeared to be hand carved wood at first glance, then I realized he used fecal material to make them when the smell hit me.
Female inmate, mentally ill addict refused to believe she was pregnant. While performing my routine check, she claimed to be in serious pain. Rolled over on her side and her prison smock (think: Mu-mu) revealed the crowning head of a baby. The entire trip to the hospital denied being pregnant. Still didn’t believe she was pregnant after she shat the kid out. We were lying to her. Baby went to foster care, she was back in jail the next day.
Regular female inmate, nutcase, smearing shit all over her cell, bed, herself and flinging it at anyone near by. She was in because she put her baby in scalding hot water, because if the baby was disfigured, nobody would take him away from her.
Christmas morning, last check of my night shift. Noticed an inmate in bed covered in blood. She had taken apart her razor using the blade to cut her wrists (down the road), throat and Achilles. I had to provide pressure to her wrists, which were the heavy bleeds until the ambulance got there (4 miles away, cross town traffic).
In tower when an incident occurred in a cell between two inmates. One inmate follows the victim into the victims cell, another inmate stood watch outside. Once I noticed movement in the cell from the tower, I notified officers. I see another inmate bring in a mop bucket and start cleaning up what appeared to be blood. Officers arrive, victim unconscious. The inmates involved stated that he fell from his bunk hitting the table in the cell, and they were just about to push the call button to alert officers. The victim inmate broke a rule in his gang, and they enforced. two days in the hospital with a broken jaw. DA wouldn’t press charges because they were federal inmates.”
“My dad is a retired warden of a max prison and my brother currently works there. I’ve been out to tour it and worked on a video project there once, but they are the ones with stories.
– A prison transport van driving inmates on the highway nearby hit a truck head-on both driving highway speed. My dad responded. Driver, another guard, and most of the inmates were killed immediately. The inmates were not wearing seatbelts and the ones sitting closest to the front were basically squeezed through the steel grating that separates them from the drivers.
– Radio call asking for my dad to come to a cell when he was still on the floor as a shift supervisor. Responds to cell and sees an inmate chilling on the bed eating an apple. Tells him to come to the window, inmate takes another bite of the apple and comes to the window. My dad asks what is wrong. Inmate tilts his chin up and a giant gash opens up all the way across his throat. He had gotten a piece of a broken razor and sat on his bed cutting into his neck. He calmly went to the doctor where the doctor said that it was the cleanest cut he’d ever seen, he didn’t think a surgeon could do it that clean with a scalpel. The dude had cut down to the muscle all the way across his throat, avoiding any real damage and just leaving a giant gaping wound.
– A funny-ish one. Back in the day they had pool tables in the mods, long since removed for obvious safety reasons. The housing units have mods radiating out from a central hub. Each mod has full glass walls so visibility is easy. My dad was standing in the hallway area outside the mod and saw an inmate walk up to the pool table, grab a ball, drop it in a sock, and immediately wind up to crack another inmates skull. As he swings the ball down the sock rips and the ball flies out against the wall. A now empty sock lands softly on the side of the head of the intended target, who turns around and proceeds to beat the attacker senseless before COs can respond.”
“I was in charge of a cell block at Ft. Meade stockade. To be clear, I was a buck sergeant just back from Vietnam and had no experience whatsoever in doing that kind of work, but since I refused to re-up (sign for another tour), they kept throwing shit jobs at me. Anyway, one of my prisoners, a 17 year old kid, was seriously perturbed. We had him in a single cell and were supposed to watch him for suicidal behavior. One night, when I was off duty he ate a light bulb. The following day, I was present when the jail psychiatrist was interviewing the kid in the cell.
Psychiatrist: How big was the lightbulb you ate? 60 watts? You should have let me know you were hungry and I would have brought you a 100 watt.
Another kid cut his wrists. They saved him and at a few days later my superior asked me to requisition a .45 and cuffs and take this kid to the hospital for removal of stitches. I was very careful in applying the handcuffs over the bandages. When we got back to the stockade the kid thanked me a bunch of times for being so gentle with the cuffs. I asked myself what kind of treatment he had had before that a simple act of not trying to hurt him was so important to him. I held that job for three months until I was discharged and those three months were the shittiest months of my life.”
“Central PA state facility here. Had a guy in one of our behavioral modification cells coat every square inch of his cell with feces. He filled the window, secure tray hole, toilet,sink, and air duct grill with feces. This same gentleman also scrawled “die pig” and “hail Satan” on his walls in a darker colored hue of feces. I literally have never seen so much shit in my life. The smell was like that of a million sewage plants. I asked the Lieutenant in charge how long he was at his poop project and he responded with “oh about a day and a half”. The management was really nervous about this “artist” because he had hep c and a host of other ailments. I don’t know how they extracted him out of his cell because I threw up from the smell and left the block so I could do some paperwork on a use of force from earlier in the day.”
“Late to the party, but here are some of the things I’ve seen in the 2 years I’ve been a CO… * An inmate heated up coffee in the microwave for 10 minutes then dumped it on another inmate he was angry with *had an inmate just a week or so ago cut his own neck open because his family didn’t show up for a visit like they had promised him they would *an inmate cut his member open and put a domino under his skin because he thought it would feel good for the ladies when he got out.
But, the most bizarre thing for me is how desensitized I am to so much now. Being a female working in a men’s prison, the number of dicks I see on a daily basis is astonishing and doesn’t even phase me anymore. The threats no longer phase me, it’s “normal” and I’ve learned to stop looking up the crimes that put these guys in prison. I work where it is mostly elderly/mental health inmates and they often require extra attention due to their medical conditions. Due to personal things in my own life, I tend to connect with the mental health inmates a bit better than most other coworkers and those inmates tend to open up more with me and I become a therapist of sorts. It makes for quite a long day somedays, but I still enjoy what I do most days.”
One day a stomach-dropping CRACK came from inside a felony pod. A young kid (18-20ish) was laying on the ground with a traumatic head injury and blood everywhere. Turns out it was suspected he was the thief that took a SINGLE ramen noodle from another inmate’s stash the day before. He was rushed to the hospital and spent several days with the expectation he was going to die. He pulled through, but has all the horrible side effects of TBI. We found out later that kid, while known for being a thief, 100% had nothing to do with the stolen ramen. (Not that anyone deserved to be murdered or disabled for a <.25 cent soup. even if he did)
Once saw a guy literally saw half way through his arm with a single average staple. Whoever gave him his court paperwork missed a single staple and that’s all he needed. He lived.
Those are just a couple off the top of my head, but there are plenty more. Truthfully, the one thing that has stuck with me, and overshadows any disgusting situation, is the situation you see some people in. Many people in prison didn’t have a chance. They were born or the street, shot up with dope by there parents on their 13th birthday, beaten bloody by a parent or other guardian for something they may or may not have actually do (not that ANYTHING justifies it). Psychological abuse, sexual abuse.. and something a mixture of one or all those things. God bless those people that work in jobs that put them on the frontline and keep their humanity. I have been out and away from the system over 10 years, and some of the stuff I saw I heard I will never forget”