I recently conducted an interview with a seasoned correctional officer and asked him various questions about what it is like to work in a prison and deal with inmates. This is my interview:
I tape recorded my interview, and I could see that at first he was careful about how he worded certain things, so I moved the tape recorder out of sight. Although, it doesn’t sound like it would make a big difference, it did. He became much more conversational as the interview progressed. Additionally, I freelanced the majority of the interview to keep it as informal as possible, because I wanted to keep his mind at ease.
The correctional officer I interviewed has worked in the field for over ten years with numerous stops along the East Coast that include Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, and West Virginia. He became a correctional officer because he needed a job after discharging from the military. His experience as military police led him to pursue a career in corrections.
He did not seem to enjoy many aspects of his job, such as the hours and how the prison was ran. He said, “It’s all in what you make of it.” His body language when saying this was very telling though as you could see it wasn’t his dream job. On the other hand, he did talk positively about getting to meet certain famous individuals such as, VP Joe Biden and former heavyweight champ Riddick Bowe. Additionally, he seemed proud, and somewhat boastful to be on the S.O.R.T. (Special Operations Response Team) team.
The qualifications he spoke of I found to be a joke. At the state level as he explained all you needed was a criminal background check. I suppose though, that not a lot of individuals want to do this job, or perform it for a long time. As I thought, he discussed how many officers burn out quickly and the quality of officers tends to be better at the federal level. At the federal level there is at least a physical fitness test, but once you pass the test he mentioned that you do not have to take it again.
I asked him about any kind of danger he has been involved in since being a correctional officer. He paused for a great while, but then discussed how it is not as terrible as most people envision. He did tell me that he had been stabbed before though, and spit on numerous times. That is definitely something I could live without.
He discussed how difficult it was to work the S.H.U., which is solitary confinement. Moreover, he explained that these inmates were usually in a bad mood, and elevated the stress levels of the facility. He stated that inmates switch cells every 18-21 days so there is not an escape attempt, and inmates are almost always paired together by race in an effort to avoid conflict.
It was also interesting to hear him discuss the difference between male and female prisoners, because he has worked with both. He discussed that the male prisoners usually just fight or try to hurt one another, while females often try to bring the correctional officers into their dispute.
In conclusion, I felt as though he was very honest and forthcoming with me. The overall impression I got is that he was a bit jaded to society as a whole, due to the fact that he saw a lot of the same inmates in and out of prison. Although, he was excited about the possibility of meeting different people and learning about their backgrounds. I guess it’s like he said, “It’s all in what you make of it….”