Prison is not necessarily full of bad people, just like the free world is not necessarily full of good people. In fact, we've recently heard some stories that made us go, "awww."
Here were some of the answers.
I work non-security. One time I had an inmate walk up to me, super-sketchy like. He reached in his pants. I mentally prepared myself to see his junk.
But instead he pulled out a piece of fruit.
He then proceeded to pull out twenty pieces of fruit from his pants, handing one to every inmate in the room.
When I went to scold him about taking food out of the dining hall he said, "what? I brought some for everyone!"
Working In Groups
I'm a social worker in a prison in Belgium. We were doing a cooking workshop with some of the inmates, there was one guy in the group that was a bit 'mentally challenging'. We were decorating cupcakes, and he reeeeeaaally didn't know what to do, so he just threw some sprinkles on it randomly.
The others stopped him, told him to breath and relax. Showed him how to make smiley faces, how to use different colours, all that good sh*t. They did it all together, slowed down the pace just for this one guy. Let me tell you, those cupcakes looked amazing and the one guy was so proud.
I work in a prison with a lot of mentally unstable guys and every time there is one participating in a group all the other guys are just so patient, it's amazing to see.
I'm not a prison guard, but I was a prisoner. Out in the yard, a frog found its way into the enclosure from under the door. A group of inmates found it, and started pushing other inmates that wanted to step on it. They protected it until it went back under the door. It was sweet seeing these other inmates, who were in jail for violent crimes, ready to throw down to let the frog live.
Not prison, but locked inpatient psych unit. We had a prisoner shipped to us bc he needed chemo during his life long sentence. I was only 21 (female) at the time and he was 6'5, in his forties. I was assigned as his 1:1 sitter and transport companion. I was terrified to be 1:1 with him bc he was so much bigger than me and had murdered 3 people about 15 years ago.
One day, after his chemo session, I was sitting with him and we were both eating a sandwich. He looked over and said "I really hope I don't scare you. I'm a different person now. Thank you for eating lunch with me."
So simple but so pure.
Kindness In Kind
I've had many a prisoner jump in front of me when someone gets too close and aggressive and tell them to back down, we're just doing a job and shouting at us does nothing.
I've seen prisoners assist staff in restraints when they're struggling. One particular prisoner was shouting he had razor blades in his mouth and wouldn't spit them out. Another prisoner overheard this and ran in to grab them out of his mouth before he could bite staff.
I've seen prisoners talk people they've never met down from suicide and I've seen them do their best to make life for people who are there bearable.
They make me laugh my arse off most days and they're honestly one thing that's kept me in the job as long as I've been in it.
Outlets For Inmates
Not a guard, but did some time at a minimum-security facility (for drug possession). My cellmate was a professional tattoo artist before his sentence. You'd think there would be a lot of requests for ink jobs, but he spent most of his time making drawings for other prisoners. They'd give him things out of commissary in exchange for a picture they could mail to their families.
The warden eventually just let him hold art class once a week. Even though having to check-in/out the pencils and pens was a stark reminder that yes, we were in prison, those classes were a lot of fun and helped pass the time. We'd talk trash about each other's art - 'your drawing is a crime against the arts, we hereby sentence you to thirty days of finger painting!' For some of the guys in there, this class was the first time they had any real exposure to art instruction. Seeing someone in their late 30s,40s,50s, get really really excited about shading and blending and in general just stoked about what they made was pretty cool.
Former CO: In the pod adjacent to mine a nurse was passing meds when an inmate grabbed her and put a pencil to her neck and threatened to stab her. The CO called a code and I took off running the 100 or so yards to respond. By the time I got there three inmates had tackled and subdued the hostage taker I walked up and we threw cuffs on the guy and escorted him to seg. The 3 inmates who helped had a little ceremony and received a reduced sentence. You don't mess with women and don't mess with an inmates medication.
While working the floor one night, one of our officers had a heart attack and collapsed. An inmate rushed over, began CPR, got another inmate to run to the control booth and get help on the way, and saved his life. The inmates cheered and applauded when the officer revived. Not one inmate in that pod tried to take advantage of the situation.
There was also an incident with the state facility, where a prison bus was hit and rolled. The inmates did not flee, helped the injured, including the guards, and even directed traffic at the scene until police could take over.
In both cases, the inmates involved received reduced sentences.
Probably my first 3 months on the job I was doing a round on a housing unit. My partner radios me because I was in an inmates cell telling me to "step out quickly" when I do I realize he's not looking at me but a floor above and across the unit.
There was an inmate who was scaling the bars on the 3rd floor trying to get out over open air attempting to jump off. I made a dead sprint to him and as I reach him I jump and grab his coveralls legs but was losing grip. Suddenly a taller inmate is next to me and he is able to get hold of a foot and higher up on his coveralls. Together we were able to pull the inmate off the railing and down to solid ground. I was able to secure the inmate and the other one quickly walked to his cell and locked up due to the code being called. Needless to say the guy that helped me was given a bag lunch as a thank you and he was humble about it. Said it didn't feel right to just let the guy do his thing without trying to help.
Back To Babyhood
When I had to do community service in my small county I (a female) had to go out with the work gang from the mens jail. There weren't any other options for me. So it was a young 20's me with a bunch of hard-bitten frequent fliers more than twice my age. One of the days we broke for lunch at this little out of the way park. It's one of those first really nice days of spring and it's all breezy and pretty out. I finish my lunch and decide to go swing on the swings.
At first the men poked a little good natured fun at me. Then one of them came over to join me. Then another. Next thing you know there's a bunch of convicts and one deputy playing on the playground equipment and we're all having a grand time. We spun each other on the carousel. We went down the slide. We attempted to see-saw. It was such an odd moment of fun.
I use to be a Correction Officer now police Officer. But once I came into work sick as a dog and one of the inmates on my tier asked me if I wanted some soup. Initially I was like "aaaah I don't know..."
He was like "Don't worry I'll make it front you and it will help knock out your cold."
Sure enough he made the soup and it was banging. Sure enough next day after I felt better. This particular inmate if you just met at a bar or wherever you would never think he was in prison for killing two people and attempting to kill another.
I worked at the Calgary Remand Centre for about half a year before deciding it wasn't for me. This would have been maybe two years ago. The Toronto Raptors were in the playoffs and I was training on one of their Maximum Security units, murderers and whatnot all awaiting trial.
The other COs in the bubble were watching hockey, but the inmates were watching the Raptors on the unit television. I asked the other COs if they'd mind if I went and watched the game with the inmates. They laughed and said "Sure rookie". Keep in mind most of the COs are absolute garbage humans. Not all, just... Most.
So I put a radio on, buzzed myself onto the unit and walked over the to crowd of inmates watching the Raptors. They thought I was coming to turn off the TV or fuck with their game (something COs often do just to be a dick). Instead I asked if they'd mind if I joined them... 3 inmates moved out of their chairs to give me a place to sit, I said I was content standing with them. They asked if I was a fan. I explained I'd grown up in Ontario and went to Raptors games for years.
The next hour and a bit was actually the most fun I had during my short career as a CO, shooting the shit about favourite players, favourite games, the direction of the team going forward. It was a pretty cool experience that I'll always remember. I was reprimanded afterwards for giving a couple inmates high fives when we got the win.
A Healthy Anger Outlet
Not a correctional officer, but I facilitate behavioral intervention groups for sex offenders in preparation for their release back into the community.
One of my group members who was released a couple months ago called to let my team know how he's doing. He got to meet his son for the first time, he gave him some Marvel toys he had as a kid. He said he cried when he heard about Stan Lee. He's also working. Walking for 2 hours to get to and from work, but he should be able to get his license and a vehicle soon.
Another group member cried in group when he told us about how he can't wait to hug his mother, as it had been nearly 10 years. He said it was more for her than him, but we all knew he was lying.
Last week, in one of our emotional regulation groups, we were talking about relaxation techniques for when they're angry. I asked the group members about music and asked them to identify an artist or genre that they like to listen to when they are amped. One of the guys, who alludes to being in a street gang previously, and has known assaultive history, made the group swear to confidentiality before sharing that when he's angry, he puts on Celtic Woman and cries.
Violations Not Tolerated
My mum was a CO in a women's prison, and worked up until she was 7 months pregnant with me. There was one particularly aggressive inmate who in a rage threw a chair at her stomach with the intention of harming me- now if y'all know anything it is wayyy against GirlCrimeCode to ever harm a pregnant woman or child. The other inmates immediately tackled the aggressor and two rushed to my mum to make sure she was uninjured, and alerted the other CO's.
Fixing The Prison's Mistake
Obligatory not a prison guard but I did prison ministry for inmates with life sentences a few years back. Basically we stay in a prison for 3 days with a select group of prisoners who have had a record of good behavior. The goal of the weekend is to make these men feel like humans and show them that they are forgiven by the big man upstairs and that they still deserve compassion.
There is 6 tables in a room with 5 inmates and 2 of us "counselors" sitting with them. Now I have no idea how the prison didn't catch this from the beginning but we ended up having 2 men that knew each other from the outside sitting at the same table which is a big no no.
We had just got done singing a praise and worship song about forgiveness and I noticed one of the men had a look on his face like I have never seen before. It was a look of pure but calm rage. It was terrifying. I have no idea where I got the balls to do this but I walked over to him and just hugged him. I said, I love you brother and I'm really glad you're here.
Shortly after I did that he left the room to use the restroom. I was informed later that my hug was what broke down his walls. The next day we see him in the corner praying with one of the other inmates at his table. We found out that the prison made the mistake of placing those two not only on the same weekend together but at the same table. The man that he was praying with was serving a life sentence for murdering the man that I hugged's cousin.
Perfect Circle Time
Worked in the Mental Health portion of the county jail for some time.
We had a zero policy on destruction of property and graffiti.
Had one inmate, completely out of his mind, carve perfect circles into the plexiglass of his cell window, the steel on his bunk, the concrete on his walls. It calmed him. There was no chance of a security breach. Higher ups wanted the plexiglass replaced, sand down the bunk, and fill in the walls and repaint.
All three shifts implored the Major to 'let it be'. It kept him calm, we would just have more $ spent if we moved him and continually had to refurbish the cell.
We won, inmate was calm, and those circles...my god they were absolutely perfect!