A Former Prison Guard Reveals What It's Like To Work On Death Row

prison guard

Photo: YouTube

A man who worked as a corrections officer on death row led a Reddit thread about what it’s like to work with the condemned. The man provided a picture of his old uniform as proof of his identity on the Ask Me Anything forum. 

The man, who is now a police officer, described his job:

“I worked at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, the only Georgia prison that housed death row inmates. I worked in death row, segregation/protective custody, and two “death watches” prior to scheduled execution.”

From the scariest criminals he worked with to the worst thing he ever witnessed, here’s a candid, unmoderated look at Death Row. 

NOTE: Reddit uses anonymous sources, which we can’t verify.

Q: What was it like going to work everyday?

A: It was very interesting. Dealing with people in that type of setting is an experience I'll never forget. We were also outnumbered 300 to 1 so that lack of complete control was offsetting at times.

Source: mcanning and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: Did you ever get attached to an inmate?

A: There was a young guy, around 18, that I felt bad for. He was placed into protective custody because he just couldn't handle the prison setting. He was your average dude that got caught up in some bad s---. I can't remember now what he was in prison for, but I remember that I just had some pity on him.

Source: mcanning and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: What was your favourite and least favourite part about your job?

Q: What's the saddest thing you've ever witnessed?

A: I heard a rape I couldn't do anything about. This was when I was working in the larger cell house with around 260 inmates. I heard the screaming coming from one of the cells but couldn't find it in time. When I finally did I knew something had happened but the inmate wouldn't talk.

Source: perpetual fail and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: Are you usually armed?

A: We are not given anything at all to protect ourselves. Still today they don't have any weapons, not even OC spray. The idea of that is that the inmates could (and very easily because of being outnumbered) get it and use it as an offence.

Source: ipointoutyouridiocy and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: Do you guys get much hand-to-hand combat training?

A: Very little. Correctional officers are very under trained, under staffed, and no weapons. I still have great respect for correctional officers.

Source: Millertyme2069 and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: What were some of the more unique or interesting last meal requests that you know about?

A: The prison actually had a set cost. I believe it was $60. Speaking to veteran guards there the request was usually fast food followed by ice cream. They say you don't realise how much you miss ice cream until you absolutely can't get it anymore.

Source: residenthalo and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: Was there ever anyone who was allergic to peanuts or shellfish and ordered it for their last meal to try and commit suicide from it?

A: The doctors are well aware of their allergens and had to approve their last meal before it was delivered.

Source: ComeAtMeFro and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: What was the worst crime that someone was executed for while you were working there?

A: While we weren't given any information on the inmates, sometimes certain inmates would stick out in my mind that I'd go home and find the information. The worst I found was one guy who killed a child, skinning it while it was still alive. I tried not talking to him anymore.

Source: thrashing_death and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: Are you the subject of a lot of hate from the inmates because you are seen as the one sentencing them since you are the authority?

A: The only hate we got from inmates were those trying to establish a reputation. None of them held us personally accountable for the reason they were there. They knew we weren't cops and we had nothing to do with their sentence. The only time we were tried up was as an attempt to gain some type of fear or control over the cell block. That never worked though.

Source: Hog Bacon and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: Were you ever attacked by an inmate?

A: I was almost shanked (stabbed) by a former cop in protective custody. I let my guard down because he was a former cop, thinking he wouldn't try to hurt me. He almost stabbed me through the meal slot. I was able to catch his arm and ended up breaking his elbow. Learned a lesson that day.

Source: Hog Bacon and gendarme_ on Reddit

A: Gassing happens. I was gassed and one of the reasons I decided to leave. Not a pleasant experience. Mine was in the form of a 'water balloon' though.

Threw a bag of piss at me from a second story cell. It busted at my feet, getting all over my uniform. Thankfully he missed his target. That being the top of my head.

Source: originalredditor, ASOTATW and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: What type of punishment did he get for doing that?

A: Wasn't much more we could do to him. I was working the segregation unit then, so he was already locked down. He was placed in a cell with a door instead of open bars, basically further isolation.

Source: reddasi and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: Has anyone ever tried to escape?

A: We did have an attempted escape. They tried to tunnel out the back where the pipes and stuff run. They made it to the final exterior door before they were caught.

Death row inmates though were usually the best behaved inmates in the prison. They also were the most secured, so it's not likely they would have been able to attempt anything should they have tried.

Source: deprivedchild and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: When an inmate is given their injection, who's watching? Just the guards? Is the inmate's family allowed to watch?

A: Inmate's family (usually doesn't show), the victim's family, one local media from the county the crime happened in (must be in attendance to witness and confirm), and the local sheriff of the county the crime happened in is invited.

Source: deprivedchild and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: Have you ever gotten to know any of the inmates before they were put to death?

A: Never got to know any of them personally. We were allowed minimum contact with death row inmates. During the hourly checks we were separated from them by another cage whereas we walked down a sectioned-off alleyway looking into the cells.

Source: Metjoeblack and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: Was there an inmate who has had the biggest impact on your life to this day?

A: The inmate I watched the night before he was put to death. Before leaving my shift of death watch, we had to wake him up at 6 a.m. When he awoke, as I was leaving, he told us to 'have a good day.' This was a powerful thing since he was going to die that night.

Source: The_Pride_of_Vadnais and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: Do you also have to escort the inmate in his last moments? How do they act on such occasions? Are they allowed to talk to you and what do they talk about?

A: Executions are handled by a special unit of officers called the execution squad. They are with the inmates in the last 12 hours of their life. No other correctional officer gets to interact with the inmate.

What I was part of was 'death watch' which is the night prior to their execution. He didn't talk much and kept to himself most of the night. They are allowed unlimited phone so he talked to his family for most of the time we were there.

Source: theoneandonlytisa and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: Have you ever had a death row inmate commit suicide before his execution date?

A: The way execution is handled is that the governor signs the execution warrant. It is given to the warden. The warden decides when the execution will take place (usually days later). The death row inmate is immediately placed under 'death watch' prior to his execution.

Here they are by themselves and watched by two guards at all times. The day of the execution they are placed in a cell beside the execution chamber where they are watched by four 'execution squad' members at all times. Basically, they aren't given a chance to kill themselves. At that moment, the state is determined to be the one to handle his death.

Source: nextzero182 and gendarme_ on Reddit

Q: When you watch movies about prisons, or death row, what parts are most inaccurate?

A: The freedom the character has. Prisons are incredibly controlling, unless you're in a minimum security prison. The stuff I see them get away with in shows makes me laugh.

Source: AppleDane and gendarme_ on Reddit

You've seen what it's like to work on death row...

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