Correctional Officer

Correctional Officer

Bob Walsh

Stockton, CA

Male, 60

I worked for the California state system, starting as a Correctional Officer and retiring as a Lieutenant in 2005. I now write for the PacoVilla blog which is concerned with what could broadly be called The Correctional System.

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243 Questions

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Last Answer on November 30, 2017

Best Rated

Can prisoners earn money while in prison?

Asked by Brooks almost 5 years ago

Yes. Many work for prison industries, and those with minimal custody levels who can work odd shifts or multiple shifts. Some earn in exess of $200 per month. Also there are some public-private partnerships that employ prisoners for work at the prisons for private employers.

Did you ever believe that a prisoner was actually innocent? And do your observations of prisoners play into the decisions of whether to let someone out early for good behavior?

Asked by Raj almost 5 years ago

As a Lieutenant I would have no say in the matter. I have read literally THOUSANDS of inmate Central Files. With the exception of two murderers and one kidnapper they all had EXTENSIVE criminal histories and there is no question that the two murderers and the kidnapper were in fact guilty. With over 133,000 inmates in custody it seems likely that a handful did not commit the crime of which they were convicted. That doesn't mean they didn't do something they deserved to be in prison for.

Did you ever feel sorry for certain prisoners? Like, the ones who made a mistake out of desperation and are now locked up alongside truly evil / violent criminals?

Asked by DuFresne almost 5 years ago

There is I grant you a difference between a hard core gang member who robs and maims and kills and a chronic repeat drunk driver or someone who snaps and kills his spouse who is about to divorce him. The impact on the victims is however the same. Also, it is not the job of the prison staff to differentiate between prisoners. They are all supposed to be kept in prison for the period prescribed by law, and they are all entitled to the same level of care. That is what being a professional is all about.

You prison is not a good place if you are shy. That made me ponder strip searches. I know they happen on intake/exit. Beyond that how common are they for inmates, is it embarrassing for them, how to CO's feel about that aspect of their job.

Asked by KennyB over 4 years ago

Very common.  When an inmate comes back into the security perimeter they are skin-searched, more formally known as an unclothed both search.  For some jobs inmates are stripp-searched when the get off work.  When there is a distrubance and we are looking for weapons we will skin-serach everybody in the area. 

As far as the cops feel, they know it comes with the territory.  You want to talk about gross, you talk about "potty watch."  That is waiting for some guy to take a dump so you can search through the feces for contraband, usually drugs.

 

Have you ever been attacked while on the job?

Asked by Salverado almost 5 years ago

Many times, though none of them were "personal." I just happened to be the guy in the uniform when the problem came up. Several of the attackers had serious mental issues. I was lucky and was never hurt badly. Many of my collegues were not so lucky.

Hi Bob! 1) Do new prisoners get hazed ("fish")? 2) Do prisoners divide up based on race with lots of tension between groups, as depicted in movies? 3) Are ex-cops or rapists treated with extra disdain?

Asked by ronmexico almost 5 years ago

New cops get more hazing than new prisoners. Remember prison prisoners have done time in county jails, and most have done youthful offender time also. In the California system, and as far as I know virtually all other system, the prisoners divide themselves up, primarily althought not exclusively along racial lines. Staff have to work with and acknowledge those divisions because they are real. There are further divisions within the groups, I.E. blacks in California tend to go with Crips (blues) or Bloods (reds). Hispanic can be either Nortenos or Surenos. Rapists don't get nearly the heat they used to get, though most groups still don't much like child molesters. Ex-cops tend to land together in PC (protective custody) units. I understand there is a unit at Ione that is nothing but former cops, firefighters, public officials and the like.

Are inmates allowed to keep pets of any kind? Even goldfish, birds, that kinda thing.

Asked by monica over 4 years ago

Not in California, though it happens unofficially.  Feral cats, mice, that sort of thing.  There are prisons where inmates do animal care, horses and service dogs, but they are not "pets" per se.

The infamous Birdman of Alcatraz never had any birds at Alcatraz, and lost permission to have the birds at Leavenworth when he was caught with a still to turn the seed into booze.  He was also a vicious homosexual pimp who wrote reams of homosexual pornography using prison staff as characters.  Also he didn't look anything like Burt Lancaster.