17 Ex-Convicts Recall the Worst Thing They Saw a Guard Do While in Prison

Life behind bars is something you can only understand if you’ve lived it, and those of us who haven’t harbor a bit of a morbid curiosity about what it’s like.

So when someone on Reddit asked the ex-convicts among them to share the worst memory they had of a guard while they were behind bars, it’s not surprising that so many of us tuned in for the answers.

17. Some people like to get creative.

One unit I was on had a thing about making you run and work out beyond what your body could handle. Run laps until you puke. Do situps for a hour then a half hour of burpees. Then run til you puke again. If you became weak or fell from exhaustion you have to add in something else like 15 minutes of mountain climbers. If the whole unit was on punishment, we would have to run single file and circle back a lap to pick up the stragglers. We wouldn’t stop until we completed 5 miles without having a straggler. There were times we were out there for hours on end just running. You’d feel like your body went through a meat grinder by time you were done.

Being forced to do the CO’s grunt work was a favorite punishment they doled out. Blood all over a room after some tile therapy, CO doesn’t want to clean it up. Make an inmate scrub it up as punishment, etc. Never was given proper PPE or materials for cleaning.

I was forced to clean so many bloody rooms without proper supplies, that I was legitimately concerned about my risk for contracting blood borne pathogens. One of the first things I did when I got out was go get tested for HIV, hep C, and anything else they could test me for.

Dehumanizing punishments were just about as bad, because of the toll it takes on you mentally.

One person took too long in the shower, and when asked why, they said they felt extra dirty/stinky and was just trying to scrub up extra (shared showers, was legit). CO decided punishment for the infraction of going over shower time would be a publicly announced “shower program to correct a hygiene issue” and having to take a 10 minute shower every hour for a week.

So basically “outed” them as being crusty with such bad hygiene they had to shower constantly, which made them a target for harassment from other inmates. Then there was the hassle and discomfort of having to shower constantly on top of the embarrassment. And on that unit, the showers were just one big room with the spigots lined up on a wall, and the rule was there must always be at least one CO to supervise the showers (presumably to prevent rapes). So they had to strip down and shower in front of another person every hour. Very dehumanizing.

There’s also the “tampon tax.” CO decides you’re using way too many feminine products, and rations them out. Decides the number you can use, which is always grossly under what you need. You are then forced to sit in bloated soaked pads or just free bleed. I’d been subjected to that one way too many times, and f*cking hated it.

16. Those are some stories.

I spent a weekend in a city jail/processing facility (not a full blown jail/prison) due to a DUI (yes, I was a f**king idiot). I got 3 interesting stories out of it.

(1) There was a guy in solitary across the room banging on the door. Obviously it’s steel, but it still seemed like he might somehow break it. He was screaming, “They sold my bitch crack!” over and over. I saw four guards line up with riot gear and batons and go in. I just heard blows landing, and I saw clothes flying out of the cell. They marched that man out of the cell and he looked like that scene in ConAir where they “bag and gag” them. I was a little more nervous after that.

(2) When in the drunk tank with 15 or 20 other dudes, one dude was sitting on the back of the toilet (i.e. where the tank in theory would be) with his feet on the seat. Another guy came up and said he needed to use it. He said go ahead, and just spread his legs. We were all a little taken back.

(3) I spent the entire night talking and getting to know two different guys. They both seemed very nice, like they were picked up for something stupid. We get in front of the judge and it turns out he had beaten someone within an inch of their life earlier that night. Just goes to show you, you never can tell!

On another note, I expected it would be incredibly locked down. However, all the cell doors were open and while you’re expected to stay in your cell, in theory you could have wandered all around that area. Kind of surprised me.

15. A lesson learned.

Thank god I never had to go to county. But did spend a day/night in the bookings in NYC. Queens specifically.

I got busted cause I was in a vehicle with someone doing drugs. They were hitting a pipe and the tactical narcotics task force (TNT) was parked right across from us. Dude threw his pipe at my feet as the D’s were running up to the car. He was wouldn’t claim it as his so they charged everybody.

Everybody in the van! There was 3 of us. Handcuffed in the back of a white panel van with no windows and a little seat. No way to stop yourself from falling over when they hit the gas cause everything is slick plastic. We were the first ones arrested. They drove around doing busts for 3-4 hours until the van was full. Crack dealer, dope addicts etc.

The crack dealer had swallowed his pieces of crack thinking that would save him. He still got arrested. After an hour he’s not looking so hot. Sweaty, huge pupils shaking. His bags busted open after he swallowed them. We end up getting the Ds attention and they finally take him to the hospital.

From there we go to the precinct for like 4-6 hours. Chill in a cell nothing special.

Next was queens bookings. First cell there was like at least 75 people. They take all your info and blah blah. There’s a dude in the cell talking wild loud. “I got shot 10 times in ‘89 I can’t control my bowels. I need help going to the bathroom!! CO I need help!” Nah dog no help coming, they just walk right by.

Now he’s getting agitated. “I’m finna sh%t myself” he says. everybody’s goin wild now 75 hood dudes like “CO y’all better take him to the hospital or the nurse or do somethin!”

2 mins later we all smell it. Ole boy sh%t all over. Now everybody really going off lol

dude sees a CO coming and scoops up a turd and hurls it at him as he’s walking by lmao, I’ve never seen the gates opened so fast and so many COs rush in and yoke somebody up holy f*ck.

The rest of the night was uneventful, got a quick halal bologna and mustard and fruit punch and slept on the floor till I saw a judge. Got out the next day ROR’d.

14. You don’t forget that.

Once saw a CO stomp the back of an inmates head and watched the heel of his boot literally scalp the guy. Huge chunk of head meat and hair stuck to a black boot still sits fresh in my memory yet it was 6 years ago.

Same guard was smuggling in spice and heroin. The inmate probably owed a debt is my speculation.

13. The 80s were a terrible time to be in prison.

Wife’s brother was in Riker’s in the 1980s. He said the guards mostly ran much the same as prisoners, in gangs with each other. They intimidated and ostracized and threatened violence to other guards who didn’t join in or didn’t approve with what they were doing, so there wasn’t much of a ‘good cop’ or ‘bad cop’ dichotomy so much as there was a bad cop and a silent cop dichotomy. This involved working with prison gangs to organize beat downs, rapes, and murders within the prison. They also were the one’s to run the drugs into the prison.

From what I understand it was just corrupt and awful to the bone in every way imaginable.

Anyways, while rape was everywhere in the prison, actual homosexuality was looked down upon and guards generally brutalized homosexuals. In one instance they had a drag queen, they stuck a baton up their a$s and beat him on a pretty consistent basis, and would have other prisoners come in and rape him in his cell while they held him down.

Guy ended up having HIV, and it spread to a bunch of guys who raped him. In response to this, the guards asked a gang to find the drag queen and murder him outside of the prison. They tried, except the drag queen ended up killing one of the people who tried to murder him, and he ended up back in prison for that, where he was tortured again and then finally killed.

Now, he went back to prison in 2011-2014. He said it was radically different. Still awful, but MUCH MUCH less chaotic and violent than it was in the 1980s.

12. A horror story.

Guy 2 cells down was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer, after medical refused to test him for 3 straight months. Basically, if they tested him when he went in to medical, it wouldn’t have been terminal and they could treat it. Instead, it spread to his lungs and several other vital organs. That’s just the start.

One night, he starts crying out in pain. Said his stomach had ruptured and he was in the worst imaginable pain. It took his cell-mate several attempts to get a guard to listen, and after some of them come up to check on the situation, they took a wheel-chair from another inmate and told this guy to get into it. He couldn’t move, let alone get up, so they had to haul him into the chair, then call the medical staff and have the inmate try to explain the situation to them. Medical staff said he was lying and ignored the situation. The guards, not sure what to do with a man moaning and crying out in pain non-stop, decided to lock him in one of the common rooms overnight and ignore it. Around 9pm the next morning they finally drive him off to a hospital to get check out.

His stomach did rupture, and by the time he got in to surgery his insides had gone septic, and he died.

11. I am seeing red.

A watched a guard wink and turn his back before I was multiple raped whilst in juvenile detention.

Bastard made jokes for a week about my “sore a$s” (48 yrs ago)

10. Best to avoid it.

One time there was a fight in my pod, after fights they have everybody strip down to their drawers in their cubes so the COs can walk around and do body chexks, to see who was in the fight. Well the people in the fight wore gloves so their hands were fine. One guys hands were shaking. They asked him why. He said he was cold.

They said bulls**t and took him to the day room. We hear him getting beat for a solid 5 minutes then a van came a picked him up. The next day I heard from somebody in my vocational class they took the guy the COs beat to another pod and 5 minutes after he got there claimed there was a fight and did the strip search again then beat him in the same manner and brought him to the box this time.

Another thing I saw happen was in the yard. Somebody was smoking K2 and passed out. Well while he was on the ground the COs started kicking him and they had to take him to the hospital.

Prison is a crazy place. Highly recommend not going.

9. Corruption for days.

I won’t say where and when, but when I arrived, the staff opened 2 cell doors to an empty day room floor. My cellmate, not having much to do except be nosy, stared out the window. It happened quickly, but he immediately recognized what was going on and mattered “aw sh%t here we go again”.

I went to look: from one door appeared a one armed skinhead who walked towards the only other cell open. A kid, alone in his new cell, poked his head out to see why they cracked his door. He saw the skinhead and froze up.

The skin head pushed him inside and f*cked him up. I later found out it was staged fighting by the guards.

8. Well now I’m devastated, too.

I had a friend whose brother was a prison guard. He had some stories but the only one I remember was a time when there was a prisoner in solitary for awhile who had become very attached to a praying mantis that had somehow made its way into his cell. The mantis lived with him for quite some time and he loved it like it was his friend.

One day a prison guard who wasn’t aware of the mantis being important to this prisoner stepped into the cell, saw the mantis, and promptly slammed his hand down on it to kill it.

The prisoner was, understandably, devastated.

7. Pretty messed up.

Watch while my friend Gus had a heart attack, and refused to call 911 for HOURS after he was dead on the floor of the dorm. Only did so after a bunch of us got together and ordered her to.

He was long dead by that time and could not be revived, and had been imprisoned since the year I was born (1988) for a murder back when he was married (killed the dude his wife was cheating on him with who was also his boss at the time).

6. Life almost always works this way.

I worked at a max facility and I was super respectful, no need not to be ever, and the men there were always super respectful back. It’s frustrating that other officers didn’t realize this and administration didn’t realize that the same officers who kept having issues were having issues because they were starting it

I really enjoyed my job. I was super strict because I have a fear of getting in trouble, I communicated well and seriously never had issues. My favorite memory was I was working straight 16-17 hours shifts for 27 days in a row before I was scheduled for a major surgery. The inmates knew because it was a small prison and no one keeps their mouth shut lol.

But I was sitting in the guard box on the yard and I looked at my watch and it was 1700 and blinked and it was 1800 and an inmate is tapping on the window, letting me know second shift was on so I wouldn’t get in trouble.

I obviously didn’t mean to fall asleep, I was just exhausted. It was just a super nice thing to do.

5. At least he was held accountable.

I was in prison for two years, found guilty of mugging (I didn’t do it, it was my sister) and had a cell to myself. Im a 24 year old woman and at the time was 16. The guard by my cell would always try and flirt with me and would come into my cell and touch me. Fast forward about 8 months. Maybe 12am? Everyone else was asleep and to my dismay, so was the nightguard.

That officer opened my cell and quietly crept up on me In my “sleep”. He grabbed my shirt and tried to rip it off and when I punched him he grabbed my pants. I screamed which woke up the nightguard. I dont know much of what happened after that, all I know is the dude was fired, set to prison, and I was put with a female nightguard.

Moral of the story, prison guards can do pretty bad things…

4. Why am I not surprised?

I’m a CO, and one of the worst things I ever saw was an officer kidney punch a handcuffed inmate. Naturally, I reported it.

That officer is now a deputy warden. Specifically, MY deputy warden.

True story.

3. I hope so, too.

When I was on “holiday” my mate got Ill. He was in the pad opposite me and was bright yellow. Late one night he gets on the cell bell and the screw says “Yeah what’s up?”.

Bloke says “Boss, I feel really weird and I can’t breathe properly. I’ve got pains all over. I think I need a doctor.” Screw tells him “I’ll send a note to healthcare in the morning.” Bloke was crying (and he was a big tough gypsy motherf*cker) and says “Please boss! You have to get me help! It’s bad!”? Screw tells him to go to sleep.

Next morning our wing was not unlocked. Geezer had died of renal failure and sepsis at 6am as guard couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of calling an ambulance.

Same screw stopped four of us attending his service in the chapel too as we worked in the kitchen and he wouldn’t allow us to go. Hope he rots.

2. Why does this stuff happen?

Ex-convict here. There’s a long list of f*cked up sh%t that I’ve seen, and it’s hard to really say which was the worst. Rape and assault is obviously the worst out the gate. But there’s a lot of close seconds because of how long the f*cked up things would last.

Forced semi-starvation is one. Being in lockdown in our cells for weeks or months at a time without being allowed into the commons meant we basically lived as if in solitary confinement. (Usually got put on lockdown because someone f*cked it up for everyone, but sometimes it was an unwarranted lockdown.) It came with a whole host of issues, but lack of food was common.

Meals were passed through the doors on trays during lockdown. “Accidentally forgetting” 3/4ths of the meal portions on specific trays, or “forgetting” certain cells’ trays completely would mean that an inmate would get just enough food to survive, but would be slowly starved. It was usually just a specific CO who had a grudge against a specific inmate, vs a collaborative effort, but knowing that you’re going to not get at least 2 of your meals for the day and having no alternative way to get out of your cell to procure food for weeks at a time was awful.

There was also something we called “Tile therapy.” It was when a CO would decide that you needed an attitude adjustment and would do a take-down (tackle) to restrain you to take you to solitary or your cell instead of simply cuffing or even verbally escorting you. If an inmate fully warranted it, it was not referred to as tile therapy.

Tile therapy specifically referred to the hyper-aggressive, completely unnecessary, and violent nature of the take-down in proportion to the offense that determined the “need” for a take-down. It usually involved smashing the inmate’s face into the tile during the initial tackle, to stun and subdue them, but would also include a variety of battery and such.

For example, a CO once broke an inmate’s jaw from slamming his head into the tile floor so hard during one such takedown. I don’t even remember what the dude supposedly did because it was something so minor, like not having his uniform shirt tucked in.

And there was just so much coercion and manipulation and sh%t in general. CO’s had the power to make your life a living hell if they so desired, and they had a plethora of creative ways to punish you “on the books” and off. I served 8 years, so I have a LOT of stories.

1. Makes my stomach hurt.

I was transferred up north, three hours from home and was one of the few southerners in a northern uk prison. On my wing was a guy who quite obviously suffered from mental health. I was told he used to be quite normal but had been in a motorcycle accident which had left him scarred physically and mentally. Officers openly made fun of his unusual behaviour and bad hygiene but never really made any effort to help him. He also had epilepsy and as a result used to put a mattress on his floor so if he had a fit in the night, he wouldn’t break his neck when he fell off the bed.

Now, officers have to carry out a roll check every few hours but it’s fairly common for them to not really check on the prisoners but to just open the observation flap and close it again once they saw the inmate was in fact in the cell. One night, the officer doing roll check saw him on the floor on the first time round and left him there. There were two more roll checks before morning and no one checked he was okay. When morning came I woke up to hear an officer who had just started his shift desperately performing cpr on the poor guy, he was crying. The guy had been dead for hours.

His family were permitted to see his cell but not before the officers conveniently cleaned it up so as to give the impression he was living in much better conditions than he actually was. When I confronted the officer cleaning the cell about the illusion they were trying to feed the guy’s family, he said “It’s not for them, it’s for the next poor f*cker that would have to live with the smell lol.” I still think about that POS. No doubt he probably still goes on living his life happily, but I hope he doesn’t.

It’s kind of fascinating, in a terrible sort of way, don’t you think?

If you’ve spend time in jail, we’d love to hear your answer to this question in the comments!