WCTV's Art Myers Goes Behind Bars to "Do Your Job!"

It's time to put Art to work doing your job, and this time he's going behind bars! He's doing time with a corrections officer at a lock-up near Monticello, Florida with a man who speaks softly and carries no gun.

It was a beautiful day to go to prison. As we pulled up at the Jefferson Correctional Institution we had no idea we were about to find something rare growing here in the Florida sunshine. Hope.

The big guy who'd asked me to do his job is Sergeant Gary Williams, a correctional officer at the prison.
Getting into this place is almost as hard as, well, getting out!
"I need to take anything off?" I ask.
Gary, and even the warden go through the metal detector.
"Are you ready?" Gary says.
"I think I'm ready to go." I reply.
I was going into something like a small city-- behind a fence where everyone wears blue.

Sgt. Gary Williams is a Corrections Officer at the Jefferson Correctional Institution, "We have inmates here for everything from check fraud to murder, and we treat them all the same."

Surprisingly, those who have killed, now live, eat, play, learn and worship right alongside everyone else.
The prison has it's own chapel and chaplain close by, but the threat of violence is also near. That's why inmates are spot-checked for weapons.

"Have you ever found a weapon in these spot checks?" I ask,
"Yes, all the time. Inmates can fashion a weapon out of pretty much anything, from a chicken bone, tooth brush." Gary tells me.
"A chicken bone?"

After Gary shows me the pat down procedure, it's my turn.
My guy's clean. No weapons or cell phones, but Gary's not happy.
"What'd I do wrong, Boss?" I ask.
"One thing we don't do is circle around the inmate in front of him." Gary tells us.
"Which is what I did- walked around in front of him. Don't do that?"
"Yes, sir. Just because if he did have a weapon on him you left yourself extremely vulnerable to an attack."

Next mistake- I took out the lighter and then squatted down in back of the inmate. Vulnerable again!
" So you're saying I failed the whole search? I did find some things though. You've got to admit that!"

By the way, the only weapon Gary's packing is pepper spray.

Another of Gary's jobs is keeping the peace in the classrooms.
Inmate Randall Piercy says he had to go to prison to discover his love of teaching:
"I've been blessed to do a job I love to do. I'm helping these guys not to come back. I had no idea prison was gonna be like that. It's awesome."
When he gets out, Randall wants to become a minister.
Up next-- a count of the inmates working in the prison laundry.
"I'm counting 11. 11 inmates." I say.

In an all-male prison it might seem surprising, but there are lots of women on staff. One of the guards tells me:
"Yeah, it's all male.. but I'm not threatened. I'm good!"

Speaking of threats, how about that prison food?
One of Gary's jobs is to monitor the amount of food given inmates.

Impressed with the looks of it all, I say:
"Looks like we've got some beef in there, some collard greens."
But looks can be deceiving. Let's just say the cookie was great, but someone should be arrested for what they did to the collard greens!

Warden Chris Landrum says prison philosophies have changed a lot over the years so that now, the focus is more on rehabilitation.
"Over 80 percent will be back in our society. That's who our children will be in the restaurant sitting by. So it behooves us to try to make them better people."
Landrum says he firmly believes that will only happen if inmates find God behind bars.

One prisoner doing 20 years for armed robbery and kidnapping says that is just what's happened to him here.
And now William Wallace is trying to set an example for his 13-year-old son:
"He's in a place searching for identity. I'm trying to instill certain morals in him so he won't come down this road."


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