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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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Miriam Location: Sarasota on Apr 26, 2011 at 10:30 AM
    My husband is in a state prison facility and I can ASSURE you that you did not stay long enough to see what it is like. Obviously your identity was known to the other officers, so they would be on their "best" behavior around you. Had they not known who you were, you might have seen how some of them treat the inmates and heard them bragging about some of what they have done. Also, you should have gone in UNDERCOVER as an INMATE and then you would have seen another world than what you saw. Why don't you try that?
  • by A CO on Apr 23, 2011 at 06:25 AM
    THANK YOU for going to a prison and seeing for yourself what goes on, but I don't think you stayed long enough to see the real work the officers have to do to keep it runnig as smooth as it was when you went there. I think a week or two will open your eyes and everyone else will understand through your reporting.
  • by Eddie on Apr 21, 2011 at 08:07 PM
    Thats what the Senators trying to abolish our Jobs as Corrections Officers and placing the Public Safety in the Hands of a non Certify Law Enforcement Officer a Security Guard at minimum wage need to see for them self . We dont call them Legal Crooks . We call them Mr Senator etc. We are proud of our jobs .
  • by medical Location: Vero Beach on Apr 19, 2011 at 10:51 PM
    Art, you are welcome to visit us at IRCI. Youthful offenders are a different ball game. Their age and attitudes cause a lot of fighting. running a dorm is like having 32 boys in your house. The staff here are to be commended! And the reentry program is trying to help the inmates get an education and not come back into an adult facility. But we can only help those who want help.
  • by State Worker Location: Tallahassee on Apr 19, 2011 at 09:03 AM
    Art, I would say it took courage to take on this job and this story. It would have been much easier to do a story on a cupcake shop. I both work for DOC and have previously had an incarcerated family member. I was treated with respect during visitation (without declaring my employment status) and am treated with respect at work. CO's work hard in a thankless job (both monetarily and with general courtesy). Guess what, past inmates, it's not supposed to be fun. Another news flash... the DOC only incarcerates those already convicted, we don't convict (that would be a jury of your peers), please understand these things before posting.
  • by FL CO Location: Crestview, Fl on Apr 19, 2011 at 05:06 AM
    It's a good thing that someone in the media was willing to go in and show just a little bit of the things that we do, and the real threats that we might come across. Justin G, I am willing to bet that you were an inmate who thought officers were there to do what you wanted them to do. We are not there to be your friend, we are there to do a job. If you don't want to follow the rules, which is why I am willing to bet you had a bad experience, then you shouldn't come to prison. Officers respond to inmates, and if you have to go to confinement because you can't follow the rules, then thats where you should be. Don't try and smear the good names of the people who work in the prisons across Florida just because you didn't want to follow the rules. Big RESPECT to all my Brothers and Sisters in the DOC
  • by JQP Location: Florida on Apr 18, 2011 at 08:21 PM
    Just as with any job there will be a few bad apples, it can't be helped it's human nature. The vast number of correctional officers do their job day in and day out without so much as a thank you from joe public. I won't say the job is a calling, but you must have the right set of skills and personality to work in this type of setting. Our job is unforgiving and dangerous at times, and most people don't get to see this. All they hear or see is that this officer did this, or that officer did that. What of all the officers that put themselves in harms way to save or stop an inmate from doing harm to themselves or others. I try to treat everyone I come into contact with Staff, visitors and inmates with fairness and a good attitude. As with anyone I have my good and bad days, don't judge me just be my few bad days.
  • by Sgt. EG on Apr 18, 2011 at 07:48 PM
    All Officers; Police and Correctional sacrifice everyday. The Governor is making all State employees look worthless. From our Teachers to EMS and Fire fighters we all care about the public. As for the comment about inmate families being treated all low class citizens is untrue, you have to understand safety comes first, Visitor's, Inmates and Staff alike must worry about that everyday, your additude is judge when you try to come in though the gates. To all the CO We Never Walk Alone!!!
  • by tc officer Location: tc on Apr 18, 2011 at 04:46 PM
    inmates put themselves behind bars, not the officers. you want fair then get out and stay out. we are there to do our jobs and go home. we as officers cannot have pitty for inmates. we must stand firm in order to maintian control. all of you commenting on here on how horrible c/o's treat inmates... guess you were one in the past? wonder what you did to be in prison? tell that! i risk my life everyday to protect the public from inmates. some people dont have the will power to do my job.thanks goes out to all the c/o's!
  • by R.S. Location: Florida on Apr 17, 2011 at 06:52 PM
    I'm glad to see someone in the media went out and saw some good work being done by CO's. I worked in federal prisons for 25 years but always had mutual respect for the officers working with state inmates. And Justin G. your probably an ex inmate who spent his entire sentence in confinement because you were too scared to get out from behind that door and be a real man.
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