The ugly truth behind prison guard brutality

Dear readers,

Welcome back!  If you missed my last post on solitary confinement you can check it out here. Today I want to focus on horrific truths of prison guard brutality that goes on behind closed curtain in not only North Carolina prisons but in prisons nationwide.

 In 2012 a case surfaced after a group of inmates from Sampson Correctional Institution, a medium security prison located in Clinton, North Carolina, submitted a letter to the U.S. district court in Greensboro.  The letter disclosed information about humiliating, mentally damaging, and physically harmful tasks prison guards were forcing inmates to participate in.  These included rubbing habanero hot sauce on their genitals leaving excruciating blisters, stripping naked and making the inmates pretend to have sex as a form on entertainment for the guards, and gulping unspecified amounts of “Exotic Hot Sauce” that was purchased online.  Unfortunately these are not the only acts the inmates were forced to do.  The letter continued to state that when the inmates were working as road crew they were ordered to capture and kiss wild snakes as well as capture rabbits and throw them into oncoming traffic.  Those who participated were rewarded with preferred work assignments, food, cigarettes, and alcohol.  Something to consider is that both cigarettes and alcohol are banned in North Carolina prisons.  Unfortunately this is a minor case the United states has seen involving prison guard brutality.

 In 2010, Alabama prison inmate Rocrast Mack died a cruel death at the age of 24. Mack, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a drug conviction at Ventress Correctional facility, was beaten to death as a response to lack of cooperation by a female corrections officer and accompanying officials.  The corrections officers claimed that they reacted out of self-defense and followed protocol properly and that Mack’s death was a result of him falling.  When the FBI investigated the death of Rocrast Mack, the claims of the corrections officers involved didn’t quite add up.  Mack was beaten to the point of brain swelling due to multiple blows to the head, bruises that covered his entire body, and his front teeth knocked out.  Once the truth was revealed, four prison guards were sentenced to varying prison time.

I have included these two cases of prison guard brutality ranging from minor to severe to display the corruption that is hidden within prison systems.  Although these cases are from 2010 and 2012, this is still a prevalent national problem that deserves more attention than given.  I also included these cases to get you to really think about how inmates are treated while serving their sentences and the lasting effects that this abuse has on the prisoners.  Neither case shows fair or humane treatment which in my opinion is wrong.

After researching these cases the first question that came to mind was why? More specifically, why demonstrate such behavior that will only encourage these inmates to respond identically inside and outside of the prison system? One point of imprisonment is to lower the rates of criminal activity, but how is that expected when the criminal activity continues behind bars?

What was the first question that came to your mind? What are your thoughts on the abuse that goes on prison systems?  Do you think the inmates deserve this kind of treatment?  Why or why not? Let me know what you think and check back next Tuesday!

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7 thoughts on “The ugly truth behind prison guard brutality”

  1. This was a really interesting article and you provided some great links/sources to further look into it! I am wondering how these guards are hired-maybe you could provide in another post later on what the requirements are to be hired as a prison guard. Possibly to do away with some of these brutality issues there could be personality tests or behavioral tests that prison guards are required to take to ensure that they are moral people. Or, how is all this happening under the prison administration’s watch? They can’t be completely unaware of what is happening and I am curious as to why they allow it. I think a lot of these issues with guards must link back to the people running the administration of the prison because they are accepting of this behavior-are the people in charge of prisons fired often or I’d be curious what happens to them when incidents of brutality occur? I’ll definitely be checking out your future posts as this topic is really interesting!

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    1. Hi! Thanks for commenting! Unfortunately I did not research the hiring aspect of prison guards so I don’t have answers to your questions, but you have raised some good points that I will look into! Personality or behavioral tests would be a good idea (who knows maybe they are required) but in my opinion, I feel like it would not be financially supported. And I agree with you, how is all this happening under prison administration? My only answer is that they are aware of what is happening, but would rather keep it inside the prison than to let it be revealed publicly. When issues such as these are leaked to the media that prison suffers greatly. As I mentioned in my post, there is a great deal of corruption that is hidden within our prison systems and I think we’ve started accepting it as form of subcultural norms that are expected in these systems. I mean really when you think about prisons what comes to mind? I know for me I associate the word with violence, gangs, brutality, and so much more, but really that is not a prison system’s point of existence.

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  2. I think your article brought up a pressing issue that is rarely addressed. I don’t find it surprising that abuse goes on behind bars and that no one does anything about it. While reading your post it reminded me of the Stanford Prison Experiment (a study conducted by a psychologist in the 70s) that i learned about in psychology class in high school. If you don’t know about it, you should maybe look into it because it brings up an important point on what people do when put in positions of authority. The study revealed that students assigned to the roles of “prison guard” became more aggressive towards their peers placed in the role of “prisoners.” It would be interesting to look into this power dynamic established in prisons. I think many times, prison guards use their position of power to take advantage of those they believe they control. Just a suggestion to look into as you explore brutality that occurs in prisons. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I’m glad you found this topic interesting! When I decided to focus on conditions within North Carolina Prisons I really wanted to discuss issues that would get my readers thinking and to open them to issues that they weren’t necessarily aware of. I also took a Psychology course and discussed the Stanford Prison Experiment in that class so I am familiar with it and kept it in mind when I wrote this post. Also I agree with you, prison guard brutality stems from a position of power and control, which was identified in the Stanford Prison Experiment. I really like your suggestion about exploring the power dynamic within prison systems that would be an interesting angle to take for a future post!

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  3. These two cases are both horrific and very shocking. Although I knew that there has always been brutality in prison imposed by guards, I never knew the extent of it. It is infuriating that our government allows situations like this to occur. Inmates are being punished due to their respective crimes by being imprisoned and deprived of their freedom. Nonetheless, they are still people. People like you and me who made a mistake and therefore have to adhere to the consequences. But that doesn’t make them any less of a human being than somebody who does not. I agree with you, treating inmates like this is inhumane and should not be tolerated. I really enjoyed your blog! By putting in those cases you gave your reading an emotional connection to the problem, which I think is great! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you! I’m really glad you liked my post! I think the one of the best ways to approach these cases are with facts and with the emotional aspect of the issue to engage readers. I agree with you, it is infuriating that our government has let this mistreatment and brutality go as far as it has. And you’re right, they aren’t any less of a human being and that’s why we should not tolerate this kind of behavior inside the prison systems. I think that if enough people become educated on what is really happening, then the government will take matters into their own hands and make drastic changes to the treatment of inmates. I do not think that doing away with prison systems would benefit anyone but reforming them would make a serious difference. Treating the prisoners with such harsh and cruel manners will only encourage the inmates to repeat these aggressive acts, which I believe is part of the reason people end up in prison multiple times. They are not taught to correct their behavior but instead are influenced to repeat deviant behavior practiced by prison guards.

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