A correction officer pats down an
inmate during intake procedures at
Polk Youth Institution, Butner, N.C.
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January 9, 2001
Serving 9 to 5:
Correctional Officer Diary
It's a cliché among correctional officers; the kind of thing you hear in every state in the country. The officers say
they are serving time just like the inmates, they just do it in eight hour shifts. More than 300 officers work at
Polk Youth Institution. A few have been on the job for more than 20 years, but many more quit in the first month.
At Polk, if you've stayed on the job for more than a year, you're considered an old timer.
Hear the correction officers' stories on All Things Considered.
Read the transcript from the Jan. 2 online chat with inmate John Mills' mother, Brenda Daniels, and the series producer, Joe Richman
Sergeant Furman Camel is retiring after 27 years in the system. Officer Maime Townes is completing her new officer training. Officer Charles Kennedy complains that, these days, prison is almost like a Ramada Inn.
Officer Alicia Covington remembers the day her son walked through the gate, as an inmate. This story profiles
some of the men and women who work at Polk Youth Institution in Butner, North Carolina. The officers use their
tape recorders to document life on the other side of the bars: roll call, new officer training, lockdown, and the
occasional one-on-one moments with inmates.
No inmate comes in unless
they come through
Receiving. This is the
starting point. And I'm going
to be the first face you see
when you come, and the last
one to see when you leave.
A lot of times I'm just the
meanest person in the world.
But my objective is to help.
When he comes off that bus,
he's got a different attitude.
He's used to doing what he
wants to do, when he wants
to do it. Here it's 'yes sir, no
sir'. I believe that's the first
part of rehabilitation. Then
you start from there.
--Sergeant Furman Camel,
Polk Youth Institution,
One day at the prison, I got a
call to come down to
receiving. When I got there, I
saw an inmate sitting in a
chair. Once he heard the
door close, he looked up.
When I looked into his
face...it was my son
Institution, Butner, N.C.
Prison Diaries is produced by Joe Richman, creator
of the acclaimed Teenage Diaries series and founder of Radio
Diaries, Inc., a non-profit production company committed to helping
people document their own lives. Associate Producer is Wendy Dorr.
American RadioWorks is the documentary project of Minnesota Public Radio and NPR News.