Well, "guards" is not really correct, but it works for a subject line. I work in corrections and I now have several family members who do. I started studying Buddhism a while back and find that I'd like to communicate with others in my field. Unfortunately we seem to be hard to find. A lot of places I have looked demonize correctional people it seems. I understand we are easy to see as the enemy, and many people in my field can be inappropriate, but we are all still people, ya know?
I work with juveniles now and I have worked in community corrections with adults in the past. I think it is easy for people who don't work in the field to see those who work in the field as bad. But that is the easy thing to do I think. I entered this field after doing many other things, and I haven't experienced people in my field as being any different from any other group, except honestly the ones I have known might have a bit more real compassion than the people I have known outside this field.
It is a challenge to see such suffering every day and not get hard. I now see it as suffering, I used to see it as just wrong or screwed up people. It is hard sometimes to balance the need to see to the safety of myself, other staff members, and the kids and yet remain caring. That challenge I think is what pulls so many officers down so that they become like the stereotype.
When you go to work and you know that that person who you talk to everyday, who acts cool towards you, who seems like they are doing ok, might, if given a chance, stick a shank in your back can do weird things to your mind and your heart.
I have met parents and grandparents of kids who have had no business having kids, who barely seem to be able to dress themselves or practice basic hygiene. But when they come to visit their child I know their child is so happy to see them.
I have known kids who try so damned hard, but yet can't seem to get it together.
I know how meth smells as it percolates out of the skin of once pretty young women, I have seen bone laid bare where a girls gums have been eaten away by meth.
I have known young women who have lost control of their bladder at night and they can't even admit it to themselves. Did it happen because they finally felt safe because they were locked up? Or was it a reaction to sexual abuse? I don't now, and they can't say.
I have known young men who don't know how to react to the death of dear friends except to try to get revenge by killing another.
I have seen young men try so hard not to cry, and yet they do. They will sometimes act so tough and so hard, but once on the phone with their mothers they cry like little children.
I have known children who have never known anything but abuse and neglect who don't even know how to respond to an adult that cares.
I have seen mothers who have tried so hard to do right by their child and yet he is arrested one more time, and she must go to court again, but if she does she'll lose her job from all the other times she has had to take time off to go to court.
I have seen mothers who are homeless somehow come up with bus fare so they can come for their alloted visit with their child.
I have gotten phone calls from desperate parents looking for help for their son or daughter before they get into trouble and I don't know where to tell them to go.
I know prisoners "need" dharma, and so do "guards."