There is a sad reality to being a prison guard and that is often death will sit on your shoulder. However, when I reviewed the cause of death for those working in the Department of Correction and found a couple of big surprises.
Bear in mind that this is a huge work force that has over 18,000 employees. The first suprise is that since the 1920s there have only been 40 some deaths. The single largest cause of death was heart attacks while on duty which was 20. The second single largest cause of death was shooting, stabbings and killing that amounted to some 13 men and women. The third largest cause of death are 4 auto accidents.
Stress is a problem but it does not have to be as great a problem as it is. The stress that correction officers suffer is all too often brought home from work and impacts directly on their families. This is not unlike the stress experienced by the military. These men and women are used to immediate reaction to orders and the failure to respond all too often finds expression in punishment be it authorized or not.
The natural stress of prison work is exacerbated by short staffing where men and women are called on to work double shifts. This has been complicated over the last decade by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan becasue large numbers of correctional officers also serve as members of the national guard or army reserve. These extensive call ups mean empty slots that can not be filled because of union rules.
The story of the death of the prison sergeant in Lake City high lights another aspect of the Florida prison system. “….corrections was one of the few industries left in Lake City, and a state job with benefits was a good job for someone hoping to stay close to home….”
The closing of Jefferson CI was cancelled becasue it would have created a disaster for the economy of Jefferson county.