Prison Guards Work In “Unrecognized War Zone”


At the federal Supermax prison complex in Colorado, inmates fling bodily waste and attack without warning, psychotic outbursts fill halls with howls and a man who upset the wrong clique ended up with a pencil driven though his ear, reports the Denver Post. Correctional officers, who face growing numbers of inmates in some of the toughest federal and state prisons, say they’re increasingly overwhelmed. They harden themselves to survive inside prison; then they find they can’t snap out of it at the end of the day.

Some seethe to themselves. Others commit suicide. Depression, alcoholism, domestic violence, and heart attacks are common. “You’re not normal anymore,” said Hondray Simmons, 36, an Iraq war veteran now working in the Colorado State Penitentiary. In Fremont County, a hub for the booming prison industry, an enterprising therapist chose this area to launch an emotional-rescue campaign – the first of its kind in the country. Prison guards work in “an unrecognized war zone,” said Caterina Spinaris, 53, who left a lucrative psychological counseling practice in Denver six years ago. She counsels scores of brittle men and women at her nonprofit Desert Waters Correctional Outreach center, a mile from the ultra-high- security federal “Supermax” prison. From across the nation, 168 correctional officers, including several on the brink of suicide, have called or sent e-mails asking for help, she said. “We’re winning trust little by little.”


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