Working in any of the nation’s maximum security prisons ranks as one of the most psychologically demanding and physically dangerous jobs in America. Each year, dozens of prison guards die in the line of duty. It is these brave men and women who mark the only thing keeping some of the most vicious and violent criminals in the world from smashing, beating and stealing their way into the lives of innocent civilians.
There are few men and women who hear the calling to become prison guards. It is a job that most will quit in their first year. Even among those who see themselves as brave and mentally tough enough to handle the job, most will not last. It takes a special combination of emotional impermeability mixed with genuine empathy and compassion to make a good corrections officer – the thickest skin mixed with the biggest heart is required equipment for this job.
Robert Johnson was one of the few people who had all the right attributes to be a successful corrections officer. A few years after graduating from high school, Johnson applied to the Florida Department of Corrections. He was hired on and sent to one of the toughest maximum security facilities in the state.
There, he proved to be a capable officer, quickly rising through the ranks. By the time he was 30, Johnson was a commanding officer of one of FDOC’s SERT teams, a special group of officers that is sent in to do the jobs that are too dangerous or difficult for normal corrections officers.
While heading this team, Johnson was involved with a routine search of an inmate’s cell. The search turned up a package containing a powder substance, which was later confirmed to be nearly pure heroin. The value of the drugs was estimated at around $50,000 on the street, making the package worth some $250,000 inside the prison.
Word quickly spread to the gang for whom the package was intended that Johnson was the officer responsible for the seizure. With a reputation of being impossible to bribe, the gang knew that they would only risk criminal charges by attempting to bring Johnson into their fold.
One morning, as he was preparing for work, a gunman broke down the front door of Johnson’s home, shooting him six times at nearly point-blank range. Though Johnson survived, he is now disabled and can no longer work as a corrections officer.
It was later revealed that the gang put out a hit using a contraband cell phone. Today, Johnson works with Securus Technologies selling the Wireless Containment System, which, if it would have been installed at the prison where Johnson worked, would have disabled the cell phone used to place the hit on him.