DIBOLL, TX (KTRE) – "Leave the makeup at home and keep your guard – up," words to live by for Sergeant Karen Walker. Walker is a prison guard at the Diboll Correctional Center.
Walker has entered the gates to the private prison more than 1,200 times in the five years she has been a prison guard. "We have G1, G2 offenders. Offenders that are working anywhere between a month to maybe five years of either discharging or paroling their sentence. Offenders with all types of crime, whether its DWI's, or anything like that, mostly your trusty offenders, the ones that don't have to have maximum security," said Walker.
Just like other prisons, an offender's custody level depends on his current and previous institutional behavior, and his current offense and sentence length. If he violates the rules, he's placed in a more restrictive custody. "I have offenders that are on a watch list and I get their property I go through it you know it's nothing really major it's just time consuming."
If he complies with the rules, he's assigned a less restrictive custody level. "A lot of these defenders are just waiting to you know go home so they're not really trying to get into any trouble."
As prison guard, it is Sergeant Walker's job to protect the safety of the inmates, as well as, that of the faculty, and her own. "You're around a bunch of male offenders, a lot of male staff also, so, you know they're looking at you as being a female that you're gonna be a little weaker, they can intimidate you a little bit more, you just have to you know be strong and think about what you do."
Walker also advises leave the make-up at home and keep your guard - up. "As a female I have to realize that I have a family at home, so, when I come to work I have to make sure that I don't do anything to or causing conflict that going to jeopardize that. Then you also have to look at the male point of view also. A lot of male officers really don't care to work with a lot of female officers, but then you also have a lot of offenders down there that thinks that female officers are going to be a little easy access. You know 'don't get your honey where you get your money,' that's our saying in this trade."
And while the Diboll facility presents a more laid back appearance, looks can be deceiving, which means Sergeant Walker is constantly on the lookout for possible breaches in security. "Also I do security threat groups, so that goes with the gangs that you have. You're going to have gang activity in any facility, but ours here, it's pretty much under control."
Firearms are not allowed inside the prison, however, there is a clear armed presence at the watch tower. "You know, like they say, it's kinda safer working in a correctional facility than it is doing anything else."
The best part of the job? "Going home (laughing). It's pretty laid back. We're pretty much a family here. We pretty much all get along. It's just a typical day of coming to work."
The worst part of the job? "Coming in at 8 o'clock in the morning (laughing). No, I really can't say that there is a worse part of this job. Just as with any occupation you have to be aware of your surroundings and here moreso than others, but, you know, like they say, 'it's kinda safer working in a correctional facility than it is doing anything else."
Prison faculty must go through in-service and pre-service training and have to re-qualify for their position each year. Prison guards are also required to take extensive training required by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).
Walker has worked in retail sales and has owned her own business, but she says she hopes this will be her last stop before retirement.
Prison guard. Somebody's Got To Do It.