Day In the Life of a Prison Social Worker

21 02 2009

8:00  arrive at work. walk through 5 gates and a locked door to get to my hole of an “office”. Open my door to ants crawling everywhere. There is no food, where the hell are they coming from?

8:15  Gather things to go down to the “PODS and do intakes on new prisoners. Walk through 7 gates to get ther and across a Pod floor with 50 inmates on it. Get hollered at by those locked up behind their doors. Sneaky assholes do it when they can’t get caught….

8:30-10:30  Do assessment and intake on 10 new prisoners. Most are polite, some are a bit odd, 5 are on mental health meds, all have substance abuse issues. Get sick of hearing myself repeat the same shit over and over and over…. Despite the monotony, make some good connections and feel like at least I gave some compassion and respect.

10:30  Hang out in the “tower” and shoot the shit with the Correctional Officers. Listen to most people rant and rave about the prison and other people’s lack of living up to their expectations. Defend my position as a mental health worker. Have a couple of laughs. Back to office

10:30 Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork. Leave a couple of messages at medical about balls being dropped that need to be picked up. Listen to my coworkers yell back and forth. Get annoyed that my office is 90 degrees. Call maintenance and leave an irritable message about the ant invasion. Eat my lunch, check my blog, count the days until I am done with this job.

12:30  2:30 Count has cleared so I meet with my last 2 clients for termination. Start to feel sad about leaving. Will miss working with these guys. Start to freak out a little about life changes… Try to accept “thank you’s” from clients.  Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork.

2:30 – 4:00 Spend some time saying goodbye to coworkers. When asked the question “Why are you going?”  try to resist the urge to answer “Because I’ve had enough misery and corruption for one lifetime.” So I smile and say, “It’s just time for a change”. Ignore comments about the  stupidity courage it takes to do so given the state of the economy.  Try to remember that following your heart and using your common sense can be done at the same time. 

4:30  Go to clock out. Walk past the 100 prisoners coming and going to the chow hall on the runway. Most are respectful, I still get whistled at. REMEMBER WHY I AM LEAVING.



25 responses

21 02 2009

Good luck! Was yesterday your last day?

21 02 2009
David G. Markham

Reminds me of my early days in two state hospitals. Back in the late 60s and 70s they were all locked and “snake pit” as an apt description. After 8 1/2 years, and being 30 years old, I said to myself, “You can go on being a prostitute for the State Of New York or go get a real job.

I left and took a job as a primary therapist on an inpatient psych unit at a general hospital based community mental health center. I took a $3,000.00 cut in pay back in 1975 from $19,000 per year I was making at the State to $16,000 per year at the CMHC. I had 4 four kids and another one on the way in 3 months. I had to take a part time job to make up the difference in pay cut.

I have never regretted the move. It was the best thing I could have done for my career.

I think I understand, at least in part, why you are leaving and I wish you the best. I’ll bet my money on the guess that you will not regret it.

What will your new blog be named if you are no longer having “adventures in prison”?

All the best,

David Markham

22 02 2009

Good question David…I have been going over that one as well. I have already changed my blog name once and fear that my regular readers may get sick of updating their links to me. Adventures in Prison could continue to work if you look at it from the perspective of spending my days inside of people’s heads…After all, the prisons we create for ourselves up there could be just as interesting as the literal one I currently work at….

22 02 2009

This is my last week. I need to fill you all in on my new adventures that are forthcoming.

24 02 2009

DAVID – I hope you see this comment…I have tried multiple times to comment on your blog and am having trouble getting it to work. The word verification just never loads after I put everything else in….Is anyone else having problems with that?

25 02 2009

Good luck for the future and name change or no, I am sure we’ll find you!

23 03 2010
Laura Anderson

Wow, I was just thinking today about making a move into working as a social worker within a prison. this blog gives it a more realistic perspective!….. very interesting read.

19 05 2010


I think this is pretty close to a day-in-the life for me too as I work in a correctional facility, but I am taking time to write you as you said you were leaving the system “Because I’ve had enough misery and corruption for one lifetime.” Well, you are going to get that again in CMH. You will have several levels of corruption to wade through in the community mental health system… courts, judges, DCS workers, police, and all kinds of folks that “are on the take”! All I can say is Good Luck, and Bless You for all you do everyday to help those help themselves. 🙂

19 05 2010

PS: What about the metal detectors and the search you get everytime yo9u go in and out the main gate????? Thatis always great to have to do a couple times a day. Shoes on, shoes off!!

25 08 2010

Thanks for the insight. Eversince i’ve graduated from college i have wanted to become a prison social worker. presently, i still feel a bit confused now that i am leaving the stay at home mom life for career life. its a tie between this job and a special ed teacher.

4 11 2010
Nonstick Cookware Set ·

i think that once in a while, we should do some social works too because we should help other people ~

27 11 2010

Did you honestly hate this job that much? reading your blogs it seems as if you have..I am going to school for social work and i wanted to be a social worker for inmates in prison, like you.but reading this gives me doubts..
also, i dont know if you mentioned but how much is your salary if you dont mind me asking?

18 01 2011
Dr. Godbold-Morley

To a co-worker and another social worker in the prison systsem,

I feel sad and distrubed by your blog. I, too, work w/Women prisoners and my experience couldn’t be more different than yours. My job is to treat PTSD that the women experience because of their horrific lives. If they had been born white and middle class, they would have been treated for being molested, neglegted, abused, pimped and prostituted. Instead, they are poor, minorities who have turned to meth, cocain or alcohol to dull the pain of PTSD. Because they have no money, they turn to prostitution to support their habbit and then continue to make bad choices. That doesn’t make them bad, they are a victim of our unjust social institutions. They are doing the best w/ no support.

I love every day that I go to work. The women are incredible. They truely are survivers. I doubt I could have made it if I had to endure their childhoods. They teach me more everyday than I teach them. They are committed to change, and work hard in therapy.

My guess is that you, too, are suffering from PTSD from treating so many survivers. Instead of spreading such bad press about working in the prison system, is that you get treatment for yourself. You’re understandably suferring from “burnout”. I’m glad your taking a break, and taking time to recover. My only request is that you don’t poison the next generation of social workers w/ your blog. It is tainted by your exhoustion. Instead of writing your pitiful blog, go to the beach, read a novel, or get yourself into treatment.

Best of luck,
Dr. Eve

13 04 2011

Thank you Dr.Eve, I’ve had a very rough time trying to figure out what to do with my life. I’ve went to college for two years already, worked my hardest and have earned a very high GPA- only to STILL not know what to do with my life. I am very intrigued by the prison system and would have interest in working in one. I’ve previously considered working as a social worker to work through non-profit organizations and thought I’d do research and see if I majored in social work, if I would have the option of workin in a prison, as well as later on working in another area…. any suggestions on a major or emphasis?

30 07 2011
Jail Nation

For every action there is a reaction, so for every positive deed you get a fruitful result. Social work is all about protective measures taken, to take care of humanity in the best way. It is more than a practical job; it is a full time 24 hour job. Social work brings a huge change at individual and at community level. It is necessary for social workers to be creative, informative and understanding at all levels.

7 09 2011
Flash Bailbonds

Social workers in correctional settings need specialized training, including the ability to communicate with prisoners from other cultures. Finally, social workers should participate in national policy debates, collaborate with other organizations that deal with prisoners, and advocate preventative efforts, including community-based services to treat addiction and mental illness before these become criminal justice issues.

1 01 2012

Dr. Eve could not have said it better. I mean no disrespect but you are done my friend. You are going to
a psychiatric hospital. That is no different than the correctional facilty you have worked in. Your job and challenge will be the same. Don’t do it. You sound so burnt out. Do something else for now. Let someone else who is up for the challenge to help try to create some ambivalence for prison inmates.

I am hopefully on my way to working in a correctional facility in the very near future after working for 12 years within inpatient psy. It is a huge challenge, and privilege to have an opportunity to make a difference.

14 01 2012

hi, i too am thinking about goin to social work within a prison. Im almost graduated highschool, and someday i would to work in a prison. I find that i have a huge passion for people who’ve had a rough and terrible childhood, then go on to prison due to there mistakes. however i am an artist and would like to mix that in with art. maybe work with juvenile delinquents. i feel tho that iam compassionate about young offenders and inmates because I too have had a childhood dealing with a boy who has gone through troubles. from age 10 to 17 i have known this boy. i have seen what he has gone through and feel very sorry for him. through those years he has always come back to me. just recently, i have come to realize that i love this boy very much, despite the mistakes hes made. i too believe he has a love for me as well. i do not speak to him anymore, due to my family disapproving of our relationship. i want to pursue a career that deals with inmates, although i do not know for sure if that love will fade. and so, i do not know if my love for those people may also fade as well. please someone tell me some advice. it would really help :/

13 03 2013

Heya are using WordPress for your blog platform?
I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and set up my own.
Do you need any coding knowledge to make your own blog?
Any help would be really appreciated!

6 06 2013
Nelly Akobia

Wow! This is really interesting – the blog and the whole discussion. I am writing from the country of Georgia – that’s in Europe, near Russia. I graduated from Columbia University School of Social Work a couple years ago and came back. Unfortunately, I have not worked in the prison system as a social worker and have only taken several classes on the topic. At the moment, social work in prison is just being developed in Georgia and it is so exciting to have so many opportunities to make the smallest change in the system that has been violating human rights in all possible ways.

I would be so thankful if any of you can share with me any info on prison social work, how the system works, what the major challenges are, etc. Thank you so much in advance!

27 06 2013
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Day In the Life of a Prison Social Worker | ADVENTURES IN PRISON

26 03 2015
Sarika Carey

Hi there,

I am a Social Worker working in a Correctional Centre in South Africa, however I am interested in applying abroad in a Correctional facility. How do I go about it?

1 07 2020
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Day In the Life of a Prison Social Worker | ADVENTURES IN PRISON

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