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'Most inmates want to get out'

August 12, 2007|By KAREN HANNA

A peck on the lips is all it takes for a visitor to exchange drugs with a prison inmate, according to a Roxbury Correctional Institution correctional officer.

Sgt. Gary Winters, who monitors cameras trained on every nook and cranny of the prison, said inmates' schemes to score contraband are often clever, and with reductions in prison staffing, officers can't watch for everything.

Although Winters said he rarely feels unsafe at work, reminders of prison's brutal potential are unavoidable.

A memorial to Jeffery Wroten, who was fatally shot in 2006 while guarding a prison inmate who had been taken to Washington County Hospital, is outside the screening area where Winters supervises visitors' comings and goings.

"He was a good man. You can't afford to lose one good man," Winters said.

While prison isn't as violent or chaotic as it's portrayed on television shows such as HBO's "Oz," Winters said a gang mentality flourishes. A good day at work means his colleagues all go home safely.

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"Most inmates want to get out. There's a small percentage that have a gangster-for-life mentality, that they were a criminal on the outside, and they're going to be a criminal in here," Winters said.

Winters, 44, said he has worked at the prison almost 24 years. When he weighed the prospect of retirement, he looked for other jobs.

"I wanted to (retire) when I got my 20 years in. I applied to Mack Truck. They turned me down. There's not a whole lot out there that pays better than $10 an hour," Winters said.

The job is a "great opportunity," especially for young people, but Winters said he doesn't want it for his family.

"You know when you work here, you know you can be attacked or taken hostage anytime. That's part of the job. The thing is to make sure they don't want to attack you or take you hostage," Winters said.

- Karen Hanna

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