By: Bella Jewel

He runs a scanner over a fellow guard who is starting his shift for the day. It doesn’t matter if you’re a guard or a visitor; you go through intensive security every visit. They can’t risk allowing weapons, or any items that can be used as weapons, inside the prison.

“You’re on Ward D.” He winks. “They’re behaving so far.”

I let out a snort, before stepping forward and putting my purse down. I lift my arms above my head and he runs the scanner over me.

“Henry is on that ward,” I say. “How has he been behaving?”

He shakes his head, running the scanner down over my legs. “How does he always behave? Nice shoes.”

I grin down at my boots. I’m not the kind of girl to go for heels. I live in boots—knee-highs, ankle boots, Doc Martens, you name it. The ones I’m wearing today are black ankle boots that match my skinny jeans. Of course I don’t get to wear them long. As soon as I’m inside I have to get into uniform, but I don’t leave the house without looking sassy. “Thanks, they were a bargain.”

“You’re good,” he says, waving me through. “Have a good day. Meet me for lunch?”

I nod. “Absolutely.”

I go through quite a long process just to get into Ward D. Even though we’re not a maximum-security prison, this is still where our worst inmates are kept. I am never without another two guards by my side when I’m working in that section, purely for safety reasons, and they’re usually male. There are only four female guards in the entire prison.

The prisoners up here are problematic. They spend a great deal of time with our prison psychologist because of the crimes they’re in here for. It’s her job to decide if they need further treatment in a mental facility. There have been countless suicides. They’re criminals, and in most cases their minds are challenged in some way, shape, or form. It’s why they choose to do the sick and deranged things they do. In a majority of cases, there is pain that stems from childhood that leads to such activities.

“Morning, Ash,” Luke, the guard standing outside the ward, says when I approach.

Luke is only slightly older than me, with wavy brown hair and blue eyes. He seems nice enough, but he doesn’t usually say a great deal. It’s probably perfect with this job, because he’s always straight to the point and doesn’t get caught up in any drama.

“Hey Josh. How are things this morning?”

He shrugs, staring down the hall. “Fine. You ready to do your rounds?”

I nod. Usually rounds are what I do first. I go around, check out the cells and the prisoners, and then I’m usually sectioned in a certain area where I’ll spend the day. Sometimes it’s in the break room, other times it’s in the yard, and there are also times when I do paperwork in the office. It just depends on the behavior of the prisoners that day.

I head in to get changed, gather my weapons, and then join Luke back at the gates, ready for our rounds.

Our uniform is quite simple. We wear a dark green pair of pants, a light green button-up, long-sleeved shirt, and a pair of solid boots. Our hair—in a female’s case—needs to be either short or tied up tightly. No jewelry.

“We’ll check Maximus first, and move down from there.”

I nod, following him down.

Maximus is one of our more difficult prisoners. He’s been behind bars for only about a year after murdering his wife in a rage. He’s an angry, bitter man who barely makes progress, spending most of his time cramped in his cell.

Maximus is serving life in prison. He’s in his early thirties, and has a history of violence. His first crime was at the tender age of fifteen, when he held up a gas station with a gun. He beat the woman behind the counter so badly she had to have reconstructive surgery to her face. That was just that start of his spiral into a violent life.

Maximus is tall, bulky and bald. He’s got a range of tattoos on his body, running down his arms, and even over his fingers. He has got stark blue eyes, and a cold smile. His inner thoughts are quite disturbing, and I feel it has a lot to do with his life as a boy. His father was sent to prison when Maximus was only four for sexual assault. His mother was a drug-using whore, and spent most of her time high and in the arms of other men.

We stop at his cell and look in. As always he’s staring at the wall, fists balled tightly.

We are guards, but we are also sent here to be role models for the prisoners. They notice how we behave and how well we interact; we can hold our own, but we also show them a certain level of respect that is said to help them cope.

“Good morning, Maximus,” I say.

He turns and locks eyes with me, narrowing them just slightly.

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