By Sheshu Babu*
through the prison bars
to shake me up
from my early morning dreams,
his morning greeting is
clanking a huge bunch of keys into the cage of my
(From ‘Ode to a Prison Guard” by Prof. GN Saibaba, written on 1 May 2017, in ‘A World of Silence is Blown into Smithereens’. Ref: “GN Saibaba’s poems from confinement”, 24 April 2020, Caravanmagzine.in)
Prisons may be almost synonymous with torture, assaults, cruelty, etc. but there are some persons working in jails who show are humane to some extent. Prison guards have some humanity because they too face much suffering from higher officials. They know the value of hardship as most of them have their roots in grassroots.
“He appears like an apparition from an enemy ‘s army
but with a warm smile
and a friendly face
checking if one is alive or dead as the day breaks,
counting each live head.
He hides his own sad stories,
lending his patient and compassionate ear
to the chained melancholic souls,
never bothering about their crime or innocence.”
(From ‘Ode to a Prison Guard’ by GN Saibaba)
Prison guards often face risks from prisoners who are emotional and mentally ill. ‘ Emotional flatness is not uncommon in people who have worked as prison guards for years. Guards often expect to be conned or have their physical safety put at risk , thus, they can become defensive and pessimistic. (The Disadvantages of Working as a Prison Guard, by Elise While, work.chron.com). ‘…Prison guards… work in a facility that is designed for security, not comfort or beauty… The sounds of human misery are everywhere.’
Therefore, the lives of prison guards is not smooth sailing. They have to bear the wrath of higher officers as well as emotionally disturbed prisoners. Yet, many of them look at the incarcerated people with love and compassion.
There are many instances of misbehaviour of prison guards. The Marshall Project has been fighting for justice . The Marshall Project is a nonpartisan nonprofit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U. S. Criminal justice system.
Similarly, human rights activists round the world are advocating prison reforms and trying to put pressure on governments to work for fair and equal justice.
Very few guards have reasonably good and stress-free environment so that they can understand the moods and mental health of inmates and try to look at their problems in a humanistic way.
Despite his miserable life, the guard works day and night tirelessly for a pittance. He is most of the time abused by higher bosses and officers. Still, many guards do not hate inmates. As GN Saibaba describes:
“He is a nun,
and a priest ,
Pious, persevering and patient.
A tireless slave sticking everlastingly to the bars of
He is a friend,
a cousin and a comrade .
He is the guard
and the guardian
of my life’s sentence, phrases, words and syllables. I”
(From ‘Ode to a Prison Guard’)
*The writer from everywhere and any where supports civil liberties