When a Prison Guard’s Duty Becomes Enjoyment

I am reminded of a Stanley Ellin story of the prison guard who put prisoners in the SHU and sometimes had to not let them take showers or trade food for showers, and turn on the lights all night so they would be tired when his double shift started.

His son told him that that was a cruel form of torture.

The prison guard told his son that someone had to do it, and it had a sound penological reason, for it kept men in fear and the more some men were tortured, the more other men would seek to avoid it.

And so he would lay the torture on extra thick – leaving excrement in cells, putting men in cages, and moving them around, and placing men with cellies that they were bound to have trouble with.

All for the penological purpose that torture keeps the others in line and even if everyone was good in a prison, they would still single out some men for torture, for it would be good penological exercise.

And that was why he would keep men in the SHU so long that they would become delusional, for when they got out, they would be babbling idiots, and not cause any trouble – all for penologically sound reasons.

“Is that all it is to you?” his son asked. “Just penologically sound?”

Yes, and it is my duty.”  

“But you get paid for it, don’t you?”

I get paid little enough for it, yes.

The son kept looking at his father in a strange sort of puzzled way.

“Only a duty? he asked again, never once taking his eyes off his father, the prison guard for the SHU.

“But you enjoy it, don’t you?,” his son asked.

That was the question he asked. You enjoy it, don’t you?

You stand there looking through the little peephole in the cells knowing that the man inside is all alone with nothing to do every day so that day and night are all the same, and he has nothing to do but sit on the bed, on the floor or the toilet.  If you’re like me, you have stood there two thousand times, looking at the vacant faces when you bring their food extra cold.

The door across the room opens.  The guards bring somebody in. Maybe we threaten him, and usually a guy there in the SHU for a while is in a daze; until he sees us come and we try to scare him alert and awake. Then he starts to struggle. Sometimes he screams, throws himself around and tries to fight.  Or bang his head against the wall. All of them scream when they have been there long enough. There seems to be something in a man going mad from loneliness that needs to scream. Your ears are fixed on the convict. Screaming convicts is penologically speaking very sound.  

Then you take him out to a little larger cage, and though he is supposed to get an hour you cut it short 25 minutes, so just when he is getting some of that frenetic energy out of his system from being in a cage all day every day you interrupt him.

The body leaps out of the cage. And you push him right back into his tiny cell defeated again. It’s all about defeating him. Killing his spirit. Crushing him.  Killing him with boredom and inhumane treatment what you would not do to a bad dog or trapped raccoon.

Like a rat in a live trap.  

You do it again. A little trick to see if you can speed up the madness. And you do it a third time, just to make sure.  And you don’t take him out one day for exercise and he don’t even know it.

He’s talking to himself, thinking he is back with people and then you come by and flash the lights on his eyes every time he shuts up and goes to his bunk to sleep.

And whenever you slide the cold mush moldy food into the cell, you can see in your mind what the SHU is doing to that body, and what the face in the dark cramped airless room must look like.

And will look like a year from now.  

Son, we torture men in the SHU because we must do what’s best penologically, and for the sake of a taut prison, which is as penologically sound as protecting society from these worst of men.

And to have power over men and take everything human away from them and maybe give them a piece of something – a morsel of food or the chance to stay three minutes longer in the shower, or let them make a phone call, then cut them off or then take it away again – no shower – no calls. Whatever you have them have so they never know when you’ll let them have anything at all.

Never to see daylight again, or just warm sour milk and cold thin coffee, and watch them lose the power to smile in their wan pale ugly faces, their bodies going all flabby from dark confinement.

It’s a duty to our penological purpose to deter bad behavior this way. It’s as American as penological duty itself.

And his son said, but you enjoy it, don’t you?

Enjoy it?

That was the question his son asked him.  That is what he asked, as if a prison guard didn’t have the same feelings deep down that we all, all of us Americans, have.

Enjoy it?

My God, how could anyone not enjoy it?

About the author

Frank Parlato


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  • Frank, all these days later and I find myself contemplating the torturer peering into the window to watch the man wither away.

  • Something about the way this article was written..
    Chapeau Frank ! Hats off to you! Well done. Hard topic -yet you added your usual finesse, there was also that certain je ne sais quoi
    Beaucoup nerveux-amusant oui

  • I’ve been incarcerated and learned to find more and more peace within..and the more peace there is within-it delicately brings grace

    Even while in the midst of positively blasphemous conditions
    Found the most unbelievable light within
    Even whilst in hell
    Even the smallest crumb of life can be a celebration
    I know this

  • It is penological to torture prisoners so they won’t reoffend and also to deter prisoners from bad behavior. I was a prison guard and I enjoyed the fuck out of teaching these bastards. Notify me when human nature changes.

    • I disagree. Poor prison conditions, physical and psychological, sometimes amounting to torture, creates damaged individuals. If the goal is rehabilitation and reentry, this is antithetical to that goal.

      If the goal is to feed the beast of the prison-industrial-complex with a steady supply of warm bodies, then your suggestion is on point.

      The day I was arrested, I would have done anything to help a prison guard who was on the floor bleeding out. The day I left prison, I would have walked the other way. I’m still not at the point where I am moving forward with much vigor.

      • I’m sorry you feel this way Richard-
        You have suffered so much it seems that you had to disconnect from the most normal feeling
        To help humanity

        Being incarcerated is deeply painful
        Hoping you were able to detach with spiritual love

        There can be so much meaning
        Just one breath

    • Human nature isn’t going to change because you and alleged humans like you aren’t going to change. Problems aren’t going to go away when people get sadistic pleasure from keeping them going.

    • Goober.
      Just can’t even understand how someone could enjoy hurting another person just because.
      Sometimes truly wonder if we are all the same species .

  • Two Years After Historic Settlement Ending Indefinite Solitary Confinement in CA, CCR Details Ongoing Violations, Releases Report Showing Lasting Consequences of SHU Post-Release


    Mental Health Consequences Following Release from Long-Term Solitary Confinement in California

  • ⚠”Drag Babies”, are coming to a stage near you. All perverted adults welcome. Drag Babies must be young and able to twerk for daddy. Drag baby splits, back bends and leather outfits a plus. Drag Babies must look like tiny adults ready fuck.

  • Frank,

    Bravo! Very Kafkaesque!

    You still got it. The gifted pen!

    Have a great weekend and don’t go to any “Alligator FuckHouses” with the French Ticklers. You no you’re to old for that shit!

  • How many Americans will be enslaved by the Communists in their fiendish plans?
    What would a Communist trial of Donald Trump look like?
    Why are so many American politicians tolerant of the Communist regimes in Russia and China?
    Gulag – The Story | Part 2: Propagation – 1934 – 1945 | Free Documentary History

  • Joe Biden and the Communist run Democrat Party has plans for you.

    Here are those plans.
    Gulag – The Story | Part 1: Origins – 1917-1933 | Free Documentary History

  • They’re not even using the shu for violent offenders. This is purely for entertainment and retaliation. Our leadership needs an overhaul. Our president is incompetent, and the public sits by watching.

  • Mob mentality– Secreted conduct–
    Just like family court– treatment of our people is concealed from public view. Why? Put in cameras– livestream 24/7. It would likely generate money for the prisons. But we don’t. Instead, it’s concealed. Or when we do seek to have video footage provided, the cameras had ‘shut off’ or there was a malfunction.
    This is America.

  • Stanley Ellin (1916 – 1986) was a Brooklyn born mystery writer in the Noir style. He once described himself as a “crime fiction genre writer”.

    He wrote entertaining short stories. Fiction.

    It was this sort of stuff:

    “Murray Kirk runs his private detective agency like the business it is: he isn’t interested in justice or crusades, just the profit and loss account. When he is asked to act for a young policeman accused of bribery… he finds himself descending into a grey world of gangsters, bookmakers, grafters and corrupt politicians, a world where setting up an honest cop is all in a day’s work… “
    — Goodreads

    The Noir world that Stanley Ellin’s stories evoke is of course no more real than that of Star Wars or Guardians of the Galaxy.

    It’s fiction. Just like Raniere’s plaintive bullshittery. Difference is, Stanley Ellin never claimed it was true.

  • When this entire world is an SHU, who will the prison guards be?

    “… Results of the Stanford Prison Experiment

    So what happened in the Zimbardo experiment? While the experiment was originally slated to last 14 days, it had to be stopped after just six due to what was happening to the student participants. The guards became abusive, and the prisoners began to show signs of extreme stress and anxiety. …”


      • Included in the article:

        “… Criticisms of the Stanford Prison Experiment
        In the years since the experiment was conducted, there have been a number of critiques of the study. Some of these include:

        Ethical Issues
        The Stanford Prison Experiment is frequently cited as an example of unethical research …
        Lack of Generalizability
        Other critics suggest that the study lacks generalizability due to a variety of factors …

        Lack of Realism
        The Zimbardo Prison Experiment is also criticized for its lack of ecological validity …”

    • The Stanford Prison Experiment has been widely debunked. It has been called “‘one of the greatest scientific deceptions of the 20th century’…University of California, Davis, psychology professor Simine Vazire wrote, ‘We must stop celebrating this work. It’s anti-scientific. Get it out of textbooks.’”

      The chief researcher, Stanford professor Phillip Zimbardo, actively interfered in the study, coaching and encouraging the student “guards”. He wanted to prove his thesis of “man’s inhumanity to man”. This was in 1971, at the height of the Vietnam war when college campuses were a hotbed of activism and seething with anger against all things military or policing.

      One of the student “prisoners” later admitted he faked his (still widely cited) dramatic breakdown because he wanted to go study for his GRE exam. One of the student “guards” admitted that he had been mimicking Cool Hand Luke from the movie.

      These students had not been randomly selected, violating a key criterion of experimental validity.

      All the Stanford Prison Experiment proved is that if you pay people to fake acting a certain way, and make clear to them what you expect, most will pretend to act that way. Hence “cruel guards” and “freaking out prisoners”.

  • Sadists are superior to narcissists much to the chagrin of narcissists. Narcissists cannot harm sadists, they cannot be fooled or stopped, and their response is prompt, for they have neither inhibitions nor fear.

    • Sadists beat narcissists just because while the sadists are plotting evil to enjoy, the narcissists are wasting their time just looking in the mirror.

  • “how could anyone not enjoy it?”
    Isn’t that also what Allison Mack said to another DOS-member when she was asked if she enjoyed handing out penalties?

  • Well, someone should really help Raniere. Eduardo and the Elliott Brothers are too busy disproving Mark has tourettes. Ethan really threw those boys off track.

  • As to whether they ‘enjoy’ it or not, I use the Pareto Analysis/80/20 Rule:
    1. 80% do not enjoy it. They do their job. They work, pick up OT, punch in, punch out, have few if any conflicts with inmates/coworkers. They cause 10% of problems.
    2. 20% enjoy it. They are mean, sadistic, insecure, etc. They get a fix from others suffering and pain. They torture, abuse, maim, deprive, etc. They are proud of their deeds. They are 100% protected by unions. They are regularly in conflicts with inmates and coworkers. They cause 90% of problems.

    The Pareto Analysis is universal to all people and processes.

    • Subjecting anyone to such torture and inhumane treatment requires a lack of empathy.
      Decent human beings couldn’t bring themselves to inflict such cruelty.

      There’s no justification for it. These are people who need to dominate and force submission— and even then it’s not enough.

      Yet we pay them for such conduct.

      We’re all complicit.

      • “We” are not complicit. The CO unions are, the Democrat Party is, the Biden Administration is, etc. That is not “we’.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” He also appeared in "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM, and was credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premieres on May 22, 2022.

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Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083
Email: frankparlato@gmail.com