Profile story on former Missouri correctional officer
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Profile story on former Missouri correctional officer

Date: December 5, 2013
By: Shannon O'Brien
State Capitol Bureau

Two former correctional officers explain how they dealt with the incidents that happened behind the walls of a seemingly secret institution.
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Wrap: One correctional officer tells his story of how he was able to make a horrible and exhausting job rewarding.

Former officer Tim Cutt recalls a moment with one inmate that stands out to him personally.

Actuality:  CUTT6.WAV
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Description: "He was taking a styrofoam cup and putting urine and feces in it and stirring it up and he'd throw it on people."

Eventually, Cutt asked the inmate what he was doing and what he wanted out of life.

Cutt took time with the inmate to give his advice and then years later the inmate stopped Cutt and thanked him. 

Cutt says the man told him he had never had someone give him fatherly advice before and it helped turn his life around.

Cutt says the inmate hasn't received a violation in years. 

Cutt says he felt he really made a difference when he busted an inmate for selling drugs within the jail.

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Description: "He thanked me one day in front of a bunch of people. He was doing a via-satellite interview with Bill Cosby. He stopped right by me and said, 'see that man that man changed my life.' He said, 'if he wouldn't have caught me I'd still be running dope inside this prison.' And he has changed and actually he gets out next year."

Cutt didn't go into this job thinking he would change anyone's life, he says that wasn't his job.

But even years after getting out of the job Cutt can vividly remember the situations where he made a difference.

Another former correctional officer Gary Gross has a completely different view of the job.

Contrary to Cutt, Gross says his views towards inmates didn't change over the years.

Actuality:  GROSS10.WAV
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Description: "I did not judge inmates, you know even if I knew what they were in there for I treated them equally you know and I realize that they are inmates and they're in there for a reason and it's my job to keep them there. It's not my job to judge them or judge what they're in there for."

Gross says he never found the job rewarding over the 14 years he worked as an officer.

He couldn't pin point a moment that stood out to him, or a time when it seemed to be more than just a job.

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Description: "I had adjusted to working in the system, had promoted up in the system some what and was just established there, and it was my established job so I stayed."

In order to survive in the mentally and physically exhausting job, they both agree it takes a certain type of person.  

Gross says he was able to adjust to the job more easily than the average person because he possessed characteristics that made him able to adapt to the hostile environment.  

Actuality:  GROSS6.WAV
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Description: "I think probably, I consider myself probably just a reasonably strong individual. You know, that I can deal with things that probably some people can't."

But Cutt says it's not just the inmates that make the job tough.  

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Description: "It's not only the inmates it's the administration staff. The administration staff, if you let the administration mess with you you're done."
Gross says while having a thick skin important, it's also important to remember to leave the job at work.
He says it's easy to let the stress of the job affect life at home.
In part two we'll look at how Gross and Cutt separated their work and personal lives. 

Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Shannon O'Brien.

In her first report, Shannon O'Brien told us about working inside a prison. Now in part two she takes us into the home lives of the officers.
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Wrap:Former corrections officer Gary Gross says it wasn't just missing personal moments that affected his life at home.

He says your demeanor changes over the years. 

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Description: "If you're not careful you'll be talking to your kids like they're inmates, you'll be talking to your wife like she's an inmate and their only going to put up with so much of that. If you can't get that corrected then you're going to have problems."

Officers have to deal with inmates differently than members of their family, but the environment officers are surrounded in day in and day out makes separating it difficult. 

Gross says although his demeanor changed, he was able to keep his work and personal life separate unlike many others.

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Description: "I saw a hundred cases that it did affect people at home and led to higher divorce rates, family issues different types. I...personally I managed to deal with that aspect of it."

But before they take the stress home, there is plenty to deal with while at work in the harsh institution.

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Description: "You see things in there you never thought you'd see in your whole life."

On a daily basis, they work closely with violent criminals and say they always have to watch their backs.  

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Description: "Within the institution you would certainty watch each others backs you know you have to do that."

Gross says most inmates are more violent toward each other.

Cutt says the inmates get confrontational over minor situations.  

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Description: "I've seen guys get stabbed over two packs of cigarettes."

But Cutt says officers are put directly in harms way during fights because it is their responsibility to break it up. 

Officers also have to be weary of health risks when breaking up fights.

In recent years the number of inmates with sexually transmitted diseases have increased in prisons and now poss a threat to correctional officers.

Officers have to worry about contracting HIV, AIDS or TB because they're at risk of getting these diseases whenever they step in to break up a fight.

Gross says he was never affected directly by any disease, but he has seen many co-workers who have had to deal with the unfortunate situation.

As the saying goes...hard work pays off...but Gross says many of these officers are still struggling to make ends meet.

Gross says for many people the pay can't even pay the bills, and some spouses have to work two or three jobs just to take care of their family.

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Description: "It's just not that good of a job and it doesn't...most corrections officers working there that are young and have families they qualify for public assistance."

Gross is now the Executive Director at the Missouri Correctional Officers Association and he has been lobbying for higher pay for 13 years.

He points out the high turnover rate and compares the pay Missouri correctional officers receive to other state's that pay more.  

Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Shannon O'Brien.