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10 Uplifting Stories Of Prison Guards Who Were Rescued By Inmates

by Robert Grimminck
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Prison guards, more formally known as correctional officers, have a job that would be a nightmare for most people. They willingly work in a building made out of cement and metal that has some incredibly dangerous and unpredictable people locked up inside. When guards are working, they could become victim to a terrifying act of violence at any moment.

Then there are some amazing incidents where guards in danger are actually saved by the inmates they’re guarding.

10 Unidentified Officer
Lee Correctional Institution


Photo credit: Dincher

On September 14, 2012, at the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, South Carolina, 120 inmates gathered up their makeshift weapons and took an unnamed corrections officer hostage at around 5:00 PM. The group of maximum-security prisoners then locked him in a closet in a dormitory, and the scene developed into a tense standoff. A problem for authorities on the outside was that they didn’t know where the guard was in the dorm. If the SWAT team was to raid the dorm, then there was a possibility that the guard could be injured or killed.

Amazingly, other inmates living in the dorm called authorities on the outside using contraband cell phones and told them that the renegade inmates were hiding the officer in the closet. With this information, the go-ahead was given. At 9:34 PM, the SWAT team entered the dorm and within 15 minutes, they had rescued the guard and quelled the riot.

The guard was not seriously injured, although he did have lacerations on his face. He was airlifted to the hospital, and the dorm was put into lockdown.

9 Kenneth Moon
Hillsborough County Jail

Inmates save deputy’s life

On November 2, 2009, 64-year-old deputy Kenneth Moon was working alone at a desk at a county jail in Hillsborough County, Florida. Moon didn’t see 24-year-old Douglas Burden sneak up behind him until it was too late. Burden, who was incarcerated for drug charges and driving under the influence, quickly got Moon in a choke hold.

A short distance from where Moon was working was 48-year-old Jerry Dieguez Jr., who had trained with the Marine Corps but was in jail for invasion robbery and opposing an officer without violence. Dieguez ran at Burden and said he punched him as hard as he could, then the three of them fell to the ground. On the ground, Dieguez elbowed Burden, trying to get him off Moon. As the men fought, 34-year-old David Schofield used the radio to call for help, while 27-year-old Hoang Vu and 38-year-old Terrell Carswell tried to pry Burden away from Moon. Eventually, more inmates joined in and they were able to save Moon, who was a well-liked and respected guard.

After the attack, the men were hailed as heroes; they even caught the attention of the Oprah Winfrey Show. Also, the men were rewarded with a dinner of fried chicken.

8 Ira Griffith
Stateville Correctional Center


Photo credit: Rw2

On October 1, 1958, 67-year-old prison guard Ira Griffith was working with three convicts at the Stateville maximum-security prison in Crest Hill, Illinois. The three men, who were only described as a robber, a burglar, and a fence (someone who knowingly buys stolen merchandise and resells it), were working with limestone and a rock crusher. At some point, Griffith leaned over the edge of the rock crusher to loosen up the rocks, but he fell in. The limestone acted like quicksand and Griffith started to sink to his death. Luckily for Griffith, the three inmates did not stand by and watch him be buried alive. Risking their own lives, they lowered themselves into the rock crusher and dug out the elderly prison guard.

Griffith only suffered shock and some lacerations. The warden was so impressed with the three men that he said he would bring it to the attention of the parole board, although it’s unclear if they received any reward for their actions.

7 Michael Felton
Burruss Correctional Training Center


Michael Felton was working alone in a control room in the Burruss Correctional Training Center in Forsyth, Georgia, on December 18, 1993. Felton was eating a ham biscuit when a piece became lodged in his throat and cut off his airway. Since he was choking to death, Felton couldn’t use his radio to call fellow officers for help. Instead, he went to the closest cell, which happened to hold Michael Hudgens and Theodore Ruger. Hudgens, a convicted cocaine trafficker, performed the Heimlich maneuver on Felton. Ruger, who was serving a life sentence, tried to keep Felton calm during the process and then eventually reached in and pulled the ham out of Felton’s throat.

Ruger knew how to do the Heimlich maneuver because he had been part of a special group of inmates who were taught first aid. Hudgens had learned how to do it before coming to prison. Due to the quick thinking of the two men, Felton survived to work another day.

6 James Chapman
Florida State Prison


Photo credit: ryan griffis

In July 1983, 35-year-old James Chapman had been with the Florida State Department of Corrections for five years. On July 12, Chapman was talking to convicted murderer Alfonzie Mathis Jr. He was cautioning Mathis from trying to pursue a relationship with another inmate. Mathis didn’t like the advice, so he took out a weapon he had made—a razor blade melted into a toothbrush. When Mathis took a swipe at Chapman, another inmate pushed Mathis. Because the other inmate intervened, Mathis missed his mark and Chapman was slashed, but it was a superficial wound on his chest that was 20 centimeters (8 in) long and didn’t require any stitches.

After his attack was foiled, two other inmates tried to disarm Mathis. Instead, he ran down a hallway where he was taken down by other officers and placed in isolation. The prison didn’t want to identify the three inmates who saved Chapman, because they felt it might make things “awkward” for them.

5 Unidentified Officer
SeaTac Federal Detention Center


Photo credit: Doug Mahugh

In early 2012, 42-year-old career cocaine dealer James M. Flowers Jr. was set to go to trial with a strong case against him. The police had a video of him selling drugs to an informant, and then he fled from the police in a violent chase. When he was arrested after the pursuit, a gun was found on him, which added gun charges to the drug charges. He was looking at a sentence of 20–40 years in prison and was being held at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center in Seattle while awaiting his hearing.

Also incarcerated in SeaTac were Sabir Shabazz and Roy Fritts. Twenty-two-year-old Shabazz had been arrested for trying to pimp out two 13-year-old girls; Fritts was in prison for carjacking. On January 3, 2012, Shabazz and Fritts were sitting at a table and watched an unidentified corrections officer go cell to cell, unlocking them. When the officer got close enough, Shabazz and Fritts attacked him; Shabazz had a U-shaped pipe he had pulled from his sink that he used to beat the officer in the head. Fritts had a shiv, which he used to threaten correctional officers, but didn’t stab anyone.

Amazingly, Flowers and another inmate broke up the attack and stood between Shabazz and the fallen guard until other officers arrived to subdue Shabazz and Fritts. The veteran correctional officer was taken to the hospital where he had surgery to repair his skull that was broken in three places. A metal plate had to be inserted in his head. He had to re-learn basic skills and now suffers from cognitive disabilities that prevent him from returning to work.

After the beating, Flowers didn’t cooperate with the investigation because he didn’t want to be known as a snitch. Instead, he made a plea deal and 10 years were shaved off his sentence, still leaving him with a decade in prison. Fritts was given 28 years for the attack while Shabazz was given 32 years for the assault on the correctional officers and for exploiting minors.

4 Unidentified Correctional Officer
Rikers Island


Photo credit: Sfoskett

On the evening of February 28, 2015, in Rikers Island, Raleek Young, who was in prison for raping a 13-year-old girl, told a female correctional officer that he had to pick up a mattress in another unit. In order to get there, he had to pass by a watch station where the unidentified female correctional officer was working alone. Young managed to get the security door open and found himself alone in the watch station with the corrections officer. She used pepper spray on him, but it didn’t have much effect. Young smashed her head against the wall, and then he dragged her into the washroom, where he started masturbating while choking the woman.

Two correctional officers saw what was happening and got a group of inmates to tear down the plexiglass on the watch station. Once the plexiglass was down, the inmates got into the watch area and held Young down until other correctional officers arrived.

After the incident, that area of the prison was shut down and Young was charged with rape, forcible touching, assault, and harassment. He could receive an additional 15 years if he is convicted.

3 Unidentified Officer
Kent County Jail

On September 13, 2012, Antonio Duane Brown was sentenced to 18 months to five years in prison for fleeing and eluding a police officer. After receiving his sentence, Brown was imprisoned in the Kent County Jail in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Also in the jail was 20-year-old Willie Williams, who was in prison for robbing a number of gas stations. At about 12:15 AM on September 14, Williams asked for a new roll of toilet paper. It was brought to him and set out in front of his cell. He was supposed to grab it and then go back into his cell, where the door would be electronically locked.

When an unidentified female correctional officer, who had been on the job for about a year, checked the video monitor for his cell, she couldn’t see Williams but could see that his door was closed. Thinking he was back in his cell, she locked the door from the control room. Instead of going back into his cell, Williams had hidden behind a pillar. He later attacked the officer as she was doing her rounds. She wasn’t able to radio for help because Williams knocked the radio out of her hand as he started to beat and choke her. However, during the attack, Williams had pressed a number of buttons that opened up some cells. Six or seven inmates ran to the officer’s aid. One of the first men there was Brown, who pulled Williams off the correctional officer. Another inmate got on the radio and called for help.

The officer was able to escape into another pod. Unfortunately, Williams got away from the other inmates and locked himself into the pod with the officer. It took a few minutes for other officers to arrive, but they were able to stop Williams. The corrections officer who was attacked was sent to the hospital and released a short time later.

Brown was recognized for his heroic act and had his sentence commuted a week after the attack. He was eligible to be released once he received a resolution for a parole violation in Indiana.

2 Mike Riggs
Nevada State Prison


Photo via Wikipedia

On November 29, 1960, 42-year-old Mike Riggs drove a group of nine inmates to a mountain cemetery near Carson City, Nevada. They were cleaning out the cemetery, and in order to clear the weeds, they brought a can of gas to burn the weeds. But there was a terrible accident and the can of gas exploded, which set Riggs’s clothes on fire.

Now, the inmates had a choice. They were away from the prison and the only person watching them was dying in front of their eyes. All they had to do was watch and they could have escaped. Instead, they immediately rushed over and started tearing off Riggs’s burning clothes. Then they loaded him on the prison truck and raced him to the hospital.

Due to the inmates’ quick reactions, Riggs survived the explosion, but he did have serious burns on his chest, face, and hands. The sheriff promised to commend the inmates to their warden and the parole board for saving the prison guard.

1 Rachel Harris


Twenty-two-year-old Rachel Harris had been a correctional officer with the Lower Buckeye Jail in Maricopa County, Arizona, for about a year when she had her worst day on the job. That day was June 24, 2013, and it started when she went to do a routine check on Bobby Ruiz’s cell. As Harris entered the cell, Ruiz, who was in prison for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, jumped on her back and bit her right ear. Two inmates, Ricky Shillingford and Andrew Davis, heard Harris scream. They ran to the cell and pulled Ruiz off. They, along with a group of other inmates, held him until officers arrived.

Harris was rushed to the hospital, where they were able to save part of her ear, but part of it was bitten off and could not be reattached. Davis also hurt his hand as he tried to stop Ruiz from going back to attack Harris. As a reward for helping Harris, her rescuers were served pizza for lunch. Harris was given a four-week medical leave but asked to return to work on June 26, just two days after the incident. (Her request was denied.) Ruiz, on the other hand, was put in solitary confinement and was only given bread and water.

Robert Grimminck is a Canadian freelance writer. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or visit his website at

fact checked by Jamie Frater