Robert Johnson first became a corrections officer shortly after graduating from high school. He was assigned to one of the state of Florida’s toughest maximum security prisons, a job that many new corrections officers shied away from accepting.
Over the course of his first few years, he proved himself to be able to handle any job his supervisors tasked him with. He had an easy, self-assured way with the inmates but was firm at the same time, exactly the type of personality that prison administrators look for in a long-term corrections officer.
By the time he had been working for the Department of Corrections for a decade, Johnson had moved up to the highest post that a corrections officer can have without joining the administration staff. He was a member of an elite team used throughout the state of Florida in its toughest prisons. Known as SERT, which stands for Special Emergency Response Team, the unit is tasked with carrying out the most dangerous missions in the prison system, things that other corrections officers simply do not have the training, expertise or physical strength and intimidation factor to carry out.
Part of Johnson’s role on the elite team was the routine conducting of random cell searches. Also known as shakedowns, these searches involve the forced removal of all cell occupants and a complete search and inventory of all cell items. They can be extremely dangerous for officers, as inmates caught off guard may frantically try to flush contraband or fight to protect their belongings.
Johnson was on one of these searches when he discovered a package secreted beneath an inmate’s bunk. The large package contained a powder substance that was later determined to be high-purity heroin in the prison’s evidence lab. It was estimated that the drugs had a street value of approximately $50,000, meaning that their value within the prison may have been a quarter of a million dollars or more. Within a prison, this amount of money can be viewed as equivalent to tens of millions of dollars on the outside.
Word quickly spread that Johnson was the officer responsible for the bust. The gang to whom the heroin was to be delivered was enraged by the fact that Johnson could not be bought off. Using a contraband cell phone, one of the gang leaders ordered a hit on Johnson. One morning, as the inveterate CO was dressing for work, a gunman broke down his front door, stormed in and shot Johnson six times at nearly point-blank range.
Miraculously, Johnson survived. Today, he travels the country on behalf of Securus Technologies, demonstrating the company’s Wireless Containment Solution, which can completely eliminate illegal cell phones within prisons. If the system would have been installed where Johnson worked, he likely never would have been shot.