For many Americans, the recent hit TV series "Oz" on HBO along with Fox's "Prison Break" were the first insights into what it's like to be a prison guard. Of course, as is the case with any drama, it's difficult to tell whether the actors' portrayals of corrections officers are the real deal or simply tired stereotypes.
In the U.S., nearly half a million people were employed as correctional officers, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2010, the most recent available. With median pay of about $39,000, working as a prison guard is among the better-paying occupations that require no more than a high school diploma. Further, for many it's a secure job that promises years if not a lifetime of employment.