Robert Johnson had spent 15 years working as a corrections officer in one of Florida’s most notorious high-security prisons. Over that time, he had distinguished himself as a brave and capable officer, eventually being recruited to the prison’s elite SERT team, which is responsible for handling emergency situations that arise in the facility, including unannounced raids looking for contraband.
In 2011, Johnson was on one such raid when he discovered a package containing approximately $50,000 worth of heroin that had been hidden under the bunk bed of an inmate who was a known gang member. This was one of the most important busts in the history of the prison, leading to serious criminal charges for a number of gang members and an extended lockdown of the gang’s leadership.
Unfortunately, the gang’s leaders, known as shot-callers, quickly got wind of what officers were involved in the confiscation. Because Johnson had always refused to take bribes and had been involved in prior confiscations of the gang’s drugs, a decision was made by the top leadership to put out a hit on Johnson.
Gangs are still dangerous, even when locked up
It is in this part of the story that those who are not familiar with how the U.S. prison system typically operates on the ground may have some trouble conceiving of how this story unfolded.
After the hit was put out on Johnson, a process known as green-lighting, the order was communicated to a number of the gang’s members on the outside of prison. The nation’s most dangerous prison gangs have thousands of members, many of whom are currently not incarcerated. These members typically hooked up with the gang on previous stints of incarceration. They have taken lifelong oaths to defend the organization and follow all of its orders.
In the case of Johnson, an ex-convict member of the gang, who was living on the outside of prison at the time, was given the contract on his life. One morning, while Johnson was preparing himself for work, the gunman kicked down his front door and stormed into Johnson’s home, taking him completely by surprise. The gunman then unloaded six shots from a large-caliber weapon into Johnson’s torso. Johnson clung to life over the next few months. Eventually, he was able to recover enough to go back to work.
However, now, instead of working at the prison job that nearly resulted in his death, Johnson is working for prison security firm Securus Technologies as a safety consultant. He is getting the word out about Securus’ Wireless Containment System, a technology that makes it impossible for inmates to place outgoing phone calls from unauthorized cellular devices. This technology would likely have saved Johnson’s life, had it been operating in the prison where he worked at the time.