When Robert Johnson graduated from high school, like many young people, he didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do. He considered going to college but was put off by the steep costs and likely need to go far into debt in order to get a four-year degree. He bounced around from job to job for a couple of years, never really finding anything that he could picture himself dedicating his life to.
But then, in the early 1990s, Johnson saw an advertisement in the paper from the Florida Department of Corrections. The agency was facing a major shortage of prison guards and needed to hire new trainees quickly. Johnson, who had excelled at sports, was intrigued by the job. He went to the job fair that was being hosted by the state and was soon hired on as a new recruit.
Johnson immediately took naturally to his new job. Over the first two years of working at a maximum-security prison, Johnson learned the ropes, getting first-hand lessons in how to deal with inmates in all kinds of situations, including violent encounters. Johnson was described by his fellow employees as being an almost perfect fit for the job. He was mild-mannered and charismatic. But at the same time, the physically imposing Johnson had a formidable and commanding presence. He was one of the few guards who could garner genuine respect from even the most violent inmates, while still remaining respectful.
Ten years later, Johnson was now the head of an elite inter-prison special forces team known as SERT. It was the job of Johnson and his team to handle some of the most difficult missions within the Florida state prison system. These included high-risk cell searches, inmate extractions and moving dangerous or famous inmates, who are often targeted by other inmates for physical violence.
One of these high-risk searches found Johnson leading a team of highly trained officers in the surprise raid of the cell of an inmate suspected of trafficking in narcotics. The raid uncovered a paper-wrapped package that weighed approximately 2 pounds. Johnson immediately saw that the package contained powder.
It was later determined by the state’s labs that the package contained nearly pure heroine. By that time, Johnson had gained a reputation as a straight-shooter, someone that the prison gang to whom the drugs belonged could not bribe at any price.
One morning, as Johnson prepared for work, a gunman kicked in his front door, firing six shots into Johnson at nearly point-blank range. He barely survived. It was later revealed that the prison gang that was moving the confiscated drugs had used an illicit cell phone to order the murder of Johnson.
Now, Johnson works with Securus Technologies, bringing its Wireless Containment System anti-cell phone technology to prisons across the country.