A&E Network presents “Behind Bars: Rookie Year,” a new original docuseries following novice correctional officers as they begin their careers inside the walls of one of the most perilous prisons in America, the Penitentiary of New Mexico. ‘”Behind Bars: Rookie Year” premieres Thursday, August 6 at 10PM ET/PT on A&E.
Corrections departments have one of the highest drop-out rates in the country, with nearly half of all rookies falling out before their one-year anniversary. The long hours, close proximity to unpredictable criminals, mind games and constant threat of bodily harm make it an intensely stressful career.
“Behind Bars: Rookie Year” follows a group of new recruits at the New Mexico Corrections Academy (NMCA) who are training or have recently joined the ranks at the Penitentiary of New Mexico (PNM). These rookies come face-to-face with rapists, murderers, and gang members who take pleasure in preying on weakness. Every new recruit hoping to join the department goes through a rigorous training program designed to test their fortitude and give them the tools needed to survive one of the most dangerous working environments on the planet. But as each day passes, the physical and emotional demands often prove too much for some, and even the best training can’t prepare a rookie for the unexpected. Whether they’re cadets in training or brand new on the line, the officers all wrestle with a critical life-or-death question: Is it worth it?
In the premiere episode, Zach enters his first day on the job and encounters a violent inmate; Ariel, one of only four women in cadet training tries to overcome her timid persona and prove herself as a capable CO; Carlos, who has been on the job for three months is taunted by prisoners for his naivety; and Tyler, 19, who has been on the job for four months and is one of the youngest rookie COs in New Mexico’s prison system, finds contraband in the prison kitchen.
PNM is one of the most dangerous prisons in America with 850 inmates, roughly 75% of whom are incarcerated for violent offenses. In 1980, PNM was home to one of the most violent prison riots in United States history; 33 inmates were killed and over 200 injuries were reported, including 14 officers who were held hostage and brutalized.