The whole point of the “feeling cute” challenge was to have a little fun while on the job—or at least, while in your work clothes. But corrections officers who partook in the challenge earlier this month are now resigning or being fired from said jobs after their posts went viral for all the wrong reasons.
“Feeling cute, might put your baby daddy in the shower for 6 hours, since we ain’t got no beds,” read one post accompanying a driving selfie.
“Feeling cute, might shoot to stop later ... IDK,” read another.
“Feeling cute, might shoot your baby daddy today.”
Speaking to People, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesperson Jeremy Desel confirmed two officers had resigned and another four had been fired following the backlash to their posts. Investigations were ongoing for several more employees.
“Currently six of the more than 25,000 correctional officers employed by this agency are under investigation for on and off-duty conduct violations as a result of the alleged posting of inappropriate photographs on social media,” Desel said in a statement.
According to the Washington Post, corrections officers from Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma and Missouri were identified in the posts, which were shared by the website America’s Police Problem, a site that focuses on law enforcement accountability. A Missouri Department of Corrections spokesperson told KOMU it is investigating one Jefferson City corrections officer; the Oklahoma Department of Corrections also confirmed to People that an investigation was ongoing.
In a statement, Matthew Elliott, a spokesperson with the ODC, said all employees identified in the posts have been “reprimanded for failing to represent the mission of this agency.” He added that additional action was still on table.
“Corrections is a serious matter. Beyond the extremely poor judgment shown by these officers, being flippant about mistreating inmates, even if it’s intended as a joke, puts these staff and their fellow officers at risk,” he said. “This is no laughing matter.”
It’s important to note this, though: mistreatment of inmates isn’t a bug; it’s a feature of America’s carceral system. While the most attention-grabbing posts were the ones that insinuated violence—jokes about gassing or shooting inmates, or sticking them in solitary confinement, which has been likened to torture—there were plenty of posts that bragged about mundane cruelties. One corrections officer joked about skipping rounds, others about searching inmates’ cells and destroying their belongings and food. Just this month, the Department of Justice ruled that conditions in Alabama prisons were so bad they likely violated the Constitution: gang rapes, fatal overdoses and beatings, and rats all described as daily occurrences.
The “feeling cute” challenge is and ought to be horrifying, but it’s a mistake to consider it anomalous. The news isn’t that corrections officers were being “flippant” about mistreating inmates, but that what happens daily in America’s prisons is just as cruel, and just as casual, as they describe.