Prior to becoming a correctional officer, John Gonsler was a police officer. The politics of the job drove him away from the profession. A friend of Gonsler’s dad worked with a corrupt. The sheriff framed his friend’s dad, and was caught and not fired.
“That sheriff is dirtier than a pig’s dick”, said Gonsler.
After his police officer days, he worked as a correctional officer for six months. He worked in a medium to maximum security prison surrounded by criminals outnumbering him 160 to one.
With only the protection of pepper spray, handcuffs, and a radar walkie, Gonsler’s job sounds terrifying. He is in charge of 160 prisoners with three things to protect himself. Speaking of terrifying, he saw a prison mate bench 405 pounds multiple times. A prisoner once put 3 dead birds in the hot pot (pot of water to make tea). Later on, Gonsler investigated and found the prisoner had a suitcase full of dead birds.
One day, a prisoner was asking strange questions that did not make sense, and Gonsler found drugs in his suitcase. The prisoner threatened Gonsler, but a gang of prisoners did not like that. The gang beat the prisoner up violently; his face was messed up. That’s when Gonsler realized the correctional officers do not rule the prison, the prison gangs do.
Within these six months, Gonsler reached out to unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. Kaczynski sent bombs through the mail and killed 3 people and injured dozens of others. Kaczynski received Gonsler’s letter and wrote back to him. He was the only serial killer out of 25 to write back to Gonsler.
“If you want to be pen pals with a prisoner, you have to find an in,” said Gonsler. “Find out whatever topics interest them.”
Gonsler and Kaczynski were pen pals for awhile, and it ended badly. One wrong question and Kaczynski had enough. Gonsler was put on a federal security list for seven years.
“I ended up pissing off the unabomber, and he told his, shall we call them groupies,” said Gonsler. “I received some hateful letters.”
In 2011, Gonsler juggled the idea of being a professor. He taught at Flindt Community College. Gonsler earned his masters from Indiana where he also taught. Morningside stood out to him with its up and coming Criminal Justice curriculum.
His colorful personality, dozens of tattoos, ability to hold a room, and experience with people makes him a different professor. A professor that many students enjoy learning from. This is only his third semester teaching at Morningside University.
“I want to expose my students to the good and bad of all these positions, so they know what path to take.” said Gonsler.
Being a police officer and correctional officer is thrilling and an important responsibility. That being said, Gonsler finds himself responsible for the education of his students. Being a professor is just as thrilling to him.
“I really like teaching the Criminal Justice Intro class,” said Gonsler. “Having that tangible experience of a student saying “I enjoyed your class” is special.”