Yes, for me there is no question about it… assaults on prison or correctional officers highlight a real need for high performance body armour.
Just a few weeks ago we had to read once again about the harsh reality of this so ‘little discussed’ profession.
“A corrections officer from Nanticoke was killed by an inmate at a federal prison in Wayne County last night, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Eric Williams, 34, was killed by an inmate who used a homemade weapon at the U.S. Penitentiary,Canaan, a federal prison for male inmates. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead about 11:30 p.m”.
Please be assured, if you are a prison or correctional officer, we at PPSS Group respect you, we want to help you… and more importantly we genuinely care about you!
These are just a few of the news snips of 2012:
- USA – 6th April 2013 – “Inmate stabs guard at federal prison”
- USA – 25th December 2012 – “Prison officer attacked at Waupun“
- Australia – 15th December 2012 – “Prison officers assaulted at Casuarina“
- UK – 13th December 2012 – “Thug attacks prison officer over game of table tennis“
- USA – 8th November 2012 – “Four prison officers badly injured after being slashed and stabbed with broken glass by crazed inmate“
- UK – 4th November 2012 – “Four prison officers attacked by inmate“
- USA – 11th October 2012 – “Corrections Officer Dead After Being Stabbed at Telfair State Prison Identified“
- Canada - 18th June 2012 – “Two corrections officers assaulted at B.C.’s most overcrowded maximum-security jail“
- USA – 4th June 2012 – “Prisoner Attacks Guard With Razor Blade“
- USA – 21st January 2012 – “Correctional Officer Sgt. Barbara Ester stabbed to death by inmate Latavious Johnson at Brickey’s unit“
We must understand better, and remind ourselves that we cannot change the aggressive behaviour of some prisoners. There is simply no doubt that a prisoner consuming drugs, illegal substances or self made alcohol can become hostile and violent within a split of a second, regardless of the prison or correctional officers excellent communication skill and calm personality.
At the end of the story an officer in such institution can be, and often is, the bearer of bad news e.g. informing the prisoner of any disciplinary, restriction of privileges, bad family news, cancellation of visits, or of the simple news that his/her cell will be searched… all of which can of course create all sorts of physical reactions.
We also need to remind ourselves that prisoners have got plenty of time on hand to develop tools to carry out acts of that aggression. The ideas to create make shift weapons, e.g. sharpened table and bed frame legs, shanks made out of plastic, shanks made our of porcelain, sharpened wood or pieces of mirror, and the idea of melting razor blades into tooth brushes and turning pens and pencils into weapon have not been developed out of 5 minutes of simple boredom. These ideas have been developed following hours and hours of malicious thought processes, and even the very best prison or correctional officer can one day be on the receiving end of such ‘thought process’.
A publication of the American Correctional Officer once claimed that 33.5% of all assaults in prisons and jails are committed by inmates against prison officers. Please view here.
According to official statistics obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform show that recorded assault incidents in prison in England and Wales have risen by 61 per cent between 2000 and 2009. Based on this statistic prison officers at Hindley Young Offenders Institution, the largest child prison in Europe, are particularly affected with assaults on staff up by an astonishing 967 per cent.
Here in the UK we all will remember the absolutely atrocious attack on prison officers at the Frankland High Security Prison in March 2010, almost costing the lives of two prison officers? This is not a country specific problem, but rather a serious occupational hazard across all countries that needs our urgent attention.
It is a simple fact that prison officers deal with some of society’s most dangerous, violent and unpredictable people on a daily basis and work in an extremely challenging environment… hence I suggest they have all the rights in the world to demand appropriate protection and the undivided attention and support from those charged with ensuring their welfare and personal safety.
I have asked myself this question many many times, is it not a really crazy fact that a police officer who deals with dangerous criminal individuals for only a very few minutes every day is by law required to wear protective equipment… but most prison/correctional officers charged with supervising the very same individuals, potentially for a number of years, are not being issued with any type of protective clothing at all?
Many of you might say that prisons should be humane environments and prisoners should be treated fairly, and I am reasonably happy to agree with this… however, the officers need to be able to command respect and they should be appropriately equipped when dealing with individuals who haven clearly proven to be aggressive, violent and disrespectful.
I personally think we must urge everyone involved to reconsider our priorities here…. we cannot prioritise the well being of prisoners above the safety and welfare of prison/correctional officers… but following the news from a number of countries I very much feel this is exactly what is happening here as well as in many other countries around the world.
I genuinely feel that we should look after those who protect and serve much more than we have done in the past. Yes, it is known to me that many government agencies face financial difficulties, and yes, it is not an easy task to get the balance right between issuing prison/correctional officers with blunt trauma stab vests and also ensuring the prison officers continues to look approachable and none-confrontational.
For a number of professional reasons I have been part of many security related discussions with prison and correctional institutions in several countries around the world and please be assured it is without any question I do 100% understand all concerns raised.
In many of these meetings the ‘non-confrontational design’ question has always been the center point of these sometimes very passionate discussions…. but I always seem to come back to the same point, explaining that design and manufacturing capabilities have evolved so much over the past years. Concealable, thin and lightweight blunt trauma stab vests, extremely well suited for prison officers, are now available.
However, I can also confirm that overtly worn stab resistant vests have now been supplied to a number of facilities incl ‘Supermax’ prisons in the United States… and overtly worn body armour seems to be the way forward.
Based on our professional frontline experience and extensive research we can clearly confirm that an assault resulting in blunt forced trauma injuries is a more likely event within prison or correctional facilities, than an attack involving edged weapons or hypodermic needles. This also means issuing bullet proof vests would be rather silly and overkill.
Please view the following video of PPSS Blunt Trauma Stab Vests:
Blunt trauma, blunt injury, non-penetrating trauma or blunt force trauma all refers to a type of physical trauma caused to a body part, either by impact, injury or physical attack via a kick, punch or blow using a blunt object. This is exactly the type of assaults our prison officer face around the world, and I strongly believe the prevention of such injuries has to be paramount.
It is without question, this type of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) will reduce the risk of workplace violence related injuries… and should this fact not be at least be worth an open minded discussion?
Many of us will also remember Jason Palmer, the United States-born ex-Marine, who was the first prison officer in New Zealand to die on active duty in 2010. His death raised serious concerns about the personal safety of prison officers in New Zealand and other countries, and prompted calls from several Corrections Associations for stab vests and/or similar type of body armour. Many of these discussions are still ongoing and have not yet resulted in the issue of such equipment.
Please comment on this blog if you wish to ask questions. I also would love to hear from you if you are prison officer or if you are representing a prison officers union or association, regardless if you are supporting or opposing body armour within your facility or line of work.
If you want to speak with me or my team about blunt force trauma or stab resistant vests and how they potentially can help you within your line of work… please call +44 (0) 845 5193 953 or email email@example.com or visit www.ppss-group.com
Take good care.