On 8th June 2012 I had the genuine pleasure to meet proud ex-infantry soldier turned prison officer Craig Wylde the first time… just two years following the horrific assault on him by full time criminal and triple murderer Kevan Thakrar. On a more personal note… I think it is fair to say now that Craig and me actually have now made proper friends over the past year.
The above attack involving Craig took place on 13th March 2010 at Frankland High Security Prison here in the UK, and left him fighting for his life, after he and two colleagues were brutally assaulted by the above ‘idiot’. Craig was left with a severed artery in his left arm after the incident, which has turned his life completely upside down. I have spent a few hours with Craig and his wife in our first more ‘professional’ meeting, and had to witness immediately what an enormous impact this assault and subsequent injury had on this gorgeous young family’s day to day life. It seems to be unbelievable, but nevertheless it is true, an ‘arm injury’ of this type can cause such immense level of distress, constant intense pain and test the strength of a family right to its core. Craig is currently reducing the amount of tablets he was taking (up to 40 tablets a day) in order to cope with all physical and psychological issues. The below image shows the open wound on the inside of his upper left arm, caused by a slash by Kevan Thakrar, using a broken bottle.
The second prison officer assaulted in the above incident was Claire Lewis. Having also spoken to Claire on a number of occasions, I have to highlight the massive impact this attack also had on her personal and of course on her family’s life. The psychological distress, the below physical injury and the limits this injury is imposing on her life, are issues she will have to face for the rest of her life. Again… Kevan Thakrar was responsible for this horrendous injury, as for one sick reason or another he decided to stick the broken bottle, he had previously used to severely injure Craig Wylde, into the back of prison officer Claire Lewis.
Well, I am not planning too much about this widely reported and well documented act of violence and neither will I highlight some of the clear substantial and serious operational mistakes that must have been made within Frankland High Security Prison on that infamous and distressing weekend. As a man who lives by, thrives on, and dies by standard operational procedures… all I must say is that it breaks my heart and seriously blows my mind!!!
The following are just a few of my own personal thoughts and comments on this matter. Thoughts and comments, which I desperately wanted to put down in writing, aiming to encourage other professionals to start discussing this matter too, and aiming to finally get the public’s attention, which is required to make a difference.
- Are you aware that according to an publication of the ‘American Correctional Officer’, 33.5% of all assaults in prisons are committed by inmates against prison officers?
- Are you aware that according to the ‘Howard League for Prison Reform‘, recorded assault incidents in prisons in England and Wales have risen by 61% between 2000 and 2009 ?
- Are you aware that according to ‘Express‘, prison staff in Scotland were subjected to 188 attacks in 2011, an increase of almost 55 per cent since 2007?
- Recent News – 4th June 2012: “Prisoner attacks guard with razor blade“
- Recent News – 22nd June 2012: “Thug Samuel Hall, 20, stabbed prison officer ‘after voices told him to kill”
- Recent News: – 26th July 2012: “Inmate sent to mental hospital after slashing prison officer with razor blade”
Unfortunately it is a matter of fact that the personal safety and well-being of police officers is much more in the public eye, than the important service our prison officers do provide and the dangers these professionals face every single day. Somehow this is a little understandable (but wrong), as the public is certainly more keen to see police officers patrolling their neighbourhood and giving them a certain sense of security. Prison officers on the other hand a much more ‘out of sight’ end hence they do get forgotten a lot. I don’t know, but can you see the general public discussing the safety of prison officers? That’s a difficult one to imagine I guess. But, don’t prison officers deserve at least the same support, attention and respect like other frontline public services?
I was wondering prior to my first meeting with Craig Wylde, a few months ago now, what it was that he wanted to get out of our get-together. Now, having spoken to Craig in great depth many many times, I am genuinely taken by surprise by his conduct and thoughts. So, what is he actually asking for?
Justice to be done? Well, maybe… but trust me… justice has failed him in an outrageous fashion I guess. He might have well been forced to accept’ the judgement by now, which saw his attacker claiming PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and being cleared of two counts of murder and three counts of wounding with the intent, but I must say (and this may well sound not very nice at all) I hope from the bottom of MY heart that a certain judge in this world struggles to sleep well at night. Sometimes we really must ask ourselves: REALLY?
But what is it that Craig wants? He is certainly VERY keen that something will be done to help improve the personal safety of fellow prison and correctional officers around the world… and having met him a few times now, my strong feeling is he is not going to rest until that has happened. He wants key decision and policy makers, and those charged with ensuring the health and safety of his colleagues, to learn a lesson from what has happened to him. Craig feels that something MUST be done in order to reduce the risk of something like this happening again. His campaign might well save someone’s life in the future!
His desire to improve the personal safety of his colleagues has so far fallen on ‘not very perceptive ears’. Nothing worthwhile reporting about has been done to make a difference to the safety of these professionals. Yes, glass bottles have been removed from most prison facilities.. but you will be fully are aware of the fact that sharpened table/bed frame legs, ceramic pieces (broken off from hand basins), razor blades melted into tooth brushes and similar edged weapon are much more ‘popular’ than glass bottles?
Following the above assault at Frankland High Security Prison in 2010, we have developed a much more ‘low-profile’ type of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment): PPSS Slash Resistant T-Shirts made out of our very own cut and slash resistant fabric Cut-Tex® PRO!
We are talking here about slash resistant tops that can be worn underneath a prison/correctional officer’s shirt, in order to reduce the risk of cut related injuries.
PPE in general is not about ELIMINATING the risk of workplace violence related injuries… it is all about REDUCING THE RISK within an environment where a risk has been identified! So in this instance let’s all be honest for a minute or so, and ask ourselves the question:
Is there a risk of assaults on prison officers within a Category A prison? YES, there is!
Is the risk high enough to warrant the general issue of some type of basic PPE? Yes, I genuinely believe so!
It’s very very similar to us wearing a seat belt in our car. We don’t use a seat belt today because we know for sure we have an accident today. Neither do we use a seat belt because we are scared or paranoid, worrying that we might have a crash today. No, not at all! The reason why we wear a seat belt is that we do understand that we have a much higher chance of survival in case someone is drunk, plays on his mobile phone or is otherwise distracted and crashes into our car, despite our own great driving skills we might even be able to claim.
The seatbelt is ‘unlikely’ to save our lives if the other person hits us front on with a speed of 10,000 miles in hour. However, it will ensure we survive the vast majority of all potential accidents… it is about REDUCING THE RISK!
Now back to the above question. How much do we really care about others? If my child is sitting on the back seat of my car I will make sure it is wearing a seat belt. If any of my loved ones is sitting in my car I will also make sure they are wearing a seat belt. If other people, in other cars, in other countries and on other planets decide they don’t like seat belts… that is their personal choice and I do not care! But I must say I do have an issue with decision makers ‘not allowing’ their colleagues to wear a seat belt or in this case any type of PPE!
So… how much do we care about the personal safety of prison and correctional officers, and are we willing to make a difference?
Based on Craig’s opinion and our operational understanding, based on personal comments we have received from dozens of his colleagues from around the world, and based on my (and my colleagues) many years of operational frontline experience within law enforcement and high risk security operations, we ALL feel that high performance slash resistant t-shirts could be a real sensible option and solution, which makes unquestionable operational sense and would not restrict the wearers movement or restrict him in his duties. We are genuinely convinced that the severity of the injury would have been significantly reduced if Craig and Claire would have been issued with such slash resistant t-shirt.
Please have a look at this:
Would such slash resistant t-shirts or tops eliminate the risk of workplace violence related injuries? No, it will not!
Will they reduce the risk of workplace violence related injuries? Yes, this is 100% guaranteed!
PPSS Slash Resistant Clothingis made out of Cut-Tex® PRO (a highly acclaimed hi-tech fabric) and is already being worn by hundreds of homeland security professionals around the world. It has been tested to European, International and American cut resistance standards and offers previously unmatched cut, tear and abrasion resistance too.
- Carotid artery (within your throat)
- Brachial Artery (along your bicep)
- Radial artery (within your wrist)
- Femoral artery (within your thigh)
- Axillary artery, (under your arm pits)
I would like to invite you to re-look into what can be done, and what you are willing to do, in order to improve the personal safety of these professionals.
I fully understand we have to ensure they do not look confrontational, aggressive or authoritative, and I also understand that we live in a world where access to financial resources is restricted.
However, what has happened to Craig Wylde and Claire Lewis has now happened. Both of them know only too well that we cannot turn back the time. But what we all feel so strongly about is that SOMETHING must happen, otherwise we will sooner rather than later look at another fatality within this sector, which could be prevented by the issuing of the right type of PPE.
The fact of the matter is (as sad as it might be)… widely available statistics will tell us that it is unfortunately only a matter of time until another prison or correctional officer will be attacked, beaten, punched, kicked or stabbed (as much as we all will hate this fact). The statistics can of course not give us the name of the next person who will become part of this statistic… so our responsibility must be to ensure it is a) not our name, and b) not the name of our colleagues and employees. However, there is no question about it… it will happen. What will we/you have done in order to reduce that risk?
Please note we are also more than happy to offer our Cut-Tex PRO cut/slash resistant fabric to the manufacturer of your current uniforms or tactical gear or coveralls. This would enable them to incorporate this high performance material into your current uniform, especially vulnerable areas that really require such level of protection. This would effectively help protect your colleagues from potentially horrendous cut injuries.