Fire Safety in a Correctional Setting

One of the most, if not the most, dangerous situations in a correctional setting is a fire. Our nation’s correctional facilities, for the most part, are constructed of steel, concrete and bricks. Windows either do not open or are designed to open very little due to security concerns and our mandate of providing public safety. Natural ventilation is greatly reduced. As a result of these building designs, what we have is either a chimney or an oven that we work in.

There are safeguards built in with the building design such as sprinklers and hose reels/fire hoses as well as fire extinguishers available for use throughout the facilities and it is imperative that we know not only where they are located, but how to use them effectively as well.

A fire that starts in one area of a correctional facility can spread relatively slowly based on the location and fuel available, but the smoke will spread much faster. Those that have perished as a result of a fire in a correctional facility have not died from burning, but from smoke inhalation.

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Where Do I Put This: Duty Gear Placement

One of the biggest mistakes that I see officers do is in their placement of their duty gear. Agencies will often tell their officers what it is that they must carry on them at all times. If you are a police officer you will have your weapon, magazine pouch, radio, O.C. case, handcuff case and baton holder at a minimum. If your agency provides you with a Taser, you will have to carry that as well.

If you are working in corrections you will carry what ever your department will allow you to carry. Most of these agencies (in Corrections) will allow you to carry O.C., handcuffs, latex glove pouch at a minimum. Not all agencies in corrections have radios that they can provide to all officers that are on shift at any given time unless they are working in key positions. The same applies to handcuffs. Where you place your duty gear is just as important as being able to recognize a threat and react to it.

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Tips for the New Corrections Officer

You were just notified that you will be a Correctional Officer soon. Congratulations! Now what? Have you thought about what you will need for gear? Hey, if you get lucky your agency will provide some. But, if you are like the rest of us, you will have to buy your own. Here’s the catch: you WILL need gear but you won’t be told exactly what you need.

Think about what you may be doing in a correctional facility.  Its ok, you can think about all those episodes of prison shows that you are glued to. Are you going to be searching? If so, what will you be searching? Any dark nook and crannies that need looking into?     Are you going to work in broad daylight or do you think that it may be nights? Are you ever going to have to restrain an offender? Use force on them? They answer to all these is YES!


Here are the items that, in my humble opinion, are essential to every Correctional Officer:

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Your feet said what?

Magnum BootsWhile working in a correctional facility there is nothing worse than getting home at the end of the day and your feet are screaming at you to get off of them. Working all day on concrete floors while on your feet for 8-16 hours takes a toll on you, not only your feet but also your knees and back. Add to that all the gear that you wear around your waist and it then becomes a chiropractor’s dream. I know many officers that have visited a chiropractor at some point in their career. Some of these officers even have them on speed dial and even know their children’s names.

Ask around and the officers that rarely, if ever, have sought treatment for back problems will tell you the same thing: invest in a good pair of boots. Regardless of where you purchase them, cost is sometimes, if not always, a factor in our decision of what to buy. There are many manufacturers of good, quality footwear and of course, prices vary.

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The Chunky Kid Story (Part 2)

Now that the body is better… (Part 1 of The Chunky Kid Story is here.)

Now that my physical well being was taken care of, I needed to get my mental well being taken care of also. Most of us in the Law Enforcement/Corrections know that our divorce rates are far higher than anyone else. No one knows this better than our families.

We go to work, have a bad day, come home and snap and the spouse and kids. We refuse to talk to our spouse. We start to distance ourselves. At first you ask us how are day was and we make the fatal mistake to tell you when we’ve had a bad day. We sometimes don’t realize how much you worry about us when we are at work until it is too late. We start to spend more time with people at work because they understand what we are going through.

It’s not that you don’t want to understand, it’s just that the things that we go through and see would make your gag reflex go into high gear and force you to run to the bathroom.

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The Chunky Kid Story (Part 1)

fat cop

Photo courtesy of Steve Baker.

First off, and right up front, I am no so-called fitness or mental health expert. I’m just going to tell you what it is that I have discovered over the years by trials and tribulations. We all know, because studies have shown us as well as the experts telling us, that diets don’t work.

And what do they do next? They try to sell us on THEIR diet/weight loss plan! Counting this, or adding that, you shouldn’t eat this or you should eat that. What is that all about? I have a hard enough time counting as it is without having to take my shoes off as well as my wife’s! I will agree on one thing with them though: it is a change in life style that works.

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Don’t Take a Knife to a Gun Fight

As the saying goes, you don’t take a knife to a gun fight…

Regardless of what job you have, you always need to make sure that you have the right equipment for the job at hand. After over a decade working in the Law Enforcement community, I am still surprised that most of us do not have the tools necessary for the job that faces us every day. These tools can be either abstract tools or concrete tools (no, not the cement type…).

Lets start off with the abstract tools. How many people do you know that do not know the policies and procedures of your agency the way that they should? Exactly my point. When we do not know the policies and/or procedures of the agency that we work for, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Crash and Burn. Unemployment line. This is probably the single most important thing that we need to know about our jobs.

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Training The Mind

It takes the average person 1000 repetitions of doing something for it to become muscle memory. In other words, we don’t have to think about what we are going to do, we just do it. But when it comes down to our minds, do we really do the same thing?

While it is true that most of us do not have the time to sit there and practice our response to a scenario 1000 times, nothing says that we can’t think about what are response will be when we are faced with a situation. Think about the amount of time that we have to think throughout the course of our day: in the shower, cooking (or waiting for our order at the drive thru), waiting in line, driving (not so safe but we still do it anyway), in the bathroom…

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Communication in Today’s Corrections (Part Two)

In the first part of this law enforcement training article we talked about the four types of communication in a correctional facility:

  1. No Communication
  2. Operational Communication
  3. Human-Respectful Communication
  4. Cognitive Reflective Communication

Now let’s talk about Human-Respectful Communication.

All too often, those of us that work in correctional facilities tend to forget the type of individual that we are dealing with: people. Oh, we don’t forget that they are incarcerated for some crime that they have committed, but we do forget that they are people. Some officers view them as scumbags, low-than-dirt creatures, child molesters, rapists, murderers, etc. And although some are incarcerated for those very things, not all of them are. Many of them are in due to non-violent offenses and a great deal of them will get out after they have completed their sentence.

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Communication in Today’s Corrections (Part One)

Communication in the Corrections Setting

Photo courtesy of Jay Friesen

Anyone that has ever worked as either a Police Officer or a Corrections Officer knows the following: It’s either brawn or brain that will get you through the day. They also know that you have to use both (on occasion) if you are going to be successful at your job.

Those of us in the Correctional Profession know that most of the time, and not all the time, the physical confrontations that we encounter are the result of our actions. Now, I understand that some people might disagree with this, but it’s a hard reality to face. Where do we go wrong that leads to this type of confrontation?  Communication.

There are really just two ways in which we communicate with people: Verbal and Non-Verbal. Most of our communication (roughly 85-87%) is done through body language. We can all tell when someone is upset, happy, mad, angry, indifferent, you get the point.

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