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How correctional officers can protect themselves from disease transmission

Catching a deadly disease is one danger faced by officers in a correctional setting; here are some tips on how to best avoid this


The Protection Mask (also known as a bite/spit mask).

Photo by Jamer Hunt

As a corrections worker there are a number of dangers we face. At the top is the potential to be assaulted in any number of ways. The scariest of the dangers we face would be disease transmission; taking home some deadly, incurable disease. It’s a very real threat we deal with every day.

One way a transmission can take place is through biting. There’s two times that a bite is most likely: During a use of force (UOF), wrestling with an offender, and also while an offender is restrained.

Preventing biting
During a UOF, it’s important to maintain some control of the offender’s head in order to defend against being bitten. Controlling an offender’s head will also give you the most control over his actions. It will diminish his ability to fight you.

When dealing with a restrained offender, you must stay vigilant. It’s easy to let your guard down with a cuffed offender. This is the time you are most vulnerable and offenders know this. If they wish to retaliate, it’ll be when you’re not paying close enough attention.

Don’t take for granted that a restrained offender is done.

Watch out for spitting
Another danger is spitting. While unlikely, it is possible to transmit diseases through saliva. Again, a restrained offender is the one most likely to spit in order to retaliate against staff. Use a spit mask when necessary.

Probably the most likely and dangerous situation is blood contact. Wear your gloves; take the time to put them on if at all possible.

Be conscious of where your head is in relation to the offender and the site of blood. Blood contact to the face can very well result in disease transmission. Check yourself afterwards for any open wounds or sores; in the event of blood contact, time is important.

Common sense will go a long to protect you from these scenarios. Remember where you are and keep in mind that when something happens, it happens fast. You have to be ready to act before an incident takes place.

The last thing you want to do is look back and say if only I had done this, I would be OK. Be ready to do this before you have to.

Charles Morgan started his career as a corrections officer at MECC, a level 3 facility, and then transferred to ERDCC, a level 5 facility. He eventually evened out at FCC, a level 3/4 facility. He works for the Missouri Department of Corrections and is currently a trainer.