Video review: Inmates attack correctional officers at Chicago jail
Staff shortages have impacted all agencies, but we cannot take shortcuts in high-liability areas
Maximum-security inmates are classified as the highest risk for a reason. These inmates have proven they will harm others without any remorse. Of course, all inmates pose a threat, however, maximum-security inmates pose an exceptional risk based on their documented disciplinary history.
In order to promote safety and security within maximum security, we must direct the movements of the inmates and control their routines 24 hours a day. Supervisors must ensure all officers assigned to maximum security are aware of the dangers that await them. Deviating from policies and procedures can cause complete disorder and confusion at any given moment.
In the video below you will see an attack in a maximum security section of the Cook County Jail that left one officer in the hospital and two others injured according to sheriff’s office reports. This incident occurred at 0340 hours during cell to cell meal pass.
After watching the video let’s review some general safety and training considerations.
Ratio of staff to inmates during meal distribution
Staff shortages have impacted all agencies, but we cannot take shortcuts in high-liability areas. Following your agency’s policy and procedure will help reduce risks. Here are some additional considerations:
- Never have only one officer on the floor during inmate meal distribution.
- If you are left alone to feed inmates, hold up feeding to call a supervisor for necessary assistance.
- Supervisors should step away from their normal duties to help out with inmate meal distribution when enough staff are not available or find another officer to assist.
- Never feed inmates until you are satisfied you have the manpower needed to safely complete the task.
In order to protect yourself and other officers from dangerous inmates during feeding time, follow these steps:
- Never open a cell door without a second officer present.
- Ensure inmates stay in their cells.
- If a food port is available, do not open the cell door, use the food port.
- Do not allow inmates any favors or freedom to move about during door-to-door feeding.
- Ensure all loose articles such as brooms, mops and empty food trays are secure before you begin feeding as these are possible weapons.
- Turn all lights on during inmate meal distribution, as this allows you and your control room officer to see what is going on around you.
- Check all your safety equipment before inmate meal distribution:
- Ensure your radio works
- Ensure your keys are secure
- Ensure all lights are working
- Ensure your pepper spray is easy for you to access but not the inmates.
Your personal safety and the safety of your fellow officers come first so do not be coerced into working alone in a high-risk situation. Placing yourself or being placed in a dangerous situation will not help with staff shortages. Never be hesitant in calling for additional help before inmate meal distribution. Never become complacent and think you can handle things alone.
Responding to an officer’s call for help
If you are available to respond to an officer’s call for help, you need to move as quickly and safely as you can. If you totally ignore the call or “hide,” administrative discipline should be sanctioned. Here are some things to remember:
- The control room officer should always be on high alert and call for back-up the second he or she sees an officer is in trouble. The control room acts as a second set of eyes for correctional officers.
- A fellow officer is counting on you to be there in time of need, so respond as if it was you who called for help.
- When you arrive on the scene, quickly assess the situation, then move in to assist.
- Once at the scene, if an inmate runs past you, get that inmate and secure that inmate.
- Secure all inmates and get them locked down in a cell.
- Use the necessary force needed to stop an inmate from harming a fellow officer.
Besides experience on the floor, we must implement training scenarios; not just once a year but regularly on shift. A good supervisor will run unexpected drills with the announcement, “This is a drill.” Additional training scenarios should focus on:
- Fire drills
- Response drills for an officer who needs assistance
- Hostage drills
- Escape drills
- Evacuation drills
During the drills, response times should be recorded and an incident report written and submitted to upper management for training reviews.