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How inmates use isolation techniques to manipulate correctional officers

Are you situationally aware enough to know if this is happening to you or one of your colleagues?

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. And today’s tip is for our colleagues in Corrections. I want to talk a little about the process of inmate manipulation.

“Well, Gordon, how can an inmate manipulate me,” you ask? I have two words for you – situational awareness. How well do you understand the motivations of inmates who interact with you?

One inmate manipulation tactic is isolation. This is a process where one or more inmates will slowly convince a staff member to identify more with them than with their own peers or supervisors.

A manipulative inmate will then begin to separate the staff member from his or her peers. The inmate will say things like “You’re more like us than them.” This builds a subtle, but false level of trust between the inmates and the officer. Manipulative inmates want to appear trustworthy so the correctional officer turns to the inmate for support, rather than the officer’s peers.

Now who is most vulnerable to this inmate manipulation tactic? If you thought “disgruntled employee,” kudos to you. But is it you? Are you situationally aware enough to know if this is happening to you or one of your colleagues?

The bottom line is this: A divided staff is a vulnerable staff. Whether the divide is between staff members or between shifts or departments, any perceived weakness in professional relationships is an opening for manipulative inmates to exploit.

Remember: Inmates have nothing but time to develop their manipulation skills and ply their craft. Unity is our best defense against inmate manipulation. Every correctional officer should know and follow their policies and procedures, understand the limits of their discretion, be aware of the tactics intended to break down our situational awareness, and rely on each other for support.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.

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Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.