How to buy the best radio for your correctional facility

Every agency will require a slightly varied set of specifications for their radio system, but here are some basics that you should always aim for


The purchase of a radio system for use within the correctional institution setting will be varied and uniquely designed to the needs of each agency and their facility. Some agencies may design their correctional facility radio system to align with their patrol division. Other agencies may design their system to only operate only within the confines of their jail division. Although design of these systems and formatting of each hand held radio can be as simplistic or as complicated as needed, it appears as though the number one priority for officers and agencies alike is the ability to communicate from every nook and corner within the jail facility. If an officer or other staff cannot be heard, the security and safety of the institution is at risk.

A prison can contain endless rows of cells, concrete corridors, steel doors and high walls in addition to large exterior yards with metal fencing or tall cement walls. Each of these components can create a communication challenge for the simple two-way radio network. This is of great concern when purchasing a radio system for the correctional setting. Finding radios which can provide efficient wireless communication including a series of effective repeaters is vital for the safe management of a jail.

According to a references made by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International, radios used in the correctional setting need to be “rugged and reliable” as they are exposed to heavy indoor use and often exposed to outside elements including dirt, dust and weather. A hand held radio pack which is rated for dust protection and water jet resistance is highly suggested.

Photo Wikipedia

Lt. Fred Marziano, Division Manager of Technology Services for Marin County Sheriff’s Department in CA finds a compact, military grade, hand held radio unit with a clear, backlit LED display of utmost importance for his deputies both in the Corrections Division and Patrol Division.

Marziano additionally advised, along with other correctional professionals that an emergency alert call button should be clearly marked and easily available on an officers handheld radio. The officer should be easily able to press it where mounted on the radio pack when they are unable to voice transmit with the microphone. Most, but not all manufacturers place this brightly colored button on the top of the unit for easy access.

An emergency alert call button, when pressed, even has the potential to provide a GPS location coordinates for the officer on a dispatch center monitor. This feature can be added to a radio system whether the radio packs are used within or outside of the jail setting should the agency design their system with this feature. Additionally available on a hand held radio pack is an officer safety feature referred to as a “Man Down” alert option. This sensor can be added to the radio pack itself which will alert the dispatch control center should the radio pack spend an extended period of time tilted beyond a certain angle.

Another common necessity expressed by correctional supervisors was the absolute necessity for crystal clear voice transmission through hand held microphones that have noise cancelling properties. When the officer is inside of a housing unit filled with inmates, once the hand held mic is keyed to voice transmission mode, other officers, staff and the dispatch control center need to clearly hear the officers voice, less the dull roar of voices, yelling or echo of common background noises such as the clanging metal doors or booming dayroom TV. The hand held microphone should be military grade with rugged cabling and constructed to meet all weather.

Lastly, it’s helpful if the radio has an audio port for the option of a listen-only earpiece, as many agencies encourage officers to wear them for officer safety purposes. Simply hearing radio traffic can prove to be quite a challenge for the officer in the correctional setting as the volume of existing background noise can be overwhelming and create an officer safety hazard. With the assistance of an earpiece, the officer can hear the radio directly in ear, as opposed to a chest mounted speaker microphone.

In this wireless age, an agency has the ability to design almost any radio system configuration for their correctional facility. Universally, it is apparent that the utmost of importance is the universal mission to maintain safety and security of the facility including officers, civilian staff and inmates who reside within it. Clear, concise radio communications are essential in successfully achieving this mission on a daily basis.

Copyright © 2021 Corrections1. All rights reserved.