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How one facility and vendor are working together to develop safer cleaning products

The Ohio State Penitentiary reached out to Briarwood Products for help in providing tools that comply with its security measures


Sponsored by Briarwood Products

By Rachel Zoch, Corrections1 BrandFocus Staff

Safety is a key concern for every correctional facility, but cleanliness and hygiene are also important. After all, this is where inmates live 24/7, as well as an around-the-clock workplace for COs. But inmates bent on violence too often find ready weapons materials in ordinary cleaning tools like brooms.

Briarwood Products worked with the Ohio State Penitentiary to provide shank-free cleaning tools that meet the facility’s needs and security measures while also providing the means for inmates to clean their cells. (image/Lt. Ohio State Penitentiary)
Briarwood Products worked with the Ohio State Penitentiary to provide shank-free cleaning tools that meet the facility’s needs and security measures while also providing the means for inmates to clean their cells. (image/Lt. Ohio State Penitentiary)

To address this problem, Briarwood Products developed its line of shank-free, metal-free cleaning tools designed specifically for the correctional environment. The Ohio State Penitentiary, which currently houses about 475 inmates, is one of many facilities across the country that has adopted tools from Briarwood Products.

Corrections1 spoke with Lt. Waylon Wine, commander of the OSP Special Response Team, about why they made the switch.

GETTING AHEAD OF THE PROBLEM

“Prior to the introduction to Briarwood Products we utilized and issued cleaning products to our high-security offenders in the same manner and design as lower-security level facilities would,” said Wine. “Those products contained materials that on occasion gave our high-risk and sometimes historically violent offenders the ability to compromise those products and construct weapons that posed a substantial risk to our staff and offenders.”

OSP takes a proactive approach to facility security, and a vulnerability assessment committee meets quarterly to discuss issues and ideas and look at what can be done to enhance facility security. This included some internet research to find alternatives to the traditional tools with handles that can easily be weaponized in the wrong hands.

The facility adopted full-size cleaning tools from Briarwood Products in early 2019 to replace all offender porter cleaning products that had contained metal, wood and fiberglass.

“Some of the fiberglass and wooden implements were easily broken,” said Wine. “We’ve had past instances where they were broken in half either purposely or not purposely. And once you see it, even if it’s an accident, it gives you an idea, hey, if those products can be broken that easily, they could be an issue during a fight or an altercation.”

Part of the Ohio State Penitentiary’s mission is to create an environment promoting safety, security and dignity, he adds, and providing the means for inmates to clean their cells is an important part of that effort. But certain critical security measures posed a particular challenge.

“The old cleaning products would compromise some of our security measures we had implemented to reduce assaults, particularly the use of our high-security modified cell cuff ports,” said Wine.

Issuing the old, standard cleaning implements to inmates in cells fitted with the cuff ports would require staff to use the ports incorrectly because the tools didn’t fit.

“We created a sally port effect with our cuff ports,” he said, “and our previous cleaning products weren’t able to fit in that box. Briarwood was able to use their shank-proof products and custom-make them to the dimensions we needed so we can actually use our cuff ports in the proper way.”

Briarwood Products provided custom cleaning tools made to the dimensions needed to use the cuff ports properly at the Ohio State Penitentiary.
Previous cleaning products didn't fit in the cuff ports. Briarwood Products provided custom tools made to the dimensions needed to use the cuff ports properly. (image/Ohio State Penitentiary)

For example, the Shank-Free Easy Sweep Broom, made without metal or staples (the bristles are fused onto the broom head) is designed to easily pass through a cuff/restraint box.

All the Briarwood Products cleaning tools are a bright “safety orange” for high visibility, and the base of each is made of a sturdy but rubbery plastic that can’t be sharpened into a weapon and will not crack or splinter. The nonporous material also will not absorb oil or water, which helps prevent bacteria, mildew and mold growth.

“With the products they provided us, our high-risk offenders get the same type of accommodations when it comes to cleaning their cells as our other offenders now,” said Wine, “so it’s a win-win for the offender and for the security for our staff.”

WORKING TOGETHER to ENHANCE SAFETY

Briarwood also worked with Wine and his team to create customized tools for the facility’s specific needs. The company sent representatives to meet with the OSP operations section to discuss their challenges and see first-hand the design of the facility. Over the course of several weeks, Briarwood developed protypes and sent them to Wine and his team to examine and test them on site.

“We were able to test those in the field, as far as how durable they were,” Wine said. “We beat them up pretty good.”

Briarwood then used the team’s recommendations to develop some product that fit OSP’s unique needs, and that collaborative relationship is ongoing.

“They’re still sending me products to test. There are some other things we were looking at,” said Wine. “Just this week they sent me an offender trashcan to see if it’s something we could use, or what our thoughts were on it, so we’re a test bed for some of their products for the high-security facilities.”

COs appreciate the safety features of the products, especially the custom products that enable them to make proper use of the cuff ports to add an additional boundary between them and high-risk offenders.

“Anything we can do to enhance security, everybody’s on board with it,” said Wine. “Since the introduction of the Briarwood Products line to our facility, we have reduced instances where offender cleaning products have been compromised for malicious intentions, and staff has a greater sense of security.”

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