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Why safety is key when ordering cleaning supplies for corrections

What are the critical considerations that correctional facility managers must keep in mind when ordering tools and supplies to be handled by inmate workers?

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Custodial tools that appear harmless in a regular household can be manipulated and sharpened into deadly weapons by inmates. Look for products designed specifically for the corrections environment, such as the Briarwood Products line of shank-free cleaning tools.

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Sponsored by Briarwood Products

By Gary York for Corrections1 BrandFocus

Many correctional facilities task inmates with basic custodial work. But even a seemingly innocuous mop can be converted to a weapon by a determined inmate.

Preparing for possible accidents and preventing injuries should always be top of mind when choosing the cleaning tools to be used by inmate workers. A new line of “shank-free” cleaning products can help prevent improvised weapons and promote safety in your facility.

Here are several things to consider when purchasing these necessary supplies.

Workplace Safety in Correctional Facilities

Workplace safety in correctional facilities is much more complex than regular civilian workplaces. The prison and jail culture presents correctional leaders with very challenging situations.

Correctional facilities rely on inmate labor for day-to-day operations, such as maintaining inmate housing, laundry and kitchen areas. Inmates have plenty of time to plan and make improvised weapons, which poses a risk to other inmates and staff.

Consider this: The most common weapons used against corrections staff come from items issued to inmates. Aside from studies done over the years, those of us in corrections are aware that many weapons used to assault prison staff were fashioned from items issued to inmates or provided for their work assignments.

Items that appear harmless in a regular household can be manipulated and sharpened into deadly weapons by inmates, such as cutting or piercing instruments made from dustpans, mop handles, broom handles and mop bucket parts. Many of these weapons are made by inmates for self-defense against other inmates but can too easily end up harming prison staff as well.

Key Considerations When Ordering Correctional Facility Supplies

Traditional cleaning supplies made of hard plastic, wood or metal have always presented a major problem in our jails and prisons. They have been used as weapons by inmates against prison staff and other inmates. Parts of the handles have been broken off and sharpened into shanks and used in violent attacks.

Consider these risks when purchasing supplies and look for resources to reduce staff injuries and inmate-on-inmate violence. It is time to eliminate hard plastics, metals and wooden handles from correctional facilities. Look for cleaning tools designed specifically for the corrections environment, such as the Briarwood Products line of shank-free cleaning tools made with materials that prevent modification into weapons.

Correctional leaders should look for safety and value for when ordering cleaning tools for their prison or jail facility. Here are some things to consider:

  • Are the tools made with correctional facility needs in mind? Most companies do not consider correctional safety and value needs. Choose a company that does consider your facility’s needs.
  • Are the tools made of hard plastic, metal or wood? These materials are the most dangerous and easily manipulated in correctional cleaning supplies. Stay away from them.
  • Is the product material strong and durable? Will it stand up to heavy usage on a daily basis?
  • What is the tested long-term use of the material and product?
  • Do these cleaning supplies eliminate the ability to be sharpened into a shank?

Cleanliness also plays a big role in officer and inmate safety. Here are some health issues to consider:

  • Are these cleaning tools easy to clean and disinfect to reduce the threat of contamination?
  • Is the product material resistant to bacterial growth?
  • Will the mop head or broom head promote mold, mildew or odors after it has been cleaned and put in a storage closet?

Here are some questions to ask a potential product vendor before signing the dotted line:

  • What is the service life of this product?
  • How many corrections agencies/facilities are using your product?
  • Are there other corrections customers I can call for a reference?

Always remember to review the vendor’s website and research for yourself before reaching out. Check out the specifications of the product and reviews from satisfied clients.

Don’t Put Weapons in Inmates’ Hands

Correctional leaders are always working to reduce staff injuries and the risk of inmate-on-inmate violence. Managing inmate behavior is only part of the equation when it comes to safety and security. Managing the tools we provide them for their daily custodial work helps curb the risk of attacks and mayhem.

Now that shank-free correctional cleaning tools are available, we have the option of shopping with vendors working for the safety of prison staff and inmates with new technology and materials. Choosing the safest, cleanest and most non-manipulative tools for the job is essential for all of us behind the razor wire.

It is our duty to ensure injury reduction in our prisons and jails. Purchasing safer correctional cleaning tools is one step in developing workplace safety programs for your facility.

Gary York, author of “Corruption Behind Bars” and “Inside The Inner Circle,” served in the United States Army from 1978 to 1987 and was honorably discharged at the rank of Staff Sergeant from the Military Police Corps. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Gary York completed the 7th Army Non-Commissioned Officers Leadership Academy with a 96.6% in the Train to Train method of instruction. Gary received the Army Commendation Medal and Soldier of the Quarter Award while serving. Gary was a Military Police shift supervisor for five years.

Gary then began a career with the Department of Corrections as a correctional officer. Gary was promoted to probation officer, senior probation officer and senior prison inspector where for the next 12 years he conducted criminal, civil and administrative investigations in many state prisons. Gary was also assigned to the Inspector General Drug Interdiction Team conducting searches of staff and visitors entering the prisons for contraband during weekend prison visitation. Gary also received the Correctional Probation Officer Leadership Award for the Region V, Tampa, Florida, Correctional Probation and he won the Outstanding Merit Award for leadership in the Region V Correctional Officer awards Tampa, Florida.

Multiple inmates started a fire by igniting bed sheets; the situation then turned into a riot as the inmates also armed themselves with blunt objects, Richland County deputies said
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An inmate attacked a deputy who took the weapon he used to stab another inmate; two additional inmates then piled onto the deputy