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Commentary on Criminal Justice Reform in Massachusetts

October 2nd, 2018

First and foremost, a “Well Done” to the Massachusetts Legislature and Governor Baker for their efforts to reform the Massachusetts Criminal Justice System! As a person who has spent most of his adult life working at various levels and positions in the criminal justice system, serious reform has been needed for years.

Again, “Well Done” Massachusetts!

The current reform of the Massachusetts criminal justice system is the beginning of a much longer and complicated process, in my opinion. The American criminal justice system is a patchwork of kneejerk fixes to immediate situations, most of the time without any current and relevant research to validate the fix.

As I read the WBUR News article (April 6, 2018) written by Steve Brown, I was pleased to read that the Legislature addressed some of the serious issues affecting the Juvenile Justice System. Yet there are so many more issues associated with juvenile justice, and most of the issues are complicated and challenging.

I would, however, criticize some of the “fixes” (to the juvenile justice system) that the Legislature passed. Specifically, what bothers me most is the continuing use of chronological age as a determining justice factor for juvenile justice. With all of the modern scientific testing and evaluation methods, one would think that these twenty-first century tools would be employed during the juvenile adjudication process. Some of the twenty-first century tools are: I.Q. testing, psychosocial testing, psychological testing, complete physical examination, and, if determined necessary, an MRI or Cat Scan. Also, testing for traumatic brain injury. Looking back on my work with adjudicated juveniles / youthful offenders and knowing what I know now about traumatic brain injury, I am convinced that some of the youthful offenders that I came into contact with were suffering from traumatic brain injury.

If the Commonwealth really wants to have a juvenile justice system that will really help kids, then it should use every tool available to it to have the best juvenile justice system in the United States.

These current changes to the Massachusetts Criminal Justice System, in my opinion, mainly addressed the “end users” of the criminal justice system:

  • Juvenile Justice
  • Bail Reform
  • More Use of Diversion Programs
  • Expungement
  • Solitary Confinement and Compassionate Release
  • Elimination of Mandatory Minimums for Certain Low-Level Drug Offenses
  • Fentanyl and Carfentanil Trafficking

The most urgent and demanding need, I believe, is preventing children from becoming involved with the criminal justice system initially! A great deal has been written and discussed about the “Pipeline from high school to jail”. In reality, the “pipeline” starts well before high school.

My experience has shown me that society and the juvenile justice system lack the will to incorporate 21st century methods for dealing with children living in borderline, even dangerous environments where violence and disrespect is a way of life. The foster system is overburdened and, in some cases, misused. Many children should be removed from their living environments because of lack of parenting skills/involvement/care/abuse/neglect, or because there are family member(s) who already are involved with the criminal justice system, problems in school, and familial addiction issues.

My involvement with “Youthful Offenders” has helped me to define the above areas. These are the environments that they came from. The youths, mostly in their teens, had been “adjudicated adults” and sentenced to an adult penitentiary because of the serious nature of their crimes. Many of them had served time in juvenile detention. After spending numerous hours talking with them while they were incarcerated, it clearly demonstrated to me that the crime that landed them in the penitentiary was the result of many missed opportunities to correct their behavior and to prevent their incarceration. While they committed very serious and violent crimes, most of them they were just teenage boys with all the physical, psychological and emotional challenges that go along with being a teenager. It is my assertion that in many of the cases that I am familiar with, the “system” let them down. If there had been some effective intervention early on, perhaps some ofthese youthful offenders might not have been in prison. However, I am not excusing they crimes that committed that resulted in their being incarcerated.

There have been so many medical, psychological and studies of the developing brain that should be used when dealing with children who show a propensity to criminal acts or who have become involved with the criminal justice system.

There are those who believe that the obstacles to real criminal justice reform are the following:

  • Worrying about political correctness throughout the process.
  • Making the assumption that involvement with the criminal justice system only involves minorities and the poor. The infusion of opiates and other drugs on society puts everyone at risk.
  • Addressing only the symptoms that define the real problems. Addressing the real problems takes courage and knowledge more than a campaign slogan or newspaper headline might suggest.
  • Not realizing that solving the problems, once defined, will be lengthy and costly.
  • Making excuses for the human behavior instead of helping those individuals to correct it.
  • Using the victim’s rationale for criminal activity.

My retorts to the above obstacles are:

  • Too many people are afraid to “drill down” to identify the problem and to recommend solutions because they will be accused of some political prejudice. So, our children continue to join gangs, live in abusive homes, live on the streets, do drugs, buy guns, commit suicide, and kill each other! There is ample ‘real world” and statistical evidence that can be used to identify the causes.
  • Assuming that only minority and poor children get involved with the criminal justice system is just wrong. The real difference is people, regardless of race, with the financial ability to hire top class lawyers to have an advantage in today’s criminal justice system. Yes, there are issues in minority communities and there are also issues in well to do communities; they are just disguised better.
  • Yes, it is easier to address symptoms of problems than to find the cause. I believe that we know many of the causes, but are afraid to address them for fear of what the public’s reaction will be. I am in my seventies and really don’t care what others think. I have seen one too many kids land in prison, ruin their lives and the lives of others to stop crusading for the systems to change and give these kids the help and guidance they need to live productive “happy” lives!
  • Politicians understand right up front that many of these interventions will be costly. For too long, the “system” has tried to, “squeeze the buffalo off nickel”. It is time to fund programs that work and defund programs that have proven not to work.
    (I have seen numerous programs that did not work get funded over and over.)

  • By eliminating excuses, the process of building a new life begins. “We acknowledge that you have had tough breaks in your life. Some of these tough breaks were beyond your control and others you brought on yourself.” While working with youthful offenders we found that once the excuses were taken away, the youth began to grow. Others instilled many of the excuses used by the youthful offenders.

Congratulations, Massachusetts, for a magnificent start in reforming the criminal justice system within the Commonwealth! Please continue your efforts with criminal justice reform.

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Checking for Tunnels

August 24th, 2015

This article was originally published on March 2012

Update July 2015: As you can see, I originally wrote this article “Checking for Tunnels” in 2012. Back then some of my colleagues thought that the article was interesting, but not all that relevant to modern day corrections with all of its high tech equipment, checks, and balances.

Well, I guess “Tunneling Out Of Prisons” is more fashionable than some of my colleagues thought. There have been two major escapes from two different “Maximum Security Prisons”- Dannemora (New York State DOC) and the Altiplano (Mexican) prison so far this summer.

So once again, I caution all of my correctional colleagues to search for tunnels. As part of this search, insure that it extends beyond the facility’s external perimeter. Manhole covers should be tack welded down.

I was amazed at the Dannemora escape when I realized that the pipe-chases were not part of regular security inspections. Anyone who has worked in an older facility knows that pipe-chases are a security concern and should be regularly checked by security and maintenance personnel.

When was the last time you checked for tunnels leading to and from your facility? This may appear to be an extreme question to people in many industrialized nations, and it may well be. Yet, if I were still involved in the day-to-day security operations of a correctional facility, I would certainly be conducting security checks for tunnels, and here is why.

Throughout the world, from the Middle East to the Mexican Border, tunnels have become a method of moving contraband and people. Today’s tunnels span the gamut from crude and dangerous to highly sophisticated. Some tunnels have airflow systems, electricity, and they are large enough to operate a small motorized vehicle. Does any of the above sound familiar?

It is a safe bet that in certain areas within the United States and throughout the world there are offenders who have experience in constructing tunnels. However, there is a lack of understanding and experience in uncovering tunnels, I believe, among correctional personnel in many industrialized nations, to include the United States.
There are experts available to teach correctional personnel how to search for tunnels. These experts can be found in the U.S. military and in the United States Border Patrol. The U.S. Border Patrol has uncovered tunnels for many years and has been exposed to every type of tunnel imaginable.

Those of us in the field of criminal justice have to continue to keep adapting our tactics to the changing world around us. It is my belief that methods and techniques that are used in the Middle East, Europe, China, Africa, etc., by terrorists and criminals will eventually be used in the United States.

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Escape from Dannemora

June 18th, 2015

I want to make several things perfectly clear:

  • First and foremost this article is not being written to criticize anyone at the Dannemora Correctional Institution.
  • I don’t have any inside information. My information has been gleaned from news reports on TV, radio, and newspaper articles.
  • The entire correctional community can “Learn” from this incident.

What we do know is that the security operations at the Dannemora maximum-security correctional institution “broke-down”. How can I make this statement? There are two very dangerous inmates who have escaped from “inside the walls” of the facility by employing an elaborate plan.

From news reports, it appears that these inmates had been working on their escape for quite some time. Their plans were detailed and comprehensive. What I find amazing is that neither staff nor inmates had any idea of what was going on with these two killers. In my experience, with an incident of this magnitude, someone would have let it slip. Perhaps an inmate informer who is looking to better his lot in prison life, or a staff person may have heard something that was out of the ordinary.

When I was in Texas, we initiated the Critical Incident Review Board (CIRB) to conduct investigations into “serious “ incidents, with the goal of preventing such incidents from reoccurring. The “CIRB” task was to find out what happened and develop policies and procedures to prevent it from happening again. Initially, members of the “Board” would determine with specificity what exactly happened and where did the system fail, e.g. escape, stabbing, assault on staff, other inmate (s), etc. After gathering as much information about the incident as possible, the “Board” would then carefully delve into the following by using this matrix that is composed of four specific areas:

I believe it is important to stress that CIRB investigations were separate and apart from the Internal Affairs investigations. While both investigations could be happening simultaneously, Internal Affairs investigations typically were focused on what happened and would there be new charges against the inmate (s) or staff.

The Four Elements of the Critical Incident Review Board

  1. Policies and Procedures
    1. Were there P&Ps in place, and were they being followed as written, or had staff adapted them?
    2. There were no P&Ps that cover what had happened.
    3. P&Ps were not being followed or not followed as written.
    4. The P&Ps were vague and left too much leeway.
    5. Write in detail recommendations for additional P&Ps or adaptation to the current P&Ps, if any.
  2. Training
    1. Had the staff members involved in the incident been trained on how to deal with such an incident?
    2. Was the staff training up-to-date?
    3. Did this incident incorporate something that the staff members were not trained to manage?
    4. Write in detail recommendations for additional training or adaptation to the current training, if any.
  3. Staffing
    1. Was the correct number of staff on duty during the incident?
    2. Were the staff assigned to the area where the incident took place the proper type of staff, e.g., security, medical, program, education, etc.
    3. Were the staff at their posts when the incident took place?
    4. What actions did staff take, and be very specific.
    5. Review all written reports, videos, and audio recordings of the incident.
    6. Write in detail recommendations for additional staffing or adaptation to the current staffing, if any.

      “Having the correct number of people, with the correct training, do their jobs.!”
  4. Supervision
    1. Was there a supervisor on site when the incident occurred?
    2. Was a supervisor called as the incident unfolded?
    3. What actions did the supervisor take? Be very specific!
    4. Had the supervisor been trained to manage an incident like the one that occurred?
    5. Write in detail recommendations for additional supervision or adaptation to the current supervision.

Getting back to the Dannemora situation, it is apparent that there was a catastrophic break down of the institution’s security operations. Here are just a few things that I have found out through news reports.

  1. Two killers doing life without parole in an “Honor Block”!
    1. One of these inmates, if news reports are accurate, had escaped before. That is a “major red flag”!
    2. The system could have rewarded them in other ways
  2. Security inspections of the pipe chases conducted by security personnel were not being conducted on a regular basis.
    1. I have worked in old prisons where the pipe chases have been a regular worry for security personnel and were checked at least daily.
    2. Movement through many pipe chases can be heard, if not by staff, then certainly by inmates.
  3. Outside contractors were permitted to leave their tools within the security perimeter.
    1. This is a major security violation.
    2. Just as with prison tools and cutting instruments, contractors’ tools must be inventoried and accounted for before anyone goes home.
    3. Some correctional systems require that construction workers go through a CORI check prior to coming in to the prison.
    4. Some correctional systems require that construction workers go through a short training course on contraband, inmate games, security issues.
    5. Some correctional systems require that prison security staff accompany construction workers through the institution. Both correctional security personnel and contractors must be held accountable. Every tool should be accounted form every day before anyone goes home
  4. Cell and other living area “Shakedowns”.
    1. Were not conducted as often as they should have been
    2. Were not conducted as thoroughly as they should have been
  5. Inmate Richard Matt had escaped once before and tried another time to escape.
    1. An inmate with this track record should never have been in an “Honor Block”.
    2. His cell should have been searched often and at various times of the day.
    3. Inmates who have a history of escapes or escape attempt should have their cell assignments changed frequently so that they do not have the opportunity to breach the internal security of the cell.
  6. When the correctional officers do their “Official Counts”, especially night counts and night cell checks, they should have been trained, and their supervisors should have been seeing that the COs were conducting their counts properly.
    1. Count living breathing “flesh”! If the COs had done this, it would have increased the possibility of the dummies being discovered earlier.

I am wondering why the NYDOC has such a large number of their correctional officers searching the woodlands looking for the escapees rather than having them conduct a comprehensive shakedown of the entire prison from top to bottom. It is now known that the institution’s security systems have been breached, e.g., the escape. It is my opinion that it would be wise to assess if there are any other security breaches.

Law enforcement officers are trained and are experts in conducting “free world” searches. Correctional officers are trained and are experts in conducting institutional shakedowns.

I would have brought in security personnel from other institutions to conduct a comprehensive “Security Audit” of the entire prison. As part of this “Security Audit”, I would look at the classification of every inmate in the prison. If warranted, I would see what inmates could be transferred to other prisons. This would help change the culture.

I learned from my dear friend and colleague, L.D. Harvey, former warden of the “Walls” unit in Texas, that correctional security is dynamic, thereby constantly changing. The inmates have 24 hour per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year to study the correctional officers, other staff, and the day-to-day operations, and design then to ways to be the correctional systems.

So many inmates are manipulative, a characteristic they have mastered as a survival mechanism, and they look for the officer or staff member that they can unleash it on. It comes in many forms:

  1. Charm
  2. Threats
  3. Being the officer’s buddy (protecting them)
  4. Finding an officer’s weakness (Booze, Women/Men or Bribes are the main three.)
  5. Want-ta-be gang member

This is where supervisors should be paying attention to the interactions between officers and inmates.

Being in the field of corrections today is one of the most difficult and challenging jobs a person can have because of the ever-changing dynamics, dangers and responsibilities. I have been lucky to have worked in law enforcement and corrections. Each one of these jobs comes with their own set of issues. Yet, being in corrections dealing with the same inmates day in and day out is very difficult.

My heart goes out to the staff at Dannemora, because I know how hard it is to manage a maximum-security prison in today’s world. Best of luck.

In closing, do not criticize what has happened at Dannemora. Rather, take what I have written in this article, expand it further, and make sure that the same things do not happen in your institution. “Stay Alert – Stay Alive”!!

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Radicalization and Intelligence Gathering In Correctional Institutions- Part 2

February 13th, 2015

I started researching the materials about incarcerated terrorists and/or their impact on the operations of correctional facilities since shortly after 9/11. I conducted my first workshop about Terrorists and Corrections at an American Correctional Conference in California (August 2002). Several years have passed and prisons all over the world are now incarcerating terrorists. We also now know that some of these incarcerated terrorists are recruiters for their various causes. They work to radicalize other inmates, most of whom are disenfranchised and who in previous times, would have been recruited to join a gang.

I must apologize for being so tardy in writing Part Two of this article. As I was writing this article, I came across a great deal of new material from around the world, which sent me off on a lengthy research journey. It is my hope that within the year I will be publishing a more comprehensive document on Prisons-Radicalization-Intelligence Gathering.

There appear to be a few common themes that have manifested themselves over the years. Some of these themes dovetail what many experienced correctional staff will recognize as gang recruiting activities. I would say the difference with radicalizing inmates for religious purposes and gang membership is that each has a different outcomes.

Correctional “Line Staff” who are receiving specialized training in “Intelligence Gathering” can readily observe many of these common themes.

The recent killings of the French staff employees of Charlie Hebdo Magazine and the murder of innocent people in a French Kosher market by individuals who were purported to be radicalize while in jail has caused governments and the criminal justice communities to closely look at what role (s) correctional facilities are playing in the furthering of “Radical Islam”. This new information, e.g. French prisons, a California State Prison, further reinforces the belief that terrorists are using prisons and jails to recruit and radicalize new followers.

The real questions are how prevalent is it, how successful is it, will those radicalized offenders continue to follow their “Free-World “ leaders, and to what extent? Are our correctional facilities becoming the “Recruiting Stations” for “Radicalized Lone Wolves”?

By being more attentive to what is going on throughout their individual correctional facilities, correctional personnel, especially “Line Staff”, can be instrumental in identifying those doing the radicalizing and those being radicalized.

Seasoned correctional personnel can develop a sixth sense about the “feel” of certain correctional environments. They know when something is not right or normal. Gathering intelligence is just refining those learned traits and reporting and documenting observations, conversations, associations, changes in offenders’ actions and behaviors, etc.

Most correctional facilities have well established “Strategic Threat Groups /Gang Units” who should be the collection point for all “Intelligence Regarding Radicalization” of inmates. My rationale for recommending these “Units” is because they already are experienced in gathering, assessing and disseminating information to internal and external departments.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a great many similarities in the early stages of joining a gang and being radicalized.

Some examples of “Similarities” between gang recruitment and radicalization:

  • The recruits begin to hang around with the group that they are aligning with at that time.
  • The recruits either grow their hair / beard or they cut their hair and have their beards, again depending on the group that they are aligning with at that time.
  • They distance themselves from the correctional staff, unless instructed to become more familiar with “certain” staff personnel. These are usually staff, who the group believes, can assist them in getting, jobs, better living conditions, favors, etc.
  • The recruits for gangs may start to use the vernacular, get tattoos, wearing of certain clothing in certain ways of the group that they are aligning themselves with at that time.

Some examples for “Intelligence Gathering”:

  • When an offender begins to associate with those offenders who have been identified as already radicalized and/or gang members. Correctional personnel making this observation should leave reports stating
    1. The name (s) of the offender (s) being observed
    2. The name (s) of the radicalized offenders
    3. The time (s) that they were seen together
    4. State when these offenders started meeting / hanging around together, or when it was first observed by correctional staff
    5. Identify every location where they were seen together,
      e.g. eating together, walking together in the yard, changing seat in the school areas so that they could sit closer to each other.
  • Research has demonstrated that those offender-recruiters who would radicalize other offenders use a series of methods and techniques.
    1. The recruiters look for those offenders who are the most vulnerable. Some of the experts use the word “disenfranchised”. From my years of experience, I would say that the recruiters look for those who are afraid, looking for protection, looking to belong to “something” , and who are vulnerable to kindness.
    2. The steps / phases are similar to these:
      1. Approach in an open setting (Yard, Dayroom, Gym, School)
      2. Engage in light conversation
      3. Discuss the benefits of the group / gang (Protection, belonging to something that is bigger than self, believing in a higher spiritual being, becoming someone, to mention a few. Of course these examples will manifest themselves differently, depending on whether the recruits are joining a gang, subversive group, or if they are being radicalized as part of joining a terrorist group.
      4. One the recruits demonstrates an interest as the recruiter becomes more and more engaging. The conversation will become more focused on religion and the recruit’s relationship with God, the cause, the religion, etc. It should be noted that many of the recruiters are “NOT” trained in the study of Islam, and in many cases what they are preaching/ teaching is their interpretation of the Quran.
      5. In the case of the recruit being radicalized, the recruiter will start to share literature with the recruit; again, the literature may not be based on official teachings contained in the Quran.
      6. Once the recruiter believes that he/she has the recruit’s confidence and trust, he/she will make the move to fully involve the recruit in the movement.
      7. From the time that the recruit is fully engaged, the recruiter will continue to bring the recruit further and further into the fold.

For the most part, alert “Line Staff” could see this recruiting process going on. They should be leaving reports detailing everything that they are witnessing.

I buy into the belief that it is easier to stop the radicalization of people than it is to de-radicalize them.


In my forty plus years in the criminal justice community, I have seen several new challenges come into the field. Initially, some of these challenges caused the field to make some adjustments, some minor some major. It appears that terrorism is here with all of its manifestations: “Lone Wolves”, Returning Syria Fighters, and “Radicalization”, both inside our prisons and on the streets of America.

Law enforcement will have to adopt military style tactics. Correctional facilities will have to adjust their “Intelligence Gathering” techniques and their offender management strategies for dealing with terrorists and those who are identified as recruiters.

Years ago I started using the term “Terrorist-Inmates”. The reason I selected this term and order of the descriptors was because first and foremost these individual offenders are “Terrorists” and with the title comes an entirely different set of correctional management issues. Secondly, they are inmates because of the crimes that they committed.

I have no doubt that the criminal justice community will make the necessary adaptation and adjustment to deal with this new world and dangerous world. September 11, 2001, Arab Spring, etc. has disruptive world events and the “Old Order”. As Abraham Lincoln wrote in his message to Congress, December 1, 1862.
The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

Suggested readings

Guidelines for the Development of a Security Program – Eugene E. Atherton and Richard L. Phillips – American Correctional Association – Chapter 30 Terrorism and Correctional Security Programs – Wm. Sturgeon

Managing Special Populations In Jail And Prisons Volume II. 2010 Stan Stojkovic – Civic Research Institute – Chapter 17 Terrorist Inmates – The New Challenge for Correctional Administrators – Wm. Sturgeon

Author’s note I am currently in throws of writing a comprehensive document detailing “Radicalization” in correctional facilities.

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Security New Year’s Resolutions for 2015

December 30th, 2014

Over 15 years ago I wrote these New Year’s Resolutions. I recently happened upon them while cleaning out some old files, so I decided to retype them and share them. I have updated some of the entries to meet today’s new challenges.

  1. Review all SECURITY policies and procedures for the following:
    • Are the policies and procedures “Operationally Functional”? Are they working?
    • Are the policies and procedures being followed as they are written, or, if not, why not?
    • Is there a need to create “new” policies and procedures?
    • Is there a need to update, re-write, and expand existing policies and procedures?
  2. Focus more attention on the “external perimeter”:
    • Insure that the fencing materials, fence poles, anchoring bolts, etc., are in good repair.
    • Review external “perimeter” videos at least twice weekly for suspicious activities near the perimeter.
    • Adjust vehicle “Sally-Ports” to open and close as quickly as possible.
    • Insure that all policies and procedures regarding pedestrian entrances and exits are “Operationally Functional” – e.g. “WORKING” as written, and that they are rendering the desired results.
  3. Increase the frequency for conducting “Shakedowns”:
    • Conduct “Shakedowns” during off hours for the following areas: School, Inmate Work Stations, Kitchen, Visiting, etc.
  4. Insure that all staff, especially “Line Staff”, are very familiar with Emergency Policies and Procedures:
    • Conduct various scenarios of different types of emergencies.
    • Expand the facility/agency’s definition of an emergency.
      1. An attack on the external perimeter by “armed” assailants.
      2. Suicide / homicide bomber detonating a bomb in the visiting room.
      3. Multiple emergencies taking place simultaneously.
  5. Conduct a comprehensive inspection of any/all equipment that is connected to the emergency generator(s). Insure that the generator(s) is not over loaded.
  6. Conduct a comprehensive review of the current staffing patterns to insure that staff is being deployed where and when needed the most.
  7. Review all “Critical Incident” reviews from the previous year to insure that recommendations were being followed.
  8. Insure that there is sufficient “First Line” Supervision on every shift, every day.
  9. Insure that correctional managers be seen daily, by staff and inmates, “walking and talking” inside the “Secure Areas” of the facility.
  10. Conduct a comprehensive review to ascertain if the goals and objectives of the “Security Threat Groups Division” are being achieved.
  11. Conduct a comprehensive review of the facility/agency’s sustainability and greening initiative. Energy, water, recycling, and wastewater conservation are becoming real issues in the correctional world today.
  12. Insure that transportation officers are staggering their departure times and routes.

Have a Happy, Healthy, Safe, and Successful New Year!!!

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Holidays Are Dangerous Times Within Correctional Facilities

November 24th, 2014

The following is an updated version of the article “Holidays Are Dangerous Times Within Correctional Facilities” first published on Corrections in December 2011.

The world has changed drastically since I first wrote this article about the dangers associated with the “Holidays”. During my many years working in the criminal justice system, in both law enforcement and corrections, I have experienced first hand the additional “dangers and challenges” that arrive with the “Holidays”.

In today’s world, criminal justice personnel not only have the “Dangers and Challenges” that are normally associated with the “Holidays”, they now have to factor in the possibility of terrorist activities directed at them and their facilities.

It is my belief that criminal justice personnel should be prepared for the following:

Correctional Law Enforcement and Court facilities should be extra vigilant at the perimeters of their facilities.

  • Suspicious vehicles
  • Suspicious persons or groups of people
  • Anyone taking photographs of the perimeters
  • Any packages left near “official” vehicles, staff parking, perimeter walls, fences, and sally-ports should be treated with extreme caution
  • Video of the perimeter should be reviewed at least daily, with special attention to all of the above

Correctional facilities need to be extra cautious during visiting hours throughout the “Holiday Season”.

  • Packages left in visitors’ lockers
  • Close surveillance of visitors
  • Special attention to visitor vehicles
  • Special attention to visitor clothing (While bulky clothing will be the norm in some parts of the country/world during the winter months, special procedures should be put in place that will permit correctional personnel to check for weapons, explosives and/or other contraband.)
  • Visitors should be under constant surveillance and their demeanor should be assessed for the following:
    1. Are they overly nervous, sweating, tapping their feet, etc. (Outward physical signs of distress.)?
    2. Are they aggressive toward staff?
    3. Have they left anything behind?
  • Increase the random shake-downs
  • Insure that each shift is fully staffed
  • Be prepared for incidents, both inside and on the perimeter of the facilities
  • Conduct a comprehensive review of all Emergency/Contingency Plans

Law Enforcement and Sheriff’s Patrol Units need to be extremely attentive to their surroundings by increasing their own “Situational Awareness”.

  • Be aware of where you are
  • Be aware of where your vehicle is
  • Be aware of your surroundings (indoor or outdoor) 360 degrees Up and Down
  • Be aware of where the civilians in the area are located
  • Be aware of where suspects are located and their stance(s)
  • Be aware of where the suspects’ hands are
  • Be prepared to react to the unexpected (Physical attack with non-traditional weapons such as hatchets, butcher knives, axes, explosions, sniper fire, etc.)
  • Be prepared to survive an ambush – Remember “YOU MUST GET OUT OF THE KILL ZONE”!!! CJ personnel can be ambushed either in their vehicles or outside of their vehicles.

During the holiday season the offender population becomes antsy, angry, sad, and remorseful along with every other emotion one can think of…. even though correctional facilities and staff go above and beyond to make the holiday season as pleasant as possible for the offenders. Life is much different today than in the old days, when at Christmas the doors of the correctional facilities were ‘opened’ and some offenders were paroled.

Being incarcerated during the holiday season is difficult for everyone:

  • The Staff
  • The Offenders (Most especially first timers)
  • The Offenders’ Immediate and Extended Families

While the holidays are supposed to be a joyous time as they are portrayed in movies and on television, the reality does not always mirror the fantasy. For some people, the holiday season is very difficult emotionally. This emotional turbulence affects not only offenders, but staff also. Too often we forget that staff are as vulnerable as offenders to the trials and tribulations of life.

Suggestions for staff members to help them get through the holidays:

  • Take control of situations – Don’t let situations take control of you.
  • Prioritize your life. What do you “HAVE” to do? Remember, work should take a high priority. If you go to work tired, with a hangover, or with non-work related things on your mind, you are risking your own well-being and that of your fellow employees and offenders.
  • Let your family and friends know your work schedule and other time commitments, so that they will not pressure you into over-committing yourself.
  • TGet your rest!

Offender Issues

If you have worked corrections for any length of time, you know that the holiday season can be difficult. Offenders, who are normally compliant, become testy or even violent.

During the holiday season, security concerns become magnified because of the emotional behaviors of the offenders.

Security issues to be concerned about:

  • Be on the lookout for suicide. Review the signs and symptoms of suicide. Talk to the offenders under your supervision. If you suspect that an offender “MAY” be suicidal, immediately get some help. It is better to be cautious than have a suicide on your watch.
  • Be on the lookout for escape attempts. The holiday season triggers offenders to do senseless things, like trying to escape. “If I could have just spent Christmas Dinner with my kids.” (Offender caught during a Christmas morning escape attempt.)
  • Insure that you are not complacent. Fighting complacency during the holiday season is a constant issue. Everyone (Staff) is busy with their own lives and the holiday season for civilians is usually a pleasant time. It is easy for staff to be complacent and let security procedures slide.
  • Homemade Booze, Hooch, Pruno, etc., is always a problem in correctional facilities during the holiday season. Unfortunately, when Hooch is added to a correctional environment, normally docile offenders can become combative and/or suicidal. Administrators, Line Supervisors, and Staff should be conducting shake-downs in an effort to find the Hooch before it is consumed by the offenders.
  • Be alert during and after visitation periods. Insure that the officers who are supervising the visiting area report any/all of the following incidents to the living area officer:
    1. Suspicious activity
    2. Strange behavior demonstrated by visitors or offenders
    3. Any emotional outburst by either visitors or offenders (Crying, arguing, threatening behavior, etc.)


The “Holiday Season” presents some intensified security concerns in correctional facilities. I have tried to outline the issues that I have encountered during my years in the field.

I want to emphasize the point that you need to get sufficient rest during the holiday period. You should not go into work tired. Balancing life is especially difficult during the holiday season, but it is crucial that you try.

My experiences with security issues that have arisen during the holiday season have one thing in common – They were spontaneous. The 101st Airborne Division has the saying “Stay Alert – Stay Alive”!
Happy Holidays!

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Security Alert: Using Infectious Disease (s) As Weapons!

October 20th, 2014

Unless you have been living in the woods under a rock, you have heard about the Ebola outbreak and the first person in America to die from the virus in Texas. I decided to write this article because I am a big believer in the old adage – “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I did not write this article to scare people; rather, I wrote it so that people will think about the possibility, and start to prepare and plan for it.

Since September 11, 2001, I have cautioned “JAILS” to be on the alert for people (being booked) who might have infectious or contagious diseases. Infectious and contagious diseases should be considered additional weapons in the terrorist arsenal.

When I work on emergency / contingency plans, the following quote from the 911Report resonates in my mind. “We were unprepared. We did not grasp the magnitude of a threat that had been gathering over a considerable period of time. As we detail in our report, this was a failure of policy, management, capability, and, above all, a failure of imagination.” [1] I am especially aware of this portion of the quote by Chairman Thomas Kean – “ above all, a failure of imagination.”

When your enemy does not fear dying or in some cases has a desire to die for their cause, anything is possible. Recruiting followers to be infected with the Ebola virus, or other contagious diseases, with the intention of infecting other people, is probable and, in my opinion, turning a disease into a weapon – “Bioterrorism”! Sheriff and jail administrators should use this time to insure that they and their facilities are prepared for this new type of terrorist threat.

Now is the time for jails to increase their intake and processing vigilance, to include but not be limited to the following:

  1. Keep strict adherence to following the “Universal Precautions”.
  2. Ask the detainees if they have been to any of the countries now experiencing the Ebola outbreak.
  3. Ask detainees if they have been sick recently and, if so, what type of illness did they experience? (Did they seek medical care?)
  4. Ask detainees if anyone that they have been in close contact with recently had been ill and, if so, what type of illness was it, and did they seek medical care?
  5. Ask the detainees if they have been in contact with any people who have been in countries experiencing the Ebola outbreak
  6. Take the temperature of all incoming detainees.
  7. Observe detainees for symptoms of Ebola.
  8. Insure that the booking area and holding area cells are kept clean and disinfected, at a minimum once a shift, if possible.

Symptoms of Ebola include

  • Fever (greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F)
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola,
but the average is 8 to 10 days. [2]

It is believed that for people to become infected, they have to have direct contact with body fluids from a person who is “contagious”. If terrorists were going to use Ebola as a weapon, they would certainly devise methods for engaging in direct contact, especially in a correctional setting. For example:

  1. Spitting in the eyes of correctional personnel.
  2. Entering into a physical confrontation with correctional personnel and biting them.
  3. Throwing urine or feces in the faces of correctional personnel.

(Years ago when HIV/Aids was rampant, these and other methods were used by inmates who were trying to infect correctional personnel.)

Correctional staff should adhere to strict “Universal Precautions” and wash their hands often during their shift. They should CHANGE THEIR PROTECTIVE GLOVES AFTER TOUCHING EACH DETAINEE. So often I have seen officers shake down detainees/inmates with the same pair of gloves, going from one inmate to another. Additionally, I have seen them wipe their eyes or foreheads. BE CAREFUL! (A doctor in Madrid says the Spanish nurse infected with Ebola remembers touching her face with her gloves after treating a dying priest.) [3]

I have believed, since the attacks on 911, that if terrorists wanted to use a biological attack to spread terror in the Unites States, they could and would use jails. My rationale for this is as follows. Before anyone could identify the initial source, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, would have been exposed to the disease, and large numbers could be infected, thereby, possibly infecting other people with whom they came in contact. For example, think of how fast head lice and scabies spread through a jail because of the close contact among the detainees, as well as the poor personal hygiene of many of the detainees/inmates.


Contagious person(s) are arrested and brought into the booking area on a busy Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night. The person is held in jail until Monday, (depending on the jurisdiction) thereby exposing and potentially infecting everyone he/she comes in contact with during their stay – staff, other detainees, inmates, and perhaps some religious and/or volunteers.

On Monday, the contagious detainee(s) are loaded into a transportation van and moved to the courtroom (again depending upon the location). If it is a courtroom arraignment, even more people could be exposed. Whether, in a courtroom or through video arraignment, the contagious detainee(s) are either held or released. Regardless of the outcomes of the arraignment processes, the potential for a great number of people to be exposed has existed.

The cycle could look like this:
One contagious detainee + arresting officer(s) + booking staff (3 officers) + 10 detainees + transportation officers(s) + courtroom personnel (2 officers) + appointed attorney + remanded to jail or released. Now, several people have been exposed to the disease.

Some other conditions that should be taken into consideration when analyzing why jails may be a prime target for this type of “Bio-Terrorist” attack are that so many of the detainees/inmates:

  1. Are homeless, which can make it difficult to find them upon their release, in order to ascertain if they have been infected.
  2. Already have “compromised” immune systems.
  3. The symptoms of Ebola or other contagious diseases may be masked because of already preexisting medical conditions that detainees and inmates manifest.
  4. Have additional issues and unconventional lifestyles (Sharing of hypodermic needles, drinking from the same bottles, sexual activity, hygiene, etc.)

Lastly, most jails have quick turnover of detainees, which ensures the terrorists that there will be a constant opportunity for exposing the general populace. Jails are an integral part of the “Government”, and when the source gets traced back to jails, the people could start to lose faith in their government. So, the bad guys win on two levels:

  1. They manage to expose/infect a great many people to/with Ebola.
  2. They cause the general public to lose faith in their government.

In both cases they create “terror”.

Being Prepared for the Worst

Some suggestions for what should be part of the facility’s planning process:

Develop policies and procedures for the following concerns:

The securing of the facility at the first suspicion that a detainee(s) is exhibiting the symptoms of the disease.

  • No one comes in and no one leaves the facility; the building is secured.
  • Public safety and health agencies are notified “IMMEDIATELY”!
  • External law enforcement personnel establish a perimeter around the facility.
  • External law enforcement personnel identify a “Press Assembly” area and direct all press personnel to that area with instructions that they are “not to leave the Press Area”.
  • Follow any directive given to the facility by the local Health Department and/or CDC.
  • Shut off all detainee/inmate external telephones temporarily. (This is done so that external law enforcement will have an opportunity to establish an external perimeter. Once the external perimeter is established, then the detainee/inmate telephones can be turned on so that detainees/inmates can communicate with their families, etc.)
  • Ascertain all visitors, staff and/or volunteers who “may” have had any contact with the detainee/inmate and compile a list to be given to appropriate agencies.

Develop a “CLOSE” working relationship with the local Board of Health. (In my 40 plus years in the field of criminal justice, I have found that very often the correctional facilities are not on other agencies’ radar screens, so they have to make their presence known.)

There should be a procedure in place for correctional personnel to communicate with their families, etc.

There should be a plan to operate the facility with “ONLY” the personnel who are quarantined within the facility, until other arrangements can be made.

Identify the number of Hazmat suits and where the facility would get them. Total Hazmat precautions must be part of this plan. This means anything coming in and anything going out, to include trash.

Train and practice operating the facility wearing the Hazmat Suits.



As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I decided to write it because I am a big believer in the old saying – “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I did not write this article to scare people; rather, I wrote it so that criminal justice professionals will start planning and prepare for the possibility of either detainees or visitors seeking to infect people with Ebola or other infectious /contagious diseases simply to provoke terror, and to disrupt the orderly operations of jails throughout the country.

All of us live in a far different world since September 11, 2001, but as long as we are prepared for eventualities, we should be OK.

BREAK NEWS! A nurse who cared for the man who died from Ebola has proven positive for the virus, “In the first case of Ebola transmission in the United States, a Texas nurse who treated an Ebola-stricken Liberian man has tested positive for the deadly virus. The diagnosis was confirmed Sunday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four days after the death of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas.” [4]

One last thought – if you think that this article may have caused some terrorist groups to consider using this tactic you are wrong, because in all probability they already have thought of it!

[1] 911 Report

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Radicalization and Intelligence Gathering In Correctional Institutions: Part One

September 23rd, 2014

I learned a valuable lesson years ago while investigating a bank robbery. I found out that correctional institutions are filled with viable intelligence about criminal activities. My partner, mentor, and teacher – Detective Sergeant Dick Henault – was becoming very frustrated because the “Brass” was turning up the heat on an investigation of ours that had stalled, and the leads were going nowhere. We had one significant lead left and that was the bank teller’s description of one of the robber’s noses – “It was all over his face” it was hideous looking the bank teller kept saying to us.

Then as luck would have it, we were having coffee with an Institutional Parole Officer (I.P.O.) where we were discussing another case we were working on. We happened to mention the bank robbery and the clue we still were working on, the “Nose”. He said he would ask around and let us know if he found out anything. Within a couple of days, we received a phone call from the I.P.O. He had a name and mug shots, prison name was “Knucklehead” (not the real prison name).

When we saw the mug shots we knew what the bank teller meant by her description of the robber’s nose: “It was all over his face”. My partner and I had never seen a nose like this one; it truly was all over his face. I guess it had been broken many, many times from being in fights. We were soon to find out that this guy was a very violent person.

The I.P.O. told us when he queried some of his prison’s cooperating individuals to see if they knew of anyone with a strange nose it didn’t take very long before they identified our suspect. To make a long story short, the suspect was arrested and convicted of armed bank robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

I have shared this story so that other criminal justice and intelligence agencies appreciate the correctional community as a valuable resource for gathering and sharing intelligence. It has been well established that radicalization of inmates takes place everyday in prisons across the world. One of the first was Richard Reed, a.k.a. “The Shoe Bomber”.

Those inmates who are doing the radicalization are not doing it in a vacuum. They are being kept up-to-date and are very familiar and aware with what is happening in the “Free World” on a continuous basis. They have to interact with their individual terrorist groups:

  1. To conduct background checks on new recruits.
  2. To get current information that they can use to recruit new members.
  3. To get information to their groups about when the new recruits are being

  4. To receive information from the “Free World” telling the new recruits where to report upon release.

Correctional personnel can be valuable in gathering intelligence and sharing that intelligence with other criminal justice and intelligence agencies by:

  1. Discovering recruiting techniques.
  2. Sharing the identities of (suspected and confirmed) new recruits.
  3. Sharing identities of those inmates who were approached but didn’t buy into the radicalization so that they can be questioned as to what methods and techniques were used to recruit them.
  4. Identifying characteristics that the terrorist recruiters were looking for prior to approaching a person to be a new recruit.
  5. Informing criminal justice and intelligence agencies of release dates of those inmates doing the recruiting and those who have been recruited.
  6. Sharing names (and other information contained in the inmates’ “official” visitors lists) of those inmates doing the recruiting as well as confirmed and suspected new recruits.
  7. Sharing video of visitors who visit recruiters and recruits.
  8. Sharing audio recordings from visits and telephone conversations.

To be successful against these terrorist groups, agencies must learn to work more closely than ever before. These terrorist groups are waging a war with no guidelines or boundaries; therefore, we must use all the assets we have at our disposal.

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We Have Lost Power – Part 3: Direct Operations

September 4th, 2014

For the purpose of this paper the definition of “Direct Operations” includes everything involved with daily operations of correctional facility.

“Direct Operations” cover a multitude of areas and each of these are must be part of the planning process should the facility loose all External Electrical Power. This planning process is also a good time to review the facilities “Direct Operations” to insure that they are up-to-date, sound security practices, energy efficient and operationally sound.

I would recommend to review the “Direction Operations” of a correctional facility the review team compare the written daily “operational” schedule with what is actually being done. It has been my experience that a great many correctional facilities written schedule differ greatly with the actual transpires on a day-to-day basis.

To conduct a realistic “Direction Operations” survey for this planning process it is crucial that the review team actually observed the “Direct Operations” as they happen and then compare what actually happened with what is written.

Why, you may ask, is it important to determining what the “actual” daily “Direction Operations” activities are for a correctional facility? The answer to this question is because the loss of all external electrical power will significantly affect the actual day –to-day “Direct Operations” of the facility. Furthermore, there can be numerous difference between what the written daily schedule says and what “actually” takes place.

From the very beginning of the power outage the facility will have to make emergency arrangements:


  • Reduce the electrical demands of the generator (s) to conserve fuel.
  • Conduct an inventory of food on hand.
  • Establish emergency staffing patterns.
  • Cancel all vacations and time off.
  • Announce to the inmate population any/all changes to the daily schedule. Initially, inform the inmates that all movement will be minimal until further notice.
  • Conduct an inventory of all medicines on hand.
  • Identify all inmates who will need daily medicines (heart, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) and insure that there is a at least a 14 to 30 day supply of these medicine.
  • Initiate the purchasing of additional non- perishable foodstuffs.
  • Initiate the purchasing of additional medicines and necessary medical supplies.
  • Fill all vehicle gas tanks and any other legal gas cans.
  • Initiate the purchase of fuel for the generator (s). Remember hospitals, other public safety operations, nursing homes, shelters, etc. will also be vying for fuel for their generators.
  • All Inmates who have compromised medical issues should be moved to one area so that they can be cared for using the minimum amount of staff. (Of course the security classifications of these inmates must be considered.
  • Assign additional staff, if necessary, to high security areas.
  • Reassess the inmates who will be let out of their cells to perform work assignments. (Initially, the administration might want to consider inmate work assignments being performed by staff, until the inmate reassessment can be conducted.
  • What activities, programs, and event can be postpone, or canceled until power is restored.

Exercise One :

  1. How many inmates (just a number not the names) at the facility need daily medication to survive?
  2. What would be the maximum number of days could each inmate survive without his/her medication?
  3. How many inmates require “special” medical procedures, e.g. dialysis, wound care, blood transfusions, etc.?
  4. How many inmates (just a number not names) at the facility need medicine for psychiatric conditions?

Exercise Two:

  1. How many vehicles does the agency have?
  2. What is the capacity of each of the vehicles fuel takes?
  3. Establish a procedure for recharging hand-held radios.
  4. Determine if necessary what vehicle (s) will be used to communicate with facility should the main radio become out of service.

The numerous things that transpire almost unnoticed, in a correctional facility, when everything is working can be daunting when there is a major emergency.

The review team should determine how the following activities can take place in the event of the “Loss of All External Power”:

  1. Number of meals per day 2 or 3, hot or cold?
  2. Out of cell time for inmates – Depends on available staff
  3. Indoor or outdoor recreation – Depends of available staff
  4. Canteen services – Internal or Outside Vendor? If the canteen services are provided by an outside vendor the facility should review their procedures for supplying the facility should an event of the nature take place. (More will be discussed in the Indirect Operations and Supply Chain sections of the paper.)
  5. Wastewater disposal
  6. Potable water supply
  7. Perishable foods supply
  8. Perishable foods storage (Number of days)
  9. Laundry Operations
  10. Visiting (if possible)

Exercise Three:
Identify other “Direct Operations” that the review team should include in their planning process.

As previously stated “Direct Operations” includes everything involved with daily operations of correctional facility. While I have attempted to give the readers some ideas of what areas need to be looked at by the review team during the planning process I have only touch the surface. It is up to the review team to “drill down” to the specific of the facilities daily “Direct Operations”.

During the planning process remember these things:

  1. What HAS to be done on a daily basis!
  2. What can be done, on a daily basis, given the current circumstance!
  3. What has to be suspended until the crisis has past!
  4. Document all decisions!!!!

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We Have Lost Power – Yes, It Can Happen – Part Two (A)

July 21st, 2014

I am willing to bet that some of the people who read Part One of this series made some of the following statements; “That will never happen here. Impossible! I don’t believe it”!

I understand that it is almost impossible to think of the United States of America without electrical power for months; it’s almost inconceivable. For the people who are responsible for emergency planning, the task is demanding and daunting.

Here is some bad news from a June 9, 2014 article: “Terrorists Blackout Yemen” “For the first time in history, a terrorist attack on the electric power grid has blacked-out an entire nation. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is the group claiming responsibility for the attack. “ [1]

So it has happened! An entire country – YEMEN – has lost all of its external electrical power! Those groups/people, foreign and domestic, who would do us harm are perfecting their tactics, skills and knowledge. We can sit and wait for something to happen, or we can develop a plan so that we will have something to go by when/if this catastrophe occurs.

Once again the Major Areas that we are going to develop for the plan are:

  1. Personnel Issues / Concerns
  2. Direct Operations
  3. Indirect Operations
  4. Supply Chain

As we develop the plan, you will see that each of the Major Areas will break down into several subcategories. As the old saying goes, “The devil is in the details” and for a plan like this, it is important that we “drill down” to get to the details.

1. Personnel Issues and Concerns

Personnel Issues and Concerns will drive the other elements of this matrix. Personnel Issues and Concerns are very complex because there are so many stakeholders, and because without personnel the organization ceases to operate.

There are a number of unknowns when human beings face a catastrophic event such as the loss of all external electrical power for an extended period of time. Some people will panic and do foolish things, perhaps even criminal things.

An event such as the loss of all external power will evolve and I am predicting that it will worsen as the time without power lengthens, because everything, even water, will become a scarce commodity. New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina is an example of what and how people will react to the unknown. We will discuss Katrina in greater depth further on in this series of articles.


It is known that to effectively operate a correctional facility, a specific number of correctional staff is required. Therefore, each facility should complete the following exercise:

  • Conduct a comprehensive staff analysis to determine the minimum number of staff required to operate “each” shift.
  • This staffing analysis “must” include all of the disciplines that it takes to operate a correctional facility (Security, Programming, Medical, Psychological, Food Service, Maintenance Support, Administration, Supervisors, and Transportation).
  • Pre-determine posts to be filled by “departmental” priority.
  • Example:

    Security Posts – Perimeter Patrol 24/7

    A Block-2 16/7

    A Block-1 8/7

    Chief Steward and two cooks 16/7

    Doctor 8/4

    Nurse 2 16/7

    Nurse 1 8/7

    C.N.A. 1 24/7

    Maint. 1 16/7

Now, here is a “REALITY CHECK”! In your planning process, have you taken into account the reality of ‘staff’ abandoning their posts and/or the number of staff who will not report for duty if there is an emergency of this magnitude.

Factors for people abandoning their posts and/or not reporting for work must be taken into consideration.

  • A number of today’s correctional professionals are single parents.
  • Some are taking care of elderly parents.
  • Some are responsible for the safe keeping of animals.
  • Both parents may work at the facility.
  • Both parents may work in public safety occupations.
  • It is human nature to take care of oneself and family.

As an example of how people will react during a crisis, Hurricane Katrina lends us some useful information. The New Orleans Police reported that 249 officers deserted their posts during the crisis. This was about 15% percent of its force. [2]

Here is an exercise: Now that you have determined the minimum staffing by department and hours, recalculate your findings with:

  • 10% fewer staff from every department
  • 15% fewer staff from every department
  • 20% fewer staff from every department
  • 50% fewer staff from every department

After completing this exercise take some time to determine the impact on the operations of the facility. I believe that you will find it shocking.

Now that reality has set-in, you should go back and rethink the facility’s staffing document that you have prepared previously. The goal of these two exercises is for the facility’s planners to have a plan to staff with the “real” number of staff who show-up for work.

An Army Colonel who was preparing a plan for the evacuation of a major European city in the event of a nuclear attack told me that, after careful analysis, he and his team determined that less than 50% of the troops would report for duty. I have always kept this story in the back of my mind when developing or reviewing emergency/contingency plans.

One could project that if the duration and destruction of Hurricane Katrina continued on for a longer period of time, the officer desertion rate would have, most probably, increased. Here is what happens when the facility’s emergency/ contingency plans are not well developed and practiced.

Human Rights Watch reported, “Inmates in Templeman III, one of several buildings in the New Orleans Parish Prison compound, reported as of Monday, August 29, there were no correctional officers in the building, which held more than 600 inmates. These inmates, including some who were locked in the ground-floor, were not evacuated until Thursday, September 1, four days after flood waters in the jail had reached chest-level”. [3]

Not to minimize the severity of Hurricane Katrina, but the duration of the storm over New Orleans could be estimated. The public safety people knew when the storm would move on. The total loss of external electrical power for an extended period of time is without question, in my mind, a much more demanding emergency.

Most of us saw how the general public reacted during Katrina. We can only imagine how the general public will react initially and throughout the duration of an incident where all external electrical power is lost. When there is a lack of food, possibly fresh drinking water, heat, air conditioning, alarms, lights, etc., the best and worst in people will be manifested.

Staff and Their Families

Very often, emergency contingency plans do not take into consideration the staff’s families. It is my belief that if the facility is going to ask the staff to come to work and do their jobs, then the facility has an obligation, in my opinion, to assist the employees’ families.

Some of the ways a facility can assist their staff should an event of this magnitude occur:

  • Supply fresh drinking water
  • Permit family members access to the facility’s medical personnel
  • Allow rationing of food supplies
  • Allow washing of clothing
  • Allow family visiting time for employees (meals together)
  • Provide transportation, if needed, for employees’ family members, etc.

The Inmates

Inmates are going to be like everyone else in the United States when the power goes out. They are going to be wondering about their families, and themselves.

As correctional professionals, it is our duty to:

  • Maintain the security of the facility
  • Insure the “care and custody” of the inmates
  • As much as humanly possible, address the needs of the inmates
  • As much as possible, permit the inmates to have communications with their family members
  • Insure, as much as possible, a safe living environment for the inmates

Maintaining the Security of the Facility will be extremely demanding and we will go into great detail in the Direct Operation section of this series. For this section we will examine Maintaining the Security of the Facility from a staffing and inmate perspective.

Critical during any emergency situation is keeping everyone “INFORMED” with the most accurate information possible. This includes the staff and the inmates. It is inevitable that the “rumor mill” will crank –up. It is the responsibility of the Administration and Management to stifle rumors by spreading factual information.

Re-thinking daily operations to further insure the Security of the Facility may be necessary. The goal is to always have enough staff to manage a situation should it erupt. To be able to accomplish this will require “fine tuning” every aspect of the Direct Daily Operations.

  • Rather than serving meals in the dayrooms of the pods, meals may have to be served to the inmates in their cells.
  • Many of the “Stationary” posts may have to become more flexible so that staff can “float” to where they are for specific purposes.
  • Obliviously there will “not” be sufficient staff to operate normally, but the Administration/Management must make every effort possible to permit the inmates time to exercise, attend religious services, and time to recreate, etc. “They have to blow off steam”!
  • Let the inmates know in advance of upcoming changes to the daily schedule.
  • Example:

    -The staff will start serving the noon meal at 11:00 am rather than noon.

    -To conserve power we will shut off every other lighting fixture in the hallways and living areas.

    -We did not receive any mail delivery today, etc.

  • Exercise: What are some changes that you think of that might be unique to your facility? Write them down
  • Because of the loss of all External Electrical Power some of the operations may have to be accomplished manually. (I would recommend that at least once a week the staff operate the facility manually, so that if the need occurs they will be prepared.)

It is crucial for the staff to adjust to the “real world” situations that the loss of all External Electric Power would create. Some terms to remember are:

  • Flexible – To be able to change to meet the challenge
  • Pre-plan EVERYTHING – Think before acting – a single mistake could create an “internal” crisis
  • Quick response – Catch it in the bud – What used to be small things could now become big things
  • Show of force – Always have sufficient staff to deal with any situation that may arise.
  • Improvise when necessary – Make it work to get through the crisis.
  • Expect the unexpected – No facility can plan for every contingency, but if the staff is well trained and prepared to REACT, that is all that be can expected.

Care and Custody

First things first. The facility should have a policy and procedure that “suspends” all operational policies and procedures in the event of any emergency. Someday the emergency will end and the lawyers for the inmates will be attempting to sue on behalf of the inmates because the facility “violated” its own policies and procedures. I remember a judge once saying that, in his opinion, “ There is no defense for violating your own policies and procedures.” While it may sound crazy, I believe that it could happen. I have seen weirder things in 40 years.

While the facility has a policy and procedure for suspending the normal operational P&Ps, this does not relieve it from providing Care and Custody of its inmates.


When we are discussing Care of the inmates, it should be understood by the readers that this Care is far reaching. For example:

  • Medical care
  • Dental care
  • Physiological care
  • Shelter
  • Food
  • Water
  • Clean clothes
  • Clean living conditions
  • Protection from other inmates
  • Evacuation to another facility if possible
  • Inoculations for diseases (Tetanus, measles, chickenpox, etc.). This is something I learned from working with Youthful Offenders. Very often the YOs did not know if they ever had inoculations for childhood diseases.
  • Daily medications for inmates with chronic and acute conditions
  • Wound care (if applicable)
  • Visitation (if possible)
  • Discharge (if applicable)

I cannot over emphasize the importance of addressing (caring for) the inmates’ psychological health. Their human emotions such as fear and worry about themselves and their families will only intensify as the crisis drags on.


Continuing custody of the inmates at this time, I believe, will prove challenging. Initially, everyone will be assessing what is / has happened. As the duration of the event continues, “new” unofficial rules will be established by the inmates in an effort to maintain life, as they knew it.

I spoke with a great many correctional professional post “911” and asked them how the inmates responded. The census was that many of the inmates reacted like most every other American – they were shocked and angered. There were some inmates who retreated to their cells or living areas. And of course there were the troublemakers, gang members who were trying to exploit the situation for their own gains.

The facility will be hard at work re-thinking, developing, and implementing new operational policies and procedures to get it through the crisis. The facility will work to insure the following:

  • Security
  • Operational effectiveness
  • Operational efficiency
  • Assessing the number of days of on-hand “necessary” supplies
  • Staffing requirements / shortages
  • Assessing any damages, if any, to the facility, equipment, etc.

The inmates will also be assessing how this crisis affects them in the short and long run.As the crisis continues, the facility will have to make adjustments to maintain security and control. Just remember, in this series of articles we are only discussing a correctional facility. The rest of America will also be trying to survive.

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