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Holidays Are Dangerous Times Within Correctional Facilities

December 14th, 2011

The holiday season in prisons and jails is a dangerous time. In this article we will take a look at the types of dangerous situations that come along with the holidays.

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.
  • NEVER GO TO WORK IF YOU HAVE BEEN DRINKING ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES! (NOT EVEN ONE)
  • Let your family and friends know your work schedule and other time commitments, so that they will not pressure you into doing you into over-committing yourself.
  • Get 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:
    • Suspicious activity
    • Strange behavior demonstrated by visitors or offenders
    • Any emotional outburst by either visitors or offenders (Crying, arguing, threatening behavior, etc.)

Summary

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 should 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!

admin Security Operations, Uncategorized

Drug Gangs Now Constitute Para-Military/Terrorist Groups

April 21st, 2010

The governments of the  United States and Mexico are at  war with the drug gangs. There should not be any mistake that what is happening on the Mexican border is a war. Another misnomer is that all of the violence is happening on the Mexican side of the border. The violence has spilled across the border into Texas, Arizona, California, and beyond.

Mexican drug cartels have recruited street and prison gangs. These criminal groups over the past few years have morphed into para-military/terrorist organizations. They are heavily armed with military weapons. They are employing military tactics to ambush police, politicians and others.

The Mexican drug cartels are employing the  terror tactics of kidnapping, hostage taking, be-headings, and extreme torturing of their victims prior to killing them. These people use extreme violence for one purpose only greed. They feed this greed by selling drugs all over the world. These Gangs do not adhere to the Geneva Convention or, for that matter to any degree of human decency - they are cold blooded murderers.

These drug gangs have attacked prisons and local jails to free their fellow gang members and/or leaders. Criminal justice personnel from every division of the criminal justice family (Law Enforcement, Courts, and Corrections) and politicians have become the favored targets of the drug games. I believe that they have chosen these groups because by killing police, etc. they instill fear and terror in the general public. If the police cannot control the streets during the daylight, what hope does a normal citizen have against the ruthless, greed driven killers? In an effort to get the violence under control, the Mexican Government has sent in its military. Even with a significant military presence, the murder and violence continues, practically unabated. Just last week the drug gang violence spread to Mexico’s tourist area of Acapulco. This war has had a devastating affect on the Mexican economy and quality of life.  Yet, there are a great many people making untold amounts of money. “Certainly at the marco level , there is a lot of money flowing into Mexico and a lot of people, from bankers and businessmen to political parties and politicians, are benefiting from the massive influx of cash. The lure of this lucre shapes how many Mexicans (particulary many of the Mexican elite) view narcotics trafficking.. It is, frankly, a good time to be a banker, real estate developer or a Rolex dealer in Mexico.” [1]

Over the past year or more the war has continued to escalate and now the United States is feeling the effects of the extreme violence.  I believe that the time is fast approaching when the United States will soon have to face the fact that this phenomenon (war) has surpassed the bounds of criminal activities and has entered into the boundaries of para-military/terrorists.

Jails and prisons, both private and public, will be required to prepare emergency plans detailing what steps they must take should they be attacked. Private companies that are used to incarcerating detainees for the various Federal government law enforcement agencies (ICE, USMS, etc.) may find themselves in a rather precarious position:

- Should they be attacked by one of these para-military/terrorist groups, without question, deadly force will have to be used - are they covered?

- Do they have adequate training to respond to such an attack?

- Are the private jail and prison personnel armed properly? From personal experience, a year or so ago, I was astonished to see how inadequately armed they were. Hopefully, that has changed.

- Have they identified who would be providing their back-up and how long will it take for that back-up to arrive?

(These recomenations also apply to public jails and prisons. My experience in public jails and prisons leads me to believe that  public jails and prisons are better armed than the private ones.)

As I have written before, should your facility come under attack you should remember:

= The attack has been planned in detail.

= The attack will be conducted on a comprehensive timetable.

= The attack could be one of stealth (As the one in Mexico was when the attackers drove up to the prison in police cars and they were let in.)

= The attack could be extremely “hard hitting” where the attackers will use explosives plus light and heavy weapons fire. It is not unusual for these para-military/terrorists to use machine guns and hand grenades.

= The attackers have no problem  with killing people.

One has to wonder just how far this war will go. The Mexican government is putting up a valiant fight,but I do not see where they are winning. These drug gangs now have become emboldened enough to become para-military/terrorist groups with a thirst for more power and more money. I would not be surprised if someday in the near future our Southwestern border returns to its wild west roots.

[1] Stewart, Scott, Stratford (Global Security & Intelligence Report) April 8, 2010   (www.stratfor.com?fn=9615985979)

billsturgeon Security Operations, Uncategorized , , , , ,

Is the Chino (CA) Riot a Precursor of What is to Come

August 17th, 2009

As I am writing this article, the smoke is still rising from the Chino Prison in California. I have for the past few years been concerned that correctional systems could be destined to have a repeat of the riots of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s - Attica, Santa Fe, etc.

Read more…

billsturgeon Escapes from a facility, Major Disturbance / Riots, Security Operations, security ,

Why are There so Many Escapes - Lately

August 4th, 2009

Why are There so Many Escapes - Lately?

By Wm. Bill Sturgeon

The other day I read about another escape from a correctional facility. In the past, an escape could be a career ending experience for a chief correctional administrator. After many years in the field of corrections, I have reviewed many escapes and for the most part there are some basic similarities in every escape. While they all do not have to happen for escapes to take place, in today’s article we will look at some of these similaries. 

Read more…

billsturgeon Escapes from a facility, Security Operations, security

Back to Basics - Part 2 - Extended Loss of Power

July 20th, 2009

“When the lights went out in …” It is a very real possibility that there could be a future emergency where power is lost for a prolonged period of time. If memory serves me correctly, the last time agencies/companies gave serious consideration to the potential loss of power for an extended period of time was Y2K.

Many agencies/companies prepared to react to an extended loss of power by insuring that they had extra fuel for their emergency generators. While this was a positive step for agencies/companies, it was only one of many other steps that needed to be put into place to insure operations, should there be an extended loss of power. Read more…

billsturgeon Extended Loss of Power, Security Operations, Uncategorized, security ,

Tried and True - Back to Basics

June 16th, 2009

BTB-Recommendation #1. Key Rotation

Do not forget to rotate your security keys. At least twice a year rotate the facilities’ operational keys with the emergency keys so that they wear equally.

billsturgeon Security Keys, Security Operations, security , ,