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Ten deadly errors
By Gary F. Cornelius, First Lt. (Retired)
Published: 02/02/2009

Wheels Editor’s note: This story is being shared with us by the International Association of Correctional Training Personnel, from its newsletter, The Correctional Trainer.

One thing about going to conferences; not only do you get to go to some great seminars, but you can also pick up some great material-even if you did not attend the workshop.

This was the case at the May, 2008 American Jail Association Conference in Sacramento, California. As I was walking around the conference center, I spied a stack of handouts. One caught my eye, and I composed a handout from it for my Jail Climate class.

The seminar was titled “Managing a Direct Supervision Housing Unit: Back to the Future” and was conducted by four speakers-Detention Officer Marty Boisvert from Pinal County, Arizona Sheriff’ Office, Captain Michael Raunig, Olathe (KS) Adult Detention Center, Sergeant Mike Tolliver, Training Officer at the Abermarle-Charlottesville (VA) Regional Jail and Detention Officer Eric VanArsdale, CJO, Pinal County (AZ) Sheriff’s Office.

The handout was titled “10 Deadly Errors”. It made a lot of sense for correctional officers not only working in direct supervision in correctional facilities, but for any officers working with inmates in every type of facility. I incorporated the ten errors into a handout for my class for training class discussion. I added some commentary to encourage the officer to THINK!

Correctional Officers: The Ten Deadly Errors
    1. Your attitude: Are you complacent? Are you bored? Just because all in the facility is calm, that does not mean that things won’t change in a moment’s notice? Your attitude can affect the safety of other staff and inmates in the facility.

    2. Tombstone Courage: Don’t be a hero. Be safe and strive to retire. No one doubts your courage, but remember inmates can hurt you-get backup-it is common sense.

    3. Not Enough Rest: Alertness is a critical factor. Get rest and sufficient sleep.

    4. Putting yourself in a bad position: Always think “defensive mode”. Do you walk in front of inmates? Are you aware of where they are? If cut off or con- fronted, do you know an escape route or how to quickly call for help?

    5. Failure to Recognize Danger Signs: What concerning inmates is out of place? Is there unusual activity or inactivity? Know your post area, watch the inmates in your area and report and discuss with your supervisor your concerns. Trust your “gut”.

    6. Failure to Watch the Hands of Inmates: A potential assault from an inmate starts with the hands. Watch them.

    7. Relaxing Too Soon: Never think that an inmate call for assistance is a routine one or a false alarm-be alert! Be ready for anything!

    8. Non Usage or Improper Usage of Handcuffs: Know and follow the procedures concerning the proper handcuffing of inmates. Keep the inmate’s hands restrained. Remember your training.

    9. Poor Search Techniques or Not Searching: Other correctional staff trusts you with their lives to perform one of the most critical and basic duties of corrections: searching inmates, their living/work areas and their property. Be nosy. Be thorough. Search properly.

    10. Dirty or Inoperative Equipment: Does your pep- per spray work? Is your radio operable? How clean is your firearm when you carry it on transports? How old is your ammunition? Do you have trouble qualifying at the range? Do the cameras and intercom work? Does your flashlight work?

Think about these errors; please do not make them.

Adapted from: Managing a Direct Supervision Housing Unit: Back to the Future, Seminar at the American Jail Association 27th Annual Conference and Jail Expo, May 6, 2008. Speakers: Marty Boisvert, Michael Raunig, Michael H. Tolliver, Eric VanArsdale, CO.

Lt. Gary F. Cornelius retired from the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center in 2005 after 27 years of service in local corrections. His latest book: The American Jail: Cornerstone of Modern Corrections is available from Pearson Prentice Hall publishing. He recently co founded ETC Consultants, LLC with Timothy P. Manley, MSW, LCSW. He can be reached at adjinstructor@aol.com and at 571-233-0912.


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  4. Bill on 03/15/2012:

    This list has been passed down from year to year. We often find ourselves doing the opposite of what is taught to us in traing. The being totally aware of the sourrounding is of great importance. Each month we all get the news of someone taking a chance and landing up hurt or dead. I on a daily basis check all my equiptment andkeep it clean and in good working order.

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