You were just notified that you will be a Correctional Officer soon. Congratulations! Now what? Have you thought about what you will need for gear? Hey, if you get lucky your agency will provide some. But, if you are like the rest of us, you will have to buy your own. Here’s the catch: you WILL need gear but you won’t be told exactly what you need.
Think about what you may be doing in a correctional facility. Its ok, you can think about all those episodes of prison shows that you are glued to. Are you going to be searching? If so, what will you be searching? Any dark nook and crannies that need looking into? Are you going to work in broad daylight or do you think that it may be nights? Are you ever going to have to restrain an offender? Use force on them? They answer to all these is YES!
Here are the items that, in my humble opinion, are essential to every Correctional Officer.
Now you may be asking yourself where you can get all this and how much is it going to cost you. You can check your local police supply store and see what they have or you can go online and look it up. If checking online, I would suggest typing in corrections duty gear or corrections duty gear packages in your browser and go from there. On the average you can be looking at a cost of $134.99-$200+ depending on the manufacturer and where you get it from.
- Kevlar Tactical Gloves – There is no doubt that you will be searching, searching and searching. The offenders hide contraband, we go looking for it. The chances of us getting injured as a result of a sharp instrument is high. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report 53,469 officers were assaulted in 2010. 14.1 percent of the officers who were assaulted with knives or other cutting instruments were injured. Think about this number…14.1% injured. And these were Police Officers. The number of assaults with knives or other cutting instruments is much higher for correctional officers. Offenders don’t have guns (At least I sure as heck hope they don’t!). Offenders have razors, shanks or anything else that they can cut us, or other offenders with. Kevlar tactical gloves work…get some!
- Flashlight and flashlight case – It does not matter if you are going to be working during the day or night, you need to have a flashlight. Inside correctional facilities there are many areas that are not well lit no matter what the building design is. Ask anyone that works in this field and they will tell you the same thing…get a flashlight.
- Handcuff case – You will be carrying handcuffs in many of the positions within a facility. There are some agencies that require all staff to carry them. Some agencies will provide you with the handcuffs and case while you are at work but you must leave it there (just remember that shared equipment does not last nor is it well taken care of). If you are working in an Administrative Segregation area, you will have handcuffs.
- Pepper Spray Holder – Guess what you get to carry when you’re working? A canister of “Don’t you know any better?” We use this as a last resort (and it sucks when we have to use it) but it is very effective in most instances. You may be provided with the O.C. but not with the holder for it. Make sure that you know what size canister your agency uses prior to buying it and get the right one (MKIII or MKIV)
- Latex Glove Pouch – The Kevlar tactical gloves will protect you from getting cut, but it will not protect you from body fluids You should have latex or nitrile gloves with you at all times. I would suggest you carry a minimum of 4 pair on you. If you ball them up nice and tight you can fit 5 pair into the “1 pair glove pouch.” You never know when you are going to have to lay your hands on a bloody offender (and hopefully not a bloody staff member) or any other body fluid.
- Silent Key Holder – Although most officers I know like to attach the work keys to their belt, the keys rattle and let everyone know when you are coming. Might as well put that cow bell on and go into a pasture. Yes, more COW BELL! A silent key holder will allow you to keep that set of keys on your belt yet restrain them so they are not jingling all over the place. As for me, I found a second use for them. I simply removed the key clip from it and use it as a Kevlar glove carrier
- Radio Holder – You may or may not have be carrying a radio on the job. I say that you get a universal radio holder so that you have a place to carry your radio. I would recommend one that is adjustable to fit many radio designs. And finally…
- Duty Belt and belt keepers – Where did you think that you would put all these items? Around your normal work belt? Some people may do that but I want you to think about this: Most agencies search staff upon arrival which means that you will have to take everything off that work belt and then put each item back on. And when you take it off after you get home, what are you going to do? Leave 7-8 different duty gear items laying around and hope that you remember all of them tomorrow when you go to work? I don’t know about you, but I’d probably loose my head if it wasn’t attached to my body. With a duty belt you can have them located where you want them without having it slide around and then just have one thing to keep up with. The belt keepers will keep that duty belt and all your new gear firmly attached to your waist. I recommend a triple retention duty belt which affords the maximum amount of protection and security so that an offender can’t take it off (also works great if one of part of the buckle clip snaps off since the belt won’t come off).
Now, stay safe and CONGRATULATIONS on your new job!
Opinions expressed are of the author only
Editor's note: Corrections.com author Bryan Avila started working as a Police Officer in 1994 while attending Norwich University in Northfield, VT. In 1999 he began working for the Vermont Dept of Corrections while still working as a Part-Time Police Officer. In 2007 he left public service until 2009 when he began working for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He is currently a Correctional Training Instructor- Sergeant of Correctional Officers, at the TDCJ Region I Training Academy located in Huntsville, TX.
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