|Food Service Staff as Partners in Contraband control|
|By Joe Bouchard|
Food service staff in correctional facilities have the awesome responsibility of ensuring that quality meals are prepared and delivered to hundreds of people. This happens three times a day, all year long – regardless of the state of equipment.
But, in this relentless preparation of meals for hundreds, there is a potential for profound danger. This comes in two basic forms, barter and weapons. This double threat can be common in the kitchen area. Quite simply, there is a huge potential for the contrabandist in the food service area. Because of this, food service staff are important partners in contraband control efforts.
Food as barter. Food and items acquired from the kitchen can be used as barter. Food can be used as contraband, mostly in the way of trade for other goods and services. Extra rations can be promised by prisoner workers in exchange for protection, sex, as a payoff for gambling, etc. There are also many raw materials in the kitchen that can be used to produce prison-made alcohol.
Kitchen weapons. Materials to create weapons often originate from the kitchen. They can be made from discarded cans, altered equipment, and packaging. There are many other opportunities to acquire weapons. Staff patterns are scrutinized by enterprising prisoners to discern the perfect occasion to loosen unessential steel or plastic. If it moves, it will dislodge. If it dislodges, it is a weapon. The kitchen is not free of hazard.
Like other non-custody staff, food service staff perform three particular roles in contraband control. They feed the information machine, relate tales of contraband to newer staff, and monitor the work patterns of prisoners on assignment in the kitchen.
Even in this busy and potentially dangerous part of the facility, food service workers are inherently security-minded. They can be valuable as intelligence gatherers. The observant food steward sees who dines with whom and notes who no longer dines with whom. Also, prisoner kitchen worker dynamics can be interpreted. All notable occurrences should be reported to other food service staff, officers, and up the chain of command. Also, those food service workers with institutional intuition can share feelings of uneasiness.
Effective food service staff seek and report contraband in order to keep a safe area of control. Maintaining a strong presence and employing overt and covert searches accomplishes this. It also includes cooperation and rapport with custody staff and the inspector.
Contraband control is a difficult and sometimes lonely task. If the ultimate goal is to maintain a safe institution for staff to work and prisoners to live, then all staff should participate actively in this vital duty. Contraband control is not just for officers. The more staff that assist in this, the safer the facility will be.
These are the opinions of Joe Bouchard, a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections. These are not necessarily the opinions of the Department. The MDOC is not responsible for the content or accuracy
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