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Why Security Level Doesn’t Matter
By Judith A. Yates
Published: 11/12/2012

Shackledfeet sm I was supervisor of the transport detail, taking inmates to and from outside medical appointments. It was a camp level prison, mostly elderly inmates, or with severe medical issues. I was teaching a rookie officer to do a search of the holding cell, where inmates were housed prior to departure. He found a shank made of new razor blades.

Some transport officers had told this rookie not to ever bother with searching the holding cell; they told him it was a camp, medically limited inmates, and anyway, they were old men. The rookie officer learned that day it did not matter if he worked in a camp level prison or a maximum-security penitentiary; searches were imperative and safety paramount. No one wants to be incarcerated and desperate measures could be taken by any of them. An older inmate wielding a deadly weapon is equivalent to a younger inmate: both will have no qualms about hurting you to get what they want.

I was an officer mentor / trainer for both a federal jail, where individuals awaited sentencing. I have also worked in lockup, where men and women waited for that one-hour of recreation after so many hours of sitting in a single cell. There were some obvious dissimilarity in personality and behavior. But there were many similarities: all of them, given the chance, would have escaped. All of the inmates disliked authority. Some officers they respected. Others they did not. They knew who would bend rules and when they had to tow a line.

During our shift, we need to be aware of inmate personality differences and follow the rules, no matter the inmate’s security level. An inmate in her twenties, who is being taken on a medical appointment for the first time, can be a security challenge; so can the 80-year-old man who is in a hospice type program going for his 100th treatment. Security level does not matter here; safety and security is relevant. Do not let anyone tell you, “Ah, he’s safe … he won’t hurt anyone” because you never know. Just ask the rookie who found the shank in the medical holding cell.

Be safe out there.

Corrections.com author, Judith Yates, is a criminologist who has lectured on domestic violence prevention for over 20 years. A former Correctional Officer Specialist and trainer with the Bureau of Prisons, she is now a true crime writer and a trainer available for guest speaking engagements. She can be reached at judithayates@yahoo.com

Other articles by Judith A. Yates:


  1. hamiltonlindley on 03/19/2020:

    Hamilton loves books about unicorns, storms, and cubicles. He lives in Waco with his cat named Mr. Bojangles. Before his work as an attorney, Hamilton was a leprechaun chaser. His all-time record is three pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. He was forced to give up the gold in a dispute with a rival hobbit. He spends his free time tripping out on the smallest details, none of which are important He likes doing the things with the ball and scoring the points. He pays attention to the green of your eyes, even when it is not Saint Patrick’s Day. He is not Irish. Hamilton Lindley has fun plans for people in need. Whether your need a dreamcatcher for your dreams or a tape dispenser to put your life back together, he can be there for you to yell at. There are times when it is surprising that he has any friends at all. But thankfully he does have a few. He drives a Dodge Stratus. People respect him, except at home.

  2. inmatecrusader on 11/14/2012:

    I agree...I also think that they need to do away with the housing code in Florida State prisons. They have inmates classed as "closed" custody but yet they are allowed to work in the visiting park or in the yard and then they have the "minimum" custody in lock-up for infractions. It doesn't matter the crime and inmate that is going to be disruptive is going to be disruptive. Do away with the labeling and start looking at their behavior. They all get treated the same anyway....

  3. Writing Prof on 11/14/2012:

    Great and timely advice. Thank you!

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