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This is Only a Test: Some Uses for Trainer Cells
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 06/13/2016

Prisoner-g The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

Wouldn't it be great if good ideas could be implemented immediately? However, brainstorms must be filtered through institutional needs, resources, space, and time.

Still, one can dream. Just because an idea cannot be immediately put into play does not render it perpetually shelved. And creative thoughts are often modified and brought into every day practice, given time.

If time, space, and expense were no object, I would like to see this training exercise mandated at every correctional facility. It is called, “This is only a test”. It is a practical, hands-on learning exhibit for contraband control.

Here's how it works. In the training error of each facility, there'll be built one each of the cell types used in the institution. In other words, if the facility in question has a segregation cell and minimum-security parts, each will be available as trainer cells in the training area. Optimally, these training cells are located outside the secure perimeter for user training and demonstration.

The chief reason for having a trainer cell is to educate staff on the many hiding places that offenders may utilize. They would serve as a useful tool to instruct pre-professionals of many different contraband concealment methods that one can find within the prisoner’s area of control. The trainer cell also serves to hone the skills of experienced professionals.

Also, these trainer cells shall not be used by offenders, as issue of harassing searches can be dismissed. Trainer cells shall be stocked with goods and furniture that simulate a prisoner's presence and should be as realistic as possible.

The institutional training officer can place any contraband item in its hiding places prior to each search exercise. Of course, we all have different perspectives. Therefore, it is wise to get other staff to help conceal the bootleg. And it is best to rotate staff in and out of that position in order to offer as many hiding scenarios as possible.

Whatever the hiding procedure, each training officer should note the nature and location of each item hidden. And in much the same way as a teacher will assess which questions are answered incorrectly, the trainer can determine which locations are typically left unsearched. This information will indicate points to be emphasized in future training.

In addition, the trainer cells can be used for emergency response team members. This is an excellent way to simulate cell rushes.

Thirdly, a trainer cell is a good demonstration for members of the public that may tour the facility. This would give those on tour a pretty good idea of the physical conditions in which offenders are housed. Liability is lessened in this case. Granted, I believe that criminal justice students and pre-professionals should also witness and experience the inside of a facility in order to gain understanding of what goes on. But in many cases, members of the public who may tour prisons would be able to gain enough of an understanding in a trainer cell.

I know that the idea is not strictly original. I believe that many worksites and academies employee dummy cells for training purposes in some form or another. But I wonder just how fully utilized these trainer cells are for contraband control exercises.

I believe that training in hands-on contraband control is essential for the safety of staff, offenders, and the public the construction expense and vocational payroll to run such an exercise is an investment in the future.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

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