S is for Shakedown

Shakedown is something both staff and offenders alike abhor.  This is an operation that completely disrupts every program, every activity and every job within a prison unit.  When you work or live Behind Bars, you dread hearing the word “Shakedown”.

There are several different types of shakedowns carried out in the prison setting and, unfortunately, all of them are necessary to maintain security and control of the prison environment.  Some might call them ‘necessary evils’, but they are probably ‘necessary goods’.

Shakedown refers to searches.  Searches can be personal or impersonal, small or large, planned or random.  Small shakedowns might be pat searches of individuals coming or going from place to place on the unit such as from the housing area (cells) to the rec yard or from the rec yard to the visitation area.  The offenders are normally searched for contraband items carried on their persons in these cases.  The staffmembers might find money, cigarettes, drugs or any number of items not allowed in the possession of offenders.  In some cases, weapons are sometimes found sewn into the seams of clothing and/or hidden in very ticklish areas on the body of the offender.  These small shakedowns may also include the removal of clothing, called a stripsearch and are normally conducted by same sex staffmembers in private/shielded areas.  But these are normal occurrences and do not generally disrupt operations.

Larger, unit-wide shakedowns require locking the offenders in their cells for two or three or more days while the entire unit is physically searched from top to bottom.  These are usually planned ahead of time, but not generally known to most staff and offenders.  This is the one most offenders and staff do not enjoy.  I say MOST staff and offenders.  Some offenders do not mind because they don’t have to go to work or school and get to simply lay around their bunks all day.  Likewise, with some staff members, if the offenders are locked up, they may have very little to do or may be able to use the time to catch up on work backlogs.  Some staffers use this time to practice what is known as ‘ghosting’ (disappearing off the radar whenever there is work to be done).  Some staff members are experts at ‘ghosting’, others are not so fortunate…

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