U is for Use of Force

Use of Force is a big, big deal Behind Bars.  If it is done strictly by policy, all is well.  But the problem with Use of Force is the subjectivity of the human condition.  The officers, supervisors and staff members are trained, re-trained, browbeat and brainwashed at every opportunity and inopportunity with the extensive agency policy covering proper procedures for Use of Force situation.

Perons unfamiliar with the term may be wondering what it is exactly and that is a problem, too, because Use of Force is never an exact science; it is more like a set of guidelines used to determine how much force is necessary to control potentially dangerous situations encountered Behind Bars such as riots, escapes (attempted), fights, disobedience, sit-downs, failures to follow orders, ect.  Now, there are many, many situations arising Behind Bars that can become dangerous to offenders, staff and/or the institution itself.

Once the determination has been made that a situation is in danger of escalating, there are specific steps, which must be taken by the staff members in order to make sure proper procedure is followed before offenders are made to physically comply with instructions of any kind.  Simply touching an offender’s elbow and guiding him/her from one place to another is considered a Use of Force.  At the other end of the spectrum, shooting an offender with a shotgun because he/she has just climbed the perimeter fence and hi-jacked a car is also considered a Use of Force.

Somewhere along the line, an entire universe of various personalities must make snap decisions based on their understanding of the Use of Force Policy and Procedures.  Where one officer might be calm and cool in a potentially deadly situation, another officer might not be quite as tolerant.  And this is where the subjectivity of human nature and infinite possibilities come into play.  The outcome of any particular Use of Force depends upon many variables, such as weather, location, number of persons involved, temperaments of those people, training of those people, criminal history of the offender(s), motivation of the offender(s), visibility of additional staff members, whether or not weapons are involved, so on and so forth.  Thus Use of Force situations are always unpredictable, unappreciated and definitely unsafe for all involved.

T is for Trafficking n Trading

This is a term given to the common bartering that goes on Behind Bars.  Offenders rarely have everything they need, much less everything they want and thus, a huge blackmarket of goods and services goes on in the prison setting.  Trafficking and Trading is a disciplinary infraction and depending on what is being traded or trafficked can pull down various degrees of punishment for a conviction.

You would think that this would be just a minor nuisance and perhaps a good way for things to get distributed among the Offenders Haves and the Offender HaveNots.  Unfortunately, like almost everything else that goes on behind bars, things are not so simple or cut and dried.  The problem arises because this sort of trading goes on in dark corners, vaults, showers, rec yards and work sites and is not like a Flea Market or a Yard Sale where money or other items are traded for things of like value.  No, these dealings are more like Mastercard and Visa and BankAmerica.  The HaveNot doesn’t have what he/she wants or needs.  The Haves have it and they offer it like a carrot on a stick to the HaveNots.  The HaveNots, generally speaking not persons who generally make wise decisions in life, take the carrot on account.  On account of they want it right now and they cannot avoid temptation.  Eventually, the HaveNots owe the Haves a lot of cash, goods or promised services for things that have already been used, eaten or used up some other way.

That is where the problem arises.  The Have’s then demand payment.  The Haves must pay… or else.

The “Or Else” is usually not good.  You can use your own imagination what “Or Else” might be, but be aware of the fact that much of what goes bad Behind Bars is a direct result of Traffick and Trading.

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…