Tuesday, February 12, 2019

How Will Your Correctional Facility Deal With These Challenges in 2019?

Jail keys
While the Bureau of Justice Statistics has indicated that prison and jail populations have been trending slightly down over the last decade, the reality is that such a decline has done little to alleviate the common problems at correctional facilities around the nation.

As we move into the thick of 2019, correctional facilities will continue to face major challenges that leave officers and employees at risk, increase the chances of inmate violence, and cause many other headaches inside your walls.

Here are some challenges correctional facilities can expect to deal with in the coming year, along with ways to combat them.

Retaining Staff


As you're no doubt aware, working in a prison is a stressful job. Correctional officers (COs) deal with dangerous people and must face the risk of riots, attacks and escape attempts on a daily basis. In many ways, being a CO can be a thankless job since it can be difficult for people to get a sense of what the job provides to society. From poor safety practices to low pay, several issues have driven many good COs away and contributed to staff shortages in many states.

One small thing you can do to help retain your COs is to help them feel like management understands their concerns and issues. Reassure them of the importance of their position and what it provides to society — keeping criminals off the streets. In addition, take what steps you can to give them better safety and security within your facility, whether by implementing new technologies or providing them with better safety equipment.

Managing Overcrowding


Though the number of inmates has generally declined in recent years, prisons and jail have remained overly crowded based on official capacities. Overcrowding opens the door to many issues, such as an increased chance of inmate violence and a strain on CO and inmate morale. In fact, overcrowding was credited with fueling riots in Kansas prisons in 2017 and 2018.

The construction of more correctional facilities is largely out of your hands, so managers and officers simply have to do the best they can with the available resources to manage the overcrowding issue. Consider reviewing your protocols for what your COs' responsibilities are, how you manage your keys and how you address inmate issues and complaints. Look for areas where lapses in these areas might be leaving everybody at risk and develop better processes. Hold staff accountable to make sure they follow these new rules.

Preventing Violence


Unfortunately, violence is a reality of life in and around correctional facilities, and it affects inmates as well as COs. Even when inmates aren't directly attacking officers, the latter must still get involved during fights between inmates, putting themselves at risk and potentially causing violence to escalate.

Preventing violence is difficult, especially since overcrowding can only be managed internally so much. The best thing you can do is to take steps to better protect your officers who are in harm's way every day. Provide them with equipment, tools and training to handle threats. Find inefficiencies in your physical security that could leave COs at risk of attack or prevent riots from being contained quickly.

Some of these challenges are, to some extent, inescapable due to the myriad of reasons that contribute to people ending up incarcerated and the lack of funding. However, setting policies and making sure COs and employees follow them can give you a step up in protecting your staff not only this year but for years to come.