Corrections Use of Force
ELEMENTS OF SOUND USE OF FORCE/PROTECTION FROM HARM PROGRAM IN JAIL
With all the media attention given to police use of force and the associated liability in this area it has never been more important to review the use of force (UOF) processes in place in our jails. As I have traveled the country providing expert review along with policy and training development in this area it is evident that the importance of and attention to this area and resources dedicated to this area are often lacking, misunderstood, or simply not understood. Sound policy, corrections specific training, and a healthy culture must exist.
First, each facility must have a sound comprehensive policy. The policy must be consistent with the training program used in the jail. This policy should be developed with the assistance of a use of force expert and your legal counsel. This policy must be trained and understood by jail staff as well as be readily available for staff to refer to at any time. This training and understanding must be documented initially and repeated at least annually. The policy must also be adhered to by all staff and a documented UOF incident review process must be in place along with data collection and analysis. I will address monitoring and data importance in a future article.
Secondly, any use of force training program used must be developed specifically for the jail/correctional setting. Far too often a police (street) use of force training program is used out of convenience or simply due to lack of understanding or lack of dedication of appropriate resources. Due to the secure controlled environment, staff numbers, supervisor availability and other factors that make the correctional environment unique, use of force training must be specific to the corrections setting. Any correctional use of force program should include verbalization skills training that includes the use of professional communication skills, de-escalation (confrontation avoidance) techniques, and crisis intervention skills. Far too often the verbalization is either not taught or is taught separately. Any good correctional use of force training program is, in fact, a system of verbalization skills that is coupled with physical or other alternatives. A specific articulation and documentation training must be included in this training. Relying on a general report writing class not specific to use of force can prove disastrous. A sound use of force program would include at least a 40-hour initial training with annual updates.
Finally, the agency culture must align with the use of force policy, training, and overall expectations. Every level of the organization must understand the policy, the training, and the expectations. This starts with role modeling and accountability from the top down. Supervisors must know the material and lead by example for the troops to follow. Ongoing coaching, mentoring, and corrective action must also take place to ensure the full organization is developed and held accountable to the standard.
Brad Hompe, MPA, Jail and Prison Operations Consultant