Handling Verbally Abusive Inmates
Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for correctional professionals and we’re discussing that rare occasion when you encounter an inmate who is rude or verbally abusive.
Try to stay calm. It’s difficult for the inmate to remain irate when you’re calm. Put your active listening skills to work. Identify the problem and let the inmate vent.
If you’ve worked in a custody setting for more than a few minutes, you’ve likely encountered a verbally abusive inmate. You might have some profane words or a full-on tirade directed at you. There are an infinite number of reasons why an inmate may be acting this way. And most of them have nothing to do with you personally. The inmate could be experiencing some anxiety. Or they’re just trying to manipulate you or push your buttons.
What should you do when you are subjected to such treatment?
Well, the easiest thing to remember is what not to do. Don’t reciprocate. Don’t repay evil with evil. Don’t mirror the inmate’s verbal abuse. Remember that the things you say and do have significant impacts on your career. Try to stay calm. It’s difficult for the inmate to remain irate when you’re calm. Put your active listening skills to work. Identify the problem and let the inmate vent. Keep your responses calm and clear. Keep the inmate focused on your conversation.
Maintain a safe distance between you and the inmate. If you believe the inmate may escalate the situation into violence, increase the distance. Give the inmate more time to think. Give yourself more distance and more time to react.
Be conscious of your body language. Maintain a balanced stance. Avoid unnecessarily raising your hands. Don’t lean in close. Don’t get in the inmate’s face. That’s only asking for trouble. Your calm voice and steady demeanor will hopefully encourage the inmate to relax.
But even if things appear to be calming down, don’t take anything for granted. There are no guarantees. The situation could reignite at any time.
Remember the sage advice of veteran corrections officers. When it comes to dealing with irate, rude or disrespectful inmates, QTIP.
Quit Taking It Personally.
And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.