October 11, 2022

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Identifying Makeshift Weapons in the Jail

Gordon Graham
Category: Corrections

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today, I want to talk to our colleagues in corrections who deal with the problem of jailhouse-fashioned weapons – weapons made by inmates for all the wrong reasons.

Inmates are increasingly creative at identifying seemingly innocuous materials to turn into dangerous and even deadly weapons.

Why do inmates make weapons when the risk of being caught is so great and the penalties so severe? Inmates with too much time on their hands make weapons to protect themselves against real or perceived threats. Some inmates make weapons to intimidate or attack other inmates or to attack a staff member. And if you’ve been reading the paper that happens all too often. In any case, an inmate who successfully makes, possesses, or uses a weapon is likely to gain some status among other inmates, regardless of the penalties.

The types of weapons vary and so do the materials used. Inmates can be very creative. It’s possible to make a shank for stabbing or cutting by sharpening any hard material like wood, plastic, or any metal. Any hard abrasive surface can serve as a sharpener. In those facilities where inmates have access to tools, guess what? The job is even easier for them.

Inmates have been known to use newspapers or magazines to fashion a club as hard as a baseball bat. Soft plastics and Styrofoam can be heated and hardened and fashioned into a serious weapon. One inmate recently used a letter tray from a Scrabble game, of all things a Scrabble game, to make a shank and used it to coerce a corrections officer into being locked in a cell.

If complacency is our enemy, guess what? Diligence is the ally. Let’s recommit to our contraband and weapons-prevention strategies. Conduct frequent, unexpected pat-downs and housing searches, and frequently search areas where inmates have access. This includes storage areas, programs areas, kitchens, and janitorial closets.

Don’t forget to monitor phone calls and mail and using informants, as the law allows. There’s so much going on in the jail, but your job, good surveillance and inmate supervision helps inmates to feel safer and might reduce their motivation to produce makeshift weapons in the first place.

That is Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.

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