How to Prevent High-Risk Inmates from Harming Officers

Ever wonder how officers protect themselves from high-risk inmates? Or protect inmates who try to harm themselves? Learn below how officers prevent these situations becoming a reality.
Kenzie Koch
Kenzie Koch

Accepting a position to protect America’s Thin Gray Line can come with dangerous scenarios. Correctional officers are trained to take practical measures during dangerous situations to ensure the safety of their facility, staff, and themselves. Restraints aren’t used very often, but when they are, humane control techniques are utilized for inmates with an elevated risk of causing physical or psychological damage to themselves or others. These restraint techniques are used to maintain safety and security in the facility, as well as to protect the inmate. Not only do the officers have to secure the high-risk inmates, but they also need to protect themselves physically and mentally. When everything is out of their control, there are tools available to have their back and keep them as safe as possible.

Inmate Protection Techniques: 

Using restraints involve a much lower level of force than using physical measures such as batons, tasers, or chemical agents. Restraint devices can include handcuffs, leg shackles, hand mitts, belly chains, soft helmet, hobble tether, restraint straps for ankles, soft restraints, straitjackets, restraint chairs, and restraint boards (Ross, 2008). Of course, there is a time and place for restraints to be used. Only trained deputies may use restraints to secure inmates during prisoner transports and medical interventions, in court hearings, to manage combative prisoners, to protect prisoner and correctional personnel, to prevent escapes, self-inflicted injury, injury to others, and the destruction of property. Restraints can only be used for their intended purpose and only for as long as necessary to serve that purpose (Nelson, 2018). For example, this blog will discuss four different types of the most-effective restraints devices recommended by officers. Note that use of these methods is only appropriate and not as a disciplinary action.

The Wrap:

The Wrap is designed to stop these conflicts quickly and provide rapid recovery for both subject and personnel. With fast control achieved, the subject is now restrained comfortably in an upright and seated position for respiratory recovery and receives immediate medical care as needed. The WRAP has over two decades of saving lives, reducing injuries, and minimizing risks for all involved (Safe Restraints Inc.).

The Harness:

The Harness is similar to a waist chain restraint but with increased safety and security. This is lighter and easier to store than a metal chain and can’t be manipulated to use as a weapon. Unlike the conventional waist chain, the harness allows for securing the arms and hands behind the subject’s back, in the front, or even one arm or hand to the front and the other to the back. If the individual becomes violent, a full-body restraint can be accomplished by adding the leg restraint (Safe Restraints Inc.).

The Cart:

The Cart provides safe, secure, and comfortable transport for subjects restrained in the wrap or in other restraints. The subject can receive medical care in the cart while safe transport is provided for all personnel involved (Safe Restraints Inc.).

The Restraint Chair:

The Restraint Chair uses straps to secure the arms, legs, and torso of an individual seated in an upright position. It is only to be used as a temporary, safe, and humane method of securing an inmate who displays violent or out-of-control behavior that can harm themselves, others, or property.

Officer Protection Techniques:

In order for officers to safely secure inmates, they need to be protected themselves, so they aren’t harmed in the process. Most officers carry a taser or electric pulse shield while on duty, but the real protection comes from the many classes, protection tools, and self-defense strategies all officers were trained with before taking an oath on their badge.

Less Lethal Devices: 

One of the training classes available to officers is a CERT (Cell Extraction Response Team) class where certified operators train officers how to quickly de-escalate any given scenario with Less Lethal and Distraction Devices that can be deployed in a corrections setting. Although it’s not very often that the CERT team must bombard a riot to take control, having the devices in quick reach is a safety protection measure officers need to have access to and be prepared to use in the worst-case scenario. 

Mobile Tracking Technology:

Inmate transportations constantly occur throughout the day, starting as early as 06:00 AM and begin tapering down by 19:00 PM. Lockdown is generally at 22:00 PM. Most of the inmate movements are court transports, programs, recreation, and work release. Thus, hundreds of inmates can be separated around various locations at any time. So how can staff accurately capture all of these movements, know exactly where an inmate is located, what activity they are doing at all times, and yet not overwhelm the staff? Mobile inmate tracking technology has the ability to communicate information quickly and concisely to all team members. 

Mobile devices enable quick and in-person logging, allowing staff to log their rounds while observing security rounds, headcount, out-of-cell movements, and supply passes at the point of responsibility. Thanks to the technology's simplicity and user-friendliness, the logs that are being recorded are more descriptive with accurate timestamps and reduced radio chatter.


Most of the mobile tracking technology devices on the market are dependable for their portability and durability. Given an officer is ever in a dangerous scenario, they can use their mobile device as a weapon in self-defense to protect themselves from harm. Just like a cellular phone, the device can be used as a hard, solid object to throw or shield oneself with. 

Escort Policy:

Restraints are always used on high-risk inmates whenever they are being transported inside and outside of the facility (with special exceptions such as pregnant women). Whether being escorted from cell to shower, medical to cell, or even recreation time, it’s possible they will be placed in leg shackles, waist chain, and handcuffs. High-risk individuals need at least two officers present when being transported so officers can maintain control of the inmate at all times. Officers are trained to walk at a 45° angle behind the inmate; never beside, directly in front or directly behind the inmate. In this position, officers have a tactical advantage to react to any attempted resistance.

What it means to protect America’s Thin Gray Line opens a whole can of dangerous possibilities. Having a high-risk situation become a reality isn’t fun to think about, but it unfortunately still happens so it’s crucial to be prepared for the unexpected. That’s why restraint options are incredibly important to have in near reach in the case of any physical or psychological-damaging incident. Correctional officers risk their lives to not only protect themselves, but also those around those who are creating a dangerous environment. We owe it to them to support the calls that they make in efforts to get their teams home safe. 

Ross, Dr. Darrell L. (2008). Use of Restraints in Corrections and Lessons Learned
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Nelson, L. Shane (2018). Use of Restraints
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Safe Restraints Inc.
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