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3 things correctional officers should know about use of force

If you're a correctional officer, you know all-too-well the public perception these days on the use of force against prisoners. Even when a correctional officer's actions are entirely justified, he or she may end up the subject of a disciplinary hearing.

According to the experts, there are some things that it's important for every correctional officer to understand about the use of force if they want to successfully defend their actions:

1. There are cameras everywhere

These days, almost everything that occurs inside a correctional facility is on camera. Recognize, in advance, that the scene on the camera may look chaotic and worse than it really was to an untrained eye. Be ready to explain exactly what was happening and how the situation was being controlled.

2. You need to articulate your position clearly

Your use of force is justified based on a number of different factors. You want to present a carefully considered explanation of events to the disciplinary board that takes into account the following questions:

  • What objective were you trying to achieve?
  • What resistance did the prisoner offer?
  • What attempts did you make to de-escalate the situation through communication with the prisoner?
  • Was there a genuine need to resolve the situation quickly?
  • Was the amount of force used objectively reasonable for the given situation?

Make sure that you have a clear understanding of what you want to say to those questions well before you step into any disciplinary hearing.

3. Never let yourself be goaded into inappropriate actions

Inmates may test your limits and patience often -- but don't allow yourself to behave in an unprofessional manner. Never take out your personal feelings on an inmate -- no matter how frustrated you may become at his or her behavior.

Finally, make sure that you have experienced legal representation if you need to defend yourself in a disciplinary hearing over excessive use of force allegations.

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