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Improving Correctional Officer Safety: Reducing Inmate Weapons

NCJ Number
Date Published
55 pages
This report describes the work and achievements of a working group from Johns Hopkins University that identified the materials and objects being used by inmates as weapons against corrections officers and then developed prototype redesigns of the prison commissary items most commonly used to make weapons.
Based on data from 70 prisons throughout the United Sates that responded to a survey on the prevalence and characteristics of inmate weapons, the working group determined that common items possessed by inmates have been converted into weapons that have maimed and killed corrections officers. Examples include toothbrushes, locks, safety razors, metal torn from ventilators, and paper that has been hardened with toothpaste. These items have been modified into daggers, shanks, and garrotes. Common misuses of toothbrushes include sharpening them for stabbing and reshaping them to hold sharp metal blades. Items from which weapons are made may be purchased from the commissary, taken from prison industries, received from visitors, or salvaged from prison facilities. Club-type weapons used by inmates include pieces of furniture, broom handles, and dustpans. Based on the prioritized list of items used as weapons, the working group developed proposed solution designs for razors, including both blade and handle material changes; toothbrushes; mop/broom handles; and fencing ties. A separate study focused on hard-plastic-stock detection. The working group then assessed the effectiveness of the new designs in preventing their use as weaponry. Multiple prototypes have been fabricated for most of the proposed solutions for razors, toothbrushes, and mop/broom handles. Efforts continue to obtain licensing of the technology for insertion into the corrections system. Appended supplementary data and information

Date Published: January 1, 2007