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Security & Technology
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 04/22/2019

Security 20110429

We have another excellent topic this month: Security & Technology. Security and safety of our institutions are a must. Anytime this is jeopardized and/or breached, additional problems surface. This reinforces why training, response, and knowing your policies and procedures are paramount.

Often times when we discuss security, we tend to focus on uniform staff and prisons. Yet, we also have to look at security and safety concerns throughout all entities located under the corrections umbrella. (Jails, detention centers, staff working with juveniles, adult offenders, probation and parole officers, courts, and other). Some additional areas to consider within our prisons and jails are recreation, food service, laundry services, treatment staff, included and not limited to medical and mental health, offenders being supervised by staff (uniform and non-uniform personnel, front officer personnel, offenders, and other). As you can see there are a lot of correctional security concerns.

To me, the main components in prisons are the staff and their interaction, observations and communications with offenders and others. We also have to factor in, does the administration and management provide adequate support. This includes having adequate staff to cover all assigned posts. In many of our systems we are still experiencing staffing shortages and double shifts for some officers. This also can lead toward additional concerns and problems. The offenders have knowledge of this and spend extra time figuring out shifts and areas where security is weak. When we allow our officers to become extra stressed the doors for problems are opening. At the same time, security is the backbone of any facility and support must be in place to assist staff. Again, security is only as good as the people you hire. This reinforces the need to hire the best that you can.

Another issue often associated with security is those staff who elect to traffic and trade with the offender population. As you know, this is another security breach and can affect your safety. Let’s face it, there are many rumors within a correctional setting along with very few secrets. When an officer has knowledge of something and does nothing, this is detrimental to corrections. Besides this, we also have to consider ethical concerns. Ask yourself this question, have you ever witnessed this occurring and done nothing? If so, note reasons for this. We are aware of the process for reporting these infractions, yet often face a tremendous amount of peer pressure if brought to management. This often leads to additional concerns and negative issues. So why do we continue to work in one of the most difficult and challenging fields? Perhaps because we are dedicated and true professionals.

Technology in corrections continues to improve and there are many advancements. The majority of these advancements are in place to improve safety and security. Check and see if you are aware of the different types of technology available at your place of employment. Have you been trained in use of this technology?

Many prisons are experiencing problems with drones flying over the facilities. This includes concerns with the distribution of contraband which is another safety and security concern. Also, many of our facilities have the internet and computers throughout the prisons. Unfortunately, many of our offenders are well-trained and familiar with the same technology we use. Any type of technology can be breached. We saw this when the FBI wanted Apple to unlock the security component on a cell phone. (Terrorist Suspect). This was not allowed, however, the FBI hired someone to break the code and then Apple wanted to know how this occurred. This again reinforces the concept there are many knowledgeable offenders with a variety of skills we may not be aware of. They are always trying to find ways to breach our security and technology. All we have to do is look at the increase we see in cybercrime.

Along with use of technology we have to consider resources necessary to maintain and update technology. We also need to consider if we are training staff what to do when technology fails. Once again, we have to consider if emergency procedures are in place for how to respond and if these procedures are current and staff have been trained. The more advancements we have increases training needs, upkeep of the technology, and other needs.

Some of our facilities provide various training in areas discussed. Yet, a large percentage of agencies also face limited resources and/or not being able to provide release time for staff to attend some trainings. This is why I suggest you become involved in professional organizations and become members. Most have a nominal fee, yet many provide some webinar opportunities at no cost to members. These professional organizations do not have to be limited to corrections, there are many law enforcement agencies that provide training opportunities and/or resources for you to utilize. I suggest you strictly stay with credible organizations.

I provided a site for you to check out, the Justice Technology Information Center and a program within the National Institute of Justice. One perk to accessing and receiving updates is this is free, no costs to you. The main categories are Law Enforcement Technology, Courts Technology, and Corrections Technology. https://www.justnet.org/

An additional reason I like this site is I receive weekly updates with what new technology is being utilized around the country. I also like that due to limited resources, many employees are unable to attend conferences as previously mentioned. This site allows you the opportunity to receive additional information to build upon your knowledge base. Take advantage of this opportunity as well as other. You may have some additional sites you want to share with corrections personnel at corrections.com.

Thanks and let me know if you have any questions.

Stay safe out there.

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Global and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@purdueglobal.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


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