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News

Violent Incidents In Prisons Drive Need For Effective Body Armour

PPSS : 20 January, 2011  (Technical Article)
PPSS comments on the British prison service and the continuing high levels of violent incidents directed towards prison officers which could be mitigated with wider adoption of the use of concealable body armour
Concealable body armour should be made available to prison officers immediately, says Robert Kaiser, CEO of UK based personal protective equipment consultancy PPSS.



Recent incidents have highlighted once again the urgent need for concealable and lightweight body armour within the prison service.



One prison officer who asked not to be named told the BBC: “At least 50% of prison officers have been assaulted at least once, several officers, several times.”



In the last two months alone several reported riots and violent attacks on prison officers have been recorded, which include major incidents at HMYOI Cookham Wood on 27th December, HMP Ford on 1st January, HMP Littlehey on 10th January, to name but a few.



Unfortunately this was not a new occurence, or something that should surprise us too much.  Major violent incidents in 2010, which saw prison officers seriously injured at Frankland High Security Prison in Durham and HMP Leeds last year, are still fresh on our mind.



Robert Kaiser states: "As much as we would like to, we just cannot change the aggressive behaviour of some prisoners."



"A prisoner on the receiving end of a disciplinary can overreact to anything the officer says or does. There is also no doubt that a prisoner consuming any kind of class A drugs, illegal substance or self made alcohol can become hostile and violent within a split of a second."



“But how can it be that our police officers who are often required to face serious criminals for only a very few minutes are required to wear stab/ballistic vests, but those having to face the same criminals for potentially years to come are not being issued with any form of body armour?”



Worrying staffing levels, prisoner’s easy access to alcohol and drugs, a serious lack of respect and cultural issues will continue to contribute to the risk of escalation in our country’s prisons.



Colin Moses, Chairman of the Prison Officer Association (POA): "Violent action can erupt at any time, and the severity of the violence and subsequent injuries to our officers is increasing."



Colin Moses continues: "We fully appreciate that prisoners should be treated fairly and we are more than happy to ensure that all of our actions comply with human rights, but we are also determined to ensure the personal safety of our members.  Would anyone expect their partner, child or friend to come home from work with a horrific injury?"



Robert Kaiser, a globally respected expert on body armour and stab vests states: “For me it is simply common sense that prison officers should be protected from kicks, blows and punches as well as needles and razor blades.  Concealable body armour can and will one day save one of our prison officer’s life.”



Recent changes within the law such as the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 are going to put immense pressure on all key decision makers within the prison world.



If prison officers are not permitted to purchase body armour or if the British Government is not taking all necessary actions to ensure the personal safety of their prison officers, we could potentially look at liable cases within months from now.



"It is a legal, but above all, a moral obligation.  We have to protect those who serve and risk their lives every day they go to work."  Robert Kaiser continues.



The argument that body armour can be perceived as confrontational or aggressive and lead to the escalation of a hostile situation might be true, but should we not pass this responsibility on to body armour manufacturers, urging them to create 100% concealable body armour?



Robert Kaiser answers this question: "Yes, I would completely agree with this. We have already been speaking and meeting with the Prison Officers Association (POA) and made a real impression.  Many professionals are just not aware how thin and light body armour can be.”



Every employee has the right to be equipped appropriately, and this must include prison officers.  They need our protection and help.
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