Folsom's 93

The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison's Executed Men

Prison Guards and Self Defense by Jason Brick

3 Comments

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Correctional Officers at Folsom prison do not carry guns while on duty. They abandoned this practice around 1915, after #30, Frank Creeks killed a guard and made off with two gatling guns the guard had been bringing inside the prison. 
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#30, Frank Creeks
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When I met with Folsom correctional officers earlier this year, I learned that guards do carry pepper spray and a whistle. Other than that, they have only their wits and quick thinking to rely on. Today, I wanted to bring you another guest post from Jason Brick regarding prison guard self-defense. Take it away, Jason . . .

Self-defense for prison guards centers around setting things up so the guards rarely need to use self-defense.

In the beginning of modern law enforcement, this meant finding large, intimidating, violent guards and making sure they were the only people carrying weapons. That deterrence — combined with what amounted to carte blanche in using the weapons — kept guards reasonably safe by making sure people rarely started a physical confrontation.

As our society became more modern and aware of prisoners’ humanity, training changed its focus — but continued to focus on preventing altercations. Corrections officers received training in joint locks, defensive tactics and weapons common on the tiers — such as batons. In addition, they learned team tactics intended to stop a potential problem before it began. This ranged from how to avoid getting in one another’s way, up to spacing and psychological considerations to keep a prisoner off balance and intimidated.

Modern training incorporates concepts from military combatives, boxing, wrestling, judo and jui jitsu. It’s similar to what you might get in an applied self-defense course, with two major differences.

Focus on prevention — the bulk of corrections combatives focuses on setting up a scenario so you never have to become violent. This can include your positioning, the positioning of other officers, verbal redirection and the construction of a facility to give all advantages to the officers. Every once in a while a prisoner will decide to fight anyway, but this keeps most people in line.

Submission over destruction — aiming to get prisoners to settle down, rather than cause injury. The best example of this is the baton training. If you took a stick or baton class for self-defense, you’d learn to target the elbows, wrist, knees and head — areas that are easy to destroy that can take somebody out. In corrections training, officers learn to hit the upper arms, thighs and the broad planes of the back. These areas hurt, but don’t injure. Submission holds and joint locks take the same focus.

One final note is that the techniques officers learned are for the day-to-day control of prisoners. If a prisoner actively attacks a corrections officer, all bets are off. That officer is — generally — allowed to use whatever techniques he needs to get to safety. Retaliation is never tolerated, but if a prisoner gets injured while trying to injure a guard, that’s not considered the guard’s fault.

Author: April Moore

I am the author of two books: Folsom's 93, a historical nonfiction about the men executed at Folsom State Prison; and a women's fiction, Bobbing for Watermelons. I'm also an illustrator and I love collaborating with other writers and artists. Catch me at http://apriljmoore.com

3 thoughts on “Prison Guards and Self Defense by Jason Brick

  1. April, have you formed an opinion yet on whether Corrections Officers should be armed or not?

    • I’d have to say that after talking with Correctional Officers at Folsom, I think it’s safest for them not to carry firearms. History has shown that these weapons are sought after by prisoners and they will try anything to get a hold of them. At Folsom, tower guards’ guns are trained on the prisoners at all times (except for those several “blind spots” around the prison), and officers do carry defensive spray and a baton. I think for everyone involved, it is extremely wise that officers are unarmed. But of course, that’s just my opinion–I would love to hear from Correctional Officers themselves and what they think.

  2. I agree that carrying weapons can be a security issue. There is always the chance a prisoner will gain control of a weapon. However, when guards are in a group, the risk is lower.

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