This is a rare video because Texas does not normally release a use of force video. To be honest, I'm not really sure how these videos made it into the public forum. Texas will usually not even allow officers to view use of force videos for training purposes. Here you get to view two of them, as they occur, and can get an idea of what we call a Forced Cell Move. While this is certainly not something that is done on a daily basis, you can get an idea of what takes place fairly regularly inside the prison walls away from the bright lights of a TV camera.
A Forced Cell Move is used when an inmate refuses to move to another cell, or leave a location when ordered to do so. This type of use of force is usually planned ahead of time, and is video taped as evidence in case something goes wrong (such as the death of the inmate). It involves supervision who gives the order to remove the inmate, 5 officers who are the entry team, and a nurse for inmate welfare.
When the use of chemicals fail to produce compliance from the inmate, the order is given to the team to remove the inmate by force. The team will stack up at the cell door arranged by number 1-5, and each officer has a specific responsibility. Officer 1 will have a riot shield, and he is responsible for pinning the inmate against a hard surface to prevent movement and use of a weapon. Officers 2 and 3 are responsible for restraining the inmates arms and applying handcuffs. Officers 4 and 5 restrain the legs and apply shackles to the inmates ankles.
Once the inmate is under control he is examined by the nurse for injuries and is either moved to the infirmary for treatment, or given a clean bill of health and moved to another location for holding. Once the inmate is inside the new location the process is reversed as the restraints are removed and the officers exit the cell. Notice in the second video how small the cells in Texas actually are, and realise that this is where most of the Forced Cell Removals occur. You have six grown men fighting in a confined space, sometimes with a weapon, and inmates can be injured or even killed in the struggle.
Having worked as a correctional officer in Texas for three years I can tell you that while this process may be video taped from start to finish, many uses of force occur when there are no cameras around to record the incident. In all of my uses of force, and there were many, I only had one incident video taped. In that use of force my Sergeant had two fingers amputated and he had a heart attack.
The incident started when I confiscated some contraband the inmate was bringing into the dayroom. The inmate, now angry, picked up a metal trash can lid that weighed about 15 pounds. When I asked him what he was trying to do he said "I'm gonna bash your fucking brains in". I managed to back him up and secure the rest of the inmates in the dayroom, and had almost talked him out of the trashcan lid when the other officers arrived (I was working the wing by myself). At that point he brought the trashcan lid back up and went into a defensive posture.
While we tried to get him to calm down, the Major showed up and requested that batons be given to the officers since the inmate had a weapon. Batons in hand, the Sergeant began a silent count with his eyes (to rush the inmate), but the inmate must have seen it and took a swing at the Majors head. Then all hell broke loose. We all pounced on the inmate, and I remember grabbing the trashcan lid and tossing it down the run. I also remember batons hitting the floor and thinking having them was stupid.
When we got the inmate restrained, I recall looking around to make sure everyone was ok and saw blood on the floor. I knew the inmate was ok because I was on top of him, so I checked myself and saw no blood. When I asked who was bleeding I was informed that my Sergeant was injured, and I knew by the amount of blood that it was serious. Fortunately my Sergeant survived, and they were able to sew his fingers back on, but it didn't make me feel any better.
Anyway, just wanted to tell the story so that you understand the difference between what you see on TV, and the reality of being a correctional officer in a prison. By the way, my first two years were in high security at the worst prison in Texas. This incident occurred at a medium-custody prison, which is fairly laid back. I only had three major uses of force in a year at the second prison... I had that many uses of force on my worst day at the first prison. My first prison was a very bad place, and bad things happenned almost daily there. Maybe I'll share some of the nicer stories with you sometime in the future.
I know this is not a normal your say, and I'm sorry that I'm not telling this on camera, but I hope you understand that even writing this is difficult for me. I only took the job to help pay my way through college. Little did I know it would change my whole life. To survive as a correctional officer, the first thing you have to do is get rid of your emotions. They are your worst enemy because inmates feed off of those emotions, and will use them against you every chance they get.
If you show fear you may as well resign, because the rest of your time working there will be hell. Police officers deal with these guys for a very short period of time, and they have a weapon when they do have to confront them. We don't have that luxury. We don't have weapons inside the blocks, and sometimes help can be minutes away. So when that 6'3", 275 pound inmate with a weapon in his hand, who was convicted of murdering three people, tells you he's going to bash your fucking brains in, you have to be able to look him square in the eye and call his bluff, or defend yourself until help arrives.
In the incident I described above where the inmate had the trashcan lid, I didn't bat an eye when he threatened me. I stepped toward the inmate and asked him "you ain't done it yet?" That was enough to make him back off and give me time to secure the other inmates and call for help. I had a few things working in my favor that day...he knew I transfered from a violent prison and was experienced, I had a solid reputation that followed me to the new prison, and he knew that I was not afraid of him or what he was threatening to do to me.
Being a prison guard is a dangerous job. What you see on TV doesn't reflect those dangers, nor does it give the reality of how often inmates actually assault officers in the line of duty. CO's have a high divorce rate, and a high suicide rate...and the toll on their families is just as high. And the worst part is, the pay is small compared to the risks involved.
Something to think about when you watch the prison videos posted last night. Everything I saw was relatively nice. Peace.
Bonus Video-Inmates assaulting officers on a wing
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