The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is an honorable and underappreciated career field for corrections officers. As a former police officer, I can only imagine the stress of all the unknowns in that job. It takes a brave man/woman to wear a corrections uniform, and we want to help educate everyone on the type of body armor available for corrections officers. Our goal is to make sure everyone reading this knows how tough life is for a corrections officer.
Who is the Federal Bureau of Prisons?
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is the governing authority for all prisons in the United States. Although there are private prisons and state prisons, everyone has the same basic guidelines and principles. The BOP does the best job at reporting statistics, most likely because they’re a federal organization and are bound by transparency.
We will be using statistics from the Bureau of Prisons to help shed light on the issues that correctional officers have to deal with daily. With over 37,453 employees, BOP is the biggest prison system in the country. That's a lot of people to protect to run a prison system properly.
What is NIJ Standard 0115.00?
The NIJ Standard 0115.00 is the official government standard on stab-resistant body armor created by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). This is the most popular standard for correctional officers because of their unique circumstances versus police officers. For example, correctional officers are all but guaranteed to be assaulted by a blunt object or knife-like object instead of a gun.
There are three different levels of protection inside two separate classes of bladed weapons. The Edge Blade class features weapons, such as hunting knives, razor blades, and manufactured commercial blades. The Spike class is for weapons, such as ice picks, screwdrivers, and other bladed weapons that can generally be used for stabbing instead of slashing.
If you’re interested in learning more about the NIJ Standard 0115.00, read our blog, Stab-Proof Vests | Everything You Need to Know.
WHO SHOULD WEAR LEVEL 1 STAB-PROOF ARMOR?
Level 1 stab-resistant armor offers the least amount of protection but the most mobility and concealment. Level 1 can be worn under your clothing and is the lightest and most flexible body armor. Correctional officers will probably only wear level 1 in administrative roles due to the minimal threat to them.
WHO SHOULD WEAR LEVEL 2 STAB-PROOF ARMOR?
Level 2 armor is for correctional officers in any of the five security levels for federal prisons. Level 2 armor is still flexible and provides excellent mobility, but it’s noticeably more rigid and thicker. This armor can be worn underneath clothing, but it won’t be covert. Level 2 is more common in higher security levels than the minimum and low-security prisons.
WHO SHOULD WEAR LEVEL 3 STAB-PROOF ARMOR?
Level 3 Stab-Proof Armor is the most common body armor worn by correctional officers in federal prisons because of the threat level. Level 3 is the strongest armor available for stab-resistant armor and will protect against the strongest knife attacks. This armor has to be worn overtly and usually is relatively heavy and uncomfortable.
What are the Prison Security Levels?
There are six different federal prison security levels that all have different missions, security, and inmates. As the security level increases, so do the amount of infrastructure and features the prison requires. For example, the presence of external patrols, towers, barriers around the prison, and detection devices all go up with medium to high-level security prisons.
MINIMUM SECURITY PRISONS
Federal Prison Camps (FPCs) or minimum security prisons present a lower threat from inmates because most are non-violent drug offenders. Minimum security prisons have the lowest officer-to-inmate ratio of any prison level.
Minimum security prisons are generally based around work programs on and off site. Off site means the inmates are able to work outside the prison to do work like picking up trash and mowing the grass on highways.
Which Armor Should Minimum Security Officers Wear?
Every correctional officer has to make their own decision or most likely take what the government gives them. If we decide based upon the number of attacks on officers in minimum security prisons, then it’s a simple choice.
According to the Office of Research and Evaluation inside BOP, there has been only one serious incident from inmate to officer since before August 2016. I wouldn’t hesitate to wear level 1 protection if I were a minimum-security correctional officer.
Low Security Federal Correctional Institutions (FCIs) are characterized by double-fenced barbed wire perimeters. Most inmates live in dormitory or cubicle housing with high interactions with each other and staff. This higher level of interaction increases the danger of correctional officers and inmates. The officer-to-inmate ratio is increased in low-security prisons but still not as high as medium or high-level security institutions. Most low-security prisons operate as work facilities to provide labor for public services.
Which Armor Should Low-Security Officers Wear?
Since 2017 there have been six major assaults that resulted in serious injury to the officer. Although there haven’t been any serious assaults reported on prison staff this year, it doesn’t mean anyone should get complacent. As all of my fellow veterans know, “complacency kills.” I recommend at least a level 2 vest for low security, just to be safe.
MEDIUM SECURITY PRISONS
Medium security prisons are where the level of security and restrictions ramp up to provide a safer experience for everyone at the facility. For example, Medium security prisons don’t just have double barbed-wire fences; they also use electronic detection systems and electrocution activated fences. Most Medium security prisons have cells with no more than two inmates.
Which Armor Should Medium Security Officers Wear?
Anytime there is added security, it's for a good reason. The inmates incarcerated in medium-security prisons have shown to be more violent against correctional officers. There have been 18 serious and violent assaults on correctional officers since 2017, according to the BOP.
If I were a correctional officer in a medium-security prison, I’d wear level 2 outside of usual contact and level 3 if I were in close contact with inmates. Every prison is different, and it’s always best to use your judgment before deciding what to wear.
High-security prisons have highly secured perimeter walls that are reinforced for added security. High-security prisons are also called United States Penitentiaries (USP) or maximum-security prisons.
These prisons have stringent guidelines and the highest officer-to-inmate ratio of any prison. These prisons also use single-cell housing to limit contact between inmates. These are the most violent prisons we have in our country.
Which Armor Should High-Security Officers Wear?
According to the BOP, there have been 34 serious assaults on correctional officers since 2017. The inmates in these facilities are the most violent of all inmates in federal prisons towards authority figures. I wouldn't interact with these inmates without wearing at least level 3 armor.
Complex prisons are also called Federal Correctional Complexes (FCCs) because of their versatility. These types of prisons have multiple purposes and security levels due to the variety of inmates they hold. These facilities usually are very large and are self-sustaining if they need to be.
Which Armor Should Complex Security Officers Wear?
Since these prisons house both violent and non-violent inmates, it’s challenging to determine which type of body armor you need. Complex prisons can have a minimum, medium, and high-security buildings all next to each other.
ADMINISTRATIVE SECURITY PRISONS
Administrative institutions have specialized missions designed to handle medically ill patients to the most violent of all criminals. Administrative facilities also hold citizens that are accused of serious crimes and are waiting for a trial.
The infamous maximum-security prisons across the country fall under the Administrative class of prisons. They’re called Administrative-Maximum Security Penitentiaries (ADX).
Administrative facilities are institutions with special missions, such as the detention of pretrial offenders; the treatment of inmates with serious or chronic medical problems; or the containment of extremely dangerous, violent, or escape-prone inmates.
Administrative facilities include Metropolitan Correctional Centers (MCCs), Metropolitan Detention Centers (MDCs), Federal Detention Centers (FDCs), Federal Medical Centers (FMCs), the Federal Transfer Center (FTC), the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners (MCFP), and the Administrative-Maximum Security Penitentiary (ADX). Administrative facilities, except the ADX, are capable of holding inmates in all security categories.
Which Armor Should Administrative Security Officers Wear?
This all depends on which type of Administrative facility that the officer works in. If the officer is working in the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners (MCFP), a level 1 flexible armor is good enough. However, if the correctional officer is working in an ADX, level 3 is a must because of the level of violence these inmates are capable of.
What About ShotStop®?
We understand Correctional Officers don’t usually wear hard plate inserts unless they’re in medium, high, or maximum-security facilities. However, our Duritium® technology has revolutionized how body armor is made and worn. Our level 3 body armor is lighter than most level 3 stab-resistant armor panels.
Our Level III Duritium® ICW armor plate is only 2.4 lbs. and 0.6” thick. This plate is NOT rated under the NIJ standard 0115.00, but it will defeat any handheld edge, point, or blade that hits the plate. ShotStop® body armor is designed and certified to defeat ballistic threats and can be used to prevent edge blades or spike weapons.
WHY SHOULD I CHOOSE SHOTSTOP®?
Choosing body armor for correctional officers might be a difficult decision to make when considering all potential threats. However, It’s not a very difficult decision once you learn about ShotStop®.
We cater to the military, police organizations, and many other law enforcement organizations. Reach out to our team and see what we can do for your facility. The best way to reach us is through our email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To all correctional officers, we thank you for your service and hope you’ll give us a chance to impress you. Stay Safe!