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Corrections Officers have a very clear and present need for body armor, as the environments they work in can be extremely dangerous. However, many prison services throughout the world still do not provide body armor to their Officers, and those that do often use outdated and unreliable vests. These cannot be assured of their protection, and may not help in the event of an attack. Therefore, many Corrections Officers (COs) are using their own personal body armor.
It is common knowledge that the threat of attack from a firearm in a prison is almost zero. While it is irresponsible to say it could never happen, they are simply not a likely threat to COs. However, attacks can and do still occur regularly, and these can still involve weapons. Any CO can attest to the everyday presence of the ‘shank’ and ‘shiv’ in prisons, and the injuries they can cause. Indeed, even without facing weapons Corrections Staff are 36 times more likely to sustain injuries caused by violence than workers in any other profession. This is an alarming statistic, particularly when considering some of the other professions included in the statistics.
If nothing else, the psychological damage that comes with a serious injury is enough to warrant the use of protective clothing. However, the real reason is the threat to life; 80% of all fatalities among Corrections staff were caused by violence, assaults, and transportation-related incidents. When body armor is so accessible, it is irresponsible not to use it.
The most important pieces of body armor are the stab and spike proof vests. This is because of the prevalence of shivs and shanks discussed previously, which can only be protected against with the use of one of these vests. Many do not realize that, while incredibly strong, the Kevlar in a bullet proof vest will not protect against edged or spiked weapons. Stab and spike proof vests may still use Kevlar, but they need additional materials like Chainmail and/or Plastic laminate. These provide a tough surface to prevent edged blades from cutting the fabric and spiked weapons from passing through it. Meanwhile, the Kevlar helps absorb impact and decrease the strength of an attack.
These stab and spike proof vests remain lightweight and flexible, and can therefore be worn in both covert and overt styles. This means that a vest can be worn underneath or over clothing, depending on the situation and the preference of the CO. Most vests are available in either style, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. A covert vest, for example, can be worn almost anywhere. Some are also available with materials that help keep the wearer cool, which is a useful addition.
On the other hand, overt vests can provide a great psychological boost to COs, who can feel safe in the knowledge that their vest will protect them. This will allow them to more confidently perform their duties. Similarly, it has been argued that the presence of body armor, particularly when worn as part of a uniform with logos, insignia, and equipment storage, can deter any potential attackers. This alone makes it a useful piece of equipment for COs.
Author: Chris Taylor