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Crisis and High Risk Offenders
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 10/07/2019

Rage Our topic for this article is “Crisis and High Risk Offenders.” I will discuss Crisis first and then conclude with High Risk Offenders. Crisis situations will vary and the majority of time are sporadic and without any warning signs. These may range from minor to major incidents. We must remain diligent and ready to respond when any crisis situation occurs. The facility will either have time to plan the response or response must be immediate. This requires training, emergency procedures and plans, and ensure emergency manuals are current. Unfortunately my experience and research reflects most often facilities do not follow up with remaining current in response activities and current contact names, numbers, and other protocol.

We do a good job with training and implementation of emergency procedures. However, we tend to become complacent and disregard maintaining current contact names and numbers. This comes to light when an actual incident occurs and realize the contact information is not current. Then this even compounds concerns with the response and additional lack of communication issues. Some additional areas of concerns are staff shortages, additional stress placed on the staff, lack of resources, increase in safety and security concerns, and our next topic, an increase in number of ‘high risk’ offenders.

After resolving an incident, I support the incident receiving a critical review. Identify if policies and procedures were followed, response and support in place, any medical concerns, lockdown issues, emergency plan activated, an assessment of protocol, and note any suggestions for improvements, and areas where improvements are necessary. The information can then be utilized in identifying any additional training, resources, along with safety and security concerns. We must remember this process is not trying to discipline anyone, but helps to improve our responses and ensure policies and procedures are current and in place. This allows the agency to learn and improve upon emergency procedures during any crisis. Certain crisis incidents can be rather traumatic for staff and the inmate population. Care and response to deal with this also must be a priority. We can identify those staff who may need some counseling or other services, and assist in these areas. At times, this may include the inmate population.

Our final area to discuss is “High Risk Offenders.” This is an area many can identify with, yet the definition and contents are going to vary across the country. General areas to consider; special populations, administrative and/or disciplinary segregation, protective custody, mental health, medical, death row, and other. Dealing with inmates in these categories places additional burdens on staff and further drain on resources. I found the following statistic interesting; “Approximately 10-15 percent of the nations’ prisoner population falls within one of these special prisoner categories.” (National Survey of the Management of High-Risk Inmates. National Institute of Corrections, 2002.). This is a small percentage of the inmate population, yet demanding additional resources ranging from staffing, services, and costs.

All inmates receive a classification or risk needs assessment. This process identifies security level, housing, medical, mental health, education, job skills, religion, military background, prior convictions, time served in other prisons, security threat group involvement, and other relevant areas. All of these areas assist in maintaining the safety and security of the facility. Many incidents occur daily and inmates are identified as victims, their participation during the incident, enemy alerts, reassignment and updated assessment, and other. This often leads to reassignment to a more secure barracks and environments. Movement is restricted and custody status increases. In corrections, we are unable to always predict when incidents occur and what may trigger them. We also have to consider many of the inmates involved often have mental health or medical conditions. Special housing again will require the addition of staff, services, and more resources. However, this also places additional burdens on services necessary to assist these inmates and ultimately try and prepare them for release back into general population or less secure housing. Or, the offender completes their sentence and returns to society. They are released and not on any type of community supervision. Their sentence was completed and they are discharged.

I think sometimes we tend to forget about probation and parole having to deal with offenders identified as ‘high risk’ and what this entails. Probation and parole identify those offenders who are placed in this category. This will require smaller caseloads and management, more supervising officers, community programming and services available to the offenders, an increase in revocation and re-incarceration. In addition, and unfortunately, many offenders are released right back into the same areas where they got in trouble and were convicted. We also have concerns with additional stress on officers, positions, and budget deficits.

Some probation and parole departments have some incentives in place for offenders’ behavior being rewarded with early release. Again, this will vary from state to state. Technology has also improved and some states are utilizing ‘Geographical Information Systems’ to map and identify where offenders reside. This allows for identifying available focus on caseloads, services by community, and other supportive resources. “The reentry effort is gaining momentum in successfully pulling together law enforcement and other government agencies, not-for-profit service organizations, faith-based groups, treatment providers and other community groups to share in developing solutions to improving public health and safety.” (PEW: Maximum Impact: No. 9 July 2009).

As you can see, “Crisis and High Risk Offenders” can be discussed and expanded upon individually. Hopefully, you found this interesting and will conduct additional research in these areas, or recommend some potential changes for consideration.

Thanks and stay safe out there.

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Global and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@purdueglobal.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


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