Jail Cell Extractions - a Risk Management Nightmare

Things to consider before opening the door and sending in the team

 

Imagine you’re working in a jail and there is a lone inmate in his cell who has refused to come out to have his weight taken by the medical staff, and the medical staff telling you that they must document this inmate’s weight.  Now imagine that you and your team performed a cell extrication that was violently resisted by the inmate and that during the cell extraction the inmate dies.

 

Imagine you’re working in a jail and there is a lone inmate in his cell who has refused to come out to attend court.  Now imagine that you and your team performed a cell extrication that was violently resisted by the inmate and that during the cell extraction the inmate suffered significant injures.

 

Imagine you’re working in a jail and there is a lone inmate in his cell who has broken the fire sprinkler in the cell which caused flooding.  The water was then shut off; however, the inmate refuses to come out of the cell.  Now imagine that you and your team performed a cell extrication that was violently resisted by the inmate and that during the cell extraction the inmate suffered significant injuries.

 

Now imagine that you are the one who was in charge and that you are the one who will ultimately be held responsible.

 

The cell extraction examples above actually occurred.  When cell extractions are performed, even if everything including the preplanning and the force used was in policy, consistent with training, well supervised, and objectively reviewed, etc., excessive force complaints as well as lawsuit litigation often follows.  In short, cell extractions are a risk management nightmare.

 

Jail decision makers, jail managers, and jail supervisors should consider the following before performing a cell extraction.

 

When Verbal Persuasion Fails

 

Without a doubt one of the most dangerous situations custody staff face is the cell extraction of a violent, barricaded jail inmate.

 

These cell extractions not only pose a physical danger to the staff and inmate, but also pose a danger in the form of lawsuits from the inmate or the inmate’s family, as well as pose risk of administrative discipline for the staff involved.

 

Very few situations in jail call for as much planning, training, supervision, and post-review as do cell extractions.

 

 

Definition of a cell extraction

 

A cell extraction is the forceful removal of an inmate who refuses to come out of the cell or other enclosed area of the jail.

 

Cell extractions require the use specially trained and equipped jail response teams who may use body shields, impact weapons, chemical agents, electronic control weapons, and other less lethal weapons.

 

Emergent Extractions and Delayed Extractions

 

Generally there are two types of cell extractions.

 

  1. Emergency extraction which means an immediate response is warranted.  Time is not on the side of the staff.
  2. Calculated extraction which means the extraction can be delayed.  Time is on the side of the staff. It is not uncommon for calculated extractions to take many hours leading up the point the response team actually enters the cell.

 

An extraction is the last resort

 

Once the jail supervision staff has determined that all reasonable efforts and resources have been utilized to gain the inmate’s cooperation, an extraction may be needed.  In all probability a use of force will occur and an extraction team is used only as a last resort.

 

In a calculated extraction where time is on the side of the jail staff, the medical and mental health staff and the Chaplin should be given the opportunity to talk with the inmate to see if they can gain his cooperation.  Included in the efforts of verbal persuasion, the jail watch commander should personally speak with the inmate to try to gain cooperation to avoid any violent confrontation.

 

Each and every time anyone involved talks with the inmate before, during, and after the extraction, it should be video and audio recorded.  Video recording the inmate’s repeated refusals are a necessary part of the risk management process.

 

These three questions must be addressed before any calculated cell extraction is performed

 

Before any calculated cell extraction is performed, experience has shown that these three questions must be satisfactorily answered by jail supervisors.

 

  1. Why is an extraction needed in the first place?
  2. What’s the rush to do the extraction?
  3. What’s the plan once the inmate is forcibly removed?

 

The cell extraction is performed

 

Once the jail watch commander and/or jail supervision/management staff has determined that as a last resort the extraction is to take place, the cell extraction team is gathered and briefed on the reasons for the extraction.

 

Proper risk management dictates the cell extraction team briefing is video recorded.  Once the briefing starts the video camera is not shut off until after the extraction takes place.   The entire extraction from the planning briefing until the inmate is removed must be video recorded, again for risk management purposes.

 

A well supervised cell extraction team performs the extraction only after a final plea to the inmate to exit the cell fails.

 

After the extraction, the supervisors ensure the inmate is well cared for by medical personnel and of course if there are staff injuries, the staff members receive prompt medical attention.  The jail supervisors also ensure the extraction is properly documented and then reviewed.

 

After-Action Review

 

As part of the risk management process, after every cell extraction, the jail managers, supervisors, and extraction team members should meet to discuss the following three questions.

 

  1. What went right?
  2. What went wrong?
  3. Lessons learned?

 

After-action debriefings are an excellent way to constantly improve performance.

 

Final thoughts

 

It is important to keep in mind that the goal of any cell extraction is of course to remove the resistive inmate from their cell as well as returning the jail to normal operations as soon as possible.

 

Jail managers and supervisors must ensure the cell extraction teams are at all times well lead, well trained, well equipped, and follow up to date cell extraction policies and procedures.

 

 

*****

 

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, it is provided for educational purposes and is not intended to provide legal advice.

 

About the author:

 

Richard Lichten (Lt. Retired) brings 30 years of front-line law enforcement experience to a wide range of police and jail topics. Twenty of his 30 years in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were in supervisory and command positions. Richard Lichten is deemed a qualified expert in the use of force, use of the Taser, police/jail practices, and jail/prison inmate culture in the State of California Superior Courts, State of Nevada Courts, State of Arizona Courts, State of Hawaii Courts, and in Federal Courts.

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