facilities perform prisoner sight checks by visual, verbal or video monitors.
The most affective way to perform a sight check is by visual, physical and
verbal verification. Some jail standards require that sight checks be performed
every hour. In one hour, a lot can happen. In my career on some occasions, sight
checks were performed by ghost officers and documented for record as being
performed. The jailer or detention officer figures everything is quiet and
peaceful, so documents the roster as making a check.
falsifying a jail document or making a ghost sight check should be severely
reprimanded or dismissed by their superiors.
In any large
long-term jail facility, something is always going on behind the steel doors and
concrete walls. Prisoners plotting escape, prisoners changing living locations
for the night so that they can have sex with a fellow prisoner, or moving into a
cell they know has a door jam rarely checked by guards.
To perform a
correct bed or sight check is to count the prisoners in each cell, have the
prisoners verify their names against a current roster, and that the officer
clearly observes each prisoner for injuries, skin, hair and breathing. Their
cell is visually inspected as well as a physical count. Cells are inspected for
signs of damage or contraband. The cell door should always be pulled and pushed
to determine that the door is locked and secure. If the cells are located in a
pod, then all of the doors should show locked on the electronic control panel
board, showing that there are no security breeches. A sight check is not
performed if the officer fails to inspect the prisoners and cell areas. Jail
personnel will also falsify a document to save time in order to catch up on
other duties required. If the officer making the sight checks suspects anything
irregular or unusual should call for an immediate backup. Officers should never
assume everything is secure and safe.
Sight checks are
vital for the protection of each officer and prisoner housed, preventing
escapes, further damage to a facility, and for controlling contraband, and will
reduce most prisoner plots if they know they are being checked properly. If
prisoners know that they are not being checked regularly, they will attempt to
dig through the walls, plot a hostage taking action or in some cases, injure or
kill a fellow prisoner or a member of the jail staff. Every officer who works
in a small or large jail facility should take their job seriously at all times.
Remember, neglecting your duties or doing your duties incorrectly can get your
fellow officer hurt or killed. Neglect or not paying attention to your job can
also get a prisoner injured, or could create the opportunity for a prisoner
escape or major damage to your facility.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim Heitmeyer was born in Phoenix, Arizona and raised in
Paradise Valley. Jim joined the United States Marine Corps and completed his
service to our country. Jim later joined the Oklahoma Army National Guards 745
Military Police Company. Jim served during the Just Cause war in Panama and
Operations Desert Shield & Desert Storm. Jim Heitmeyer attained the rank of
Jim Hietmeyer is a retired lieutenant from the Oklahoma
County Sheriff's Office (Oklahoma). After his retirement from the Oklahoma
County Sheriffs Office he worked as a police officer for the Arcadia Police
Department from 2001 through 2004. During his career, he worked as a jailer,
deputy sheriff, CLEET instructor, American Red Cross Instructor, and biohazards
instructor. He is the author of two books under the pen name of Jim Daly:
Lockdown Madness and Behind Steel Doors.