Magazine article Corrections Forum

Correctional Body Armor, 2004

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Correctional Body Armor, 2004

Article excerpt

Correctional body armor is in about the same place that body armor for police officers was in ten years ago. Some officers are wearing it, but the majority of COs are not. What it took to get police officers to wear it on duty was education and a mandate from their departments, and now body armor wear in general law enforcement is up considerably. In corrections, however, estimates from around the industry put the figure at about 10 -20% of correctional officers wearing body armor and most experts agree that this figure, given the threats COs face every day, is way too low.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?

One of the stumbling blocks to widespread correctional body armor wear was the reality (early on) and the perception that correctional body armor was stiff, uncomfortable and range of motion limiting. With today's high tech fabrics and weaves, this is no longer true, and every year the vests get lighter and more flexible, while still being very comfortable.

Education is another area where progress has to be made, as correctional officers need to be aware of the risks they face on duty. While there is little reason to wear a ballistic (bullet proof) vest while working inside a correctional facility, there is always a threat of being assaulted by an inmate with a hand held weapon (knife, shank, sharpened toothbrush, etc.). This is where correctional vests, designed to stop just these kinds of weapons, come in.

Lastly, cost is still a huge issue. In today's cost-cutting world, it's difficult to put new expenditures into the budget. Correctional vests, though coming down in price, are still not inexpensive.

MATERIALS:

Correctional vests are made from materials that are weaved together to stop the penetration of knives, icepicks, sharpened tools, and more. The most popular material being used is Kevlar Correctional. The effectiveness of the fiber depends on the design of the vest, the weave pattern and the overall integrity of the garment.

"Kevlar Correctional is the fiber that goes into the vests, which is thinner than our ballistic fiber, and this allows it to be woven more tightly," explains Dawn R. Werry, AFS Brand and Marketing Communications Strategist, Dupont Advanced Fiber Systems. "It's still five times stronger than steel, but because it's woven more tightly, the fiber absorbs and dissipates the energy. We provide the fiber, but the manufacturers design the vests. It's both the weave and the fiber that stops the stab - it's completely up to the manufacturers as to how to weave the vests."

There are also hybrid vests that combine ballistic and stab protection (for officers that do transport, riot work, tower duty, etc.), and there are vests that are designed to guard against slashes as well.

THE MANUFACTURERS:

PACA Body Armor: 800 722 7667, www.paca-vest.com "The trend towards correctional body armor started about eight years ago, with more correctional officers wearing body armor and more companies making body armor for corrections," says Tom Carter, National Sales Manager, PACA. "PACA has been making correctional body armor for several years. Most are looking for stab vests with some multi-threat vests in use."

PACA uses a Warwick Mills material called Turtleskin in their vests. PACA's correctional product is the Softouch Spike Vest (TS-3), which is rated for the complete stop of a piercing weapon. "Correctional officers want a vest that stops a threat completely," Carter explains. "The spike vest is for shanks and not edged weapons, though it will protect against a slash to some degree. …

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