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Safety and Control in a County Jail: Nonlethal Weapons and the Use of Force

NCJ Number
Date Published
84 pages
Publication Series
In 1994, the Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff's Office began the process of training and equipping all its detention officers with nonlethal weapons; data were obtained from official records and confidential interviews with officers, and anonymous surveys of officers to examine the adoption and use of nonlethal weapons in seven facilities between January 1994 and July 1996.
The data provided information on the number and nature of use-of-force incidents that occurred and on the effectiveness of nonlethal weapons as an alternative to traditional hands-on tactics. The analysis examined the usefulness and effectiveness of nonlethal weapons in detention facilities and their impact on measures of control and physical safety. Initially, nonlethal weapons received only limited support among command staff, supervisors, and detention officers. Of nearly 1,400 incidents occurring within the jails, detention officers indicated 30 percent of the incidents were appropriate for the use of pepper spray and 55 percent were appropriate for the use of the stun device. Traditional hands-on tactics were used in nearly 60 percent of all intake incidents and 46 percent of all jail incidents. Command staff, supervisory officers, and detention officers believed nonlethal weapons increased their control over inmates and reduced inmate misconduct in all facilities. There was no indication, however, that nonlethal weapons affected social conditions or the institutional climate in detention facilities. Supplemental information on nonlethal weapons is provided in two appendixes. 7 references, 20 tables, and 47 figures

Date Published: January 1, 1997