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Vulnerability Analysis in the Correctional Environment

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 65 Issue: 7 Dated: December 2003 Pages: 114-116,118,120
John S. Shaffer
Date Published
December 2003
5 pages
This article discusses the process of correctional vulnerability analysis (VA).
The VA process is both a performance-based and a policy compliance-based assessment of institutional security. During the process, the VA teams characterize the facility, define the threats and identify undesired events. They describe and analyze the existing physical protection system (PPS), and identify potential vulnerabilities and associated risks. Special emphasis is placed on areas of concern identified by facility staff. The goal of a VA is to quantify the effectiveness of the PPS used at a facility against a range of potential threats. An effective PPS comprises components that provide timely detection and an accurate assessment of threats and undesired events; timely communication of this information to a response force comprised of correctional officers, local law enforcement and State police; and barriers and locks that delay inmates long enough for the response force to intervene. After the response force intervenes, it must have the capability to prevent completion of the undesired events. The system’s overall effectiveness depends on the performance of each of the components individually as well as their interaction and performance as a system. A three-part methodology is used to conduct a VA. A risk equation is used that provides a way to apply the variables consistently throughout Department of Corrections (DOC) institutions. Risk is affected by the probability of an undesired event occurring (such as an attempted escape), the probability of inmate success, and the consequence. The scope of the VA process includes several steps: characterizing the facility, identifying the undesired events, defining the threats, describing and analyzing the existing PPS, and identifying potential vulnerabilities and associated risks. The key to an effective VA program is to evaluate staff compliance with policy and performance of security systems (both physical and human). All too often, corrections professionals fail to test system performance by limiting the focus to policy compliance. Policy compliance and system performance cannot be considered independently. Sound correctional policies and procedures are the foundation for institutional security, but an ongoing assessment of staff and system performance is necessary to ensure the safety of staff, inmates, and the public. 2 figures, 1 table