Training >> Browse Articles >> Firearms

Training >> Browse Articles >> Gangs

Training >> Browse Articles >> Officer Safety


Inmate Weapons: In the Jailhouse Now

Inmate Weapons: In the Jailhouse Now

A toothbrush and ballpoint pen embedded with disposable razor blades

Ed Byrne / SWAT Digest

Prison shank attacks tend to be fast and furious incidents with multiple stabs or slashes inflicted. Victims may not even realise that they are being attacked with an edged or sharp weapon until afterwards.

An impact weapon is any object that causes trauma and injury to the body through a striking action. Impact weapons are easily available and can be used without modification. Wooden brush handles are a favourite amongst prisoners, although in many prisons they have been replaced with hollow plastic versions. Chair and table legs are also used, where available. Examples of improvised impact weapons found in prisons include a pool ball inside a sock, a mug and orange inside a sock, chairs, table legs, pool cues, and batteries inside a sock. The prison-issue sock combined with a pool ball can be used as a flail-type weapon. But due to the elastic nature of the sock fabric, it can be unwieldy and unpredictable. A piece of fruit placed in a ceramic mug inside a sock is often used in the same manner.

A projectile weapon is one that propels an object manually or mechanically towards an intended target, and these are usually used in larger scale disturbances. While most projectiles are hand thrown, catapult and slingshots fashioned from braided latex search gloves have also been used. Easily made, slingshots are largely seen in cultures with slingshot traditions such as Middle Eastern countries. Ball bearings from motor workshops and even the roller balls from computer mice are often used as an ammunition projectile with these catapults and slings. Metal tack darts with a fabric tail coated with blood or excrement, used with a blowpipe, have also been discovered in the prison environment. Examples of these weapons include sling shots, catapults and blowpipes.

Flexible weapons often fall into multiple categories but will be treated as weapons of choking and strangulation in this instance. Flexible weapons can be made from any type of rope, cord or cable such as guitar strings, electrical cord, industrial rope, chain and braided strips of sheets or clothing. A short rigid piece of wood or metal can also be used as a garrotte to tighten the weapon mechanically from behind the victim. Examples include guitar strings, metal clothes hangers, electrical cords and laces. Improvised firearms found in prisons include “zip guns” and shotguns. Although firearms can also technically be placed in the projectile category, they will be placed in a category of their own in this instance. Improvised firearms are commonly known as “zip guns” and are associated with criminals inside and outside of prisons. They are usually, but not always, handguns. Often crude in design, they are predominantly single- shot weapons, as firing a round usually destroys the weapon and poses as much risk to the user as the intended victim.

Its construction consists of a barrel of steel tubing into which an ammunition cartridge is placed. The breach end is covered by an end cap in which there is a small hole to allow access to the primer cap of the ammunition round. A metal improvised firing pin (possibly a nail) is fitted into this hole. A spring or rubber band is then put in place to propel the firing pin at the primer cap of the pistol. The .22LR is the most commonly used round due to its low operating pressure, availability and the fact that it can easily be smuggled into prisons. Damage caused by zip guns can be substantial due to the lack of rifling in the barrel which causes the round to tumble as it hits the body. Improvised prison shotguns are often constructed from two pieces of steel pipe of different diameters, a pipe nipple and pipe cap. The shotgun shell is inserted into the base of the small pipe, which is then inserted into the larger diameter pipe that has an improvised firing pin at its cap end. The weapon is fired by aggressively slamming the smaller pipe against the firing pin.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 2 years ago


    The authorities need to be more vigilant in such matters. The inmates should not be allowed to access not even the most simple tool. If they keep on neglecting security needs, one day they would find their inmates with latest AR15 accessories.

  • Dcp_0435_max50


    about 4 years ago


    The biggest problem is the lack of penalties. In our facility, recently 1 inmate smuggled in drugs and 4 inmates took part in using those drugs. However, if we're lucky the inmate that smuggled them in will be charged. But I'm not holding my breath.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    am c/o and inmates they make all kinds of things , they have all the time i found a toothbrush and it was a jail knife .

  • Crater_lake_2009_3_max50


    about 4 years ago


    What do they expect...they give them every luxury of home then they are surprised they take razors out of their ART classes? OMGOSH, what get some ppl with brains running those places and quit treating the prisoners with kid gloves dammit when will u get it thru your heads they are there for a reason

  • Photo_00002_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Very infomative.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    If only inmates could use all of the free time they have for good instead of bad.

  • Kimber_ultra_cdp_max50


    over 4 years ago


    It always starts with the arresting officer(s) doing a THOROUGH frisk and pat down once the perp is arrested. Then they are pat down again, once in the booking department. Would it seem unreasonable to do a "cavity search" at this time ? I don't think so esp. if the perp had weapons or anything unusual in their clothes or on or in their person. It's BEST to always have 2 or more officers at ALL times present when doing any searching of the perp or the cell. Expect that the other inmates are going to try to cause a distraction to give the "newbie" time to hide / dispose of anything they need to.

    Finally: DOCUMENT ! DOCUMENT !! and DOCUMENT !!! If the perps lawyer can get the original arresting charge thrown out in court, you might be able to bring a charge for attempting to bring contraband into the jail. That is if, you can prove that they had a weapon such as a small "shiv" hidden in their body, on their body, or hidden some other means. But it doesn't do any good if this item (s) isn't documented in words in a Report signed by both officers, photos and video if possible.

    It never hurts to look in the most unusual places: a tongue can hold up something in their mouth. A single edge razor blade can easily be hidden in medium to long hair. A long and thin black colored shank can be concealed in black "dread - locks". If an inmate is coming from prison to a local county jail, many times they bring a box or suitcase of their items. Again, two officers need to open and look through this container.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago



  • Green-lantern-batman1_max50


    over 4 years ago


    We recently had a prisoner stick the sharpened end of a toothbrush into his penis just to go to the hospital.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    you can use anything from a garbage bag meltted down and rolled till its harden to paper rolled being wet and rolled again till harden .. Anything an inmate gets his hands on can turn to a wepon

  • Pug_max600_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Dental floss can be used to saw off a adversary's throat.

  • Img_0383_max50


    over 4 years ago


    ive done time working in corrections and i have seen things made into weapons that i never would of ever thought could be weapons

  • D_a_badge


    over 4 years ago


    Until we take everything away from them, we'll always have this problem.

  • Me_max50


    over 4 years ago


    There is no way to stop this so we need to learn the risks to better protect ourselves. 99% of all things can be made into a weapon somehow. Stay educated to stay safe

  • Michigan_20sheriff7_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I've seen some pretty amazing improvisation from guys with nothing but time on their hands. Good info!

PoliceLink School Finder

Save time in your search for a degree program. Use PoliceLink's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.

Recent Activity

36TR posted in: "How true this is", 3 minutes ago.
SE851 posted: "How true this is", 35 minutes ago.
SE851 posted in: "How true this is", 35 minutes ago.
Doanerev24 received the quiz result of "You passed, but just barely", about 1 hour ago.
SBallard14 received the quiz result of "You passed, but just barely", about 1 hour ago.