Jail Guards and firearms - fact or fiction?
September 3, 2004 4:02 PM   Subscribe

GoofyFactCheckFilter: do jail guards (specifically not prison guards) ever carry firearms? I published a short story online recently in which a guard in a county jail is carrying a gun and the person being held for questioning grabs it, chaos ensues, etc. I just received an email (from a guy I know slightly) insisting that "jail guards never carry firearms for the very reason you give -- high risk of someone grabbing it."

Now, I've never been to jail, but I've visited inmates in a maximum security prison (long story), and of course all the guards were carrying guns. So is there really some universal distinction between prison guards and jail guards regarding firearms, or was this person just being a know-it-all (and an ill-informed one at that)? I, of course, am only asking for the sake of accuracy, and not because I'm irritated.
posted by scody to Society & Culture (8 answers total)
I have a very close relative who is a guard and none of them carry guns unless they are in a patrol vehicle circling the grounds or in the guard tower, in which case I believe they have respectively a shotgun or a rifle.
posted by milovoo at 4:19 PM on September 3, 2004

oops, and for comparison, that is a women's state prison with maximum detention.
posted by milovoo at 4:22 PM on September 3, 2004

in the US, generally: jail is where you are if you are awaiting trial or have been convicted and your sentence is less than 1 year. prison is where you are if your sentence more than 1 year.

guards in jails, in my experience, never carry firearms around the cells or the visiting rooms (i used to be in jail almost weekly, visiting clients). i have less experience in prisons, but i've never seen an armed guard inside a prison either. i have seen them on the perimeter.

Newjack is a great book about becoming a prison guard in New York. i seem to recall some firearms in the book, but it may have been only during "situations" where the guards have retrieved the firearms from the guardroom.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:28 PM on September 3, 2004

Response by poster: Interesting. As I said, I've never been in jail (as a visitor or as a guest!), but the prison I regularly visited in Illinois (Pontiac) had armed guards both inside and out. I wonder if it varies among states, or among security levels.
posted by scody at 4:35 PM on September 3, 2004

Here is the official page for Illinois dept of corrections with the security levels of various facilities. The policy may be stated in there somewhere, but I haven't found it yet. They did seem to have a bad riot in 1978, but I don't know if that affected their weapons policy or not.
posted by milovoo at 5:17 PM on September 3, 2004

In New York state, corrections officers do not carry firearms while among the prison population, for obvious reasons. There are guards set apart from the inmate population (on towers and such) who do have firearms.

Interestingly, CO's are permitted to carry firearms when off duty here in NY.

I'm also going to second the recommendation of New Jack.
posted by Doug at 6:30 PM on September 3, 2004

Don't worry about it, scody, after all, those CSI shows are full of junk science and procedural inaccuracies.
posted by mischief at 7:11 AM on September 4, 2004

A jail guard would usually only carry a gun when transporting prisoners away from the jail (like to court, or possibly to hopsital).
posted by Goofyy at 7:21 AM on September 4, 2004

« Older Avocados!   |   Can I get book descriptions and bibliographic data... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.