However, the effectiveness of those policies is nullified by the staff prisons hire, who, in a lot of instances, are indifferent to offender safety. A good example of this can be seen in another recent inmate killing that happened at a prison in Georgia. After being severely beaten and stabbed by several others, this offender was left crawling around the floor of his housing unit as he bled to death (Details in the news account differ-editor). Several minutes passed with no officers or medical staff arriving to lock down the housing unit or help the inmate. Had they followed the protocols, his life might have been saved.
Throughout my incarceration, I've witnessed several altercations between offenders where the staff did absolutely nothing. Most recently, there was a fight in my housing unit where one offender was swinging a knife at the other. Although the fight lasted about five minutes, the officer in the control booth never saw it, so no backup was called. Luckily, neither of the offenders were seriously injured, and the fight remained isolated. However, not long before that, another fight occurred in the housing unit adjacent to mine, during which members of one gang robbed and assaulted a rival gang member. Again, the entire fight eluded the eyes of the officers, and this offender was beaten so badly, other inmates had to intervene to save him. The lack of awareness of the officers in both situations could very well have cost those inmates their lives.
Even worse are the fights where the officers actually see the altercations, yet still do nothing. A while back, a gang member who had been excommunicated was moved into my housing unit. Two current members of the gang immediately began attacking him in the dayroom. The officers saw the attack, yet instead of following protocol by locking the pod down and radioing for backup, they just stood in the control booth with their arms crossed watching the fight. It was as if they found it entertaining. Just a few weeks ago, as I was returning to my housing unit from the dining hall, another offender was assaulted by two others on the walkway. This attack happened outside in broad daylight with about four officers posted around the walkway, yet none of them moved a muscle to help the offender or even to report the attack. Again, either of these incidents could've ended tragically because of the officers' failure to act.
Staff indifference to safety policies are obviously a major part of the problem; however, a lack of adequate staffing also plays a significant role. Prison operating procedures mandate that each building be staffed with at least one officer in the control booth as well as one officer on the floor to patrol the housing units at all times. There should also be a higher-ranking Sergeant or Lieutenant in each building, "yard officers" to surveil the walkways while offenders are outside the buildings, a Correctional Emergency Response Team (CERT) or Special Response Team (SRT) on standby to handle serious security threats, and a fully staffed medical department in case of medical emergencies. Again, on paper these operational mandates appear to eliminate the chance of offender altercations going unseen or getting out of hand. The problem is that a large number of prisons are understaffed and cannot follow all the security protocols because they just don't have enough personnel to do so. This has been my experience at each of the five institutions in which I've been housed throughout my incarceration.
Maybe budgetary constraints are to blame. Maybe the stigma of this environment causes problems with hiring and retaining staff to work here. Whatever the case, having insufficient (or incompetent) staff significantly compromises offender safety. The solution to minimizing tragedies like what happened in Mississippi and Georgia doesn't lie in more cookie-cutter legislation or security protocols printed in training manuals; it lies in the PEOPLE who are employed here. That's where corrections administrators should start.