What do you do when you see a CO obviously abusing an inmate?


Is this something you have ever witnessed? Who would you report it to? Could there be retaliation against you if you did report it?

Eirene, ASN, RN

499 Posts


I've never witnessed it (thank goodness). I am sure it happens, though. When there is a use of force (chemical, physical) the inmate AND the officer are both clinic checked per orders from the Captain. We write down the subjective complaint of the inmate along with our physical findings. We then let the R.I.B. (Rules Infraction Board) handle it from there.

There is now a rule where all cell extractions (the swat team) have to be videotaped. That helps tremendously on litigation issues.

If you do suspect abuse, there is a law called the Whistle-blowers protection act.

I hope that helps.

Specializes in Occupational health, Corrections, PACU. Has 25 years experience.

Hi there. I have a question that is just the opposite, but along the same lines. I will post it as a new post. I had a situation where the c/o's refused to do something....sort of abuse by neglect...I'll write in my post.

Orca, ADN, ASN, RN

2,066 Posts

Specializes in Hospice, corrections, psychiatry, rehab, LTC. Has 28 years experience.
There is now a rule where all cell extractions (the swat team) have to be videotaped. That helps tremendously on litigation issues.

Our system does this as well, in any situation in which use of force may or will be used. It settles any questions about statements or actions that took place during an incident. I have also stood by during cell extractions, examining each inmate for possible injuries or physical distress when the extraction was completed.


68 Posts

Has 5 years experience.

This is a very difficult situation to be in. I witnessed a CO verbally abusing an inmate and finally had to step in and say "Okay...I think that was enough." It was difficult to do, but in my heart I knew it was the right thing to do seeing as how the inmate was already suicidal and this was not helping matters. As far as a CO physically abusing an inmate, this can be difficult. I have seen inmates with injuries who reported to me that they were caused by CO's. I completed an incident report documenting the injuries and the inmates' statement and turned in a copy to the Sergeant. I made a note in my own documentation for the patient's UHR and that I had notified Sergeant so and so and treated the injuries as needed. It is out of my hands from there. If the CO did what was necessary in order to gain compliance from an inmate who was disobeying a direct order, then they hopefully will be cleared by the investigators. I try to give the CO's some benefit of the doubt as I do not do their job, but I have seen some injuries that seemed excessive, although I was not there to know what had occurred that caused the injuries in the first place. I have seen situations where the inmate was given an opportunity to comply with a direct order and chose to be smart-mouthed and custody made him comply through physical restraint and I honestly felt I would have handled the situation the same way as the officers had I been them. It's a fine line, but if you are going to intervene, choose how you do it carefully, may be by suggesting the inmate's behavior is due to a medical or psychiatric problem and request that you be allowed to evaluate the inmate. Hope this helps.


154 Posts

Specializes in I have watched actors portray nurses.

With surveillance videos showing up on the nightly news, this is becoming more and more an issue to address. Recently, a video on youtube clearly shows a correctional officer punching an inmate about the face multiple times while he was fully restrained in a chair. While the inmate may have been verbally abusing staff, he was certainly no physical threat to anyone all bundled up in the restraint chair. The officer, however, decided to administer some jail house justice. This video also showed a second officer standing back beside a nurse. Both watched this officer punch the inmate several times. The nurse quickly turned away and appeared to walk away (off camera) upon seeing the first blow. The second officer appear to move toward the first office in an effort to intervene, but stopped short. Did the nurse, and the second officer for that matter, not have a professional obligation to report this obvious physical abuse? It was hard to watch, and I still wonder what, if anything, these "bystanders" did to address this obvious abuse.


154 Posts

Specializes in I have watched actors portray nurses.

You do the right thing. Do it for yourself.

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