Last month the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) hosted a special three-day class on de-escalating potentially violent situations with emotionally disturbed inmates.
The goal of the training? To minimize the risk of violence in jails through the development and improvement of crisis-communication skills.
Counselor and mental-health specialist Ellis Amdur, of Edgework Crisis Intervention Training, presented "Safe Behind Bars: Tactical Verbal De-escalation of Aggressive and Emotionally Disturbed Individuals" on June 21-23 at the CCSO Public Safety Training Center in Clackamas.
In attendance at the free training were Clackamas County deputies and jail personnel, Oregon State Hospital staff, Marion County nurses, and Benton and Washington County deputies.
"Because correctional officers and other jail staff must protect their own safety as well as the safety of others, including inmates, they often have limited time in which to establish a communication mode that minimizes the risk of violence," according to Amdur's course description. "Agitated individuals can often be directed away from violence by specific communication skills. Successful verbal de-escalation also sets a precedent with emotionally disturbed inmates who are likely to have many such events while in custody."
"This was a great training," said Capt. Lee Eby, Clackamas County Jail commander. "It's part of our continued commitment to finding the best ways to interact with individuals with mental illness. At any given time, upward of a third of our inmates can be suffering from some sort of mental-health crisis."
Amdur's training is based on his book "Safe Behind Bars," a de-escalation guidebook for correctional officers in jail settings, co-authored with Sgt. Michael Blake and Chris De Villeneuve. The training breaks down the "cycle of aggression" that can travel from anger to rage; teaches jail employees to spot the signs of and behavioral patterns during an escalation; and offers a variety of verbal and psychological strategies to "turn down the volume." Attendees learned a number of techniques to interrupt dangerous patterns during communication with volatile inmates and those suffering from a wide range of mental illnesses.
To learn more about Ellis Amdur and Edgework Crisis Intervention training, visit edgework.info. To learn more about Amdur's books, visit edgeworkbooks.com.