The Orange County jail has outfitted guards and deputies with new vests to better protect them from attack.
Sheriff Charles Blackwood purchased protective vests for 40 detention officers and deputies who work at the Orange County Detention Center in downtown Hillsborough.
The vests are worn underneath uniform shirts and are designed to protect jail employees against potential assaults from inmates brandishing knifes, shivs or other improvised weaponry.
The cost per vest was $353. The order of 40 vests and accompanying accessories cost a total of $17,239.90.
Sgt. Chan McDade, wrote in an email that the vests were funded, in part, by Orange County inmates themselves, through money generated from the prisoners’ commissary purchases.
“We've had incidents with inmates fighting, and we’ve had to go into cells and intervene,” said Chief Deputy Jamie Sykes. “But, in terms of actually having an inmate directly assault a detention officer, I can’t think of an incident in which that actually happened.”
“We’ve been very fortunate to date,” said Blackwood. “There have been relatively few serious attempts to harm our staff.”
He added, “We cannot assume, however, that will always be the case.”
Various types of protective vests were considered.
“We looked at everything including safety, comfort, costs and reliability, as well as customer support from the vendor, before making a decision,” Blackwood said.
The Sheriff's Office is responsible for housing inmates charged with crimes and awaiting trial or who have not yet posted bail, those sentenced under the Statewide Misdemeanant Confinement Program and inmates housed for the U.S. Federal Marshal Service.