On 8th June 2012 I had the pleasure to meet ex-infantry soldier turned prison officer Craig Wylde, who was horrifically assaulted by Triple Murderer Kevin Thakrar just over two years ago.

The above mentioned attack happened on 13th March 2010 at Frankland High Security Prison in the UK,  which left Craig and two of his colleagues fighting for there lives.  Craig was left with a severed artery in his left arm, which has had a massive impact on his life.  After spending a few hours with Craig and his Wife and having witnessed the massive impact this assault and subsequent injury had on this gorgeous young family’s day to day life.  It seams to be unbelievable, but nevertheless it is so true, an ‘arm injury’ of this type can cause such immense level of distress, constant intense pain and test the strength of a family right to its core. Craig is currently taking 30 tablets a day to cope with all physical and psychological issues faced since the assault. The below image shows the open wound on the inside of his upper left arm, caused by a slash by Kevan Thakrar, using a broken bottle.

Craig Wylde’s cut/slash injury following the above attack in March 2010 at Frankland High Security Prison

The second officer who was assaulted in the above mentioned attack was Claire Lewis. After several conversations with Claire , you can see the massive impact this attack  has had on her and her family. The below injury has imposed several issues that Claire will have to deal with for the rest of her life, psychologically and physically. The injury was caused by Kevan Thakrar who stabbed Claire in the back with the broken sauce bottle, which was previously used to attack and severely injure Craig Wylde.

Claire Lewis’s injury following the above attack in March 2010 at Frankland High Security Prison

As many people are aware, the personal safety and well-being of police officers is much more in the public domain, than the service provided by our prison officers and the clear dangers that these people face every day. This is some what understandable, as the public are more aware of the danger that surrounds them and that police officers patrolling there area, offer a certain sense of security .  As for prison officers who who have a much more out of site role do get forgotten about a lot. Do we not believe that prison officers demand and deserve the same kind of respect and recognition as other frontline professionals?

I was wondering prior to my first meeting with Craig Wylde, a few weeks ago, what it was that he wanted to get out of our get-together. Now, having spoken to Craig in great depth, I am genuinely taken by surprise by his conduct and thoughts. So, what is he asking for, sympathy or revenge? Justice to be done? Possibly, but we know that justice has severely failed him in the past.  He might have well been forced to accept’ the judgement by now, which saw his attacker claiming PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and being cleared of two counts of murder and three counts of wounding with the intent, but I must say (and this may well sound not very nice at all) I hope from the bottom of MY heart that a certain judge in this world struggles to sleep well at night.

So what is it that Craig really wants? He is very passionate to see something done about the personal safety and protection of his fellow prison and correctional officers from around the world… and having met him on a number of occasions now, my feeling is he will not rest until that has happened. He wants key decision and policy makers, and those charged with ensuring the health and safety of his colleagues, to learn a lesson from what has happened to him.  Craig feels that something MUST be done in order to reduce the risk of something like this happening again. His campaign might well save someone’s life in the future!

His desire to improve the personal safety of his colleagues has so far only fallen on deaf ears. Nothing  worthwhile reporting about has been done to make a difference to the safety of these professionals (27 months after the above assault).  Oh… before I forget, yes, glass bottles have been removed from most prison facilities.  You are aware of the fact that sharpened table/bed frame legs, ceramic pieces (broken off from hand basins), razor blades melted into tooth brushes and similar edged weapon are much more ‘popular’ than glass bottles?  But, why have there been glass bottles in the first place?

Anyway, I have very recently written a blog on the potential use of stab vests within prison/correctional facilities… but Craig highlighted a different type of protection he feels strongly about, just like myself and the rest of my dedicated and passionate team.

PPSS Cut & Slash Resistant T-Shirt

Following the above assault at Frankland High Security Prison in 2010, we have developed a much more ‘low-profile’ type of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment): PPSS Slash Resistant T-Shirts!

We are talking here about slash resistant tops that can be worn underneath a prison/correctional officer’s shirt, in order to reduce the risk of cut or slash related injuries (I will explain further in a few seconds).

Personal Protective Equipment in general is not about ELIMINATING the risk of workplace violence related injuries… it is all about REDUCING THE RISK within an environment where a risk has been identified! So in this instance let’s all be honest for a minute or so, and ask ourselves the question: Is there a risk of assaults on prison officers within a Category A, B or even C prison?  Is the risk high enough to warrant the general issue of some type of protective equipment?

The answer to this question depends a lot on how much we respect these professionals and how much we care about these guys.

It’s very very similar to us wearing a seat belt in our car.  We don’t use a seat belt today because we know for sure we have an accident today. Neither do we use a seat belt because we are scared or paranoid, worrying that we might have a crash today.  No, not at all!  The reason why we wear a seat belt is that we do understand that we have a much higher chance of survival in case someone is drunk, plays on his mobile phone or is otherwise distracted and crashes into our car, despite our own great driving skills we might even be able to claim.

The seatbelt is unlikely to save our lives if the other person hits us front on with a speed of 1000 miles in hour.  However, it will ensure we survive the vast majority of all potential accidents… it is about REDUCING THE RISK!

Now back to the above question.  How much do we really care about others?  If my child is sitting on the back seat of my car I will make sure it is wearing a seat belt.  If any of my loved ones is sitting in my car I will also make sure they are wearing a seat belt.  If other people, in other cars, in other countries and on other planets decide they don’t like seat belts… that is their personal choice and I do not care!

So, again… how much do we care about the personal safety of prison and correctional officers, and are we willing to make a difference?

Based on Craig’s opinion and operational understanding, based on personal comments we have received from dozens of his colleagues from around the world, and based on my (and my colleagues) many years of operational frontline experience within law enforcement and high risk security operations, we ALL feel that high performance slash resistant t-shirts could be a real sensible option and solution, which makes unquestionable operational sense and would not restrict the wearers movement or restrict him in his duties. We are genuinely convinced that the severity of the injury would have been significantly reduced if Craig and Claire would have been issued with such slash resistant t-shirt.

The following are just a few of my own personal thoughts and comments on this matter.  Thoughts and comments, which I desperately wanted to put down in writing, aiming to encourage other professionals to start discussing this matter too, and aiming to finally get the public’s attention, which is required to make a difference.

Please have a look at this:

Would such slash resistant t-shirt eliminate the risk of workplace violence related injuries?  No, it will not!

Will it reduce the risk of workplace violence related injuries?  Yes, this is 100% guaranteed!

PPSS Cut Resistant Clothing is made out of Cut-Tex® PRO (a highly acclaimed hi-tech fabric) and is already being worn by hundreds of homeland security professionals around the world.  It has been tested to European, International and American cut resistance standards and offers previously unmatched cut, tear and abrasion resistance too.

Based on the particular product and garment design it is able to shield the carotid artery (within your throat), your radial artery (within your wrist), your femoral artery (within your thigh) or the axillary artery, the major blood vessel to be found under your arm pits, and often exposed during self defence, as the defending person will aim to protect his or her head and face. Cutting of the axillary artery would lead to massive loss of blood and result in the assaulted person’s death within a very few minutes… something Craig Wylde escaped by seconds.

I would like to invite you to re-look into what can be done, and what you are willing to do, in order to improve the personal safety of these professionals.

I fully understand we have to ensure they do not look confrontational, aggressive or authoritative, and I also understand that we live in a world where access to financial resources is restricted.

However, what has happened to Craig Wylde and Claire Lewis has now happened.  Both of them know only too well that we cannot turn back the time.  But what we all feel so strongly about is that SOMETHING must happen, otherwise we will sooner rather than later look at another fatality within this sector, which could be prevented by the issuing of the right type of PPE.

I have mentioned his name in my previous blog, but please allow me to do so once again. Jason Palmer was a United States born ex-Marine, who was the first prison officer in New Zealand (a country we will rather associate with stunning beaches) to die on active duty in 2010. His death raised serious concerns about the personal safety of prison and correctional officers worldwide and the request by them to be issued with appropriate clothing and/or equipment.

This blog/article is my attempt to ensure this request will not be ignored or forgotten about.

If you wish to express yourself and help us to understand your sector better, then please be so kind and take 5 minutes of your time and complete the following survey: SURVEY

Your feedback/input is greatly appreciated!

If you wish to comment on this blog… simply enter your comment in the below box or email info@ppss-group.com call +44 (0) 845 5193 953 or visit www.ppss-group.com

If you have a message for Craig Wylde… please be assured I will personally forward your message to him as soon as I get it… but only the good ones.  The crap, silly and nasty ones you can send to Kevan Thakrar yourself!

Please also note that UK based PPSS Group is specialised in all lone worker security andlone worker protection related issues, as well as organiser of the annual LONE WORKER SAFETY 2012 Conference & Exhibition, taking place every November at the Olympia Conference Centre, London.

For intellectual property/copyright reasons, Cut-Tex PRO labelled products cannot be sold and delivered to Germany!