The first two sections of the book discuss the “system,” the environment within the jail and the surrounding community (mental health facilities, parole/probation, the court, the hospital) that chronically mentally ill individuals cycle within. The third section is concerned with threat assessment: rather than a mere list of risk factors, the authors offer concrete skills on the development of a safety mindset, and further, techniques to develop and hone intuition, that early warning system that warns of danger before your conscious mind is even aware there is something wrong. In the fourth section of the book, the authors focus on us: what we can do to achieve a state of integrity and powerful calm. Rather than abstract pronouncements, they offer specific strategies, including a method of breathing for the purpose of maintaining one’s center in crisis situations.
They then move on to the heart of the book, discussing specific behaviors ranging from confusion and obsessive concerns to psychosis, mania and acute disorganization. In one very important section, they discuss interactions with opportunistic and manipulative individuals (at worst, those referred to as psychopaths), people who present a danger to the psychological and physical well-being of anyone with whom they come in contact.
They then move on to a discussion of aggression, whether directed at the correctional officer or others. There is a specific section set aside on dealing with aggressive youthful offenders. The authors discuss how to de-escalate aggressive and chaotic inmates once a crisis is in play. The authors elucidate the various motivations that drive aggression and further delineate the different types of aggression that result. De-escalation tactics are specific – one learns how to immediately recognize what mode of aggression other person is displaying, and the, one can quickly and effectively implement the de-escalation tactics that are best suited to deal with it. Safe Behind Bars is ideal to use as a core text to set up a comprehensive program within a jail to protect both inmates with mental illness and correctional officers. Finally, in essential appendices, they present protocols on current information on positional and compression asphyxiation (authored by Dr. Gary Vilke), and a protocol, specific to police, on excited delirium (authored by Lieutenant Michael Paulus, ret.) Rather than abstract information, more useful in a consulting room than in the field, Safe Behind Bars is tactically based, from start to finish.