Holding cell

Jail Cell


Yesterday, the handcuff topic led to some new questions. Beth asked, “How do you safely remove the handcuffs?”

My answer to her was, “Officers have the suspect step inside a holding cell and then close and lock the door behind them. The prisoner then places his cuffed hands through or close to an opening in the cell door. This allows officers to safely unlock the cuffs. That opening in the cell door is also used to pass prisoners their food trays.

When officers bring a suspect to an interview room they’ll normally leave the cuffs on their prisoner. If officers are removing cuffs from a prisoner outside a cell they’ll apply a wrist lock technique for control before unlocking the restraints. Two or more officers should be present anytime they’re removing cuffs in an unsecure area.

The picture above is of a typical holding cell. The platform to the right is the bed. In the rear of the cell is a stainless steel toilet/sink combination. A polished steel mirror hangs above the sink. The heavily scratched and dented mirror is held to the wall with bolts that can’t be backed out without a special tool. The thick steel door is equipped with a tray slot and peep hole. You can also see a round piece of stainless steel on the upper door. This is actually a receiver for a computerized device called “The Pipe.”

Jail officers carry the pipe with them as they make their rounds, touching the end of the apparatus to each receiver throughout the jail or prison. The receiver uploads the time and date into the pipe. At the end of the officer’s shift he/she inserts the pipe into a terminal inside the jail’s master control room. The computer then records every movement the officer made during the day. There are also many, many security cameras throughout the institutions. Talk about electronic micro-managing.

* Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Patry Francis’s book THE LIAR”S DIARY. Patry has been dignosed with an aggressive form of cancer and is unable to promote the book. Visit her website at www.patryfrancis.com for more information.

28 replies
  1. Lee
    Lee says:

    I’m sure I’ll be there either as a speaker or an attendee. That’s a conference everyone should attend at least once. It’s a fantastic event.

  2. rjmangahas
    rjmangahas says:

    this is a great blog. I think it makes a great suppliment to your already very useful book. Looking forward to more on this blog.


  3. Lee
    Lee says:

    Peg – I was waiting to see if you’d post your comment from yesterday. Most people don’t realize there are still departments out there with those kind of facilities.

  4. Peg H
    Peg H says:

    At least you had cells, Lee. I guess I’ll post the comment I made to you last night about the small PD the hubby worked for part time many years ago.

    “They were so small, their holding cell consisted of a bolted down bench in the office with a bar attached to the wall above it onto which they’d cuff their prisoners.”

    I am one of those people who can step through the cuffs, LOL.

    Hi, Hallie! Good to see you again.

    Peg H

  5. jentalty
    jentalty says:

    Hi Lee!

    So glad you started this blog! Fortunately for me, I’ve had the pleasure of being handcuffed (not for real!) and have had flexcuffs used. I recently went on a ride along and got to see the inside of a prison. What an eye opening experience!


  6. Lee
    Lee says:

    Thanks, Joyce. I think most modern police departments (the structures, not the people) are set up to allow the deilvery of prisoners directly into a secure section of the building. That’s a much better and safer way to handle prisoners than the way we did when I first went into law enforcement.

    We had to bring violent and combative prisoners through the main office area, past citizens who were making complaints, then past the clerical staff. After we’d gotten them that far (keep in mind that we were sometimes really struggling with these people who were wholeheartedly resisting) we had to take them up two flights of steps to the booking area. This was also the area where the Breathalyzer was kept. Yep, we had to take drunks up those same flights of stairs to be tested.

    Ah, the good old days.

  7. Joyce Tremel
    Joyce Tremel says:

    Another great post!

    Our holding cells have sliding doors that look like cages. The way our department (Shaler Twp. outside of Pittsburgh) is set up, the prisoner never has to go through any public areas to get to his cell. The police unit drives directly into the garage. The door is then closed with a key fob. There’s a door from there (also locked with key fob) directly into the booking room which is next to the cells. After 9/11, when the FBI made some arrests in Pittsburgh, they used our holding cells because they were so secure.

  8. imluna47
    imluna47 says:

    Lee, I love it! It’s a natural extension of all the other things you are already doing, and a perfect outlet for you.
    It’s a great way for those of us who are police-procedure challenged to write a more realistic book, too.
    Thank you! Hope you are having a good day today! Di

  9. Lee
    Lee says:

    Sorry, Norm. i knew you were with the state. I guess I was just having one of those…what were we talking about??

    Becky – Some of the older institutions still have bars. Hey, here’s a fun FYI for you. The bars in some of the older jails were hollw, but they had another smaller bar inside. The extra bar was in there to prevent inmates from sawing through if they managed to get their hands on a hacksaw blade. The internal bar wasn’t stationary and simply rolled around which prevented an escape attempt.

  10. BeckyLevine
    BeckyLevine says:

    Okay, the whole time I was describing the holding cell in the book, I was picturing the “wall” and “door” as metal bars with spaces between! Guess I’ve been watching too many westerns–when did we change from those, though?!


  11. Timber Beast
    Timber Beast says:

    Actually I’m a State guy, not FLETC. Our CA Dept of Forestry Academy had (and still has) the same POST (Peace Officer Standards & Training) requirements as LAPD or LA County Sheriffs or any other police/sheriff’s dept in California. It just leaned to arson investigation in its orientation.

    Our Lead Instructor in those days (1980), Tim Huff, might have been able to. He was a skinny guy who practiced Judo.I don’t know that any of the others in my class could. By the end of the Academy we had sorely bruised wrists. It took a couple months for the bone bruises to heal.

  12. Lee
    Lee says:

    Me either, Norm. I was able to do two things while cuffed – stand there looking foolish, or sit while doing the same.

    I take it you guys did this during your academy training? That was federal training, right? Department of Forestry I believe. How many people in your academy class were able to step through their cuffs?

  13. Lee
    Lee says:

    Hi Deanne. I’m not sure why your comment didn’t post. I’m slightly computer challenged so I just copied and pasted it above.

    Anyway, I’m sad to say that I can’t make it to the Mad Anthony Writers Conference this year. I did see that you guys have a star-studded lined up for the event this year. Your attendees are in for a treat. Hallie Ephron is the keynote and she’s a wonderful speaker. Becky Levine is also on the program. She and I are co-writing a kid’s book that scheduled for release early next year.

    It is possible for people who are flexible to squat down and step over their cuffed wrists, bringing their hands to the front of their body. Not many people can do it. During defensive tactics training, police recruits are often handcuffed with their hands behind their backs so they can attempt to get free (you never know when a suspect will get the upper hand and handcuff the arresting officer so he (the crook) can escape). I’ve seen a few – very few – police officers escape by stepping through the cuffs. By the way, you still need a key to remove the cuffs. That’s why cops keep a spare key hidden somewhere in their uniforms or on the gunbelt.

  14. Lee
    Lee says:

    Deanne wrote:

    Hi Lee! Great blog…it’s going to keep you busy!
    First – my copy of your book is here! I hope to see you this year and have it signed. (BTW: I was so surprised when I read the “thanks” section. Thank you!! I feel so special.)

    Okay, my question/comment: In No Country for Old Men, Javier Bardem’s character escapes his cuffs (sort of), by stepping through them, so that his arms were in front of his body. Then he did a very bad thing to the policeman (who was on the phone and not watching) to escape. A very terrifying scene. How likely is it that someone can get their arms in front of them while cuffed? I tried this (without the cuffs, of course!) but couldn’t do it. Is it just that I have a bigger butt than Javier??

  15. Lee
    Lee says:

    Hi Hallie. Thanks for the kind words and for your input.

    Many police departments have switched to the heavy glass and metal doors on holding cells so they can observe their prisoner’s activities. However, the glass also allows the prisoner to see what’s going on outside their cell which can lead to disruptive behavior; therefore, jails and prisons normally stick to solid doors for higher risk inmates. There’s also soundproofing material inside the solid doors. Jails are very noisy places.

    By the way, there’s a photo of the type door you wrote about on page 60 in my book.

  16. HEphron
    HEphron says:

    Only two blogs in and already I’m addicted, Lee.

    In my home town of Milton, I visited the police department and the kind detective showed me the holding cells – awhile back they changed the doors to see-through plexiglas, and the toilets don’t flush from inside the cell (also no seats and stainless steel/unbreakable) because some inmates kept flushing anyting they could to clog up the plumbing. Who knew? I immediately used both of those detatils in my novel.

  17. Kari Lee Townsend
    Kari Lee Townsend says:

    Lee, I love the blog. Your book has been a huge source of information to me, and now the blog is a perfect addition. You get so many questions anyway, so sharing the questions and the answers with everyone is a great idea. Thanks for letting me know about it. I will definitely link this to my website, as well as tell others about it. Oh, and using pictures is a fantastic idea. I am such a visual person, pictures really help;)

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