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Mark W. Hale: A ‘riot’ that helps save lives

By By Mark W. Hale

Sometimes, a prison riot can be a good thing.

In early May, hundreds of people behind bars ran wild at a penitentiary in northern West Virginia. Even though law enforcement personnel from around the country responded to the event, the outburst did not make national headlines. That’s because it was part of the annual Mock Prison Riot, a real-time training exercise hosted since 1997 by the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, the West Virginia Division of Corrections and the West Virginia Corrections Training Foundation.

Each year, hundreds of security staff from across the globe travel to the decommissioned West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville to participate in one of the premier training events in correctional safety and defense. The mock riot provides corrections, law enforcement, military and other public safety personnel with the chance to test their skills against volunteers posing as hostile inmates and to learn where they have room for improvement — all without any actual risk to the officers or to the public.

Safety is what the mock riot is all about. And the real beneficiaries of the event are the law-abiding citizens of West Virginia and other participating jurisdictions. As a society, we trust the dedicated men and women working “behind the walls” of our jails and prisons to protect us from individuals our justice system has deemed dangerous. The exercise helps our protectors do this better.

Live demonstrations, skills competitions and certification workshops at the Mock Prison Riot give participants hands-on experience deploying new technologies under realistic conditions. Participants then receive immediate feedback on their performance. The better their training, the better their ability to keep us safe.

West Virginia does an outstanding job organizing the event each year. Its willingness to host it is a testament to the state’s commitment to public safety. As the health-care provider for West Virginia’s prison inmates, Wexford Health is also committed to public safety. We witness on a daily basis the responsibility placed on correctional officers and understand the necessity of training events like the Mock Prison Riot. We are proud to be a major sponsor of this nationally recognized event. There can be no doubt participants left the event with more knowledge, training and preparation than when they arrived. When they share those lessons with their colleagues back home, public safety will be improved not just in West Virginia but across the nation. It is Wexford Health’s privilege to support the West Virginia Division of Corrections and the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe by ensuring that offenders remain appropriately incarcerated and managed.

Mark W. Hale is president and chief executive officer of Wexford Health Sources.

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