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Introducing the use of PAVA spray in prisons

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Close up of a prison officers arm and belt. On the officers belt is a holder with a PAVA cannister secured within

HMPPS are rolling out PAVA incapacitant sprays to all male category A-D prisons to help keep our prison officers safe and better maintain control when difficult situations arise.

But we need to ensure that prison officers receive incredibly robust and thorough training, with proper processes in place, to maximise its potential of helping to:

  • keep prison officers safe
  • improve staff confidence
  • resolve violent incidents more quickly

As the Governor of 1 of the 4 prisons to first test the use of PAVA spray, I’ve seen how it works first hand.

But before the trial started, I was unsure how it would work. When I first heard that PAVA was going to be trialled I didn’t think there was a need for it, and I thought it could clash with our rehabilitation culture.

But when I saw how PAVA was being used during the trial, I feel very positive.

Training is crucial

One of the most important factors behind the trial’s success was giving thorough training to all staff using PAVA.

PAVA is a synthetic pepper spray, so it has the potential to stop a violent prisoner in his tracks or prevent themselves from hurting himself, others, or staff.

As a prison officer, parts of your training will cover:

  • practical use of the spray
  • the legalities of using PAVA
  • its chemical make-up
  • likely effects of the product when used
  • how to care for anyone exposed to PAVA

Your training is designed to ensure you know how to use PAVA accurately in any serious threats of violence.

Making sure PAVA is used correctly

Another important factor to the successful use of PAVA is having strong systems in place to make sure it’s only used to manage situations where staff have concerns for their safety.

We only want it to be used when it’s really necessary, and we don’t want it to replace staff using their interpersonal skills to de-escalate and manage situations.

That’s why it’s essential from a governor’s point of view that you have the right systems in place to ensure PAVA is only used appropriately. PAVA will be fully rolled out in April 2019, to provide staff with enough time to be properly trained.

It’s given staff a lot of confidence

You should never under-estimate the importance of talking to a prisoner to de-escalate a situation. However, there are times when a prison officer may have to use Control and Restraint techniques or draw their baton to bring order and control back in a prison.

However, you need to actually get up close to use a baton. But with PAVA, a prison officer can use it from a distance and there’s a much lower risk of injury, giving staff more confidence in being able to deal with a situation.

I believe PAVA has prevented serious injuries to staff and prisoners. When used properly, it helps staff control serious incidents without further harm.

For us, there’s no doubt that we’re dealing with a difficult population, so PAVA has been a really useful safety tool.

Read more about the roll-out of PAVA to prison officers across the country.

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  1. Comment by Willers posted on

    This should be authorised to be used by certain officers

    • Replies to Willers>

      Comment by Emily posted on

      Thanks for your comment. All prison officers who'll be equipped with the spray will be thoroughly trained before they use it.

  2. Comment by arman posted on

    when will the officers at pentonville prison first have the spray on them?

    • Replies to arman>

      Comment by Emily posted on

      Thanks for your query - as blog moderators we don't know dates for specific prisons but the PAVA roll-out will start early next year, giving time for essential training to take place first.

      • Replies to Emily>

        Comment by arman posted on

        will the pava spray training occur during the 10 week poelt training?

        • Replies to arman>

          Comment by Emily posted on

          Hi Arman

          Thanks for your query. The PAVA spray training is not currently part of the POELT. This could change in the future, but prison officers are currently being trained in their establishments (prisons) from now.

  3. Comment by Bob Sheridan posted on

    Will you be publishing the report of the six month trial?

    • Replies to Bob Sheridan>

      Comment by Helena posted on

      Hi Bob,

      Thanks for your query, and apologies for the delay in our response. The outcome of the report was used to help inform our policy on the roll-out of the PAVA spray, but there are no plans to publish it.

      Thanks, Helena

  4. Comment by Jake posted on

    Hi there, will officer be given rigid bar handcuffs and training with them at the same time as paca spray? As it was announced we were going to get rigid cuffs in 2017 but still haven’t received training or the piece of equipment yet?

    • Replies to Jake>

      Comment by Helena posted on

      Hi Jake,

      Sorry for the delay, I’m afraid as blog moderators we don’t have access to this information. Perhaps you could speak to your mentor or direct line manager?

      Thanks, Helena