Holy cow! Handling body jewelry and piercings

One report found that 60 percent of inmates have some kind of body piercing; how do you deal with it?


Body jewelry and various piercings are increasing in popularity in the mainstream culture as a form of personal expression and group identity. About 50 percent of those entering emergency rooms have one or more types of body piercings, according to international expert, Scott DeBoer, a registered nurse and author of the step-by-step photo guide, “Body Piercing Removal: Healthcare Professional’s Handbook”.

With such a high percentage in the general public, you can be sure there are many pierced individuals crossing the threshold of our jails and prisons. One study found 60 percent of released prisoners had a body piercing. How is your facility dealing with body jewelry?

Heavy Metal
Safety, of course, is a primary reason for removal of body jewelry on intake into a correctional setting. Made primarily of metal, body jewelry can be ripped from ears, noses, nipples and navels causing personal injury. In addition, removed jewelry can be used as weapons against other inmates and staff or provide yet another contraband item for the prison black market.

Newer forms of body decoration such as surface anchors and dermal implants create new challenge to inmate and staff safety. Surface anchors are single point piercings with only one visible end or bead. The jewelry is anchored to the skin by an internal plate. Various decorative jewelry is then screwed onto this plate and visible on the skin surface. Surface anchors can be placed almost anywhere on the body and are common on eyebrows, cheekbones, chests and bellies. Dermal implants are made of silicone or metal and inserted under the skin to provide a decorative silhouette. Implants may prove less of a safety issue than dermal implants since the jewelry is under rather than on the skin surface.

Everywhere You Look (or Don’t Look!)
Some body jewelry is visible and obvious. Ear, eye, nose, or tongue ornaments will be revealed during standard intake screening procedures. However, treasures can dwell in hidden locations including among the ‘family jewels’. Both male and female genital piercings are a growing phenomenon. Metal rings and barbells can be located on private parts. Depending on your facility’s security levels you may or may not have a need for removal of these trinkets during intake. Other covered body areas that might have metal jewelry include navel, nipple, chest and abdomen.

Do it Yourself Removal
DeBoer recommends that the first and primary method for jewelry removal is to have the individual remove their own jewelry. Most individuals know how to remove their own jewelry and this is the least traumatic. Jewelry can then be kept with other personal belongings for return upon release. In the event that self-removal is impossible, two pieces of equipment are recommended for removal of body jewelry. They are inexpensive and easy to use. Every intake site should have a pair of small hemostats and a pair of ring opening pliers. All but the most exotic of piercing jewelry can be removed using these tools. Scott recommends www.isneedles.com for obtaining this equipment.

How are you dealing with body jewelry and piercings in your correctional facility? Share your insights and suggestions in the comments section below.

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