Inmates are creative and inventive in fashioning improvised stab weapons from everyday objects or materials—even objects as simple as toothbrushes. They use these weapons to attack each other, and they also use them to attack officers. To help officers obtain the protection they need against those threats, NIJ is updating Stab Resistance of Personal Body Armor, NIJ Standard-0115.00, adapted in 2000 from a United Kingdom standard that addressed the threat from commercially made knives.
The end result will be a standard that will be more applicable to the environments in which many corrections officers work, without burdening them with protection against non-applicable threats. The standard will also maintain the commercial threat protection level for officers who work in uncontrolled environments.
The draft NIJ Standard 0115.01 addresses protection against the types of knife and spike threats that corrections officers face on a daily basis, and adds testing specific to female body armor models. An STC that includes corrections practitioners from multiple agencies worked diligently over an extended period to review the research and provide real world input.
NIJ Standard 0115.01 will provide two performance categories for stab/slash-resistant armor:
- Commercially made weapons, typically found by corrections officers in facility intake and public areas and in uncontrolled areas
- Improvised or inmate-made weapons, typically encountered inside controlled access areas of jails, detention centers, and prisons
Both commercial and improvised tests will include knife and spike tests identified by the STC as representing prevalent threats, and female armor will be tested to ensure any stitching or forming of the bust cups continues to meet the same required level of protection afforded by unshaped armor. The test blades presently used for testing will continue to be used as test weapons for commercial threats, and the National Institute of Justice Compliance Testing Program’s technical experts worked closely with academia to develop additional test weapons based on the types of improvised weapons confiscated or found within correctional facilities.
The standard also covers conditioning (tumbling the armors for many days) prior to testing to ensure they continue to work as intended after being subjected to sustained mechanical damage, along with simple tests for label legibility and durability. The ability to continue to read the label as the armor is worn and used over time is significant for a number of reasons, including needing to know pertinent information such as model number (in the event of a recall) and the protection level.