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Wheelchair Security Issues


Subscribe to Wheelchair Security Issues 13 posts, 7 voices

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Female user davidsmith 1 post

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Male user robert110 1 post

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Male user wastanven 1 post

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Male user raneill 5 posts

Unfortunately, I am not really involved with the wheelchair issue at my agency much anymore. Management has shut me down as it doesn’t want to deal with people who ask real questions to get real answers. Therefore, here goes an update from what I have been able to find out.

At least something I pushed for is in progress now. We finally got to the point of having wheelchairs refurbished by our inmate vocational shops instead of just salvaging them when they become unserviceable. Since the majority of the damage to the wheelchairs is ripped/torn upholstery, our inmate vocational sewing shop now fabricates replacement seating surfaces and the inmate vocational bike repair shop reassembles the wheelchair. It’s a slow inefficient operation. Many parts are just recycled from other unserviceable wheelchairs. Last I checked, the shops had more than 100 unserviceable wheelchairs on hand. We get maybe 3-5 “refurbished” wheelchairs to return to service a week. We still salvage a lot of wheelchairs. As a note, we have never had any repairs contracted out. Our last large purchase order, in addition to modified wheelchairs, it included the installation of “Anti-theft/Anti-fold” bars to a number of wheelchairs we had currently in use. The bar is fit across the back of the wheelchair frame to prevent it from being folded to a more compact size. The installation process was a fiasco as inmates are constantly being moved about and we cannot take inmates out of a wheelchair without a replacement. Unfortunately, I believe the vendor got burned on that one.

We also had/have a project to try and track the wheelchairs using a GPS/WiFi tracking device of somekind mounted to a metal plate installed on the wheelchair. Unfortunately, as far as I know the system has never worked as our facilities do not have good WiFi coverage and most of the expensive tracking devices were junked with the salvaged unserviceable wheelchairs. The other issue with the tracker is the Lithium battery which is supposed to last for years appears to be lasting less than a year.

As a transport wheelchair the STAXI has turned out to be a great unit. All of the wheelchairs we put in service are still in service daily without any problems noted. The Staxi’s issues would be that it is a transport wheelchair and it does require a person available to push it while holding the brake release bar making it suitable only in limited circumstances. The other issues is with it taking a lot of space for strorage as it doesn’t fold although multiple units nest like shopping carts.

The MERLEXI prison wheelchairs also seem to be a good durable wheelchair. We did have an issue at first with some foot rests failing right away on our small test batch. The problem appears to be related to a bad resin mixture in the batch. Merlexi responded right away by swapping out the defective parts which seems to have resolved the issue. I have not heard of any failures since. The plastic/resin material is similar to that of plastic shopping carts and does seem very durable and tamper resistant.

Female user merlexi 3 posts

I agree that prisoners can be very clever and it is a challenge to stay ahead. It would be nice if this were not the case.
Regarding our plastic parts, without seeing our chairs, I understand how you might propose that a hole could be made and contraband inserted. However all parts are made with ribs and no rib is greater than 1/4 inch. There isn’t solid plastic to be bored out .
I was talking to an administrator recently who told me that the steel dinner trays were being destroyed with nail clippers. As he was pointing out, something stronger can destroy something weaker.
I suspect that prisoners would like to destroy our chair with hopes of getting a traditional chair. Any of those attempts are very easy to spot immediately.
And, staying ahead is essential to keep everyone safe and still have a viable medical device.

Getty rf photo of cat and praying mantis Campi 227 posts

I have yet to see this chair in my facility and have nothing good or bad to say about it. I just know that inmates are wonderful little guys kind of like hobgoblins. They can take and either break or alter anything to suit their needs. If only they could try to do the same for good. I foresee a part of the chair that is solid plastic hollowed out and something placed in it and then a little Elmer’s glue on it every time they are in and out using some kind of plastic cover painted to look just like it was never altered. There is nothing ever full proof or fail safe. If you intend to make this statement you are doomed to failure. I have seen a hard drive made out of electronic pieces and put into a radio. I am pretty sure it was able to hook into a TV and then use a mp3 player as the keyboard. After seeing things like that I know a guy will figure out how to turn your chair into a rolling contraband store. But I am sure your chair will make people feel safe guarantees do that. I am sure it will lower the probability that it can be used to conceal contraband. But it will never be inmate proof. They will work on it 5 minutes at a time maybe 10 times a day every day till they make it work. This is what they do. Then we come along and check things until we find the alteration that we maybe have looked over 50 times till we find it. Then they try something new till it works and stick with that till we figure it out again. Like I said cat and mouse.

Female user merlexi 3 posts

I’m sorry but I absolutely reply to the last comment. The Merlexi chair is guaranteed for 3 years and we stand beside our guarantee. We did have our foot rest break and the chairs were all retrofitted with a new plastic formula that has not cracked at any facility. I do not believe it was three days. However even though I call LA every few months and talk with Kimberly Saucedo who heads the medical services bureau at LA and ask how our chairs are doing, I have not heard any adverse reports. Clearly the Sterling chair has gone through many models
Furthermore, we produced what they wanted – a tamperproof wheelchair in PINK.
I must also say that our chairs are being used in Federal Correctional facilities across the nation with no adverse reports. In fact, most of our sales have been through word of mouth from happy customers.
These chairs are medical devices and as such have passed the ANSI /RESNA test of durability – proving 5 years of wear. However, we took our chairs to failure which occurred at 33 years of wear. And they have the 510K from FDA which you MUST have to sell in the USA. And our facility is registered with the FDA to produce this medical device. Have no doubts, if you do not provide legal medical devices, you will be sued by your prisoners.
Lastly the reports that I hear all say that the guards are very happy with our product – they feel safe.

Male user ADS 2 posts

Your right about the mice. We have looked at all the placed to hide contraband and have made changes. Our current model is being tested as we speak by LACSD. The Merlexi chair was broken by the inmates in three days. Ill let you know how the testing went……

Getty rf photo of cat and praying mantis Campi 227 posts

As long as the cheapest ones are the ones they buy they will continue to place contraband and weapons in the hallow tubes that make up the body of the chair. We had tools and weapons being made and smuggled out of the shop area by the inmate that was fixing them. It’s a cat and mouse game. And unless the cat is vigilant the mice they shall play. Check the leg rests they often have a plastic cap over the ends of the tubes and they hide larger items in there. Also it sounds stupid but make the guy just stand against the wall or lift himself up. They often just sit on the contraband because no one makes the poor disabled guy move out of his chair.

Male user ADS 2 posts

For the past year I have been contracted to make repairs on wheelchairs that inmates had been taking apart to make weapons. During this process I found countless weapons and contraband hidden in the chairs. I also found the design flaws in the chairs being used for incarceration. So I have invented and built an wheelchair that is tamper proof, does not allow for staph or MRSA to breed on it and has no place to hide contraband. If you want more information feel free to contact us at Sterling Medical 949-586-1922

Female user merlexi 3 posts

I recently saw your post – 4 years after you wrote it.
I own the merlexi wheelchairs and have been making the prison chairs for almost 2 years.
Our chairs are guaranteed for 3 years – I think most of yours only last 8 months. The chairs are made of a special blend of poly pro , glass and a rubberizing agent which makes the pieces very strong. They can’t be melted or cut into weapons. Everything is solid so one can’t store contraband. They are impervious to weather and can be used in the shower. They can be sterilized any way you chose to prevent pathogens. They are ergonomically designed for both user and caregiver. I am told that the guards love them. They are also cost effective . Since we expect them to last longer than 3 years, you are paying about $.87 per day compared to about $1.30 per day .
The last point is about Stax – technically they are not wheelchairs. FDA includes only chairs where the user can be self mobile as a wheelchair. Chairs with 4 small wheels are called transport chairs and I do not believe they conform to the wheelchair requirement.
Currently many of our sales are to the Federal prisons and also county prisons.
If you would like to know more about our chairs, please call our office. 502 614-8032.

Male user raneill 5 posts

Hi all. Just posting results of research I have been doing for a while now. (Our facilities purchase over 200 wheelchairs a year)

Generally, institutions use basic standard wheelchairs. Many secure the removable foot riggings with tamper resistant anti-theft lock nuts to make them harder to remove. Most companies make models with non-removable armrests.

One option we have found are “airport” transport chairs from “Staxi.” These are non-folding wheelchairs that are designed for commercial use and they slide together like airport luggage carts. We are currently using a few of these in areas that allow for transport wheelchair use. The issue with this model is that as a transport wheelchair, it cannot be self-propelled by the one sitting on it.

Another option that we recently found was a “inmate wheelchair” from “Merlexi Craft.” This model appears to be a resin wheelchair that still folds like a standard wheelchair but is made of a material similar to plastic grocery store shopping carts. It seems new to the market but looks promising.

I would still like to see some feedback from others on what works and what doesn’t at various facilities.

Male user raneill 5 posts

In our jail facility, we have regular issues with the wheelchairs being used. It seems parts are being removed to make into weapons such as; the brake handles being broken off, the metal supports in the vinyl seat and back portions and other various pieces.

I was wondering if there are any recommendations regarding the type, make, model of wheelchairs that are more resistant to inmate damage.

Some suggestions as to what modifications may work and what ideas have failed would help also.

I figure if we can figure out a better wheelchair it would reduce the number we purchase annually along with making our facilities a safer place. If there is enough demand, perhaps a company would be willing to make a correction/in-custody specific line of wheelchairs.

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