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I am a nurse working in a county jail. During a routine examination to rule out lice infestation, a female inmate had a defensive attitude and while I was visually inspecting her head, she raised her right hand as though she was going to grab my arm to stop my actions. My first reaction was to step backwards and in a very firm but polite manner ask (for the second time) her permission to continue with my job. Later, one of the new officers asked me why I did not apply a physical restraint technique or “grab her wrist” and let the officers handle the situation. I am not sure that in such a case there is enough time for the officers to react. Am I legally allowed to stop a possible physical assault or establish any physical contact to prevent harm? Would I be charged with battery? Assault?

Among the assumptions upon which the standards are built is the one that professional health staff will function as they have been trained when it comes to health-related interactions. Professional health staff should respond as they would in the community, even when the patient is an inmate and the setting is a correctional facility. Your response was not only professional but was likely to de-escalate the situation since you were backing off and allowing the patient space.

Of course, if an inmate is about to strike you, you are always justified in defending yourself. This is your right in the community or in a correctional facility.
— From CorrectCare Volume 17, Issue 3, Summer 2003