The annular confinement beam (sometimes shortened to confinement beam) was an essential component of the transporter system. Generated by the primary energizing coils, the annular confinement beam confined the transporter matter stream when it was on its way to the target destination.
When deflector shields were active, an annular confinement beam could not penetrate the shield envelope, making transport almost impossible, except through the expert use of sensor windows. (TNG: "The Wounded")
In the event of an annular confinement beam failure or malfunction, the object in transport would suffer pattern degradation, causing severe injury and even death in the case of living creatures. Commander Sonak was killed in such an incident in 2273. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
The annular confinement beam could be intentionally breached by the transport subject during the initial stages of transport if their bodies contained certain material compounds. However, doing so resulted in a massive energy discharge as the beam failed, and could be lethal as described above. (TNG: "The Hunted")
In 2368, Miles O'Brien was able to boost the confinement beam in order to beam down one person to the surface of Mab-Bu VI's moon that was ravaged by heavy electrical storms. Geordi La Forge estimated the chances for success at 50:50. (TNG: "Power Play")
The only time that the annular confinement beam was disengaged was when a transport in progress was suspected to contain some explosives or other dangerous material which were not allowed on board a ship. The targeting scanners were then reset to a point in space, the transporter matter stream was rerouted to that point, and the annular confinement beam was disengaged, dispersing the material harmlessly into space.
In 2369, Miles O'Brien tried boosting the annular confinement field in order to retrieve a wounded Klingon who was trying to beam aboard Deep Space 9. He eventually succeeded. (DS9: "Dramatis Personae")