The Staff World: Managing the Prison Population
1. List the staff roles within the organizational hierarchy of correctional institutions.
2. Define custodial staff.
3. Identify the types of power available to correctional officers.
4. Explain what structured conflict is and how it applies to correctional institutions.
5. Define the word subculture, and identify some of the essential features of correctional officer subculture.
6. Summarize correctional officer demographics.
7. List and describe the most common correctional officer personality types.
8. List and describe the seven correctional officer job assignments.
9. Describe how female correctional officers differ from males in their approach to the workplace.
10. Explain why stress is a problem in corrections work, and list some techniques for reducing stress.
11. List the elements that correctional administrators must consider when planning for staff safety.
The Staff Hierarchy
The Correctional Officer—The Crucial Professional
Bases of Power
· Legitimate power.
· Coercive power.
· Reward power.
· Expert power.
· Referent power.
The Staff Subculture
· The relationship between correctional officers and inmates can be described as one of structure conflict.
· Effective communication is one way of overcoming the differences in beliefs, values, and behaviors between inmates and prison staff.
· The staff subculture differs greatly from the inmate subculture.
Gender and Ethnicity of Correctional Officers
· Most correctional personnel at the state and local levels are white males.
· Thirty-two percent of corrections personnel are members of minority groups.
· Thirty-two percent of corrections personnel are women.
Correctional Officer Personalities
· The dictator.
· The friend.
· The merchant.
· The turnkey.
· The climber.
· The reformer.
· The do-gooder.
Correctional Officer Job Assignments
· Block officers.
· Work detail supervisors.
· Industrial shop and school officers.
· Yard officers.
· Administrative officers.
· Perimeter security officers.
· Relief officers.
Correctional Staff Issues
· Like most women working in male-dominated professions, female correctional officers face special problems and barriers.
· Female correctional officers typically say that they perform their job with a less aggressive style than men.
· Women are more likely to rely heavily on verbal skills and intuition.
· Women officers rely more heavily than male officers on established disciplinary rules when problems arrive.
· Most women take a job in corrections due to an interest in human service work or in inmate rehabilitation. This is not very common in the male officers..
· Less likely to be assaulted than male officers.
· Most male officers are supportive of female officers in general, but do have concern about their ability to provide back-up in a crisis.
· Sexual harassment of female officers is a problem that is often not taken seriously.
· Stress appears to be more commonplace in prison work than in many other jobs, but it is often denied.
· Stress results from feelings of powerlessness, meaninglessness, social isolation, and self-estrangement.
· Job alienation is a major source of stress for correctional officers.
· There are many techniques for avoiding or reducing job stress.
· Staff safety is a major stressor for individual correctional officers and a primary management concern for correctional administrators.
· Safety planning must occur and research must be continuous to determine what works, what doesn’t work, and emerging trends in staff safety.
· High levels of stress reduce the satisfaction correctional officers get from their jobs.
· Correctional officers often feel alienated from policymaking.
· Officers who feel that they have some control over the institution and over their jobs seem much more satisfied than officers who believe they have no control.
The Effects of Terrorism
· There are threats of terrorism in the communities where correctional facilities are housed and also threats within the institutions themselves.
· Bioterrorism is of particular concern for prison officials.
· Incarcerating those convicted of terrorism presents new challenges for correctional administrators.
· Security problems presented by information leaks and inhumane treatment of inmates were demonstrated in 2003 & 2004 at the U.S. Navy’s Guantanamo Bay Naval Station prison in Cuba.
There is a hierarchy of staff positions, from warden (or superintendent) at the top, down to correctional officer and correctional officer trainee. A typical correctional staff includes (1) administrative staff, (2) clerical personnel, (3) program staff, (4) custodial staff, (5) service and maintenance staff, and (6) volunteers.
The custodial staff consists of correctional officers only—not correctional administrators, treatment or educational staff, or other staff members.
The types of power available to correctional officers are legitimate power, coercive power, reward power, expert power, and referent power.
In correctional institutions, structured conflict refers to the tensions between prison staff members and inmates that arrive out of institutional arrangements.
A subculture is a particular group of people within a larger society who share beliefs, values, behavior, and material objects. The subculture of correctional officers reinforces group solidarity and cohesion among correctional personnel.
According to a year 2000 report, state prisons and local jails employ 414,000 corrections personnel (including administrative staff). One-third is women. About 32 percent are minorities.
Common correctional officer personality types include (1) the dictator, (2) the friend, (3) the merchant, (4) the turnkey, (5) the climber, (6) the reformer, and (7) the do-gooder.
The seven correctional officer assignments are (1) block officers, (2) work detail supervisors, (3) industrial shop and school officers, (4) yard officers, (5) administrative officers, (6) perimeter security officers (also called wall post officers), and (7) relief officers.
Female correctional officers tend to be less aggressive in their approach to workplace problem solving than are male officers. They are more likely to resolve disputes through nonconfrontational means and tend to rely more heavily on verbal skills and interpersonal communication. Studies have also found that female correctional officers depend more on established disciplinary rules when problems arise.
Feelings of powerlessness, meaninglessness, social isolation, self-estrangement, and alienation are all sources of correctional officer stress. Techniques for reducing stress include open communication, self-confidence building, a support system, conscientious work performance, effective time management, adequate sleep, exercise, a wholesome diet, relaxation techniques, laughter, self-understanding, setting of realistic goals and plans, and avoidance of resentment.
Staff safety planners must consider the physical plant, behavior management processes, staff/inmate relationships, policies and procedures, age and experience in shift scheduling, supervisions, staff training, and development of a sound action plan.
Roles: The normal patterns of behavior expected of those holding particular social positions.
Staff roles: The patterns of behavior expected of correctional staff members in particular jobs.
Custodial staff: Those staff members most directly involved in managing the inmate population.
Program staff: Those staff members concerned with encouraging prisoners to participate in educational, vocational, and treatment programs.
Gain time: Time taken off an inmate’s sentence for participating in certain activities such as going to school, learning a trade, and working in prison.
Structured conflict: The tensions between prison staff members and inmates that arise out of the correctional setting.
Subculture: The beliefs, values, behavior, and material objects shared by a particular group of people within a larger society.
Staff subculture: The beliefs, values, and behavior of staff. They differ greatly from those on the inmate subculture.
personalities: The distinctive personal characteristics of correctional officers including behavioral, emotional, and social traits.
Block officers: Those responsible for supervising inmates in housing areas.
Work detail supervisors: Those who oversee the work of individual inmates and inmate work crews.
Industrial shop and
school officers: Those who ensure efficient use of training and educational resources within the prison.
Yard officers: Those who supervise inmates in the prison yard.
Administrative officers: Those who control keys and weapons and sometimes oversee visitation.
Perimeter security officers: Those assigned to security (or gun) towers, wall posts, and perimeter patrols. These officers are charged with preventing escapes and detecting and preventing intrusions.
Relief officers: Experienced correctional officers who know and can perform almost any custody role within the institution; used to temporarily replace officers who are sick or on vacation or to meet staffing shortages.
Stress: Tension in a person’s body or mind, resulting from physical, chemical, or emotional factors.