Changing roles of correctional officers
Posted: Nov 28, 2018
Before the 1960s, roles of correctional officers were custody-oriented. Personnel selection standards were low and in, many cases they never existed. Candidates for correctional officer jobs were only required to have minimal education level and in some prisons, education wasn’t considered in hiring. The main incentive for correctional officer job remained security provided by the civil service employment in an employment that many found appealing as well as lucrative as compared to farming or manufacturing jobs. Individuals were also forced work as prison officers by unfortunate circumstance like job scarcity unavailability of job scarcity, layoffs, injuries, or as a result of their failure in their primary occupation choice. As a consequence, the typical correctional officer was a rural, male with little or no education. They were also politically conservative characterized by brutality and they in many case proved slow in accepting change. Many came to correctional jobs at relatively mature ages after success in the civilian life while other had retired from military. Training in all cases was done the job and always involved nothing on top of a recruit being handed cell block keys and t instructed to quickly learn the demands of the job (Josi & Sechrest, 1998). The custody- focused correctional officer role definition remained unambiguous. Their roles were to keep security as well as control by enforcing institutional regulations. The accomplish ability to this goal based on unchallenged authority to accuse and punish prisoners from violating violations rules without regarding the due process as well as inmate rights. The control approaches to prisoners relied on physical coercion as well as discipline.
Correctional Officers were therefore referred to as always guards since guarding prisoners was their sole expected role. As a consequence, there exist a widespread public view that correctional officer have low intelligence, alienated, cynical, brutal, burned out, alienated stressed, and their role is to repress minority people. However, commencing 1960s a wide range of prisoner rehabilitation programs became introduced in prison institutions that historically were viewed custody and control as only organizational goal. The new rehabilitation emphasis also introduced an expectation that correctional officers were to go beyond their vividly defined security tasks and assume the much more ambiguous responsibility of human service-oriented workers who would help highly trained treatment professionals in prisoners’ rehabilitation. Rehabilitation introduction in [prisons developed an ambiguous social organization through the introduction of sets of contradictory objectives. The custody goal requires the maintenance of enough social distance between correctional officers and prisoners and avoiding informal relationships, affective ties as well as discretionary enforcement of rules. However, treatment goal demand relaxed discipline, informal relationships minimizing social distance, affective ties as well as the exercising of discretionary rule enforcement depending on particular inmate characteristics as well as circumstances. Punitive regulatory policies became subordinated to an expectation that correctional were to be human-oriented and flexible. Many correctional facilities currently impress the double roles of custody and treatment (McMinn, 2010). As a result, correctional officers are now called change agents when are supposed to utilize their discretion to help in rehabilitation of inmates while at the same time keeping security through enforcement of rules. Simultaneous handling of custody and treatment generates conflict characterized by some uncertainty since correctional officers can be disciplined if they violate the institutional policies that are aimed at rehabilitating inmates.
Introduction of Prisoner Rehabilitation in the US
Introducing rehabilitation coincided by many USA supreme court ruling which provided inmates with more civil rights while at the same time reducing the ability of correctional officer against reliance on punitive controls. The outcome was due process- focused disciplinary hearings, abolishment of using isolation as disciplinary approach and the creation of formal prisoner’s grievance mechanisms. The decision by the court significantly reduced the powers of correctional officers while at the same time providing inmates with strong countervailing rights. These changes in powers created for officers in correctional institutions view of loss of control and a perception that managers and treatment professionals emerged more respect for prisoners than them. As a result, the perception continue to make correctional officers view themselves as unfairly restated thus generating great ingrained frustration and lack of appreciation by superiors (Parker, 2007). Among the significant outcomes of the perception was that the managers as well as the professional were never at par with the correctional officers. On the eve of the 1970s, the US federal law gave the correctional officers the power to unionize. As a result, the joined strong national unions including the American Federation of states, county as well as municipals workers whose management has perfectly challenged many management policies perceived as not being in the best interest of their rank and file. Such unions are critical since they have power to influence management resource allocation making salaries as well as benefits rising drastically. With such efforts, correctional officers continue to serve under the new guidelines while working with inmates. Therefore, the main change in the role of these officers is simply the shift from authority to service in changing inmates from criminality to harmless persons in the society. The reason behind this move was that harsh punitive measures would do more harm to an offender as compared to the perceived benefits.
Inmate rehabilitation is the process of re-integrating a convicted person into the society with the primary objective to counter reoffending or criminal recidivism. Rehabilitation has been a central goal of correctional system. Its goal rests on an assumption that offenders can be treated and returns to law abiding lifestyle. It includes a great array of initiatives such as, substance abuse, mental health as well as educational services. Additionally, specialty initiatives are developed for sex offenders, women and parolees. Despite their original barbaric roles in the medieval dungeon and torture chamber, from the 18th century, correctional officers have combined punishment element with rehabilitation element to assist prisoners (Morris, & Rothman, 1995). As Michel Foucault the French philosopher puts it, ‘punishment shifted from disciplining the body to disciplining the soul". Rehabilitation of inmates has remained a critical feature of modern criminal justice system directed at reforming both the character of prisoners and preventing recidivism. Many types of research reveal that exposing prisoners to harsh conditions hardens them into harder criminals. Punitive measures make them develop a negative attitude towards the public and more so the victim and upon release, they easily reoffended as a response to the pain realized in prison. Research also reveals that rehabilitation usually makes offenders understand and appreciate their wrongdoing and in the end, they decide to become law abiding. It is evident that chances of recidivism are low among ex-convicts who went through rehabilitative programs as compared to those who go through punitive controls.
Roles of Correctional Officers in Rehabilitation
Rehabilitation as a changing role of a correctional officer presents various roles to them. Some are traditional with punitive dimension while others are humane and rehabilitative in nature. The roles include the inmate security, offender counseling, religious involvement, vocational training, needs assessment, linkage to specialized services and security of detention facilities. These roles are discussed as follows;
Inmate Security and Rehabilitation
Within penal institutions, correctional officers serve as voices of authority, while at the same time ensuring safety and welfare inmates. As courageous law enforcement service providers, they disrupt violence and confrontations among inmates to ensure order and help in rehabilitating prisoners. Over 434, 870 correctional officers in U.S. as of 2011, correctional officers represent one of the critical components of US criminal justice system. Correctional officers prevent exploitation among prisoners while at the same time protecting them from the angry public. Correctional officers instill peace in the penal institutions by suppressing confrontations among prisoners. They also prevent illicit materials which threaten rehabilitation from entering the penal institutions. This practice is very critical in producing an environment that enables healing from criminality to law abiding life. Research reveals that penal institutions characterized by calmness produce an environment that rehabilitates inmate. Similarly, research shows that penal institutions with chaos and fights, always promotes recidivism among inmates. Therefore, correctional officer plays a critical role in protecting the rights and freedoms of inmates which are key in the rehabilitation process.
Offender Counseling and Rehabilitation
In the rehabilitation process, correctional officers play a critical role of acting as a counselor. As counselors, they take prisoner as clients who need their assistance. Counseling helps many inmates to develop abilities of problem solving and decision making which are critical in reforming the prisons. Much research reveals that counseling dome by correctional officers greatly reduced recidivism among inmates. Counseling also makes inmates find meaning in life and the end; they always come out as law abiding citizens (Robinson & Crow, 2009). Counseling offered by correctional officers’ trains’ inmates to address problems of anxiety which is a key factor that motivates crime. Chemical dependency counseling offered by correctional officers enables prisoners with challenges of substance abuse to get therapeutic help. Counseling also provides relief which is critical I offender rehabilitation. Encouragements from correctional officers make the offender take the sentence positively and come out as a reformed person.
Religious Involvement and Rehabilitation
Correctional institutions continue to utilize research in developing a more constructive alternative for prisoners. Correctional officer involves themselves religious instruction to help prisoners. As correctional officers promote religious involvement among prisoners, many of the prisoners find inner hope as well as meaning in life. In the end, they reform into good citizens who pose no threat to the society upon release (Craig, In Dixon & Gannon, 2013). Many studies reveal that inmates who get involved in religion offend rarely. Re-incarceration among offender who was much involved in religion in many cases is low. The reason is that religion shape people's meditation, and it easily alters the personal perception among offenders. Therefore, as correctional; officer promotes religious involvement among inmates, it gives them a good basis to rehabilitate since many religions instill morals.
Inmate Vocational Training and Rehabilitation
Correctional officers play the critical role in rehabilitating inmates by giving inmates vocational training. Bearing in mind that there are many factors that promote crime, unemployment or poverty always accounts as major factors. Therefore offering vocational training to inmates empowers the inmate upon release (Lin, 2000). Such training is critical in that they provide a ground that an inmate would rely on for his legitimate survival. Installing such skills among prisoners gives them an opportunity to survive when he is released. This program is a critical rehabilitation tool to inmates with poverty or lack of employment crimes. Correctional officers, therefore, act as trainers to prisoners making rehabilitation objectives possible. They provide trustworthy advice in the effort to improve inmates’’ lives. Many correction departments continue to recognize that inmates who perfectly participate in the programs are more likely to conform to the law whenever they complete their term in penal institutions.
Prisoner Needs Assessment and Rehabilitation
Correctional officers also help inmates who are eager to develop their futures positively by assisting them to choose institutional programs that benefit or suits them. The assessment also helps in identifying barriers to successful rehabilitation (Herberts, 1998). Through communication as well as building relationships with inmates, correctional officers manage to get insights into factors that forced the prisoner into crime. Studies show that approximately 80 percent of the prisoner is dependent on drugs; therefore, convincing them to join appropriate cognitive retraining and substance abuse counseling produces uncountable positive effects. Therefore carrying out need assessment of prisoners to identify best interventions is a critical role played by correctional officers in the process of making rehabilitation successful.
Inmate Specialized Services Linkage and Rehabilitation
The other rehabilitative responsibility of correctional officers is that of acting as links with other agencies both in and outside the community. Penal institution always works with different partners in helping offenders. These partners play critical roles in providing specialized services that are not located within boundaries of penal institutions. Specialized services may include medication, business support among others. Upon completion of vocational training and release, some ex-prisoners may need assistance to start life (Great Britain & Beith, 2011). Therefore, correctional officers become the link between the ex-prisoner and the service provider. In many cases, correctional officers are allowed to work outside of the penal facilities to link the newly released inmates with specialized treatment programs, halfway houses as well as community organizations. Correctional officers are working in prisons also assist in the rehabilitation of inmates by communicating the needs as well as risks to the parole officers, parole boards, judges or to the probation officers to help the offender.
Security of Detention Facilities and Rehabilitation
Maintaining the prison remains critical in the rehabilitation of inmates. The reason is that a single breach in the prison security may lead to contraband drugs, weapons as well as communication devices into the correctional facility, which may hamper rehabilitation. Additionally, compromises on the borders may lead to prisoners’ escape which might destruct rehabilitation (The United States, 2008). Correctional officers always identify such threats and give immediate remedies. Correctional officers ensure the facility is safe for the safety of inmates. Safety protects the offender from other influences in the free society that might tempt him into criminality. This safety is paramount in facilitating an environment for rehabilitation.
Limitations Rehabilitation as a Changing Role of Correctional Officers
Apart from prisoners profiting from rehabilitation as a changing role of correctional officers, it seems to make some inmates worse criminals. Rehabilitation presents leniency of the law against crime. Therefore, many prisoners always take advantage of this role to pretend and get released. Research consistently continues to show that time spent in custody does not successfully rehabilitate many inmates, and that majority of criminals return to crime almost immediately. It is argued that many prisoners learn new and sophisticated ways of committing crimes while they are in prison with fellow convicts (Parker, 2007). This situation also offers them the opportunity to make connections and become involved in group crimes. Rehabilitation programs can also make prisoners cheat to be granted parole.research also reveal that rehabilitation seems to make prison life interesting to some criminals since there is no serious punitive element as before. Rehabilitation also diminishes the main role of punishment. They, therefore, offend immediately they are released. Rehabilitation can also pose a threat of increased crime by encouraging potential criminals. They end up offending since they are sure that the penal life is lenient.
The introduction of issues of human rights remains the genesis of the shift in the roles of correctional officers. Promoted by global activism, rehabilitation remains a key role in the penal sector. Despite I t attracting varied perceptions, its idea so handling offenders serving custodial sentences with human remains something to comment. Contrary, its implementation potentially impacts crime control both negatively and positively. From the positive side, rehabilitation can address habitual offending particularly with inmates who learn from their mistakes. On the other hand, it can promote reoffending apart from having ability to motivate potential criminals. The reason for this is that, people will find prison life comfortable and therefore making them not to fear reoffending. Despite entrenching rehabilitation in social as well as criminal justice policy, the notion that penal institutions never intend to rehabilitate but to punish and protect the public maintains considerable public support in many areas. Improved conditions, as well as opportunities for rehabilitation in penal institutions, generate complaints that current life behind bars remains soft and similar to holiday camping. Resentment from the public also remains fired by the deficits in providing similar services for community rehabilitation. Drug rehabilitation, as an example, is greatly perceived to be easily accessible inside penal institutions than in the outside. Nevertheless, there are many criticisms about the rehabilitation level occurring in prisons, mostly because of lack of funding for rehabilitation programmes as well as prison overcrowding, which hinders effective implementation of rehabilitation. The achievement that penal institutions achieve is hindered further by high number of prisoners lacking primary skills while others suffer from social as well as psychological problems. Many prisoners get released without places to live, thus worsening setbacks of homelessness. Prisons also have cases of mental health problems and drug problems making the efforts of rehabilitation hard. Whatever rehabilitation happens inside the penal institutions, many ex- convicts experience some difficulty in reintegrating back to the society because of community attitude. To conclude, rehabilitation as a changing role for correctional officer remains a good initiative that can help some offenders to come out reformed. In their effort to attain its objectives, there is a need for resources and cooperation from other stakeholders as well as offenders themselves. If this role is not critically examined and implemented well, it easily generates repeat offenders.
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