The Impact of Guards-Inmates relationships on US P...
The Impact of Guards-Inmates Relationships on Us Prisons
The Impact of Guards-Inmates relationships on US Prisons
All countries worldwide agree that
incarceration is the best form of punishment and rehabilitation for members of
the society who commit a crime. While incarcerating offenders could be a
subject to debate, jails and prisons would carry the day given that all
countries in the world have these facilities. However, the number of prisoners
worldwide is disturbingly increasing thus leading to overpopulation in prisons.
The United States is believed to have the largest number of prisoners in the
world (O’connor, 2014, p.42). Overcrowding in prisons has been linked to poor
health conditions of inmates and their misconduct including post-release
recidivism. Prison wardens also realize this and, on many occasions, apply an
excessive force that would be rendered unjust.
balance of power in prison
There is no doubt that in most prisons,
prisoners outnumber the guards. But the guards have more power than the
prisoners and are bound to abuse it. There are several ways to measure crowding
in prisons including; checking prisoners per living unit, institutional
population compared to stated capacity and floor space per prisoner. Most
studies have indicated that overpopulation of prisoners has led to some adverse
effects such as diseases and assault by guards. Findings reveal that prisons
harboring more prisoners than a design capacity based on sixty square foot per
inmate are more likely to have high assault rates than other prisons. Also,
prisons having dormitories have higher rates of assault charges than other
prisons (Gaes, 1985, p.95). While crowding alone
has been proved to be an intensifier of stressful conditions, the brutal force
induced by the guards makes matters worse. Other than coercive power, which is
the use of physical force and threats, other tactics used by officers to
control the inmate population include; expert power (use of skills), reward
power (use of bribes), and respect power (respect for a unit officer). For
instance, in the latter power (respect), inmates obey an officer because they
admire and respect them. Impartial and fair officers are more likely to be
obeyed by inmates without the need to use negative coercion and intimidation.
could be done to improve inmate and correctional officer relations?
Effective inmate-correctional officer
relationships help maintain a peaceful and safe prison environment whereby both
parties can meet their needs. The relationship leads to greater inmate
compliance and is characterized by effective communication, mutual respect, a
clear understanding of roles, trust, and humanity (Cianchi,
2009, p. 63). They are also essential before correctional officers can
work with prisoners to address their issues and reasons why they’re
incarcerated. It’s apparent that he basis for effective inmate-officer
relationships lies in the guard’s beliefs and attitudes about inmates. If the
notion of most guards is altered such that they see inmates as autonomous
beings who are entitled to humane treatment and individual differences, then an
effective relationship will be fostered. Programs should be initiated in prison
facilities to teach both the inmates and officers on the significance of upholding
values such as honesty, empathy, humanity, respect, fairness, and compassion.
Officers can be able to balance the welfare and security dimensions of their
role if their relationship with inmates isn’t jeopardized. A facility that
prioritizes the relationships between officers and inmates at the center of its
management can be able to respond to inmates’ disorder and misconduct by
examining the status of the inmate-officer relationship and monitoring efforts
to improve the effectiveness of this relationship.
could the prisons be made safer?
Most individuals assume that prisons are
unsafe just because they contain violent offenders. Unions representing
correctional officers including the one for California describe the job as one
of the toughest in the state. However, statistics indicate that only one prison
guard has been killed by an inmate in California compared to the hundreds of
the prisoners that have died due to suicide, guard brutality, or medical
neglect. Inmates can easily be blamed for prison violence, but according to
academic research and decades of court intervention, violence in prison sprouts
from the ineffectiveness of its management, the culture of the facility and the
political reality condoning mistreatment of inmates. In the early 1990s, the
Pelican prison became synonymous with an administration that tolerated extreme
violence on prisoners. The facility opened at a time when fighting crime meant
brutalizing inmates, and neither did facilities have effective management,
policies and resources to run such institutions (Andrea, 2004, p. 279-280).
However, following better management after intensive court interventions and a
crackdown on gang membership through the Transitional Housing Unit program, the
violence at the facility has significantly subsided. The case demonstrates
clearly that it’s the prison as an institution and not the prisoners that
determine safety in correctional institutions. Prisons could be a reasonably
safe environment for both inmates and staff if prison administrators provide
humane conditions and abide by nationally recognized techniques that are widely
accepted to regulate the unnecessary use of force in prisons (Spector, 2006, P.
125 - 134). Civilians and their unions including non-correctional officers,
human rights officers, teachers, and nurses in the community should also
condemn vices in correctional facilities including guard brutality and
corruption to increase awareness so that the courts and the government can
intervene to change the situation.
do you think the best actions to fix prisons in America would be?
There are various ways prisons in America
can be improved. The prisons should not only be improved to house specified
capacities and have the necessary resources, but also policies should be put in
place to ensure things are done right. The staff-inmate relationship is
something institutions should focus on. Regarding providing safety for all,
perhaps the insane should not be admitted into normal prisons with the sane.
Other measures that would be useful in fixing American prisons include;
demonization of inmates
prisoners to high school level or beyond (also about values, the law and how
people in a civil society should behave)
performance management techniques to track progress in promoting the safety of
correctional officers with necessary resources to do their job peacefully
humane treatment for all inmates
transparency in correctional facilities
Correctional facilities should claim the
largest percentage of resources if these prisons are to be fixed since the
management matters a lot before the prisoners. Politicians and the general
public should support these measures if it makes everyone safe. They should
also be ready to help freed inmates cope with life outside a prison to avoid
incidences of recidivism.
Andrea, Jacobs (2004) "Prison Power
Corrupts Absolutely: Exploring the Phenomenon of Prison Guard Brutality and the
Need to Develop a System of Accountability," California Western Law
Review: Vol. 41: No. 1, Article 6. Available at:
(2009). Achieving and maintaining prison officer-prisoner relationships
(pp. 63 - 64). Retrieved from https://eprints.utas.edu.au/15946/3/whole-cianchi-thesis-2009.pdf
Gaes, G. (1985).
The Effects of Overcrowding in Prison. Crime And Justice, 6,
O'connor, Rachel, "The United States
Prison System: A Comparative Analysis" (2014). Graduate Theses and
Specter Donald, Making Prisons Safe:
Strategies for Reducing Violence, 22 Wash. U. J. L. & Pol’y 125 (2006),