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.
The 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.
What 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.
How 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.
What 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;
• End the demonization of inmates
• Educating prisoners to high school level or beyond (also about values, the law and how people in a civil society should behave)
• Adoption of performance management techniques to track progress in promoting the safety of prisoners
• Provide correctional officers with necessary resources to do their job peacefully
• Maintain humane treatment for all inmates
• Improve 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: http://scholarlycommons.law.cwsl.edu/cwlr/vol41/iss1/6
Cianchi, J. (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, 95-146. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/449105
O'connor, Rachel, "The United States Prison System: A Comparative Analysis" (2014). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/etd/5086
Specter Donald, Making Prisons Safe: Strategies for Reducing Violence, 22 Wash. U. J. L. & Pol’y 125 (2006), http://openscholarship.wustl.edu/law_journal_law_policy/vol22/iss1/10
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