The Rights and Relationships between Inmates and Correction Officers

An inmate is an individual who is put under custody or care of a correctional institution through a judicial sanction or court order(Fischer et al. 10). Inmates could be allotted to probation, pre-trial release, parole, electronic monitoring, educational, or work release programs.On the other hand, a correction officer is responsible for the custody, care, supervision, physical control, or constraint of the inmate when necessary (Neese 2016). The rising number of incarcerated adults in the United States was in 2012 estimated at 1.6 million thusprompting the Federal government to commission about 469,500 correctional officers(Neese 2016). As these professions execute their obligatory duties, they constantly interact with the inmates leading to the building of different categories of relationships(Cianchi 3). The law provides numerous policies and guidelines meant to govern theassociation between correctional officers and their subject inmates.Whereas the incarcerated persons are informed of their rights during the induction stage of custody into the correctional facility, the correctional officers are professionally trained regarding maintaining effective relationships and boundaries with the inmates, upholding staff professionalism, and human rights awareness(Fischer et al. 17).

The prison system considers the relationship between the officer and prisoner as the central mechanism responsible for the understanding as well as implementing of operations-related policies(Cianchi3).However, both the inmates and correction officers often violate these rights and thus compromise the integrity of their relationships as evidenced in the increased cases of collusion and harassment in the United States correctional system(Cianchi9).For that reason, this study will endeavor to offer considerable insight into the complex subject of inmate-correction officer relationships and rights including the emerging trends in anti-fraternization policies while drawing referencefrom existing research works. The study also looks to explore the elements of an ideal officer-convictrelationship.

A clear understanding of human rights is particularly significant in ensuring the effectiveness of any staff-inmate relationship (Cianchi14). From the perspective of a correction officer, fostering healthy relationships plays a key role in enhancing appropriate attitudes as well as beliefs regarding the incarcerated individuals. The law, through the International Bill of Human Rights and other legislative Acts, stipulates that correction officer should consider inmates as autonomous beings who are entitled to be handled in a humane way and in accordance with their personal differences (Cianchi 14). Besides their commitment to facilitating security in the correctional facility, correction officers who are well informed about human rights manage to strike a balance between maintaining law and order and promoting the welfare of their inmates. Informed prison officers are thus able to uphold such qualities as being just, respectful, empathetic, honest, compassionate, humane, and be committed to instilling the aspect of change among their subjects(Coyle 11).

Creating awareness on human rights among the inmates and correction officers helps enhance peaceful and safe environments within the corrective institutions. Subsequently, the staff strives to ensure that the physical and psychological needs of the incarcerated persons are met by upholding effective communication, the building of trust, maintaining mutual respect, and understanding the boundaries associated with exercising authority towards the inmates as well as the roles of the correction officers (Hulley et al. 335). Higher inmate compliance and improved efforts by officers to work together towards addressing the challenges facing the incarcerated persons is achieved through proper maintenance of their dignity, human rights, and broadening their ability to grow. As a result, an enriched correctional landscape is achieved whereby the officers not only play the oversight role of warehousing the inmates but also, take an active role in the process of ensuring their wholesome growth(Hulley et al. 335).

The subject of Human Rights varies among various jurisdictions across the globe regarding what is considered as just while treating inmates as well as the rights and privileges that they should enjoy during their sentence(Cianchi 14).The issue of citizenship has over the years remained a contentious topic drawing both public and political opinion within the corridors of justice and the correctional system in general. Despite the provision by law that the main aim of incarceration should be transforming inmates to be productive persons in the society, there are numerous instances where some jurisdictions, through correctional officers, have hampered the autonomy of offenders to exercise their abilities as citizens. These restrictions by the authorities could isolate the inmates geographically, through disenfranchisement or establishment of prisoner identity, and community separation. In some instances, the correction officers, management, or operational requirements within the correctional facilities promote the perception that inmates have been deprived of their right to citizenship (Brown and Wilkie 320).The opinion is further emphasized in the statement that once an offender is convicted and sentenced to serve an imprisonment term, they are deprived of their rights to an extent that the respective correctional facility deems necessary to execute its operations. In addition, the administrators and officers run custodial facilities in a manner that emphasizes more on maintaining security as opposed to embracing an attitude that enhances self-direction or autonomy of the inmates (Richard93).

The management of correctional facilities should be anchored on ethics, procedures, policies, and principles that are oriented towards human rights in order to promote just, effective, as well as safe prison environments (Coyle 11).Surprisingly, the majority of the correctional officers across the globe undergo numerous challenges while attempting to maintain professionalism and ethical conduct while handling inmates. Historical studies regarding sociological literature provide evidence that the experiences in these correctional facilities are characterized by continuous abuse and warfare between the staff and incarcerated persons (Coyle 11). A report by Woolf in the year 1990 indicated that Europe has experienced many cases of failed services within correctional institutions. Some of the highlighted reasons relate to depriving of inmates the basic human rights including overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, lack of respect and humanity while handling inmates, inadequate visits which play a significant role in destroying family ties, lack of support from the facility’s management, insufficient training of correctional officers, and absence of autonomous expression of grievances (Tumin and Woolf 17).

In order to maintain an effective inmate-correction officer relationship, three factors, commonly referred to as the “Woolf’s elements of justice,” should be considered including justice (fair and humane treatment of incarcerated persons), control (avoidance of unnecessary disruptions by the inmates), and security (prevention of escapes from the correctional facilities)(Tumin and Woolf 17). Notably, biases by correction officers to emphasize security and control while overlooking justice is one of the major causes of disturbances in prisons. For instance, the siege incidences in April 2006 and May 2005 at the Risdon Men’s correctional facility emerged as a result of rebellions by the inmates against the unbearable living conditions as well as the inhumane manner in which they were being handled by the correction officers (Mastropasqua 2015).

There are also incidences wherethe officers develop cordial or extremely close relationships with the inmates as they get to know each other during the imprisonment term. Often, such relationships cross the interaction boundaries stipulated by the law and policies of the correctional institutions(Susan 360).The United States correctional system has been compromised by similar relationships whereby inmates collude with staff to breach the prison security and escape. In 2015, for instance, the Clinton Correctional Facility, which is one of the biggest maximum-security institutions in the United States reportedly experienced a high-profile escape of two inmates, David Sweat and Richard matt(Mastropasqua 2015). Investigations by the local and federal authorities later established that the planned escape of the convicts had been facilitated by their accomplice supervisor at the tailor shop and a corrections officer. In colluding to plan an escape, the correctional facility staff violated their rightful duty to enhance security while enforcing law and order. Correctional staff should remain firm and exercise professionalism in the face of threats, temptations, collusion attempts, provocative allusions, blackmail, or abuse to maintain an effective relationship with their subjects and avoid getting into compromising situations. These aspects should be accompanied by a wide array of humanity, interpersonal skills, self-discipline, and courage (Stohr and Hemmens 327).

The literature on correctional officers is, however, relatively scant compared to other factors relating to imprisonment due to the inadequate appreciation of the significant role played by these officers in the well-being of inmates as well as the challenges associated with gaining full access to prisons (Therese 36).The pyramid of criminal justice can, however, be harnessed to help shed some insight on the intricacy of the relationship existing between correctional officers and inmates. Currently, the complex role of these officers is considered a weighty matter and is thus placed at the bottom of the pyramid of criminal justice (Therese 36). The needs of the contemporary inmates have become more sophisticated thus requiring more technical knowledge and recruitment pertaining a higher educational background, advanced career development, and training of correctional officers. Unfortunately, equipping these professionals with such skills has not been adequately addressed (O’Toole 212).

Presently, correction officers have had to deal with intricate situations and experiences as they execute their duties including inducting new, suicidal, resentful inmates who might be particularly concerned about their families, separating conflicting convicts, maintaining professionalism when faced with threats and assaults, as well as distinguishing their psychological responses to a law-breaking inmate and their responsibility towards treating him or her with dignity, ability to change, and within the provisions of human rights(Cianchi 17).Some jurisdictions overlook such emerging situations and fail to put standards qualifying an individual to take up a correctional officer career to the extent that some states do not necessitate formal qualifications but instead insist on passing the aptitude, numeracy, or literacy tests. As a result, corrections officers tend to lack the appropriate skills and attitudes required to maintain an effective inmate-officer relationship (Cianchi 17). Although currently there is an increase in the number of corrections agencies who offer training at tertiary and certificate level, the correction officers, in general, do not receive adequate formalized training concerning the ideal nature of their relationship with the inmates during induction and throughout their years of practice compared to their counterparts in public safety careers (Cianchi 18).

Over the years, the correctional system has continued to report numerous instances where the correction officers engage in behavior that violates the right to privacy or infringing the set boundaries between them and the inmates. According to a publication by the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the main challenge facing the inmate-correction officer relationships between the year 2012 and 2014 was sexual misconduct (Mastropasqua 2015). The criminal act plays a significant role in posing a major safety threat to any correctional facility as well as creating a negative working environment for then inmates and staff(Susan 360).The DOJ (U.S Department of Justice) indicated that in the year 2009, the correction officers who engaged in sexual misconduct while working for federal prisons were more likely to give in to extortion demands made by inmates and relent to pressure leading them to violate the rules set by the facility. The department further noted that the compromised officers who had engaged in sexual abuse of the inmates had also taken part in accepting bribes, availed contraband to the incarcerated individuals, and provided false information to Federal detectives among other severe crimes following their sexual engagement with their subject inmates(Mastropasqua 2015).On the other hand, a study of 32 incarcerated individuals engaging in incongruous interactions with correction officers indicates that inmates are particularly persistent and enthusiastic in initiating inappropriate relationships with the employees. As a result, the correctional officers end up in suspension when investigations confirm that they are guilty of engaging in inappropriate relationships (Ashley et al. 16).

Out of the 50 states in the U.S, 47 have illegalized sexual misconduct and instituted the National Institute of Corrections to improve resource allocation in enhancing procedures and policies, local and federal investigations, and training of correction officers(Fischer et al. 5).Correctional leaders should thus develop appropriate policies and procedures aimed at reducing the crossing of boundaries and physical contact between the opposite genders of inmates and correctional employees. Some of the strategies employed by the institution include supporting zero tolerance towards operations and sexual misconduct, orienting inmates regarding human rights and correctional policies, developing a system of reporting allegations, and defining specifically prohibited behaviors for both inmates and correction officers(Fischer et al. 6).The policies further outline the consequences of breaking the set regulations and rules to guide the relationship between the incarcerated individuals and correction officers. Once both parties are well informed about the associated consequences, the staff, have a reference point regarding how to treat particular offenders while the inmates feel that they are fairly treated. Therefore, the instances of excessive corporal punishment are considerably reduced since the extent of the castigation is clearly defined by the set policies. In situations whereby the inmate feels that the punishment “is not part of what they were sentenced for,”the policies provide a platform for them to express their grievances or freedom of expression as is permitted in the Bill of Rights(Tumin and Woolf 17).

Most of the correctional facilities in the United States have instituted policies regarding anti-fraternization in an attempt to regulate the level of contact as officers relate with inmates (Loomis and Brenda 469). Consequently, these policies are responsible for complete prohibition or partial limitation of the interactions taking place between both the former and present inmates as well as their respective families. These policies have, however, instigated debates especially among the correctional officers who feel that these policies are quite stringent and thus limit them while performing their lawful duties. Fortunately, the law provides the employees with the opportunity to challenge the policies under the First Amendment. The correction officers are thus assured of getting a hearing since they have a human right relating tofreedom of association(Loomis and Brenda 469).A study of how the court ruling on such cases indicates that they often uphold the anti-fraternization policy, but also fail to sustain the policies in some instances. The court verdict in favor of correctional facility’s agency on the grounds that they have the best interests to ensure the security and safety of the custodial institution (Loomis and Brenda 469).

The New York Correctional Association in 2014 reported that the officer-inmate relationship in the Clinton facility is predominantly and historically characterized by instances of was physical violence, abuse of incarcerated persons by correction officials, unrest, brutality, and lawsuits filed by inmates within the institution (Mastropasqua 2015). The act of physical violence became a major concern for the correctional facility management who, in turn, made numerous recommendations to curb the situation. A review of the literature on the exercise of power by the correction officers towards their subject inmates has a relevance that stretches beyond punishment and custodial facilities(Hulley et al. 335).Depending on the attitudes of the correctional employees towards the inmates, they could either feel excessively powerful as though they are “above the law” or powerless before their subjects especially if they are unsupported by the facility management or their peers. Exercising excessive powers by correctional officers towards the inmates undermines their rights and results in psychological disruptions, non-compliance, lack of respect, and ineffective communication between the concerned parties (Hulley et al. 335).

In conclusion, this study has established that maintaining an effective relationship between inmates and correction officers is a complex issue that requires concerted efforts by the federal correctional system. Proper outlining and understanding of human rights is central in achieving an ideal inmate-officer relationship. Therefore, the inmates should be oriented to appreciate the relevant policies governing their relationship with correctional officers. On the other hand, the correctional employees should be informed of their duties and boundaries by providing them with adequate formal education as well as occasional training sessions to update them on the emerging issues in the correctional system. While the literature on the history and sociology of inmates is readily available as a result of numerous studies and testimonials provided by individuals who have at one point faced incarceration, there is scanty research regarding the attitudes of correctional officers towards their subject inmates. The limited information is attributed to the fact that researchers are not able to gain full access to custodial facilities and the general failure by the public and federal institutions to appreciate the important role played by the correctional officers in maintaining effective relationships with inmates. The correctional staff are also reluctant to provide personaldata regarding the privacy of the inmates which is considered as highly classified information.Thesesituations thus limits the capacity of the study to explore the officer-inmate relationship from a correctional officer’s perspective. In turn, much of the information and arguments presented in this study are drawn from a viewpoint of the inmate and a scholar of law. If there was more literature on these relationships from an officer’s standpoint, the study would have probed deeper into the attitudes of the correctional officers towards the inmatesand attempt to explain why they engage in inappropriate relationships resulting in physical violence for instance. 

Works cited:

Blackburn, Ashley G., et al. “When boundaries are broken: Inmate perceptions of correctional staff boundary violations.” Deviant Behavior 32.4 (2011): 351-378.

Brian, Neese. Evolving duties of a correctional officer Rev. 4 (2016). Alvernia University. Extracted on 23/6/2018 from: https://online.alvernia.edu/evolving-duties-of-a-correctional-officer/

Brown, David, and Meredith Wilkie, eds. Prisoners as citizens: Human rights in Australian prisons. Federation Press, 2002: 32-332.

Cianchi, John Peter. Achieving and maintaining prison officer-prisoner relationships: Tasmanian perspectives from a time of culture change. Diss. University of Tasmania, 2009.

Crewe, Ben, Alison Liebling, and Susie Hulley. “Staff‐Prisoner Relationships, Staff Professionalism, and the Use of Authority in Public‐and Private‐Sector Prisons.” Law & Social Inquiry40.2 (2015): 309-344.

Edney, Richard. “Judicial deference to the expertise of correctional administrators: the implications for prisoners’ rights.” Australian Journal of Human Rights 7.1 (2001): 91-133.

Hemmens, Craig, and Mary K. Stohr. “The two faces of the correctional role: An exploration of the value of the correctional role instrument.” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 44.3 (2000): 326-349.

Jones, Susan J. “Recommendations for correctional leaders to reduce boundary violations: Female correctional employees and male inmates.” Women & Criminal Justice 25.5 (2015): 360-378.

King, Susan Therese. The Changing of the Guard: conceptualisations of prison officers’ work in three South Australian prisons. Flinders Institute of Public Policy and Management. 2006: 36.

Layman, Elizabeth P., Susan W. McCampbell, and Larry S. Fischer. “Staff Sexual Misconduct with Offenders.” (2004): 5-40.

Mastropasqua, Kristina. Inmate relationships with prison staff: Research roundup. Rev.10 (2015). Journalist’s Resource. Extracted on 23/6/2018 from: https://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/criminal-justice/inmate-relationships-prison-employees-research-roundup      

O’Toole, S. “Human resources analysis of the Australian corrections industry.” Corrections Criminology Hawkins Press Sydney (2005): 212-226.

Smith, Brenda V., and Melissa C. Loomis. “After Dothard: Female Correctional Workers and the Challenge to Employment Law.” FIU L. Rev. 8 (2012): 469.

Woolf, Lord Justice, and Stephen Tumim. “Prison Disturbances April 1990.” London: HM Stationery Office(1991): 6-23.

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