Penology Lecture 2 --> The Prison Officer

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  • The Prison Officer
    • The PO
      • To act in 'loco-parentis'
      • Carrying out 'mundane' tasks in prisons
      • Caring for the well-being of prisoners
      • Home Office (1984) - ‘relationships between staff and prisoners are at the heart of the whole prison system’
      • 'Practical Consciousness' - Giddens '84
      • Typical PO = white British, male, aged 30-40 with about 10~ years experience (Liebling and Price 2001)
      • 'Low visibility' yet 'highly skilled'
      • Many join the prison service due to economic pragmatism (nice pay etc) and ‘self-other actualisation’ (potential for personal growth). Many share the sense of self-efficacy (self belief)
    • Creating a 'Relationship' with Prisoners
      • Officers’ approach to their role set the tone on a wing and relationships between and with prisoners
      • Home Office (1984) - ‘relationships between staff and prisoners are at the heart of the whole prison system’
      • Chief Inspector of Prisons, ‘prisoners are people, not merely offenders; and the turning points in their lives are usually people, not just programmes or plans’
      • Good rels between POs and prisoners can promote 'healthy social behaviours and values'
      • 'Relationships with prisoners are procedural and instrumental, promoting social distance and constructing prisoners as dangerous, difficult to manage, untrustworthy, violent, manipulative and disingenuous' (Arnold 2008)
    • The Role of Humour
      • POs decide which rules apply (tactility, with humour) to negotiate accommodations for prisoners in order to maintain a reasonable and functional social order
      • Humour can encourage healthy behaviours with prisoners and help them to leave behind bitter feelings they have about the system so that they don't re-offend
      • Humorous exchanges between officers and prisoners enable officers to briefly meet prisoners as equals, and to manage relationships without conflict, as well as to express hostility towards their peers
    • Emotions
      • Crawley: ‘becoming a PO is inextricably tied up with the management of certain emotions’: anxiety, stress, sympathy, fear & anger. Officers are expected to remain emotionally detached … and indifferent.’
      • Often confuse having emotion with being emotional
      • Emotional Intelligence testing
        • The highest scores were for stress tolerance, assertiveness, happiness and reality testing; the lowest scores were for empathy, social responsibility and optimism
    • The Prison Environment
      • General feelings of low trust in the prison setting has diffused to low trust among POs
      • Lack of sense of brotherhood
      • The current penological climate, with increasing prison populations, continuing budget cuts and reductions in staff numbers, presents a challenging time for POs


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