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Correctional Staff Attitudes After One Year of Employment: Perceptions of Leniency and Support for Inmate Rehabilitation

NCJ Number
Corrections Compendium Volume: 34 Issue: 3 Dated: Fall 2009 Pages: 9-15,17
Jacqueline L. Young; Michael E. Antonio
Date Published
8 pages
Based on prior research that indicated correctional maintenance personnel and correctional officers exhibited more punitive and rule-oriented attitudes toward inmates compared with other correctional staff, the current study tested the hypothesis that after 1 year of employment by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC), correctional officers would report a stronger preference than other staff for following correctional rules rather than allowing for leniency toward inmates.
Findings from a self-administered survey support the hypothesis that correctional officers - more so than clerical support, maintenance personnel, and treatment staff - believed that their institution was too lenient on inmates. Staff in job categories with a majority of female employees (treatment staff) expressed concerns for how inmates are treated, and staff in job categories with a majority of male employees (correctional officers) commented about institutional security and inmate discipline. Additional findings, however, showed that all correctional staff recognized that their behavior impacted inmate treatment outcomes, and some indicated the importance of educating employees about expressing overtly negative attitudes toward inmates. Survey findings suggest that staff who received the Reinforcing Positive Behavior (RPB) training 1 year earlier apparently understood and supported the central tenets of the training program; however, additional training might be needed to correct negative attitudes that persist among correctional staff. The survey was completed by 107 clerical-support staff, 51 maintenance personnel, 133 treatment staff, and 174 correctional officers. Employees who completed the survey had been employed 1 year at PADOC and were the first to participate in the RPB training during their orientation. The survey asked respondents whether they believed their institution was too lenient on inmates and whether or not they believed it important that correctional staff study attitudes about inmate treatment and rehabilitation efforts. 3 tables and 28 references