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Prisoners' Perceptions of Correctional Officers; Behavior in English and Dutch Prisons

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 40 Issue: 5 Dated: September/October 2012 Pages: 404-412
Anja J.E. Dirkzwager; Candace Kruttschnitt
Date Published
October 2012
9 pages
This study examined prisoners' views of correctional officers' behavior in both English and Dutch prisons.
This study compared prisoners' views of correctional officers' behavior in English prisons with those of prisoners' in Dutch prisons and found that 1) compared with staff in English prisons, Dutch personnel were perceived as more responsive, friendlier, and more supportive; 2) Dutch personnel were perceived as more observant of prisoners' wellbeing, and more willing to provide emotional support, compared to English corrections personnel; 3) interactions between Dutch correctional officers and prisoners was perceived as more informal and less authoritarian than interactions between English personnel and prisoners; and 4) prisoners in English prisons felt that the attitude of English personnel was more confrontational compared to that of Dutch personnel. This study was conducted as part of a larger study that explored how English prisoners in the Netherlands were treated compared to how Dutch prisoners in England were treated. The study also looked at how penal policy in each country had changed in recent decades and whether these changes were reflected in how prisoners were treated while incarcerated. Data for the study were obtained from semi-structured interviews with 25 Dutch prisoners incarcerated in England and 25 English prisoners incarcerated in the Netherlands that addressed different aspects of prison life and interactions with corrections staff. Four themes emerged the interviews: responsiveness of staff, formal-informal relationship with staff, humane and fair treatment by staff, and discipline. Review of each country's penal policies and analysis of the data indicate that penal policies and changing public sentiments do not necessarily reflect how prisoners are treated while incarcerated. Table, notes, and references