Shades of Gray in Prison Administration

By Daly, William C. | Education, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Shades of Gray in Prison Administration


Daly, William C., Education


Organizations are largely the shadows of their executives ... it does not matter whether one is talking about Harvard University, the Chrysler Corporation or the Texas Department of Corrections. The executives skills and abilities, his sense of mission and dedication to duty are decisive in determining how-and how well-an organizations runs.

Dr. George Beto

Introduction

Most of what follows stems from F. J. Roethlisberger's Personnel Management Model published in Management and Morale, Harvard University Press, 1946. The writer has taken principals of human collaboration from Roethlesberger's Hawthorn Works of the Western Electric Company and applied them to a prison complex. They are dynamisms and procedures which perhaps have slipped into a library abyss over the decades, needing a full resurrection so they may hopefully work positively in this era of crime and prison expansion.

As a preface, an industrial for-profit organization produces an outcome which is manufactured, marketed and sold, sustaining the organization through a profit margin. A not-for-profit or public facility on the other hand, such as a prison, deals with humans as a product; they are as such convicted, incarcerated, maintained and where possible rehabilitated, enhancing and contributing to society indirectly upon their release. Existing profit is less immediate and tangible and more futuristic as a concept. It is assumed that those who restore themselves and live outside the criminal staging area translate more meaningfully their living habits which can add to societal profit. This economic profit elusive though it might be and of course different from and less direct as the profit derived from an industrial complex can be considered in itself a gain.

In addition, an inspection of any prison should uncover sociologically the following five groups of personnel. 1) A group of people called management (warden, assistant wardens, security chief, clinical services supervisor) to whom concern for the whole prison facility exists. 2) A group of supervisors through which prison management exercises control (majors, captains, lieutenants, counselors, supervisors, program supervisors). They carry out orders which in turn help to maintain balance in the prison population. Their task is to get the job done. 3) A group of what is known as security personnel, the bulk of the labor force, who carry out directives related to prisoners and their welfare. 4) A group of technical personnel (plant engineers, health care specialists, educators, business officials and visiting specialists) to oversee and monitor certain aspects of the operation. 5) A group of office workers and clerical assistants. Cogent principles of management generally are applicable to any type of working organization, the foregoing included. The prison structure, however, is different in one major respect. Management is faced with a critical layer apart from the five groups of employees noted above, namely the prison population itself. This element adds appreciably to the complexity of the organization. Such a sub-stratum which has its social nuances, consisting of attitudes, beliefs and sentiments, persists in a very dynamic way supplementing and sometimes contaminating the remaining layers of the organization with a resistive and/or confrontational overlay.

Social relationships exist also in the main body of the prison organization, the employee emporium. Managers, aware of the necessary statutorial, technical and formal structure, should too be cognizant of the informal scene consisting of employee relationships which are active and alive translating and communicating feelings, beliefs and attitudes in a broad sense. The latter are not then true or false. They reflect the personal and social life of the employee expressing them although these sentiments cannot help but interface with the substratum of prisoners, the so-called product of the organization. …

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