Academic journal article Journal of the Institute of Justice and International Studies

Managing Misconduct: Prison Management Meets Inmate Behavior

Academic journal article Journal of the Institute of Justice and International Studies

Managing Misconduct: Prison Management Meets Inmate Behavior

Article excerpt

This article examines the effects of strain in the context of prison management. From one perspective, inmate behavior influences prison management by eliciting an official response. Policies are developed with a particular problem in mind and that problem is resolved by adapting policy and practice. From another perspective, management dictates inmate behavior. Strain theory and social disorganization theory can both be used to support the idea that prison management, including both policy and practice, acts as a structure under which inmates suffer and subsequently rebel. According to the new penology (Feeley & Simon, 1992), a shift toward managerial goals as the main driver of correctional policy and practice is inevitable. If this shift truly is happening, then the inpact on inmate behavior must be examined. This article examines how both inmates and management influence each other, what types of prison policies evoke negative inmate behavior, and how theory may help predict what kind of prison environment leads to the most nonviolent institution.

Prison management is more than the simple operations of everyday prison life. Management is a complex interaction involving prison politics, ruling philosophies, and behavioral factors on both the inmate and staff sides of the institution (Agnew, 1992; Dilulio, 1991; Jian & Fisher-Giorlando, 2002; Morris, Carriaga, Diamond, Piquero, & Piquero, 2012). Management strategy grows out of interactions, as both inmates and management influence each other. In some instances, management is developed in response to inmate behavior (Johnson 2002). Most of the time, management can actually elicit responses (in the form of levels of misconduct) from the inmate population (Agnew, 1992; Camp, Gaes, Langan & Saylor, 2003; Dilulio, 1991; Johnson 2002; Morris et al. 2012). Understanding how stakeholders in the prison system interact is vital to achieving a management strategy that works toward the goals of incarceration.

Assessing the effectiveness of management can be a difficult task considering the prison system's myriad objectives. These involve external pressures to perform, internal pressures to maintain operations, and the human rights dilemmas that can be taken into consideration with sanctioned punishment. A common measure of the effectiveness of the management structure in prison is the level of inmate misconduct. It is generally agreed upon that part of management's function in a prison is to maintain order (Camp et al. 2003, Morris et al. 2012). According to Camp et al. (2003), prison management and operations can make a difference in how inmates behave. When looking at prison misconduct of over 120,000 federal prisoners, the authors found that there were differences in the amount of strain that management styles caused independent of individual characteristics. Thus, focusing on prison management is relevant because it can result in containing situations while they are still in a small context. Changing management strategies becomes less relevant when conflict has escalated to a full riot.

Moving beyond issues of prisoner misconduct, prison management is also responsible for creating a peaceful environment that is respectful of the human rights of those incarcerated (Coyle, 2003). Wooldredge (2003) cited classification systems as a management strategy that can help, "to achieve effective management with the lowest possible levels of control that are still deemed commensurate with the crimes committed" (p. 253). When balancing these two competing concerns, prison management can involve toeing the line between punishment and supervised accommodation. This balancing act is brought to the fore by Feeley and Simon's (1992) outlook on prison management, which affirms that it has moved from actively participating in the punishment process to passively housing the incarcerated with only a bottom line in mind. With the conflicting goals of management at the forefront, there is no easy way to assess its outcome. …

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