Total Quality Management on Prison Services

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Total Quality Management (“TQM”) is a management philosophy was originally developed by American statistician, W. Edwards Deming after World War II and its principle are then put forward by various researchers such as Deming (1986), Juran (1999), Crosby (1979) and Imai (1986). Such principles comprise the Deming triangle, Juran Trilogy, concept of zero defect and Kaizen approach etc. Total refers to every process, every activity and every people of the organization whereas Quality is to satisfy or exceed all customers’ requirements. The key principles of TQM comprise customer and stakeholder focus, participation and teamwork, and process focus and continuous improvement. TQM gained great popularity in the private sector since the early 1980’s. Today many organizations in public sector also embark on TQM journey.

Given the statement of the Governor of prison, the Governor questions on the application of Total Quality on the prison because he think that the inmates are unwilling customers and the staff only needs to follow the orders and procedures. Besides, he doubts the contribution of quality to the results. This report firstly comments on assumptions that the Governor has made and demonstrates that his statement is wrong. We will discuss how TQM culture could improve the organization performance. Lastly, it ends by short conclusion that through TQM approach, a high quality of prison service can be established.


Public sector is so special in term of the roles. Customers who consume the services but may not pay for it. Whereas those who pay for the services but do not use it. The civil servants, who work on behalf of society, are not paying but have power to decide the policies. Similarly in the prison, the inmates take the role of customers and consume the services directly, but grudgingly and of course without payment.

The first assumption of the Governor can be found in his word “so-called customers”. It connotes that in his mind, the inmates are not treated as the customers and they should not have any customer expectation. It may be attributed to that, unlike the ordinary customers, the inmates have no any alternative but only remain here and accept the services regardless of level of the services. Moreover, there is general notion that the public sector offer a free service which led to an attitude of they don’t pay so they cannot expect high standard of service.

His thinking is wrong. The prison services are offered for them. The inmates are all along the customers of the prison but with much lower bargaining power. Everyone must have expectation. The inmate is not exception. Some may want quality things such as better food and accommodation condition. Some may hope a wide variety of recreational facilities and some expect to learn more skills and knowledge for future living after discharge from the prison. So TQM is useful approach to emphasize on the customer focus.

Secondly the Governor assumes that the staffs need only to follow the orders sufficient for providing the quality services. No teamwork, staff involvement and staff empowerment are considered and there are just standards to follow and process performance. This practice is ranked at quality control level of quality management.

To provide a quality of services, we must get the all level staff involved. Who knows clearly the needs of customer? The answer is obviously the front-line staff since they are the most close to customers. The key to TMQ is people including both management and staffs. TQM is human resources management from the top level that the management makes the commitment and initiative whereas the staffs are well trained, motivated and empowered to participate in TQM implement. So just following the orders without staff participation and involvement is unlikely to achieve quality services.

Figure 1. Traditional quality management and...
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