Analysis of the Prison Guard

Topics: Penology, Prison, Corrections officer Pages: 12 (4448 words) Published: April 26, 2006
The purpose of this paper is to give a detailed, comprehensive analysis of the life and role of the correctional officer. When society, as a whole, is in discussion of the career of a correctional officer, most of the images that spring to mind are that these employees of the correctional enterprise are solely in charge of keeping order in America's prisons. While this is indeed true, there is undoubtedly more to the life of the prison guard than meets the eye. In the foregoing paragraphs, I will try to best give a detailed description of the life of the ever-important figure in corrections: the prison guard.

In order to understand how issues arise in the practice of corrections, it is necessary to understand the experience of prison guarding. This can expose the anxieties and pressures faced by the guards within the prison environment. A number of authors (Conover, 2001; Crouch, 1980; Lombardo, 1989) have pointed to common characteristics in those choosing a career in corrections. In particular, they note that people do not typically aspire to become prison guards; rather, seeking this work is often a reaction to the need for employment or is the result of unexpected job changes. For most seeking positions as guards, job security and a regular salary are vital. In many rural areas, working in the prison system represents the only form of employment, and the prison offers the opportunity to remain in the local environment, rather than having to travel to the city for work.

Lombardo explains that about one-third of the officers that he interviewed at the Auburn Prison considered danger and mental tension as the most dissatisfying parts of their job. For example, Connover ( 2001 ) reports one incident in Sing Sing involving an inmate who had been sweeping the flats outside the cells with a push broom. When another inmate appeared, the inmate attacked him, broke the broom handle over his head, and then attempted to spear his face with the splintered ends of the broom. Most guards considered prison violence a constant possibility that might result from the seemingly arbitrary events, and they believed in their ability to sense the likelihood of violence through their awareness of behavior patterns within the prison.

Guards frequently experience personal challenges from inmates. Security and control are the fundamental tenets of guard work because inmate misconduct not only threatens the prison order, but also may impact the guards' personal safeties (Crouch and Marquart, 1980). This concern for security and order tends to cause guards to view any event that interrupts the prison routine suspiciously. For instance, the entry of outside prison treatment personnel into the prison is a particular cause of concern for most guards. This is for the fact that most of the guards believe that the incomers know very little about the inmates, thus, they fail to appreciate the need for constant security (Klofas, 1984). Nonetheless, guard attacks on inmates have been greatly reduced because prisons are now far more open to outsiders. However, when there is physical conflict between a guard and an inmate, and force is used to bring the inmate under control, inmates commonly claim that the guard "gets in a few extra licks". According to Crouch and Marquart (1980), an additional tenet of guard work taught to new recruits is the need to maintain social distance from the inmates. Also, guards must maintain the approach that they seem to be "tough, knowledgeable, and able to handle inmates".

Guards are concerned about the lack of inmate understanding of their situation, especially in view of the fact that the inmates want the guards to understand their position. Some guards pointed to the sarcasm and perpetual insults they receive from inmates on a daily basis, which they say creates a hostile environment for their workplace (Lombardo, 1989). Similarly, guards feel that they lack the support of their supervisors and...
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