What influences correctional officers’ perspectives towards their profession?
In recent decades, there has been enormous growth in the correctional workforce. At the same time, correctional officers and their unions have become an important factor in the design and implementation of crime policy.
In 2006 and 2007, we partnered with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Minnesota to better understand the factors that shape correctional officers’ political orientations and policy attitudes.
Together with our partners, we designed and implemented two large-scale surveys: the California Correctional Officer Survey (CCOS) and the Minnesota Correctional Officer Survey (MNCOS). The CCOS measured the attitudes and experiences of 5775 prison officers working in 32 of California’s adult state prisons. The MNCOS gathered data on 911 officers in Minnesota’s eight state prisons. Each survey asked officers questions about a wide range of topics, including job satisfaction, work stress, personal safety and security, attitudes towards inmates, and professional orientation.
While many officers believe that rehabilitation should be a central goal of incarceration, most believe that it should be balanced with other objectives, such as public safety or punishment. For others, rehabilitation should not be a central goal at all, and other objectives should take precedence.
We found that characteristics of the institutions where correctional officers work—the levels of violence to which they are exposed, the proportion of inmates involved in high-quality rehabilitation programs, as well as the quality of management—are related to officers’ attitudes toward rehabilitation. These dynamics have important implications for how public policies can create political constituencies among criminal justice officers. This project was made possible with funding from the National Science Foundation, Center for Evidence Based Corrections, Fox Leadership Center, and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association