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The work of the correction officers and the street cops do not differ much both deal with the murderers, rapists and thieves etc but yes there is a fine distinction between them, street cops catch the criminals and corrections officers keep and manage them. So its time we give these officers the recognition and due credit.
The challenges facing prison and jail officials are enormous. The most obvious problem is overcrowding. However, the overall problems are far more complex, for example an old administrative structure, undue influence by the prison guards, and lack of respect, limited medical care and outdated tools.
The law enforcement agencies need to do much to solve these problems and initially invest some capital on the jail and prison system. We need to help crime prevention at an early stage and have social policy responses and image building programs for the neglected and deprived officials.
Every citizen is directly or indirectly affected by crime, fear of crime and anti-social behaviors. Crime not only threatens the success and vitality of a society but also acts as a barrier to financial growth and prosperity. Sadly, contemporary methods of transport, communications and sophisticate weapons have amplified, organized and globalized crime.
To tackle this menace we need law enforcement agencies to work at their optimal. However, with over 4 million officers working in prisons and jails in the US, this segment of American law enforcement is often ignored, misunderstood and overlooked by conventional law enforcement. The correction or warden officers' work is not straightforward. Today, prisons, jails and other correctional facilities want official who are fast thinkers, proficient learners, and leaders who are physically and mentally sound. It takes a mixture of skills, intelligence and determination to be an effective correction officer.. For example, currently corrections and warden officers are taking on more responsibilities linked to psychotherapy and rehabilitating prisoners. This requires exceptional training in areas such as awareness of criminal behavior, or how to manage groups of prisoners who come from diverse cultural and ethnic upbringings, or how to handle the stress that builds among people who are restrained in a cell and isolated from the rest of the world. Technical understanding is also essential for the officers today. There job has been made some what easy with the introduction of high-tech safety and security devices. However, corrections officers are the ones who have to b operate these complex systems. Such demanding work with many complications and dangerous situation correction officers need much support.
It is about time that we realize and understand the challenges officials of jails and prisons are facing let them know that they play a very important role in law enforcement. In this paper I will briefly look at the dynamics of the prison, the role of the correction officer and compare the challenges of the past and present facing warden and correction officials of jails and prisons.
Overview of the Prison
To better understand the challenges warden and correction officers are facing in prison and jails it is essential to be aware of the functioning of prisons. It's a fact that jails and prisons can be very risky and hazardous because of the constant dealing with offenders, some of who are dangerous people. Prisons differ in safety measures from double-barred steel cages with high wall, video monitoring to rooms in partly open buildings in unfenced area. Prisons also vary in facilities from windowless rooms of close-confined, sensory-deprived seclusion to work camps of no corporeal hardships. However, it would be a mistake to presume that most of these late 20th century transformation of the prison tend toward clemency and comfort.
Since the last decade due economic crisis such as this recession the crime rate is also on this high thus the prisons are gradually becoming overcrowded and underfunded. More violent offenders are locked up than ever before and drug use among prisoners is common. These and other changes have added much pressure to an already dangerous prison environment.
A recent research report shows that the United States prison population has tripled since 80s. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported a total of 1,043,758 inmates under state or federal authority at the end of 1998. More than 940,000 of those are in state prisons and over 97,000 in federal prisons. As for local jails, the prisoner population reached a record high of 590,442 as of midyear 2000, to a certain extent because they're taking on the overflow since there was no room available in state and federal prisons. As the number of inmates continues to climb in prison, the working conditions also becomes complex.
Role and Duties of Prison Officials
The work of officials of jails and prisons is much than just guarding. The primary role of a corrections officer is to make sure that the prison, jail or other type of correctional facility risk-free and secure. They also supervise the events and conduct of prisoner at all times. They have to escort prisoners from cells and other sections of the jail. The correction officers also have to explain the organization policies and rules to inmates, and also may arrange the prisoners work assignments and take part in work training.
Other work includes search and inspection tasks such as reading prisoners' mail, examining cells and body searches of prisoner for safety reasons. The main aim of these tasks is to find any forbidden items or materials such as drugs, arms, tools or other illegal items or uncovering any unlawful activities such as smuggling or plans for breakout.
Depending on how a prison is s organized and its volume, corrections officers may be allocated to particular areas such as the mailroom or an onsite medical center. Writing and editing reports are another part of the job. Task may include keeping on a daily basis logbooks and writing behavior or progress reports about prisoners. These reports must be precise and complete because they may be used by other agencies or by the courts.
Challenges and Problems faced in the past
The challenges facing officials of jails and prisons are complex but sometimes reflection on past can help us better understand the problem. In the past the basic problem facing officials was racial and gender discrimination. It was the time when officials were isolated in housing and work according to race. They were hardly any African-American officers. Hispanic staff was unprecedented, and women weren't permitted to handle male parolees or probationers and some areas they could not work in a prison. These conditions were more common in Michigan and most other states during the early 50s then little by little it began to change and stingily during the 60s, but only for ethnic and minority male workers the female workers were still not allowed to work till the 1970.
Rape and Sex in prison
Sexual problems were also of great concern for the officials. For example on 1968 in Cook County Jail six prisoners, 4 blacks and 2 whites maliciously mass raped an eighteen year old white fellow inmate. Such mass rapes had been routine occurrences in many US jails in the 70s because some officials either were powerless or reluctant to prosecute similar offenses. The above incident shows one of the most grave, yet most hushed-up problems confronting correctional officers in America in the past. This complicated problem was formed by the sexuality of both prison inmates and prison staffers. Regardless of how hard some correctional authorities tried to ignore it. The crisis not only refused to go away but in fact it threatened to cultivate in to unmanageable magnitude if left unchecked. Other then this, homosexuality was also far more prevalent in prison. Warden and correction officials often found it difficult to differentiate rape from intercourse by approval. It was seen that often white prisoners claimed rape by black fellow inmates in order to get transfer or release while they had willingly cooperated or even instigated the act.
Dangerous Situations and assaults
Another major setback in the past was the tackling of dangerous prisoner and keep order among inmates. In the 60s and 70s they were many incidences of tension and conflict which often resulted in blood shed or problems such as riots. For example, in a boot camp where they had to patrol and the cells were not fenced or walled like dormitory housing and a lower staff-to-inmate proportion.
In 1980s it was reported that70 percent of all assaults usually took place in small prison units and 47 percent of all assaults were throwing incidents in which prisoners throw urine or food at officers and other staff as they provide meals to the prisoners in their cells. Usually it happens when the staff had to use force upon an inmate for a variety of reasons. The assaults were not happening due to insufficient staff or officers. It was mainly due to lack of training of officers in criminal behaviors and psychology. In last ten years cases of assaults are going down. Mainly because every assault is been taken seriously and each assault is reviewed to determine its cause and experts look different ways to reduce such assaults. The ratio of assaults has come down also because the officers are now well trained and are given modern hardware that protects them from throwing incidents.
The Present Challenges and Problems
Lack of Respect
One of the most depressing issues facing today reported by officers, and one that exemplifies just how far we still have to go, is a lack of acknowledgment and respect from their own law enforcement community. An article in a cop magazine reports that each year there are approximately 31,000 cases in which corrections officers are assaulted. Its also alarming that they have the second highest mortality rate of any profession in the state and suffer from a 40 percent higher risk of suicide than any other profession.
Another challenge facing officials of jails and prisons today is the nature and temperament of the prisoners. Several specialists in the field have the same opinion that modern prisoners are, in general a tougher breed. The acute increase of drug criminals is one example, not only because these prisoner may have a tendency to kick but also for the reason that that inclination doesn't essentially stop in jails. It is very hard and the situation becomes tense when the officers stop these mafias from selling, exchange and using drugs at many prisons. In a specific incident at SCI Mahanoy, a warden was nearly killed confronting these activities and the weapons used were a telephone and a trash can. There are many reports that indicate the increasing use of eccentric weapons in many US jails. To cope up with this correction officer need high-tech technology and modern training.
Even though racial problems have declined considerably but still ethnic and racial diversity among prisoner do produce another set of problems. Many prison studies suggest that it is quiet complex to keep the peace when, for instance, you're blending a largely black or Hispanic group of city gang members. This example may seem extreme, but it's real. In any event, one can anticipate seeing more training of corrections officers to handle prisoners who come from diverse settings and may have solid group ties, for example, to a street gang or an extreme religious group. More intense training and funding is required to handle this and special issues such as drug abuse or violence between prisoners and against officers.
The Growing Population
Experts are discussing the best ways to handle the growing inmate population. The growing population put additional stress on the correction officers. However, the law enforcement agencies have taken some steps to tackle this like correctional boot camps for nonviolent criminals. But still we need to concentrate on rehabilitation, education, job training and drug abuse therapy or treatment. Simultaneously, we need to start a movement to get rid of recreational tools, television and other inmate privileges and plans. But some correction officer this today criminals have too much play and not enough punishment however some argue that this helps to reduce tensions and promote better behavior. The government should also try to involve private companies getting into the business of running prisons and putting prisoners to work which could considerably help to manage the growing inmate population.
Almost 4 million devoted and enthusiastic officials work hard to prevent crime, serious incidents and assaults from occurring and provide public safety. Then again, even with this hard work to prevent criminal events through staff vigilance, enhanced training and modern equipment, we cannot eliminate such events from happening. It must be kept in mind working with criminal and lawbreakers are not easy and some of them can be arduous to work with and pose great challenges.
It is a matter of fundamental concern but our prisons are not so overloaded and so under staffed that grave problems are imminent in the future. But if ignored it could become a mess for both the society and correction officers. To solve the problem it's crucial to educate and train the staff and update resources that are needed to securely, carefully and humanely work in prison and jails. While the situation today is nothing like what was confronted in the past like serious riots. Nevertheless still we require lots of hard work to solve the challenges the officials are facing today.
The comparison of the challenges faced by United States correctional officers of the past and present show that the two major problems plaguing prisons since their inception have been overcapacity and idleness of inmates. The prisoners are serving longer sentences in vastly overcrowded institutions. This combination can create a potentially dangerous environment for the officials. The policymaking role will also be important and on some issues paramount.