Ethics in the correctional facility

In December of 2018, while on transit to visit a friend, I stumbled upon an article from the Guardian Weekly. The article presented the statistical facts detailing the US prison population for the last forty years and the number of deaths that had occurred in correctional facilities (The Guardian Weekly). It reported that in 40 years, the number of Americans dying while in correctional facilities and the US prison population has increased by close to 500%! The article went ahead to give an example of a 28-year-old Sandra Bland who on failing to use her turn signal and hence send to jail, was found dead in the prison facility. What was shocking was the cover-up that state agents were trying to undertake by declaring the death as self-suicide. Questions that lingered in my mind (just as I suppose in anyone else’s) is why a minor offense could lead to one being taken to police custody. Furthermore, are correctional facilities safe as they are supposed to be? And what is it that the average American citizen doesn’t know about these facilities?

The conversation with an old man; a retired correctional officer


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I was lost in thought. With the article in hand, I turned to my left where there was an old man. I sparked a conversation about the topic and specifically what goes on in correctional facilities. The old man looked composed but eager to tell me stories about such facilities. I wanted to know: aren’t there rules to guide service delivery at correctional facilities? And if the answer is yes, aren’t they followed? And who is responsible for such rules anyway? Should correctional facilities be declared enemies of the people seeking services from them?

The old man kept quiet for a while. He lifted his eyes and with a freaky tone he told me he is a retired prison officer, which is one of the most respected correctional facilities in the US. Being retired, he also has had an interest in reading scholarly work related to the topic of discussion.  It is at this point that he explained to me about ethics in correctional facilities. In the 35 years of his service to the Nation as a prison officer, Mr. Smith as he introduced to me later, had to contend with many ethical dilemmas that are common across all correctional facilities. His argument is, there is no magic in one maintaining ethical standards while administering justice at such facilities. In any case, in the course of training, officers are taught how to adhere to the different ethical codes within such facilities. He also explained that from the interactions he made with inmates while still an officer, it was rather obvious that most people send in such facilities feel they are never treated as desired. Their ignorance, however, makes them feel all is well. I was anxious to learn more from him but we had to alight and part in different ways.

What is the role of a correctional facility?

In the last one year since this day, I have had an interest in ethics in correctional facilities. I have therefore done extensive research, conducted several interviews and followed service delivery in some of the respected correctional facilities, and I am here to present facts on this issue. Perhaps it will be proper to kickstart the topic by evaluating the role of a correctional facility. According to Azemi, (2019), the main purpose of a correctional facility is to undertake retribution (punishment for crimes done against the society), rehabilitation, incapacitation as well as deterrence.

When criminals are deprived of their freedom, it is a way to make them pay for the crimes they have committed against society. Incapacitation, on the other hand, implies removing such criminals from society as a way of totally avoiding the harm they inflict on innocent citizens. Deterrence, on the other hand, means preventing future crimes. Correctional facilities are supposed to warn people of possible consequences if they get involved in crimes. This is meant to make them shun criminal activities. Lastly, rehabilitation means undertaking activities meant to turn criminals…

Are inmates punishable? How are they punished?

From my research, I have found that some correctional officers are always accused of trying to come up with alternative ways of punishing inmates. As you will find out, some of the acts that officers subject inmates to outrightly go against the ethical code required of such facilities. The alternative punishment ways include unnecessary strip searches, undertaking cell shake-downs, restricting inmates to undertake recreation activities, hiding the inmate’s items or at times stealing them, denying them food, giving them limited time to complete activities and many other restrictions that are against ethical standards of practice in correctional facilities (Kellum, 2014).  But, should we put the whole blame on correctional officers only? Methinks the network should be expanded. Let’s, for instance, think of the …

Correctional officers and the ethical dilemma Correctional officers are largely taught to detach from emotional feelings despite working in highly emotional environments. Some officers argue that they are placed between a rock and a hard place. They have to enforce all rules given by their bosses lest they are victimized. On the other hand, if every single rule is to be enforced to the latter, they will be completely written up every time. Their cooperation a…


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