April 29, 2007

The other inmates?

It is true that correctional officers are in many ways, the "other inmates." They are cut off from the outside world for the eight to ten hours when they are on their shift, and during this time, they experience several of the pains of imprisonment. The safety and personal security of officers is always at risk when they are surrounded and outnumbered by convicted felons. Officers are also deprived of many common goods like magazines, books, and gum because they fall under the enormous of list of items considered contraband. Although these items seem harmless, the staples from magazines could be used as weapons and gum can be used to jam locks. In addition, officers have little autonomy or lack of privacy due to security cameras and strict prison regulations. But beyond the pains of imprisonment there are other reasons to call correctional officers the other inmates.
Like prisoners, officers are also part of a hierarchical social organization. While prisoners at the top may be thieves and those at the bottom, sex offenders, the warden is at the top of the prison administration and at the correctional officers are at the bottom. There is also a unique officer sub-culture with its own code of silence. An officer is never to take the side of an inmate or report the misconduct of a fellow officer. This is similar to the convict code, where prisoners are to keep their distance from officers and are forbidden to snitch. Moreover, working in the prison environment desensitizes officers to violence and hardens them. In the same way, prisoners must also maintain a tough exterior to protect themselves, and in the process are also desensitized. In order to survive inside the walls, officers must keep their guard up but never show it, while always being prepared to react. Prisons are institutions with unique cultures and social norms, and those inside their walls are shaped by them.
But there is one important aspect of being a correctional officer that makes it inaccurate to call them the other inmates. That is, at the end of their shift, no matter what, they get to leave the prison and go home for the other sixteen hours of the day. Reguardless of the time they spend experiencing the effects of inmate life, officers still have their liberty. They have the freedom to choose a career in law enforcement, earn a real living, and live their lives however they decide. Therefore, it is inappropriate to refer to correctional officers as the other inmates.
-Jenna Hernke-

April 27, 2007

Prison Guards as Inmates?

I would argue that prison guards are similar to prisons in many ways. Prison guards are forced to endure some of the some pains of imprisonment as the prisoners. First, prison guards lack autonomy in the prison. Their uniforms do not allow them to blend in to the prison atmosphere. Rather, they stand out against the prisoners and are easily identifiable from the rest of the prison population. Throughout their day, they can never be totally autonomous (as many others can in their jobs). Second, similar to the prisoners, the prison guards' personal security is almost always threatened. They can never totally relax at their jobs, just as the prisoners can never relax for fear of some attack. I would also argue that they suffer liberty deprivation on their jobs because while most people get lunch breaks and other small breaks throughout the day where they can leave the building, prison guards are at their post the entire day.

April 26, 2007

Prison officers - the other inmate?

While there are many similar experiences that inmates and prison officers face, I wouldn’t go so far as to label the officers the “other inmate?. I am not denying that there is a prison officer code, a code that is very similar to the convict code. Indeed both prisoners and officers have very distinct subcultures. Many aspects of the cultures are similar because officers are influenced by inmates and vice versa. But if we are going to label a prison officer as the “other inmate? then why not call a cashier at a store the “other customer?? I’m not trying to equate prison officers to cahiers or anything, but just to show that because two groups are functioning in the same environment does not mean that they have the same experiences.
The most important thing that distinguishes a prisoner from other members of society is that inmates are being contained, against their will, for twenty-four hours a day, every day. Prisoners are completely immersed in their subculture all of the time. On the contrary, prison officers have to live two different lives, one in the prison and one outside of the prison. Many officers in the films we viewed as well as Ted Conover in New Jack testified to how hard this was on a person. Imagine then, how hard it must be for the inmates, when they get out of prison. They may not even remember the identity they once had when they were free.

March 28, 2007

Determinante vs Indeterminite Sentencing

I have been reading some of the Blog entries on "The Farm", and the real debate is back to what we discussed in class. Which sentencing model is better. On one hand, indeterminate sentincing is useful because it encourages activity and reform. On the other, determinate sentencing allows someone to know what their punishment is, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Ideally, we need to combine both models into one. What I feel needs to happen is that someone is sentenced with a set punishment, and they have the "Option" to participate in programs and discussions. This allows those who actually want to reform to be able to. The problem is that if you incent someone to do this, you are basically using an indeterminante sentecing model without calling it that. I don't have the perfect answer, but I also don't think that forcing/enticing people to gain education/reformation is appropriate. If someone does not want to learn/improve, they will not. They may go throught the motions, but they will not take it to heart. If someone wants to educate/improve, they will try and accept what is being provided.

Another problem I see with Indeterminite sentencing is those who may lack the education or mental ability to participate in programs. We are basically at that point locking them up and throwing away the key. One thing I remember from "The Farm" is the warden discussing that when they work the prisoners, they have less issues within the prison. I think making the prisoners perform labor and/or education not only helps reduce prison costs (production of goods), but also helps to improve society as a whole. Not necessarily in Angola, but other prisons in the US, most inmates will eventually return to society. By making inmates work/educate they can be more productive members of society (Marxist view).

I also have the feeling that prisons today have become too comfortable. I like how Angola is run, since they force inmates to work/educate, and not lay around watching TV. By making prison comfortable, you make no incentive for the inmate to want to leave. (Less Eligibility) If they have no ties to the outside, why should they try and improve? I think that prison inmates should be mandated to labor/education. I chose labor and education because they need to do something. Labor is usually easier to enforce, and more accepted by those who may have insecurities about education. Education should be available to those who choose to attend. This not only will keep inmates busy, but also may/can install a pride into the inmate. I noticed on a different documentary I was watching where an inmate was "working" on a horse ranch. This inmate enjoyed working there, and had an emotional tie to his job. This caused him to behave himself for the fear of losing his privilage of working there. This can be related directly as deterence in mainstream society. If someone is emotionally tied to something, they may reconsider their actions for fear of losing that which they enjoy.

Jon Doll

February 25, 2007

new material

I think the new class material will be a lot more interesting. I had a little trouble with the theory portion of the class discussions, but I think I will be able to grasp the upcoming information more easily.

February 22, 2007


The Challenge Incarceration Program, in a Foucault perspective, uses knowledge of disciplinary and structured power to ensure conformity to the rules. The participants are continually surveillanced and this is a tactic to keep them on track through their programs and paths to becoming productive citizens. The CIP reforms the mind with education the participants receive. The CIP uses physical training to train the body. All of the mechanisms work together to promote skills for self regulation and normalization once the participant get out into the "real" world.
-Holly Sprenger

February 14, 2007

Thoughts on the CIP

The Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP) seems to operate on utilitarian principles. It aims to create the most good for the greatest number of people by treating them as rational actors. Though the program is very strict, the punishment is not too harsh and the result produces benefits for everyone. The three phases of rehabilitation "punish and hold the offender accountable, protect the safety of the public, treat offenders who are chemically dependent, and prepare them for reintegration into society and reduce their risk of reoffending." Throughout each phase the offenders are disciplined to transfrom them into good, functional citizens. The methods implemented by this program have proven to be instrumental as they have reduced the chances of reoffending and reincarceration by 32 and 35 percent respectively. Not only is the program successful in rehabilitation of offenders and reducing recidivism, but it has saved over 18 million dollars. The benefits of ICP seem to far outweigh the costs of leaving offenders in prison through their release dates.

February 13, 2007

Prepare for the Midterm

As I am sure you all know, the midterm will be handed out in class on Thursday and will be due next week. As a way to help prepare, I would highly suggest you look over this information on the Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP) that we have in the MN Department of Corrections. Similar to the activity we did with IFI, pink handcuffs, etc, I would then think about this program through the eyes of the major theories we have discussed. Use this blog to post your thoughts, ask for help, start a discussion. Once you are given the questions for the midterm, you will not be able to use this space to ask for help from classmates and Josh and I will only be able to give you limited take advantage of it now!

Program Overview:
Program Evaluation: