Does the Front Line Reflect the Party Line? the Politicization of Punishment and Prison Officers' Perspectives Towards Incarceration

Amy E. Lerman, Joshua Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Imprisonment policy has become increasingly politicized since the mid-1960s, but we do not yet know the consequence of this shift for the professional orientations of prison workers. In this article, we use original surveys of prison officers in California and Minnesota to assess whether and how partisan identification and the politicization of crime policy predict officers' conceptualizations of the purpose and function of prisons. Results show that individual partisanship is associated with officers' attitudes, but this is conditional on state context. Along with deepening understandings about the determinants of street-level bureaucrats' perspectives, this article advances knowledge about how the broader political environment might shape the attitudes of front-line workers. This is important because prison officers' perspectives affect their workplace behaviour with consequences for staff-prisoner relationships, policy implementation and the routine operations of penal facilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)578-601
Number of pages24
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Volume56
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for the MNCOS was received from the Life Course Center at the University of Minnesota. Funding for the CCOS was received from the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley; the Center for Evidence-Based Corrections at the University of California, Irvine; the Fox Leadership Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the National Science Foundation (Award Number SES-0617505).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Author.

Keywords

  • Politics of punishment
  • imprisonment
  • prison officer
  • street-level bureaucracy

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