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“Picking Battles: Correctional Officers, Rules, and Discretion in Prison”: Research Question

Introduction and Research Question

The patterns of decision-making process taking place in correctional facilities are, by all means, worth the research effort due to little information available on the topic at the time when prisons are mostly perceived as unethical and violent facilities. Thus, the major purpose of the research conducted by Haggerty and Bucerius (1) was to define the extent to which correctional officers used discretion in their relationship with the incarcerated individuals. The research question outlined by the authors was how correctional officers understood and exercised discretion in prison and what types of factors officers contemplated when making discretionary decisions (Haggerty and Bucerius 2). The study itself was primarily conducted in order to shed more light on the issue of discretion within an institution that has had seemingly little space for decision-making due to the governance of law. Hence, it would be reasonable to outline that the research question raised by the authors was nothing but relevant for the field of criminology.

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Basic Concepts

The first and central notion emphasized throughout the discussion was the concept of discretion. The strong point of the paper’s argument is the fact that the authors managed to identify a specific field of correctional officers’ discretion for the research, which constituted the cases when the officers chose not to apply certain rules and their rationale for such choices (Haggerty and Bucerius 2). However, the weak aspect of the research is the authors’ failure to concretize their definition of discretion. Since this concept is the most important for the research, the authors’ framing of the concept is critically important for the recipient’s perception of the overall content. Another important concept tackled in the research is the phenomenon of habitus, “a set of historical relations ‘deposited’ within individual bodies in the form of mental and corporeal schemata of perception, appreciation, and action” (Haggerty and Bucerius 4). The authors provided a quality rationale for the introduction of the concept, as they outlined the prison officers’ intention to decide for a long-term perspective of relationship with inmates.

The Research Methodology

As the major purpose of the study was to define the prison officers’ feelings about the decision-making process and discretion within the facility, it would be reasonable to assume that the most appropriate method chosen by the researchers was conducting a semi-structural interview. Thus, in terms of their research, Haggerty, and Bucerius (4) spoke with 131 prison officers from four provincial Canadian prisons of different types. These types included remand, mixed, and sentence correctional facilities. Such an approach was, by all means, a methodological strength, as it helped contrast even slightly different perspectives of the officers’ decision-making.

Moreover, the method’s positive aspect was also the fact that the authors did not consider already examined establishments where discretion evoked positive behavior among the inmates. Instead, the focus was placed on the attitude towards prisoners who had no motivation to abide by the accepted rules of facilities. The number of officers interviewed may be perceived as both beneficial and challenging. On the one hand, such a quantity allowed the interviewers to have an in-depth conversation with every participant. On the other hand, it limits the scope of the study’s findings, as 131 participants are not sufficient to design reasonable hypotheses concerning all correctional facilities.

Findings and Hypotheses

One of the central theory-based hypotheses outlined by the researchers was the assumption that the habitus of correctional officers presupposed future-oriented decision-making. This hypothesis meant that prison officers were preoccupied with the long-term implications of their actions or refusals to act. Indeed, it was established during the interviews that correctional officers chose non-enforcement as a result of considerate foregrounding and anticipation of the prisoners’ potential reaction to rule enforcement. However, the findings of the study also indicated that the major challenge for officers was not only to pick their battles in terms of cooperation with inmates but to create a flexible decision-making pattern that could react to the immediate environment along with foregrounding.

Study Implications

Considering the aforementioned data, it would be reasonable to conclude that the discussed study is an asset to the field of criminology as it sheds light on life within a correctional facility where inmates have no motivation to collaborate with the staff. Moreover, the study also elaborates on the correctional officers’ ability to create a psychological image of the inmate in order to anticipate their response to the context of rules. The findings of the research may be further used in the criminology field to promote public reaction to the system of rules existing on the premises and their appropriateness in the situations outlined by the staff. However, for the sake of accuracy, the present study could be enhanced by the introduction of such dependent variables as the type of crime committed by the inmate. Given the fact the officers rely greatly on their perceptions of the inmates’ behavior when it comes to discretion, it would be beneficial to define the extent to which the types of crime committed may either promote or undermine officers’ discretion.

Reference

Haggerty, Kevin D., and Sandra M. Bucerius. “Picking Battles: Correctional Officers, Rules, and Discretion in Prison,” Criminology, 2020, pp. 1-21.

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StudyCorgi. (2023, January 24). “Picking Battles: Correctional Officers, Rules, and Discretion in Prison”: Research Question. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/picking-battles-correctional-officers-rules-and-discretion-in-prison-research-question/

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StudyCorgi. (2023, January 24). “Picking Battles: Correctional Officers, Rules, and Discretion in Prison”: Research Question. https://studycorgi.com/picking-battles-correctional-officers-rules-and-discretion-in-prison-research-question/

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StudyCorgi. "“Picking Battles: Correctional Officers, Rules, and Discretion in Prison”: Research Question." January 24, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/picking-battles-correctional-officers-rules-and-discretion-in-prison-research-question/.

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StudyCorgi. 2023. "“Picking Battles: Correctional Officers, Rules, and Discretion in Prison”: Research Question." January 24, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/picking-battles-correctional-officers-rules-and-discretion-in-prison-research-question/.

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StudyCorgi. (2023) '“Picking Battles: Correctional Officers, Rules, and Discretion in Prison”: Research Question'. 24 January.

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