Abstract

The abuse of authority and power is commonly encountered in different institutions. Similarly, prisons are not immune to the overuse of authority and power. Correctional officers exercise their authority on inmates in ways that result in a prison culture, which is filled with violence and dehumanization. Correctional officers often consider inmates as morally inferior beings, who deserve to be punished beyond sentence, for the crimes that they have committed are inexcusable. However, the abrasive environment of prisons places correctional officers in a situation where they eventually adopt the prison identity and find themselves trapped in this brutish incarcerated culture. This paper argues that the coercive working condition in U.S. prisons leads correctional officers to, not only behave in a coercive manner toward inmates, but also to dehumanize inmates in atrocious ways which violate fundamental human rights, authority and morality. Moral authority is crucial in the process of inmates’ rehabilitation therefore correctional officers in the U.S. should be encouraged to practice moral authority. This paper proceeds to draws upon an important distinction between authority and power, and legitimate authority and moral authority, in order to understand better which is lacking in U.S. prisons, in addition to an analysis of correctional officer–inmate relationship. Finally, this paper concludes that it is the structure of prisons that causes a significant lack of moral authority, but also, instigates not only an abuse of authority, but also a flawed understanding of authority itself.

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Correctional Officers, Step Off The Treadmill Of Power: The Lack Of Moral Authority In U.S. Correctional Officers

The abuse of authority and power is commonly encountered in different institutions. Similarly, prisons are not immune to the overuse of authority and power. Correctional officers exercise their authority on inmates in ways that result in a prison culture, which is filled with violence and dehumanization. Correctional officers often consider inmates as morally inferior beings, who deserve to be punished beyond sentence, for the crimes that they have committed are inexcusable. However, the abrasive environment of prisons places correctional officers in a situation where they eventually adopt the prison identity and find themselves trapped in this brutish incarcerated culture. This paper argues that the coercive working condition in U.S. prisons leads correctional officers to, not only behave in a coercive manner toward inmates, but also to dehumanize inmates in atrocious ways which violate fundamental human rights, authority and morality. Moral authority is crucial in the process of inmates’ rehabilitation therefore correctional officers in the U.S. should be encouraged to practice moral authority. This paper proceeds to draws upon an important distinction between authority and power, and legitimate authority and moral authority, in order to understand better which is lacking in U.S. prisons, in addition to an analysis of correctional officer–inmate relationship. Finally, this paper concludes that it is the structure of prisons that causes a significant lack of moral authority, but also, instigates not only an abuse of authority, but also a flawed understanding of authority itself.