One of the most important departments in criminal justice is the Department of Corrections that is in charge of overseeing punishment, treatment, and supervision of the offenders convicted of certain crimes within a specific jurisdiction. Therefore, by the time the offenders are released from the prison, there should be no longer any danger to the society. The Department of Corrections has also the task to supervise the offenders considered as dangerous to the society as they serve life terms in the prisons. Additionally, in the states where capital punishment is still applied, the convicted are punished by this department. It, therefore, enforces the decision made by the judicial system. In the course of doing their jobs, correctional professionals are faced with various issues. Correctional professionals need to conduct their work in an ethical and constitutional manner. They should use social justice principles to make a prison a better place for the inmates. This paper discusses the challenges faced by the correctional professionals, how they strive to create a just environment for the inmates through social justice principles, and how they conduct their work in an ethical and constitutional manner.
During their work, correctional officers must uphold the Constitution and adhere to the work ethics. This means that they must not go against the clauses of the Constitution that outline the principles of their work. Different clauses delineate how the correctional officers should perform their duties in an ethical way. The first of them is stated in the Fourth Amendment (US Constitution, Amendment IV) which says that each person has a right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures, and that this right should not be violated. Being in prison reduces the privacy expectations of any offender. However, despite the levels of privacy are lowered, offenders still have it.
One of the issues in this clause are the strip arrestee searches (Collins, 2007) that are performed when the officers are in suspicion of the inmates having contrabands. Correctional officers must not strip search an arrestee without reasonable suspicion. Consequently, they have to justify that the strip search is warranted or justified, and if the opposite happens, the correctional officers are not only being unethical, but they also act in an unconstitutional way. Additionally, when strip searches are warranted, then they should be conducted by the officers who are of the same gender with the offender unless in emergency situations. Doing otherwise would be unethical for the correctional officer. They should, therefore, be able to justify the call for a strip search before performing the search.
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Another clause of the Constitution that defines the ethical behavior of the correctional officers is the Eighth Amendment that states that no cruel or unusual punishments should happen to a citizen. In a prison context, cruel and unusual punishment can be defined as wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain. The ethical issues surrounding the Eighth Amendment in prison include the use of force, provision of health services, the safety of the inmate among other issues related to confinement. As a result, ethical issues arise if force was used for malicious means to harm the inmate by the correctional officer, or even a deliberate indifference to health and sanitary needs of an inmate. In general, this is the clause of the Constitution that significantly impacts how prisons are run, and monitors how inmates are treated while in confinement.
In specific situations, the officers are allowed to use force, for example, while protecting themselves, protecting the assets of the prison, while enforcing orders, and in general security maintenance. Therefore, the prison staff should avoid using extreme force apart from the special conditions mentioned above. Again, proper medical care should be provided for the inmates. Particularly, it includes the proper diet for any inmates who need a special diet and access to doctors and nurses. Additionally, the Eighth Amendment also outlines the conditions for confinement. The question here is whether the state of the prison can amount to cruel and unusual punishment. This means that conditions of living should be tolerable. If not, then the situation defines huge ethical issues and should be corrected.
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Correctional professionals should use the social justice principles such as equality, solidarity, and human rights to provide a suitable society for inmates. All prisons should promote peace despite the wrongs committed by the offender. First, each inmate should be treated equally, and no special treatment should be showed for any inmate. Equal treatment would promote the peaceful co-existence of offenders knowing that none of them was better than the other in the prison (Travis, Western, & Redburn, 2014).
Besides, solidarity should be maintained by the correctional officers while conducting their duties. As citizens of the country, they have an obligation of correcting the inmates. Thus, they should be one with their appointing authority, and the rest of the citizens in an instituting change to the offenders for the good of the society. Additionally, during their day to day activities in the prison, the officers should ensure that they conduct their duties while not being in violation of human rights. This means that they should treat the inmates well and not subject them to hectic conditions of living such as merciless beatings, or insufficient food. Doing so goes a long way in achieving social justice for the inmates as well as making them better citizens once they get released.
People commit crimes for various reasons. The first reason why people commit crimes is that of the situations that they find themselves in. People who are born in less resourceful areas or poverty sometimes feel that they are justified to commit crimes. Therefore, social inequality can be a drive to commit a crime. This is not only applicable to poor people but also to the individuals considered to be minor due to their race. Being treated differently than other people can encourage committing a crime by justifying the act. The individuals who are raised in bad social conditions such as few employment opportunities and poor housing facilities are more likely to become offenders (Holmes & Holmes, 2008). Moreover, sometimes people find themselves in situations that require money, and as a result, they commit crimes to satisfy their need for money. An example for such cases can be seen with people who have drug addictions, but do not have constant income. In order to be able to get the constant money supply for drugs, these people resort to crimes.
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Furthermore, people have expensive lifestyles, but not so many resources to provide for themselves, often tend to commit crimes to sustain these lifestyles. Apart from being in difficult situations, some people just violate the law for the pleasure of committing the crime. They treat crime like sports. Such people are few, but still, they exist. When the government decides to fight crime, then they should look at some of the social inequalities in the society and balance these scales, which could greatly reduce the motifs for committing crimes.
Consequently, in the daily operations of the correctional officers, criminal theories are applied in order to handle the various types of offenders. By using different criminal theories, the correctional professionals can understand the drive of the offenders, and use this to aid in the rehabilitation of their behavior. Criminal theories also help the officers to understand the individual’s criminality against social structures and values of the society, family, or group. Corrections officers, therefore, know how to deal with each of the individuals as a separate part of the society in the prison. They understand which program would best suit the individual to correct their behavior. Thus, it is essential that correctional officers are aware of the different criminal theories so as to be able to efficiently rehabilitate the offenders.
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Additionally, correctional officers are faced with various issues each day. If the solutions of these issues are not found, then this can result in the loss of morale by the officers, or even decreased performance in their work. The first issue that correctional officers encounter is understaffing. This is not a problem of a single prison, but it is present in the most prisons in the country. The majority of the correctional facilities have fewer staff than it is required. In order to fill in the gaps for the few staff, most of the officers are forced to work overtime instead of resting. In some prisons, there is even a policy that each correctional officer must work several additional hours. The fact that extra hours have been made mandatory for each of the officers shows how serious the matter is.
Another problem that is affecting the correctional officers is the health. In most cases, these officers have their job for many years. Offenders in the prisons come and go after rehabilitation when the correctional professionals remain on their position for a long time. This takes a toll on them as well as their close friends and family. Studies have shown that the correctional professionals suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, marital problems, high rates of drug and alcohol abuse, and suicides among other social problems. These problems mainly occur because of the stress and demands of their jobs.
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Lastly, one more issue that affects the correctional officers is the lack of motivation among the officers. Whenever people talk about protectors, what comes to their minds are soldiers, the police, or even the firefighters. Little acknowledgment is given to the correctional officers tasked with monitoring and rehabilitating offenders. The correctional officers protect the society from the offenders who are considered too dangerous for it. Day after day, these officers deal with the offenders with little appreciation. Therefore, the lack of acknowledgement from other citizens leads to a drop in the morale of the officers.
For the correctional system to work efficiently, the above issues that affect the correctional officers need to be addressed. The first issue that should be solved is the health issue faced by the officers. As documented, most of the officers have various health problems ranging from drug addiction to post-traumatic stress disorder, and in extreme cases, even to suicides, which happen as a result of their stressful work. This is a crucial issue that can only be handled by different stakeholders coming together and facilitating the solution. For this purpose, conferences that discuss the health issues that the officers face, can be arranged. Psychological and medical needs of the officers can also be addressed in these conferences to provide these individuals with assistance. The officers need to be counseled, which would help reduce any stress that they might experience in their work. Moreover, the families of the officers need to be advised on how to deal with the late working hours of their relatives, or sometimes how to handle the stress that they might bring home. The families have to learn how to understand the pressure that comes with being a correctional officer and support their loved ones.
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Finally, the whole country needs to acknowledge the importance of the work done by the correctional professionals in protecting the society (Sturgeon, 2010). During parades where the protectors of the society lineup, the correctional officers should also be present. Apart from recognition, the officers also need to be compensated by the government, which should be in terms of salary increases or some other benefits. As a result, this could increase the motivations of the officers, and therefore, improve their performance.
In conclusion, the Department of Corrections is very important division in criminal justice as it is aimed at protecting the society from those who are regarded as a danger to the rest of the society as well as monitoring and rehabilitating such individuals. In performing their duties, these officers need to avoid unethical practices that can make them have lawsuits on their backs. Such ethical issues include the use of too much force on prisoners, provision of inadequate health services, not ensuring the safety of the inmates among other issues related to confinement. Besides, the officers have the task to use social justice principles in order to promote a suitable society. In order to prevent the decreased performance of the officers, the mentioned issues should be considered and solved.