Human Reflections of a Maximum Security Prison


Human Reflections of a Maximum Security Prison

A blog inspired by: Researching prisoner experiences with prison officers: An action research inspired approach. Deborah H Drake,

I have been serving the public in law enforcement for over 25 years, to include local, state and federal service, so I am aware of the potential consequences of crimes, such as incarceration at maximum-security prisons. I selected this article because I was intrigued by the researcher’s intent to conduct action research through ethnography, while incorporating prison service experts, prison staff and prisoners into the action research. I was further intrigued with the researcher’s realization of hope to make a difference or make a change within the prison system through improving the relationships between the prisoners and the prison officers. What inspired the author to study to improve the relationships between prisoners and prison officers?

Because the researchers did not want to compromise any existing prison officer/prisoner relationships, they utilized prison officers from other prisons to interview prisoners across three different maximum-security prisons in England. While conducting the interviews, the prison officers enjoyed the experience of speaking and listening to prisoners from a different perspective, and they were enlightened by their experience. The prison officers reported they experienced feelings of exhilaration and excitement as well as being touched and traumatized at the same time. They expressed how they could finally see the prisoner as a human being, as a person, not a number or commodity. Prison officers recognized that they felt sympathetic toward the prisoners while engaging in the research, whereas they cannot feel that way while they are working as a prison officer in their regular duties for several reasons.

Although the research project had to end prematurely due to structural and funding changes within the prison senior leadership, it was successful from the perspective of witnessing the potential to foster more supportive communication between prison staff and prisoners through the facilitation of this research experience. I believe other PHD students can benefit from this article because it can potentially open their mind’s eye to see the prisoners as people, not just criminals, who still deserve to be treated with dignity and humanity. Doing so also requires tremendous care and concern toward security and prison officer safety, because, after all, these prisoners are convicted of committing crimes. Although it may seem far-fetched, perhaps improving the relationships between prisoners and prison officers might improve recidivism, thus helping the prisoners turn their lives around for the greater good of humanity

Blog post by Willie Ng

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