Ethics and Corrections Work the American Prison Research Proposal

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Ethics and Corrections Work

The American prison system is in the midst of an ethical crisis. Corporate prison management and ownership has been systematically replacing the state prison systems for more than two decades now; and it has given rise to new concerns about the ethics of prison management. This is an area of human rights and ethics that should be of concern to the people of the United States, but remains largely ignored, because it involves the custody and care of some of the most despicable and dangerous people who have removed from the greater society because of violent and heinous crimes. For the most part, few Americans concern their selves with the rights, and well being of the American prison population.

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Especially because few Americans are concerned about the plight or fate of incarcerated criminals, the personal ethics of those people hired by the private prison corporations to work directly as prison guards, and the corporate accounting of prison system management must be closely examined and scrutinized in order that, first, inmates are not put at risk by staff who use their positions and the authority and power their positions afford them to compromise the inmate's debt to society. In other words, that the guards do not act in a way that allows the incarcerated person to continue to commit illegal or felonious acts from within the walls of their confinement. Also, that prisoners receive the level of human rights to which even they as prisoners are entitled to under the Constitution, and that the corporations are not so focused on preserving and increasing their bottom lines as to be willing to violate human rights and the ethical standards in carrying out their prescribed responsibilities and duties in the prison system.

Research Proposal on Ethics and Corrections Work the American Prison Assignment

Prison employees must be provided with training and manuals that define the ethical standards that they must meet and maintain in their professional work as prison authorities and guards. The handbook must clearly define the roles of the prison guard, officials, and other staff, and specifically address what would constitute unethical behavior or actions, and the penalties that would be leveled against the guard or official for being found to be in violation of the standards.

Abuse, misuse, or aiding and abetting inmates who have been sentenced to incarceration for committing crimes against society cannot be allowed. Many of the inmates will at some point in time be released back into society, and unless their unlawful conduct is circumvented by their prison stay, and unless they are treated in a way that recognizes that their incarceration is their duty to society for the commission of their crimes against society; then we will be releasing back into society a person who has not used the time during incarceration to redirect his or her thinking to one that is in conformity with the greater law abiding society. Unless those people who have direct contact with and roles in the lives of the prison population they work with, then we risk the possibility of unleashing back into society an even great threat to society than that which was originally incarcerated.

Corporations hired by the public (the states) to take on the responsibilities of administering the prison systems in any state must be above reproach, and the state authorities must carefully examine the corporation for any past or present signs of problems that could become a greater problem to the state should the corporations prove to be incapable of choosing ethics over profits.

Identifying Unethical Practices in Prisons Today

The prison system in the United States is still at a place where, if it finds that private prison systems fail to set, maintain, and achieve standards of ethics that are conducive to managing an ethical, humane, and legal prison environment, then it is not too late to reverse the move towards private prison systems. Brian Gran and William Henry (2007) talk about the need to hold private prison systems accountable for the care and in fulfilling the requirements of sentencing that was handed down with respect to an inmate's time in prison (p. 173). Gran and Henry cite the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), in Ohio, as an example of an American private prison system (p. 173). The government is careful to use language in the contract that does two things: one, it requires that the complex and management of the prison be built and managed in accordance with "nationally recognized codes (p. 173)." The second thing the contract does is to address a hold harmless clause that makes the private system, not the government, liable for any prison uprisings, damages, or losses of a material or other nature, including people (p. 173). Only in accepting the full responsibility for the functioning, design, and population control that would lead to the safety of inmates and others within the walls of the facility could corporate prison systems be a desirable way for states and the federal government to outsource prisons to private enterprise.

It remains the task of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to monitor the construction of prison facilities and the management to ensure that they comply with federal codes (p. 173). CCA must provide the BOP ten parking spaces, and 2500 square feet of "secure" space for BOP operations and "disciplining prisoners (p. 173). The BOP has stringent staffing requirements, and requires that the CCA maintain a certain number of employees (p. 173).

"A required number or percentage of employees is consistent with the government's contractor-based approach. Certain positions must be filled: one project coordinator (who confers with the Contract Officer [CO]), one warden, one associate warden, and 12 further categories of "essential personnel" (p. 25). The CO is a "Government employee, who ... is the only government employee authorized to negotiate, award, administer, cancel or terminate contracts on behalf of the United States Government" (p. 10). CCA must submit a staffing plan to the CO, who then gives approval on behalf of the BOP. Once this plan is approved, "staffing levels shall not fall below a monthly average of 95% of the BOP approved staffing plan." To avoid for-profit gamesmanship (dropping the percentage of employees to only 85% one month, and making up for it with three months of 100% capacity), CCA must submit all requests to change the number of employees -- including those within the 95% guideline -- to the CO (p. 19) (Gran and Henry, p. 173)."

In addition to these stringent staffing regulations, the employees are subject to a background investigation and a credit check, and anyone with a misdemeanor involving domestic violence cannot be considered for employment (p. 173). As of 2003, more than a hundred thousand people incarcerated in the United States are in facilities run by private corporations (Coyle, Andrew, Campbell, Allison, and Neufeld, Rodney, 2003, p. 9). This figure, in comparison to the stringent staffing requirements and the expectations of the BOP on the backgrounds of the employees, and given that corporations are one hundred percent of the time focused on their bottom line, brings into question just how well the private systems are accomplishing their task, and whether there are ethical violations of rules and procedure that might suggest that the bottom line comes before the interest of the prison population, the workers, and the public.

Campbell, Allison, et al. report that one of the problems with private prison management is inmate healthcare (p. 39). The system is such that the less that is spent on inmate healthcare, the bigger the corporation's own bottom line, because savings go directly to the corporations' bottom line if the budgeted amounts are not spent on prisoner care (p. 39). Most Americans would probably ignore the complaint of the prison population that they were not receiving proper medical care, unless those same Americans realized, too, that it did increase or decrease the taxpayer contribution to the system, and that any money not spent on prisoner care was in fact increasing a corporate management company's bottom line.

"In fact, a 1998 independent prison health care audit found that "more than twenty inmates died as a result of negligence, indifference, under-staffing, inadequate training or overzealous cost-cutting (Coyle, Campbell, et al., p. 39)."

Healthcare is not the only issue that inmates complain about, and some of their complaints are more far reaching than healthcare, because it impacts their lives in terms of the amount of time they spend incarcerated. The inmates must abide by rules of conduct, and, in some institutions, there are two sets of rules: the prison systems', the prisoners', and the guards'. When the authority invested in the guards is abused by guards who set no moral or ethical standards for their selves, then it vastly alter the length of time that an inmate spends in the system. Michael Santos (2003), himself once a prison inmate, writes about his experience and those experiences of people whom he came to know well during his own incarceration. To exemplify the power of the prison guards,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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