Criminal Justice Agency: The Prison Setting

The criminal justice system in any country in the world will not be complete without the prison. Some authorities and governments view the prison as a place of punishment, while others view it as a venue where a member of society can rehabilitate, and eventually be reunited with society. Whatever a person’s view may be, the prison will always be a part of the criminal justice system. The leadership structure in a prison is two-fold. First you have the warden and his jail guards. As the administrators of the prison, they are in a position of leadership over the inmates.

They control or restrict their movement, enforce the rules and regulations, and punish or reward behavior. The inmates follow them either out of respect or fear, but more often it is out of fear of punishment. The warden and the guards are in a leadership position because they have been appointed by the government. On the other hand, a similar leadership structure exists as regards the inmates. They have gangs or groups, wherein a leader standouts among the rest. This leader then creates a leadership structure, composed of his loyal deputies or followers. They impose their own rules and regulations, even a system of internal punishment.

Of course, the rules they create cannot go against the rules of the warden. However, there may be instances when the warden tolerates the imposition of “internal” rules among the inmates, so long as this will help maintain peace and order within the prison. More often than not, these “internal” rules are what keeps prisons peaceful and orderly, more than the rules and regulations imposed by the authorities. Prisons also tend to create their own cultures and systems. One such system is the leadership structure outlined above. This culture emerged as a way to ensure order amongst the inmates.

Part of this internal leadership structures is the culture of creating gangs and various groups. Inmates will tend to associate themselves with a certain group, most often for security and perhaps even for a sense of belonging. This culture of joining gangs and groups is brought about by an instinct for survival, because inmates tend to feel helpless when not part of a group. This kind of culture is somewhat unavoidable because by keeping people in a restricted and confined area, their natural instinct to survive takes gets the better of them. Another culture perpetuated in prisons is the system of respect for older inmates.

People who have been in for quite sometime are respected because of the “wisdom” that they carry by surviving such a harsh environment. By the mere fact that they have survived, other inmates look up to them. Of course, there may be times when they are disrespected, but more often, they tend to put some sense into young and aggressive inmates. Another more obvious system is that which is imposed by the warden and the other authorities. Such a system may vary from prison to prison. Most often, you would have a system of sharing chores and doing labor, a system of rules and regulations, and a system of rewards and punishment.

Outside groups may also be a factor in forming the organizational structure in the prisons. Non-government organizations and civic groups working with inmates can also play a role, since they get to interact with the inmates. They may influence the attitudes and perceptions of the inmates through what they teach, impart or do. These groups are usually there to help inmates cope with the life inside the prisons, so their influence upon inmates will more often than not be a positive one. Politicians and other government officials may also be a significant factor.

These politicians determine how much budget the prison system will get; and the more money they give, the better the prison conditions will be. As a result, with better prison conditions will inevitably result in a more peaceful, less aggressive and more orderly environment. This in turn can affect the organizational structures created in the prisons, since if the conditions are good, then the positive structures created will endure, and inmates and authorities may work together in harmony. The discussion above gives a brief overview of how the organizational structure in a prison looks like.

The complex interactions between and among inmates, the jail authorities, and outside groups show that it is not easy to put the prison system in box, and expect it to be the same everywhere. One has to consider the different factors, groups, and stakeholders that play a role in the prison system in order to ensure a successful organizational structure in such a situation. In order to improve the organizational climate, the management of the prison, namely the warden and the jail authorities, need to ensure that they get a feel of the “internal” system that the inmates have created.

This way, they may be able to sue this “internal” system to their advantage, since working with the inmates may help in keeping peace and order within. The management would also have to ensure that the conditions in the prisons are good, and the basic needs of the inmates are being provided for. They should be prepared to approach or ask decision makers like politicians if there is a need to improve the conditions in the said prison.