Victimization Risk Factors

Much of the research relative to inmate to Correctional Officers violence has predominately focused on defining situational occurrences of violence against Correctional Officers and or violence that erupts in riot situations and are descriptive in nature.

Bowker (1980) purports there are “five analytically distinguishable risk factors” for the victimization of Correctional Officers within the prison system, these includes: 1) riots; 2) patterned spontaneous attacks; 3) unexpected attacks; 4) the daily grind; and, 5) victimization by fellow staff members, although most assaults on Correctional Officers fall into either patterned spontaneous attacks. In the riots risk factor, which is considered as collective violence, Correctional Officers are at greater risk than in most other situations because they may be taken hostage, tortured and/or killed by inmates.

Inmates, acting out frustration are seeking resolution to problems, situations, perceived injustices and/or brutality and are therefore prepared to accept the consequences of their actions. Consequently, Correctional Officers fearing the switch of control accompanying a riot are careful to stay on the side of those prisoners who would be most likely to defend then in a riot situation (Bowker, 1980). Yet, although there are attempts by some prisoners to protect Correctional Officers during riots, they are most often overruled by the leaders of the riots (Bowker, 1980).

Patterned spontaneous attacks against Correctional Officers generally occurs during the performance of “certain high-risks-factor activities,” such as breaking up fights between prisoners, transferring prisoners, escorting prisoners to punitive segregation and conducting searchers (Bowker, 1980). Those attack are patterned because they occur during high-risk-factor-activities and are spontaneous in that attack are not planned, therefore Bowker suggest that Correctional Officers may try to avoid these tasks in an effort to minimize the risk assault.

Conversely, unexpected attacks differ from patterned spontaneous attacks in that they occur in an unpatterned fashion, such as when Correctional Officers are doing cell checks or walking through the cellblock (Bowker, 1980). Although unexpected attacks are generally less frequent, the fear and apprehension experienced by Correctional Officers is disproportionately larger because of their unpredictable nature (Bowker, 1980). Nevertheless, according to Bowker (1980), other than minimizing contact with inmates, there is little that Correctional Officers can do to reduce the number of unexpected attacks.

Daily grind attacks are psychological in nature, ranging from corrupting authority to veiled treats against the lives of Correctional Officers and/or their families (Bowker, 1980). Omnipresent in the lives of Correctional Officers, daily grind attacks focus on manipulating Correctional Officers by whatever verbal and/or emotional means available (Bowker, 1980). Because of the convert/over nature of these attacks, Correctional Officers may be unaware that they have manipulation, which makes an accurate assessment of this type of victimization problematic for Correctional Officers, as well as researchers.

Although the aforementioned risk-factors were inmate initiated, Bowker’s staff to staff victimization risk-factor is the most confounding and surprising event for Correctional Officers because it occurs between fellow Correctional Officers and/or Correctional Officers and administration. Based on demographics (age, race, gender, education), job performance (prisoner-friendly, undependable) and ideology (liberal thinking in relation to correctional standards), this type of victimization may impede the Correctional Officers to perform their jobs.

Fellow Correctional Officers and or/ the administration may view the individual as someone who is not a team player, which may lead to some form of targeting for retribution/punishment, formal/informal sanctions (written disciplinary reports, “unofficial” warnings) by the administrations, as well as informal sanctions (i. e. , generating artificial complaints, veiled threats) by fellow Correctional Officers (Bowker, 1980). Subsequent to Bowker’s research, Light (1994) sought to evaluate the actual occurrences of violent attacks.

His study indicated that Correctional Officers orders for inmates to enter or leave an area precipitated 51. 1 percent of the command-related assaults on staff members, 12. 5 percent followed requests for identification, 9. 1 percent entered around appearance and/or sanitation issues, and an additional 27. 3 percent involved other rules. Further, Light (1994) asserts that it is also possible that many unexplained assaults are related to inmates’ generalized concerns with autonomy and correspond closely to Bowker’s (1980) “unexpected attacks” which result from many precipitating factors.

Concurring with Light, Steinke (1991) found that violence towards staff was more likely to occur in areas where inmates were engaged in a loosely structured activity such as dining or recreation and that inmates were more likely to be alone when aggressive towards staff (473). Likewise, Silverman (1995) suggest that the vast majority of assault on staff members occurs in the disciplinary segregation unit where conditions are oppressive, thereby forcing inmates to take control measures as personal.