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How External Factors and Stakeholders Impact Corrections
By Gerard J. Horgan , Superintendent, Suffolk County House of Correction MA
Published: 07/16/2012

Inmate in court2009apr02 From Officers to Administrators, corrections professionals never know what will happen on a given day when they report to the institution for work. Probably more than any other area of law enforcement, corrections is reliant on external factors which impact our industry. Regardless of what part of the country you live in and what your role is in corrections, these external stakeholders can benefit us or make our jobs even more challenging.

Police Agencies: If the local police decide to conduct a large sweep of offenders who have warrants or make mass arrests of people involved in the drug trade, our pre-trial facilities can expect a large night of intakes, many of whom may be under the influence or detoxing. Our counts are reliant on the number of arrests that the police make and our medical staffs often are required to deal with a sick population.

Prosecutors: When the local District Attorney or Attorney General makes prosecuting certain crimes a priority, we can expect to see an increase in our count. If the prosecutors make the charges mandatory, the offender’s ability to earn time off of his or her sentence may be eliminated. This improves public safety but also takes away a motivational tool (in earned good time or time off for good behavior) that corrections can use to reduce the possibility that the inmate will be problematic inside.

Probation and Parole: Approximately 7 million adults are under supervision with 2.2 million of them being incarcerated. When offenders violate the terms of their probation or parole, they can be surrendered and sent to a local correctional facility. When probation does a large number of surrenders, it can impact bed space, classification and overall safety of the institution.

Courts: Besides the Judges having the ability to sentence men and women to our custody, the courts have the ability to dictate how we do business. The courts generally follow the “due deference doctrine” which allows corrections professionals the discretion to operate jails and prisons. However, the courts have limited correctional facilities’ abilities to strip search pre-arraignment arrestees unless there is probable cause. The US Supreme Court recently ruled that strip searches may be allowed even without probable cause which could make our jobs safer.

Courts also rule on the lawsuits filed by offenders, their families and advocacy groups. These cases often involve conditions of confinement, access to the legal system and medical care issues. Suits and the threat of litigation can cause institutions to change their policies and can have an adverse impact on budgets if the facility is not successful in defending the case.

In severe cases of overcrowding, courts may require that offenders be released to ensure that the living conditions pass constitutional muster. In these cases (most recently seen on a large scale in California), decisions must be made about which inmates are released.

Inmate Advocacy Groups: There are numerous organizations that work to ensure that those who are incarcerated are treated humanely. They will frequently make inquiries of medical care, overcrowding, and safety issues. They react to offender complaints which may or may not have merit. This causes the local Sheriff’s or Department of Corrections to respond to these complaints.

If you look at the criminal justice system as a series of dominoes that begins with arrest, proceeds through the trial process and, in the case of conviction, ends up with some level of supervision which may include incarceration, it is evident that corrections has little say about the number or type of the offenders who we will be dealing with. We are the repository pool for the waterfall of the criminal justice system.

There is an expression in corrections, “If you build it, they will come” meaning that beds are usually filled as soon as they are available. These external forces impact us every day but must not deter us from handling our responsibility – providing care and custody for the men and women committed to us.

Editor's note: Corrections.com author, Gerard J. Horgan, has been the Superintendent at the Suffolk County House of Correction in Boston since 2003. He has been with the Sheriff’s Department for 24 years. A graduate of Northeastern University and Suffolk University Law School, Horgan has trained staff in inmate rights and civil liability and is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Massachusetts where he teaches Corrections and Criminal Justice. He can be reached at ghorgan@scsdma.org.

Other articles by Horgan:


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  4. Fred Davis on 08/18/2012:

    I think that many have been programmed to look to self-esteem, and the motivational individuals promote this as a good thing. Having been through some of this, I can assure anyone that people pleasing is a root of self-esteem. Self-esteem may sell many books, but it will not work in real life. That concept empowers individuals to enslave our minds to varying degrees. Just recently, I was on a website that said that sex offenders have a hard time in prison, and they are considered lower than murderers and rapists. Now if I depended on this woman for my view, my day would not be edifying. Not only is she selling a product that I know nothing about, but what others think has no bearing on my emotions at all, unless I have a flaw in my soul that needs to be healed. During my incarceration I don’t recall any fear. I was too busy working and in that process, two things occurred. From the time I entered prison, I never allowed intimidation because when one covers fear the miasma is obvious to some inmates that are discerning. If one has no fear in reality, the discerning inmates generally will know this and those undiscerning inmates will get behind an individual that they would like to use. If a person has gifts or can help others that person can procure respect without any self-esteem. There is a saying that when you put someone above you and look up to them that eventually that person will urinate on you. Real esteem requires not looking down on people or up to people, but looking to conscience and for what is right in your heart and mind. Looking to outcome-based goals and circumstances to feel good is setting one’s self up to be more than disappointed. The website that promoted legal drug use, psychotherapy, and hypnosis is the in thing today. However, even hypnosis requires someone trusting someone else who knows nothing about reality. Hypnosis is merely reprogramming or exchanging the so-called realities or ideologies from one to another. In addiction, this can be a problem because one symptom can seem to be cured through hypnosis, but not the cause. If I am cured of drinking and I become fat, I am still sick. However, hypnotists do well for entertainment purposes.

  5. jamestown0509 on 07/28/2012:

    Good article. We can't impact the number of persons committed to jails as correction officers, Wardens, Superintendents. The reasons that these people come into the facility are numerous and the circumstances that caused them to be arrested, appear before a Judge and ultimately in our care are external as the author pointed out. I do think that rehabilitation is a goal that agencies strive for outside the correctional setting. The limitations placed on such programs include funding, facilities to house inmates and staffing requirements. I have seen many inmates be turned down for rehab because there are no available beds due to the large demand. The one bright hope for reducing levels of inmates in local facilities is working with juveniles, getting them to work toward a GED diploma and encouraging them to stay away from peer pressures and criminal activity. All to often however we see the same inmate come back over and over again for the same crimes.

  6. The Captain on 07/26/2012:

    The article points out reasons which fill our jails, and states the mission of corrections well. I think the real story is much, much deeper than these issues. Community, personal motivation and education are all related and prohibited many times by a counterculture enslaving the minds of our young.

  7. mta7035 on 07/18/2012:

    I think this is an excellent article. From the medical point of view, every drunk on the street does not necessarily need to be brought in to jail and processed, but that is not for me to decide. Sometimes a drunk needs a place to sleep it off and then be released. For the repeat offenders there are very few places to get mandated help. Unfortunately with budget cuts so many social agencies that could help the mentally ill, including substance abusers, are so limited. Medical help, not incarceration is the answer for many of the inmates that we get nowadays.

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