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Why Prisons are Changing
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 04/01/2013

Changeovertime Those serving time in uniform and other correctional professions behind the elevated walls and unsullied stainless steel silver razor wire have noticed a difference in the way prisons are being run and how the culture has changed over the past several years. The assessment of the prisoners has changed and the manner of the next generation of employees coming onboard straight from the Academy and college has changed the dynamics internally and externally inside prison management and intricate shift proceedings.

Baby boomer employees are leaving as they retire and leave a whole different world behind. Nothing is quite the same as working inside a prison and the void these baby boomers are leaving behind will be filled by newer generations of officers and new staff coming onboard with different cultures, moral values, ideas and perceptions. Certainly new challenges will become everyday jobs to manage the most difficult and volatile individuals incarcerated today.

It has been written on the prison walls for awhile now this “changing of the guard” was imminent and much can change the eventual dynamics coming into play as new cultures and practices take their place inside this bedeviled environment. So how will this difference in values and attitudes between one generation leaving and the others taking over impact the environment? We would have to look at this generation gap and see the difference between the young the middle aged and the old.

This exodus will require the corrections profession to adapt and adjust to different management styles and attitudes projected from the various generational gaps now in charge of most of the prison facilities. Their knowledge, skills and abilities will be time-tested just like the baby boomers and with current values allowing the practice of leaving a job and starting another as being acceptable practice, retaining qualified officers will certainly also be a challenge.

Finding a qualified candidate would be hard to do as there are several generations today that are in charge of these penitentiaries with each developing their own individual styles to manage and control their respective environments. Each generation will demonstrate, foster and groom individuals to be in charge to carry out their environmental equities that include geographical, procedural and the most influential, social equities. The decision making will be based on each different generation’s moral values and incentive as well as character biases and prejudices.

One of the first things we need to do is to look at the “geographical equity” where the racial composition of their executive hierarchy decides whether or not it is culturally balanced. It is suggested that the “geographical equity” has impacted community cultural thinking and effects behaviors and may be in conflict with those different generations of prisoners housed inside their local prisons. There is no doubt this might create tension between staff and prisoners daily and will eventually create a level of resistance or rebellion in some form or another.

Looking further into this cultural change or phenomenon that is occurring, we find the different generations’ perception to balance what is known as the “procedural equity” process. This is a major influence in decision making from the top to bottom how to control the prison population. This process consists of the delivery of disciplinary, grievances, job and general or selected opportunities to inmate work or educational programs within the entire prison population.

Last but not least is what is called the “social equity” factor where there will be various conflicts with different generational and sociological orders created and will make decisions on race, ethnicity, class, culture, customs and traditions, lifestyles and political power in each state’ jails or prisons. This will be evaluated on both sides between offenders and those hired to supervise them. This influences and decides “worthiness” on who gets the good or bad jobs, better or poorly maintained housing, exposures or non-exposure to natural hazards or bio chemical risks etc.

Summarizing these dynamics and equities within the prison systems we must acknowledge that the baby boomers have brought some stability and moderate traditional values to the system for a very long time and provided guidance and mentorship for future leaders to take over today. In the end, the prisons will be changing in accordance to the moral values of those specific generational qualities in charge of such penitentiaries and impose their own value systems to operate them according to their perceived and personal expectations much like the baby boomers but more culturally diverse than ever before in time.

Editor’s note: Carl ToersBijns (retired), worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Car’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."

Other articles by ToersBijns:


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