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Challenges of Managing Minority Populations
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 12/18/2017

Female jail c Our topic this month looks at the ‘Challenges of Managing Minority Populations.’ Since we are looking at corrections, this is where emphasis is placed. To begin, we need a generic definition for minority populations. I looked this up in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and found the following: “the period before attainment of majority; the state of being a legal minor; the smaller in number of two groups constituting a whole; specifically a group having less than the number of votes necessary for control; The proposition was opposed by a minority of voters. a part of a population differing from others in some characteristics and often subjected to differential treatment-the country's ethnic minorities; a member of a minority group-an effort to hire more minorities.”

I located the Federal Bureau of Prison numbers as of September 2017. [1]

Race # of Inmates % of Inmates
Asian 2,707 1.5%
Black 70,294 37.9%
Native American 4,096 2.2%
White 108,410 58.4%

The numbers from Prisoners in 2015, (NCJ 250229 Bureau of Justice Statistics) reflect the following: “Total number of prisoners under the jurisdiction of state and federal correctional authorities on December 31, 2015 (1,526,800).

If you take the time to review the Prisoners in 2015, please read the entire report and especially look at the following: On page 28, the following races are identified in the research; White, Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, Other, Not Known, Did not report.

Appendix Table 3
“Prisoners under the jurisdiction of state of federal correctional institutions, by race and Hispanic origin.”

Appendix Table 5
“State Correctional Authority by most serious offense, sex, race, and Hispanic origin.”

After you read the articles, I am sure you had some questions and your eyes were opened further. The statistics and data are informative and provide a plethora of information. There are many challenges that come to mind when we look at offenders alone without considering other challenges. I named some that come to mind, and these are in random order. This is certainly not conclusive. Each area identified alone can be a topic each month.

States and federal prisons released 4,700 prisoners in 2015, more than 2014. This automatically creates challenges and concerns. If all are added to the officers’ caseloads, were additional officers hired or did caseloads simply increased? Those prisoners released, more than likely had some community release conditions. Are the communities able to handle this, and does probation and parole have the variety of treatment availabilities to meet the prisoners needs? These numbers are from the close of 2015, I wonder if these are being tracked and what recidivism numbers are available. We already know the many issues and concerns with probation and parole.

In addition, something to consider is the race of offenders incarcerated and those being released. What is the racial composition of the officers? Are they aware of the offender’s culture and other diversity issues? To add to this further, let’s assume some of the offenders are non-English speaking or speak broken English. Does your agency have interpreters? What are the policy and procedures for this, if any? We can further add to the mix, any medical and/or mental health issues. Even, security concerns are an issue. These same concerns can carry over from the prison to the community. As you can see we can continue to build upon this.

We know already the overall safety and security of the prison is a priority. A large percentage of our prison systems are facing inadequate resources. Included in resources, we must consider the number of posts within the prison and how many are actually staffed. Add to this the previous issues and concerns identified, officer stress and burnout is on the increase. Many of these same prisons are also experiencing problems with recruitment. I realize some states have improved their corrections budgets, yet the need to adequately staff our prisons is an ongoing concern.

Corrections cannot continue at a rapid pace without other needs and concerns being met. We need to put out some fires and do an assessment to see where our strengths and weaknesses lie. The overall safety and security of our officers, staff, and offenders cannot be stressed enough. Challenges have already existed due to the very nature of corrections. The offenders were found guilty or are being held for trial. They certainly do not want to be here, yet we have to provide the necessary security and programming to meet the offender needs and requirements. While at the same time, staying within the legal parameters. Regardless, at days end, the officers and staff want to go home.

The challenges must be met now, not when a serious incident occurs and recommendations are made. Prepare for the future and be prepared to address these challenges. Ask yourself if you have received any type of training for challenges in supervision, are the policies and procedures in place and are you aware of them and know how to respond? Do you have an emergency procedures manual and do you need to knock the dust off to review? When was the last time the manual has been updated? If your agency is accredited, are accreditation requirements being met? Even if your agency has not received accreditation, the policies and procedures are supposed to be in place.

One last area to consider is many of our agencies deal with immigration. Again the same areas I identified previously apply here. Immigration is one of those standalone topics I mentioned previously. I want each of you to understand and consider how change can occur to make corrections a safer environment for all. Do not forget, 2018 is around the corner and these challenges as well as others are still going to be present.

Stay safe out there and best regards.

References [1] https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_race.jsp

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Kaplan University, School of Public Safety and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@kaplan.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


  1. hamiltonlindley on 04/14/2020:

    How have your spirits been while under quarantine for COVID-19? We are hopefully halfway through this pandemic’s impact on our economy. It has been a difficult road for us all. It has taught us about our better-and worse-natures. Hamilton Lindley explains how it has impacted his family and work life balance in this latest blog article about how to invest time that we’ve been given to make ourselves better than when we began.

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