chapter  8
19 Pages

Understanding prison officers: culture, cohesion and conflict

ByElaine and Peter Crawley

As the comment reproduced above suggests, prison officers see themselves as part of an unvalued, unappreciated occupational group. Their understanding is that they are regarded by the public as unintelligent, insensitive and sometimes brutal, and that their work is perceived as entailing no more than the containment of society’s deviants and misfits. Historically, prison officers were generally exmilitary personnel, and like prisoners were physically segregated from the wider community by virtue of living in purpose-built, Prison Service-owned houses located within the prison grounds. In this respect, their lives have resembled those of other ‘barrack’ groups such as soldiers, another occupational grouping held to have somewhat ‘special’, and not always pleasant, duties conducted ‘for’ society. This arrangement prohibited the interchange of ideas and interaction between prison staff and the local community, and gave officers and their families little opportunity to mix with others from different (i.e. non-military) backgrounds and who were engaged in very different types of employment.