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Examining the relationships between forensic practice knowledge, correctional orientation and engagement in core correctional practices among corrections officers



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Via their frequency of contact alone, Corrections Officers (COs) have maximal opportunity to role model pro-social behaviour and further rehabilitative outcomes for offenders. Yet previous research indicates that one of the barriers to COs adopting this additional and sometimes contradictory job requirement, is that COs generally maintain largely punitive attitudes towards inmates. The purpose of the current study was to determine whether one reason for CO punitiveness is that these frontline workers lack knowledge of basic forensic practice (FP) research findings which describe elements that lead to offender change. Utilizing mixed-methods, the nature of the relationship between FP knowledge and the Correctional Orientation of COs, consisting of support for rehabilitation (SR) and support for punishment (SP), was explored. Further examined was how FP knowledge, SR and SP related to COs self-reported engagement in Core Correctional Practices (CCPs) which delineate the quality of interactions that facilitate positive rehabilitative outcomes. Employing a new measure of Correctional Orientation developed and piloted on an undergraduate sample (N=148) in Study 1, Study 2 involved surveys of Corrections Workers (CWs) (N=227) employed in the four provincial adult correctional facilities in Saskatchewan. Hierarchical multiple regressions including demographic covariates confirmed a robust relationship between FP knowledge and SR, and FP knowledge and SP. Likewise, though FP knowledge was significantly positively correlated with CCPs, the addition of SR and SP to a third multiple regression on CCPs rendered the contribution of FP knowledge non-significant. SR was a better predictor of CCPs than SP. Finally, in Study 3, eight CWs varying in their survey responses were interviewed. Utilizing thematic analysis three broad models were produced which described the reasons CWs may or may not support rehabilitation or punishment and engage in CCPs. Additional themes describing how interviewees responded to FP research were also generated. In the discussion the findings of all three studies were combined. Notably, SR appears to be more responsive to FP knowledge than SP, while salient job-related experiences of CWs are likely to increase SP. Yet, CWs can increase their SR without a comparable decrease in their SP and vice versa. Interviewees felt that the largest obstacle to their engagement in CCPs were the current features of the institutional settings which generated a cynical, burnt-out and punitive staff culture whereby peer pressure was employed to maintain prescribed modes of interaction. Comprehensive recommendations for reducing stress and burnout, education and training targets, and hiring criteria which could screen out problematic applicants are provided.



Corrections Officers, Support for Rehabilitation and Punishment, Core Correctional Practices, Risk-Need-Responsivity



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






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