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Punish or Reform? Predicting Prison Staff Punitiveness



Public views regarding the punishment of offenders have been extensively examined. Yet, the opinions of prison staff have been relatively less well documented, despite the clear implications of such views in officers' use of personal discretion on the job. The aim of the study was to assess the nature and sources of punitive attitudes among prison staff from a maximum-security prison, using surveys. It was found that the most punitive staff members had less experience and minimal contact with prisoners. The least punitive staff were those with many years of service and whose work involved direct engagement in aspects of prisoner care and rehabilitation. The implications of these findings for the recruitment and training of prison staff are discussed.