Importance of Consistency
Consistency in the use of Discretion by prison staff can be described as strictly maintaining or applying the same set rules while addressing different issues concerning the inmates. As described earlier in the paper, Discretion is mainly used by prison staff to make sure that the consistency of the outcomes of prisoners is achieved (Liebling, Price, & Shefer, 2012, 12). In this light, consistent prison staff should always have a moral and ethical framework that gives the best parameters within the various situations in prison. Primarily, the prison wardens should exercise high integrity, empathy, compassion, and equity to provide a platform of a consistent approach (Liebling, Price, & Shefer, 2012, 12). These attributes are paramount when it comes to prisoner’s fair treatment in various situations in the correctional establishments. The combination of both Discretion and consistency enables a correctional staff to act in the best interest of fellow workers and prisoners.
According to Coyle (2005, 91) “conscious decisions have to be made on a daily basis about which rules to insist on and which to overlook.” In this case, it is crucial for prison officers to ensure consistency in practicing Discretion through the application of sensible decisions on enforcing compliance with the rules in prison environments. Prison staffs have to continuously use their authority in instilling discipline in the correctional facilities by ensuring that the prisoners adhere to the set rules and regulations. Essentially, prison officers have the power to ensure that some of the decisions they make are given more attention in ensuring the smooth running of a prison. Consistent decisions are needed to effectively manage the prisoners from the moment they get into the correctional facilities.
Consistency in the use of discretion
To ensure consistency in the use of discretion, prison wardens need to remain firm and fair in the manner they handle the inmates. Consistency in the correctional facilities is essential in that it helps in eradicating conflicts that may arise among the prisoners in different situations. An example can be taken on a case where prisoners identify a particular warden who consistently enforces a specific rule (Coyle, 2005, 91). In this case, the prisoners are most likely to act within the law whenever it is applied. Contrary to that, would be a warden who never enforces any specific rule on a single day then the next day he/she comes with a new law. Prisoners, in this case, are less likely to adhere to the new regulation as they are not used to it. A study by Ringler (2016) indicates that the objective of correctional officers is to exercise the right judgment and discretion for effective management of lawbreakers in the prisons. Good officers are those who exercise consistency in their commitment to practicing discretion (Ringler, 2016)
Bryans & Atabay (2016, 24) notes that n ensuring consistency in prisons, “Prison managers should make sure that their staff are aware of their duties and responsibilities so that they will do what they can to maintain satisfactory contact with prisoners and encourage prisoners to adopt a tolerant attitude to one another”. Prison officers, in this case, are entitled to the responsibility of finding out what is happening and ensuring the maintenance of set rules and standards. It is only through consistency that the prison staff can perform their duties with integrity and honesty to meet high professional standards. Additionally, Bryans & Atabay (2016, 26) argues that “Staff should be courteous, reasonable and fair in their dealings with all prisoners, colleagues, and members of the public. They should treat people with decency and respect. All staff should comply with policies and procedures.” In this light, at all times, the wardens should practice discretion by ensuring constant maintenance of prison standards and behaviors to ensure effectiveness in the administration of correctional services.
Misconduct in the prison environment
In their authority and power, the prison officers should not tolerate any misconduct and failure to comply with the set regulations in the prison environment. In exercising discretion, officers need to develop rules, routines, and rules that provide clarity of what is expected of the inmates in specific situations (Bryans & Atabay 2016, 26). Additionally, designing an interpretive framework will help to ensure consistency as it lays down the foundation for dealing with day-to-day issues that arise in the prisons and which affect the prisoner-staff relationship. Establishing a specific way of doing things and regulations in the prisons creates a formality that ensures smooth operation in exercising discretion as the officers know where they should be, what they should be doing and what rules to follow (Bryans & Atabay 2016, 39).
According to Sparks, Bottoms & Hay (1996, 89), there are two places within the prison settings where consistency has great impacts. The first area is within the Offender Management Unit, which is mandated to conduct various roles such as; court hearings; assisting offenders with their sentence plan; Cat D applications and parole board hearings. The department faces challenges that in turns affect its service delivery. For instance, it has less number of staffs, therefore, the available personnel are given high workloads (Sparks, Bottoms & Hay, 1996, 89). In this regard, while few offenders have high expectation due to strict staff overseeing their case by an Offender Management Member, a large number usually don’t have sentence plans even after staying in the prison for several months. This scenario depicts inconsistency since it is based on concentrating on other inmates at the expense of others and this in turn results to hostility, bitterness and high rate of questioning on the ability of the prison warden’s conduct.
The second area greatly impacted by consistency is the Reception department. The unit is mandated to execute several roles but its main role is to inspect all the items brought to the prisoners from outside. The items include cash, clothes, and stereo systems among others. However, the department is mainly known for its inconsistencies (Sparks, Bottoms & Hay, 1996, 89). When one prisoner who has a mutual association with an officer may get his stereo taken to his cell, another one may be denied such benefits since it will seem to violate the permitted description of the items they are allowed to access. Therefore, practicing consistency in the use of discretion among prison staff is crucial in making the prisoners trust the fairness and legitimacy of the institution. As Sparks puts, the “good prison officer will bend the rules for good reasons, (only) for the right reasons” (Sparks, Bottoms & Hay, 1996, 89). Moreover, Liebling, Price, and Shefer agree with this stance when he argues that the un-exercise of power in prison is hugely significant and may constitute the best and ‘a worst’ form of practice (Liebling, Price & Shefer, 2012, 10).
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