The internal crisis of corrections: Professionalization and the work environment

Nancy Jurik, Michael C. Musheno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Criminal justice policymakers and managers have viewed professionalization as a favored solution to the current crisis in correctional systems across the country. Utilizing case study data drawn from a state correctional system located in the western United States, we find that upgrading line correctional staff was a strategy used by top administrators to improve the image of their agency and maintain the autonomy of their prison system in the face of a threatened take-over by the federal court. However, in mandating the professionalization of their personnel, these managers failed to confront deeper organizational problems. Instead, they argued that an educated staff was the cure for acknowledged operational problems—including corruption and inhumane treatment. The failure to combine staff upgrading with more comprehensive organizational reforms merely heightened the frustrations within the workforce of the state's correctional institutions. In essence, these professionalization strategies represent a prime example of utilizing individual-level solutions to solve organizational-level problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-480
Number of pages24
JournalJustice Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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