Watching the watchers: Making sense of emotional constructions behind bars

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


For nearly one year, I engaged in participant observation with correctional officers at a county jail and state women's prison. My quest? To better understand and tell a story about the emotional dilemmas faced by those who keep, watch, care for, and guard society's deviants. Criminal justice research paints a picture of correctional officers as hardened, cynical, stressed out, ritualistic and alienated (Poole and Regoli, 1981; Walters, 1986)-problems that have been linked to high levels of turnover, job dissatisfaction, psychological distress, and a life expectancy of fifty-nine years old (Cheek, 1984). Survey studies have pointed to a number of variables related to officers' stress and burnout, including danger, strained relations with administration and coemployees, lack of influence, negative social image, and lack of social support (Huckabee, 1992). However, the past burnout and stress research with correctional officers has rarely gone beyond measuring certain variables and comparing them to officer's self-reported burnout levels (Tracy, 2001). While past research provides information on the amount of stress and burnout among officers, it does little to examine why certain variables play a role in the emotional well-being of officers and how emotional challenges are constructed through day-to-day work experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationExpressions of Ethnography
Subtitle of host publicationNovel Approaches to Qualitative Methods
PublisherState University of New York Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)0791458237, 9780791458235
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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