Date of Submission

Spring 2014

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Psychology; Human Rights; Human Rights

Project Advisor 1

David Shaenfield

Project Advisor 2

Susan Merriam

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Recent reports detail patterns of abuse and human rights violations towards inmates with mental disorders by correctional officers in American prisons. The behavior of prison guards towards this group is often attributed to a focus on punitive skills in basic guard training (Haney, 2002). This study proposes that an address of group or role identity and group threat is missing from the mental health-related training that is available for guards. Guard behavior towards inmates with mental disorders may be an unintentional reaction to a group seen as threatening their punitively-based sense of prison guard identity, because this population's presence requires guards to perform rehabilitative functions that guards believe are not part of their role (Callahan, 2004). Training which aims to change prison guard behavior should therefore target not only skills, but also guards' sense of their group and role in prison. This study will compare correctional officers who receive Basic Training Alone, Basic Training and a Crisis Intervention course, or a modified form of Basic Training which includes some mental health-related skills and education (BTMH). Each of these training forms will be split into two conditions in which there is either given or lacking an explicit rehabilitative "mission statement" about guard role in prison during the training. The study expects to find that role-related stress will correlate more strongly with perception of inmates with mental disorders and with guard behavior towards this group than feelings of ability to work with this population. Participants in the BTMH and given statement condition are predicted to show greater consistency on long-term measures, lower levels of role-related stress, more positive views towards inmates with mental disorders, more use of verbal de-escalation and referrals to mental health services, and less use of force or restraint and punitive write-ups or lockdown sentencing.

Open Access Agreement

On-Campus only

Creative Commons License

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