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Juvenile corrections pp week 9


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Juvenile corrections pp week 9

  1. 1. CHAPTER ELEVENBalancing Act: Staff Members in a Juvenile Correctional Facility
  2. 2. Staff Members in a Juvenile Correctional Facility• Staff members working the front lines of institutions take on many roles, becoming the surrogate parents, corrections officers, counselors, and guardians of the state’s most serious problem children• They are charged with protecting the community from their population, keeping everyone safe from physical harm, caring for and raising the young men and women and attempting to resocialize young offenders into more conforming, less dangerous adults• They lack resources and training, but generally embrace their positions as correctional officers, parents, prosocial role models, counselors, coaches, mentors, friends, guardians and keepers of teenagers too dangerous to be in the community• Generally assigned to work in specific locations and do not get to choose with whom they work• The key to their successes and their satisfaction in the job is in the strength of the relationships they build• The relationships between staff members and residents are built and rebuilt everyday
  3. 3. Participant Observation in a Juvenile Correctional Facility• Entails an ethnographic study of a cottage of violent offenders in the state’s end- of-the-line juvenile correctional facility over a period of approximately 15 months, interacting and fostering relationships with approximately 20 residents and 12 staff members The Setting• Maximum security juvenile facility with razor wire fences, bars on the windows and locked rooms, located in a rural area, far from where the boys committed their crimes with a full time security staff, an Intensive Management Unit and drug dogs available• Houses approximately 200 of the state’s most serious problem children – chronic and violent male offenders between the ages of 15-20 years, most of which have previously served time in other juvenile institutions• Sentences range from several months to juvenile life, average stay: two years• The Blue cottage has sixteen rooms, holding between 18-26 young men who attend school, work in the institution, go to recreation in the gym, eat their meals in the central cafeteria, and hang out in the cottage lounge and 10-12 staff members and between 2 and 4 individuals working each shift
  4. 4. Staff and Juvenile Perspectives• Of the 25 youth in the cottage, three of them had two parents that still called, visited or showed any real concern for them• Many of the young men were severely physically or mentally abused as children, some were even sexually abused• Some of their parents had worked as prostitutes or drug dealers and some were incarcerated• Several of the youth were wards of the state and had grown up in and out of various foster homes• The institution provided the first real structure and consistency that many of the residents had ever known• Staff members worked with the juveniles to help them deal with their anger and to make preliminary plans for the future
  5. 5. Relationships in the Cottage• Working with incarcerated teenage males can be frustrating, dangerous, amusing, and occasionally rewarding and requires a great deal of energy and flexibility• Dealing with the role conflict of having to serve as both counselors and corrections officers sometimes takes its toll on the relationships staff members had with the residents; some of the youth asked to be switched counselors when they had conflicts• Staff members gave them choices, allowing them to feel like they had at least some control over their lives• Came up with creative sanctions rather than just giving disciplinary checks• Staff try to treat them as reasonable beings and to gain their cooperation through means other than punishment and sanctions• They command the residents’ respect by listening to them and leading by example• Staff members who were least flexible had the hardest time in the Blue cottage• There was general camaraderie and respect amongst the staff, but friction between co-workers occasionally surfaced
  6. 6. Day-to-Day Life in the Blue Cottage• Staff typically analyze the youth and the situation and try to come up with the best solution for that moment, with flexibility being key• Staff members had to have the patience and grace to deal with parents, guardians, and girlfriends who would call in with questions, complaints and fears• Talking to the residents’ girlfriends and relatives and glancing at their mail was one of the ways that the staff got to know so much about the youth’s personal lives• The daily interactions between the staff and the residents were generally tempered by good-natured humor and teasing, which allows the boys to express emotions and affection within the masculine culture• It was clear which staff members the residents liked and respected by whom they felt comfortable enough to tease; the staff they disliked, they either ignored or ridiculed behind their backs• Staff members were not merely the recipients of teasing – many of them played along and tried to give as good as they got• Female staff members who could think on their feet and make clever comebacks won some level of respect from the young male residents
  7. 7. Reaching Outside the Walls• Many members of the staff of the Blue cottage seemed to go above and beyond their official duties in order to help the youth in their care• One staff member used his own connections to set up a job for a resident in the community as his release date neared• While many staff members cared about these residents while in the institution, most would not carry their relationships beyond the institution’s walls• The administration of the training school discouraged staff members from keeping contact with the young men once they were released• There was also the fear that, once in the community, more violent youth would come after the staff members or their families• Some graduates of the training school called the cottage on occasion to update the staff and their still-incarcerated friends on their lives and progress• Some staff member helped residents prepare for their release by filling out applications for community college and helping to sort out financial aid paperwork