The construction of correctional officers: Layers of emotionality behind bars

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93 Scopus citations


This "layered account," based on qualitative research gathered at a county jail and state women's prison, illustrates the ways in which organizational discourses and micropractices encourage emotional constructions such as withdrawal, paranoia, detachment, and an "us-them" mentality among correctional officers. Using philosophies from Michele Foucault, the analysis extends theoretical notions of emotion labor, illustrates the harnessed yet pervasive nature of sexuality in a total institution, and sheds light on the emotional challenges faced by a troubled, hidden, and stigmatized employee group. The text jumps among theoretical arguments, notes about methodology and writing, and creative nonfiction vignettes and in doing so, attempts to embody the emotional and jarring nature of the correctional environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-533
Number of pages25
JournalQualitative Inquiry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004


  • Emotion labor
  • Foucault
  • Prison
  • Qualitative research
  • Total institution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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