This paper focuses on a western state's effort to implement a reform policy to professionalize its correctional system. Specifically, we study the process of implementing a new in-service training regimen designed to instill professional ethics and practices in the correctional work force. Conceptually, we reject the top-down perspective of the policy process, which holds that public officials can achieve routine implementation of policies through the use of bureaucratic controls and hierarchical authority. Using mixed methods and triangulation of data sources, we find that differences in organizational capacity and commitment are important determinants of why the training regimen was implemented variably across three facilities of a large correctional complex. We also find that highly committed participants find productive ways to use the training regimen which are unanticipated by those proposing the reform. Our research contributes to a growing body of inquiry which challenges routine administration and goal fidelity as appropriate constructs for studying social policy reforms.
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