The prison control structure and its effects on work attitudes: The perceptions and attitudes of prison guards

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Recent observers have noted the frequently voiced complaint of prison guards that they have too little influence on decisions about the operations and goals of prisons. This lack of influence, moreover, is thought to be associated with such work-related attitudes as job satisfaction, role strain, and alienation. Yet, it is unclear from previous analyses whether this complaint (1) is based solely on the actual amount of control guards believe they have, (2) arises from a perceived disparity between their amount of control and that held by prisoners and administrators, or (3) reflects a felt discrepancy between the guards' actual and ideal amounts of control in the prison. The present study examined survey data from four prisons to quantify the guards' perceptions of the prison control structure and to assess the relative contributions of the perceived amount, distribution, and discrepancy between actual and ideal control for guards to the work-related attitudes of job satisfaction, role strain, and alienation. The results indicated that guards perceive the total amount of control in the prison as finite, that they desire an increase in their own level of control commensurate with the decrease they desire in the prisoners' amount of control, and that the perceived amount, distribution, and discrepancy between guards' actual and ideal control have a significant effect on guards' work-related attitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-64
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1987


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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