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Compendium 2000 on Effective Correctional Programming

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The Role of Staff in Effective Program Delivery


As the “What Works” agenda gains momentum as a general theme for the effective management of offenders, it is important to identify factors that impact on correctional outcomes and to provide a context to better understand their role. In an increasingly complex correctional environment, staff (clinicians, administrators and policy makers) is challenged to make judicious decisions regarding the selection of assessment instruments and programming models in order to contribute to public safety concerns. Importantly, the past decade has seen significant gains in our understanding about offender assessment and programming. From both theoretical and meta-analytic reviews there is increasing consensus regarding the utility of risk, need and responsivity principles to inform offender classification and intervention decisions (Andrews & Bonta, 1998). Nonetheless, even an informed selection of assessment and classification processes and their application to programming can be compromised if key factors are ignored. One such key factor is that of staff.

This chapter highlights the contribution that staff makes in the delivery of effective correctional services and in influencing correctional outcomes throughout the criminal justice process. In this manner, staff is considered to represent an important resource that, when well managed by correctional agencies, can enhance correctional practices and results. It is our contention, their selection, training, support and retention are as important to effective corrections as the choice of assessment instruments, programming modules, and supervision strategies. This is a synergistic relationship, good staff (skills, knowledge, characteristics) enhances good programs. Unfortunately, how-ever, good staff cannot rescue poor programs (atheoretical, low integrity). Further, poor staff impedes the impact of even very good programs.


Andrews in his chapter on the Principles of Effective Correctional Programs details the elements that comprise effective correctional programming. Several principles (9, 15, 16, and 17) posit staff theoretically as playing an important role when intervening with offenders. Specifically principle 16 stipulates that correctional staff interventions when dealing with offenders should be in accordance to social learning approaches and reflect the general responsivity principle. Andrews also mentions that effective program deliverers should engage in a set of Core Correctional Practices (CCP), as further detailed in his chapter, namely: relationship factors, skill factors, effective reinforcement, effective disapproval, problem-solving, structured learning, effective modeling, effective use of authority and advocacy/brokerage. He provides empirical support by way of a large meta-analysis review, which indicates that the selection of staff according to core correctional practices is positively linked to treatment outcome (i.e., reduced rate of reoffending). Dowden and Andrews (in press) further explore the complementary nature of core correctional practices with the principles of effective correctional programming elements. The influence of CCP is particularly strong with programs that are consistent with the principles of risk, need and responsivity. The mean effect sizes for treatment that adhered to CCP were significantly enhanced for higher risk cases (0.22 versus 0.09 when CCP techniques were not used), and for programs that predominantly targeted criminogenic needs (0.24 versus 0.15 where CCP techniques were not targeted). Programs adopting clinically appropriate cognitive behavioural (0.26) rather than inappropriate treatment non-cognitive behavioural (0.18) also demonstrated a higher success rate. Even though staff are integral to core correctional practices, very few of the studies reported in Dowden's and Andrews meta-analysis mentioned staff characteristics specifically. Skill factors, problem-solving and advocacy/brokerage were the most reported staff attributes (16% of the studies) compared to effective disapproval (3%).

Gillis in her chapter on offender employment highlights the importance of staff specifically in this context. She presents evidence suggesting specific staff characteristics have a role to play in offenders' acquisition and/or development of new skills, their change in attitudes toward work and concrete behaviour outcomes as it relates to employment. Serin and Preston also describe the importance of staff skills in their chapter on violent offender programming.

Arguments supporting the influence of staff in the rehabilitation of offenders are presented below. This includes reviews in the areas of motivating offenders and the impact of staff attitudes.


Motivation has long been regarded in social psychology as a key precondition for therapy (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1982) and as an important factor in treatment (Karoly, 1980; Keithly, Samples, & Strupp, 1980). Clinicians and researchers traditionally viewed motivation for treatment as a relatively fixed personality trait. The conceptual thinking evolved to that of a dynamic model that considers the client, environment, and therapist influences on the probability of treatment compliant behaviours. Motivation for treatment is now considered a dynamic client characteristic, which can be influenced by the client himself/herself, the environment, and the therapist. In this model the role of the therapist is to act as an instigator and assist clients to actively seeking change (Davies, 1979; Goldstein & Kanfer, 1979; Miler & Rollnick, 1991).

In correctional psychology motivation for treatment has been conceptualized as either a dynamic risk factor (i.e., need factor), a specific responsivity factor, or as a treatment integrity element (i.e., relating to staff characteristics). Treatment integrity assumes that risk, needs and responsivity principles are considered in the delivery of treatment by well trained and well supervised therapists (Andrews, 1997). In other words, staff may contribute to an offender's motivation in the context of treatment. That is, effective staff can enhance motivation, but alternately ineffective staff may increase treatment resistance (see Chapter 8).

An examination of the research literature reveals a lack of a systematic approach to conceptualizing motivation for treatment. There is a scarcity of studies, which explore the factors that influence motivation and the influence of motivation on treatment. This makes it difficult to determine the importance and meaningfulness of motivation in the context of treatment of offenders. The research findings of the few studies that have looked at motivation for treatment point to a relationship between motivation and treatment outcome, release outcome, staff characteristics and other factors that appear to be linked with offender motivation. It appears that only one study has looked specifically at staff characteristics and offender motivation. Gillis, Getkate, Robinson, and Porporino (1995) studied the impact of supervisor characteristics (leadership behaviour and perceived credibility) on offenders' work motivation. The assessment incorporated measures obtained from work supervisors, managers and offenders. Thirty-five work supervisors, 7 program managers and 143 offenders from 7 federal penitentiaries completed self-report questionnaires. The results suggest that supervisor leadership style and perceived credibility differentially influenced offenders reported work motivation. Transformational leader-ship style resulted in an increased motivation by offenders, as evidenced by work performance (see Chapter 11).

Another study on offender motivation is worthy of mention even though it does not directly investigate the link between staff characteristics and motivation. Gillis and Grant (1999) conducted a study to determine the relationship between offender motivation for treatment and performance on conditional release. They assessed the motivation of 1,100 randomly selected federal offenders of the 3,800 who were released on day parole during 1990 and 1991. The offenders were divided into three groups: motivated, changed and unmotivated. Initial rating on prognosis and motivation level during day parole were completed. Subsequent, change in motivation was determined by comparing parole officers' ratings of the offenders' motivation upon entry to the institution and during day parole. The follow-up period started from day parole completion to March 1994. The results show that motivation was associated with successful sentence completion. Of the group of offenders rated as motivated, 83% completed their day parole successfully. This is in contrast to the group of unmotivated offenders of whom 53% failed to complete their day parole. Offenders in the changed group have had a success rate of 78%. The results of the recidivism rates after day parole completion follow a similar trend. Offenders who were motivated had the highest success rates post day parole. Sixteen percent of this group of offenders failed, compared to 42% for the unmotivated offenders. This provides an indication that motivation is potentially a factor that may contribute to reintegration. These results are promising and require further investigation especially regarding the factors that contributed to the change in offender motivation. Of interest is whether the parole officers' attributes had a role to play in contributing to the offender's motivation level and release outcome.


Recently, Tellier (1999) proposed a dynamic and multiconstruct model for motivation for change to better understand the role of offender motivation in the context of treatment and in the process of criminal offending. The theoretical framework is based on Prochaska's and DiClemente's stages of change, which stem from 20 years of supportive research. The six distinct well-defined stages (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, termination) are progressive and characterize a fluctuating state of motivation to engage in the process behaviour change. As part of the stages of change model, motivation for change is conceptualized as progressing, regressing and fluctuating from one stage to another and can vary according to an individual, time and situation. Tellier's model situates motivation as offenders' level of readiness to change, the reasons why some individuals change and others continue their maladaptive behaviour, the source of the underlying reasons for change (extrinsic and intrinsic), their commitment to change, and their sense of self-efficacy. These various motivational considerations function differently across the different stages. They appear to shift in both intensity and type as the offender progresses through the stages of change. The reasons for changing a problematic behaviour, which is measured in terms of the pros versus the cons of behaviour change (i.e., decisional balance), are found to be more important in the stages prior to action. Commitment to change becomes a more relevant consideration of motivation once an offender has initiated attempts at the preparation stage toward changing the problematic behaviour. The sources of change, whether extrinsic or intrinsic, are pertinent during the entire process of change. External sources of motivation are more prevalent in the earlier stages of change, and internal sources are more present during the later stages.

This model suggests that staff interventions should be aimed at motivating the offender to engage in treatment; to progress by gaining the full benefits, and to eventually be able to sustain behaviour change. The model does not exclude unmotivated or poorly motivated offenders but is able to determine where a person is in the cycle of change to assist them in the change process. Staff interventions should vary in intensity, duration and type in accordance with an offender's different level and type of motivation. Offenders in the earlier stages of change prior to action would require less intensive and more extensive and structured types of programs (i.e, cognitive). Offenders at the later stages would benefit from more intensive, shorter, action oriented intervention (i.e., behavioural). Current research strongly supports the importance of the stages in understanding the process of behaviour change (Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross, 1992). Although the model recognizes that motivation for change is comprised of these factors, their applicability is still in its infancy in corrections. Further exploration of the proposed model will be investigated by the Correctional Service of Canada's Research Branch in the context of a large multi-longitudinal study. Job motivation, as a potential predictor of change in correctional officer recruits attitudes, towards offenders, corrections (rehabilitation, custody, deterrence, punitiveness) and correctional work, will be investigated.

Motivational interviewing (MI) is an example of a successful intervention designed to increase the motivation for alcohol abusers to change (Miller, 1985, 1989; Miller & Rollnick, 1991; Garland & Dougher, 1991; DiClemente, 1991). Motivational interviewing as applied to substance abuse increases problem recognition and personal responsibility for drinking; elicits concern about drinking; resolves ambivalence about changing drinking behaviour; and establishes commitment to change drinking behaviour (Miller, 1996). Ginsburg, Weekes and Boer (2000) in the first controlled study reports benefits of motivational inter-viewing with offenders. This study tested the effectiveness of using MI with male offenders in a correctional assessment centre. Eighty-three volunteers were randomly assigned to MI or a control group. Treatment motivation defined as the stage of change was measured pre and post to a 1.5 hours intervention. The findings support MI in enhancing problem recognition and increasing thinking about changing drinking behaviour. Even though the study did not include a measure of the contribution of staff characteristics, the principles of MI requires that staff express empathy, develop discrepancy, avoid argumentation, roll with resistance, and support self-efficacy.

This literature review supports the contention that staff can be influential in motivating offenders. Nonetheless very little systematic research has been conducted in the area of staff characteristics and offender motivation. Further research is needed to identify the differential effects of program components and staff characteristics.


Over the years the social psychology literature has devoted a vast amount of attention to attitudes and the prediction of behaviour (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Allport, 1935; Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). The focus in correctional staff attitudes arose principally from a theoretical interest in understanding the relationship between attitudes and human behaviour. The measurement of attitudes permits predicting and understanding individual behaviour (Ajzen, 1985, 1988; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Eagly & Chaiken, 1993; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). A popular approach to the study of this relationship is the theory of reasoned action (Ajzen & Fishbein,1980). According to their theory individuals consistently assess the implications of their actions prior to making a decision to engage in a particular behaviour. Their theory posits the belief that the performance of that behaviour will lead to favourable or negative outcomes. The attitudes are mediated by an individuals' intentions to perform a certain behaviour. Also, the level of importance given to specific individuals or groups about the expected behaviour is a factor. In response to the various criticisms of the theory of reasoned action, Ajzen (1985, 1988) put forth the theory of planned behaviour to take into account the extent to which an individual has control over the behaviour to be per-formed. Gillis and Andrews (1977) integrated the theory of planned behaviour and the Personal, Interpersonal and Community-Reinforcement (PIC-R) perspective on criminal behaviour. She incorporated in this causal pathway the assessment of the density of costs and rewards following criminal behaviour, the role of personality (i.e., impulsivity) and past behavioural factors. The intent of the integration of these two models was to explore whether the theory of planned behaviour can apply to the effective pre-diction of criminal behaviour. Currently empirical exploration of the proposed model is being conducted to predict employment stability and its relationship with offender community reintegration. Gillis' (2001) preliminary findings demonstrate that work-related attitudes, values, beliefs, self-efficacy and social support for employment are linked to offender community employment stability (e.g., number of weeks employed since release) and quality of employment (e.g., type of occupation). Ultimately the model will be tested in the prediction of future criminal behaviour (Gillis, 1998). To further empirically explore the link between attitudes and behaviour, the above model will be revised to inform research on the relationship between correctional officers' attitudes, their behaviour and that of offenders. This study will be briefly described in a subsequent section.

Theoretically it can be argued that the correctional environment provides staff with ample occasion to positively affect offender behaviour in pro-social ways. The potential influence of staff can be realized by those who possess the requisite positive attitudes necessary for rehabilitation (Farkas, 1999; Larivière & Robinson, 1996). As previously explained in Andrews' chapter, core correctional practices entails that frontline staff appropriately model and reinforce anticriminal attitudes and behaviours. The underlying goal of this approach is that offenders will learn prosocial and anticriminal attitudes, cognitive, as well as behavioural patterns from their regular interactions with staff.

The assessment of staff attitudes towards inmates, rehabilitation, and human service orientation is important because it is presumed to influence inmates responses to programming. Positive attitudes in these areas are particularly relevant to treatment providers ( Wahler & Gendreau, 1985). According to several authors (Simourd, 1997; Poole & Regoli, 1980; Paboojan & Teske 1997), the success of treatment programs are also dependent on the support and reinforcement of correctional officers. They not only represent the largest group of correctional staff but they are also among those who interact the most with offenders (Guenther & Guenther, 1974; Jurik & Musheno, 1986). Because correctional officers play such a crucial part in carrying out correctional objectives, an expansion of the correctional officers' role to include elements of treatment and rehabilitation has been suggested (Lombardo, 1985; Hepburn & Knepper 1993). Currently, in many correctional jurisdictions around the world, in addition to the custodial functions, correctional officers have also a human service role.

Although it has not yet been demonstrated empirically, it is surmised that these attitudes will influence treatment effectiveness. It seems reasonable therefore that the attributes of the individual officers should be examined in an effect to determine those desired qualities, which yield a positive acceptance and promotion of treatment programs (Teske & Williamson, 1979). Attitudes held by correctional officers will undoubtedly affect the quality of their support towards offender's participation in programs, the reinforcement of treatment gains, and the adherence to the Service's goals.

Research on correctional staff has identified numerous individual (e.g., age) and job-related characteristics (e.g., tenure) that are correlated with their attitudes towards offenders and treatment. Interestingly, few researchers ask staff about their attitudes towards treatment per se. Various studies use similar yet different measures of the construct of attitudes towards treatment. For example, Shamir and Drory (1981) inquired about staff beliefs with respect to the rehabilitative potential of prisoners. Similarly, Cullen, Latessa, Burton, and Lombardo (1993) surveyed staff on how much emphasis should be given to rehabilitation.

The majority of the studies reviewed profile correctional officers. Rarely do authors report on program deliverers and parole officers working in the prison. Unless otherwise specified most of the findings will apply to correctional officers' attitudes. Results regarding the relationship between many of the correlates and attitudes towards inmates and treatment are contradictory.

It appears from this review of the literature that age was considered by several authors an important factor with respect to correctional officers' attitudes. Older correctional officers hold more positive attitudes towards inmates (Jurik, 1985; Jurik & Winn, 1987; Larivière & Robinson, 1996; Plecas & Maxim,1987) and are more supportive of rehabilitation and programming (Cullen, Lutze, Link, & Wolfe,1989; Farkas, 1999; Jackson & Ammen, 1996; Larivière & Robinson, 1996, Simourd, 1997; Shamir & Drory, 1981; Teske & Williamson, 1979). Their interest in human services roles also increases with age ( Klofas, 1986; Toch & Klofas, 1982). Notably, only one study reported the opposite findings that older correctional officers held more negative attitudes towards inmates (Jurik & Musheno, 1986).

The findings surrounding the relationship between gender and attitudes seem unclear. In several studies gender was not linked with attitudes towards inmates (Jurik, 1985; Jurik & Halemba, 1984; Jurik & Musheno, 1986; Larivière & Robinson, 1996). An exception was a study conducted by Plecas and Maxim (1987), who reported that women generally held significantly lower opinions of inmates than their men counterparts. It has been reported that women are significantly more likely to sup-port rehabilitation than men (Farkas, 1999; Larivière & Robinson, 1996; Simourd, 1997), however, Cullen et al. (1989) did not find this relationship.

The literature reviewed with respect to race also depicts contradictory results. Some authors found race was unrelated to attitudes towards offenders (Hepburn & Knepper, 1993; Jurik & Musheno, 1986) or rehabilitation (Cullen et al., 1989; Farkas, 1999). Others report the contrary, race is positively correlated with attitudes towards inmates (Jurik & Winn, 1987) and rehabilitation (Jackson & Ammen, 1996). Specifically, Jackson and Ammen found the attitudes of African American officers to be significantly more positive than those of Caucasian and Hispanic officers.

Educational level has also been investigated for its potential benefits in the rehabilitation of offenders. Agreement as to the influence of educational attainment has not been unanimous. In all the studies reviewed, the correctional officers' education level was not correlated with their attitudes towards inmates (Jurik, 1985; Jurik & Musheno, 1986; Jurik & Winn, 1987; Plecas & Maxim, 1987). In the majority of these studies education levels was not significantly correlated with attitudes towards rehabilitation (Cullen et al., 1993; Cullen et al., 1989; Farkas, 1999; Shamir & Drory, 1981). However, some authors (Robinson, Porporino, & Simourd, 1996, Simourd, 1997; Teske & Williamson, 1979) reported that correctional officers with higher education levels held more positive attitudes towards rehabilitation. This positive relationship could be attributed to the methodology. Most studies used years of education to measure educational attainment. Robinson et al.,(1996) however, defined education as a continuous variable by dividing it into three increments (high school or less, some post-secondary and university graduates).

Studies examining the link between tenure and attitudes portray conflicting results. Two studies report that the longer the number of years of service, the more negative the attitudes towards inmates and rehabilitation (Jurik , 1985; Jurik & Winn, 1987). Conversely, Larivière and Robinson (1996), and Farkas (1999) found a curvilinear relationship (U shape) -- most junior (one year or less) and the most senior (25 years and over) held more positive attitudes towards inmates and rehabilitation (as well as Cullen et al., 1993). Jurik and Musheno (1986) found no relationship between attitudes towards inmates and tenure. Numerous authors (Bazemore & Dizler, 1984; Cullen et al., 1989; Robinson, Porporino, & Simourd, 1996; Simourd, 1997; Shamir & Drory, 1981) report none with rehabilitation.

The majority of studies suggest a strong relationship between occupational group and attitudes. Larivière & Robinson (1996) looked at correctional officers' level of empathy toward inmates and their support for rehabilitation. Relative to five other correctional worker groups they found that correctional officer attitudes were significantly more negative. Similarly, Tellier and Robinson (1995) in comparing a large sample of 1,750 correctional officers to 976 service providers (parole officers, health care professionals, correctional programmers, chaplains, and correctional managers) found them to be significantly less empathic toward inmates and less supportive of rehabilitation. Teske and Williamson (1979) reported that lower ranking correctional officers viewed treatment more positively than higher ranking officers as opposed to Larivière and Robinson (1996) who found a positive correlation between rank and attitudes toward treatment. Hogue (1993) conducted a study to replicate and validate a scale to measure general attitudes toward prisoners held by four occupational groups. The expected patterns of results were obtained, with police and prison officer groups showing more negative attitudes towards prisoners than probation officers and psychologists. Shamir & Drory (1981) reported no differences between occupational groups in the attitudes held toward inmates.

Studies that have looked at the relationship between prison security levels and attitudes are more or less consistent. Research conducted by Jurik (1985), and Larivière and Robinson (1996) reveals that correctional officers working in minimum-security institution held significantly more positive attitudes towards offenders. They were also more supportive of rehabilitation than their counterparts working at higher security levels. These findings were not reported for institutional security levels and attitudes towards offenders (Plecas & Maxim, 1987) or rehabilitation (Cullen et al.,1989; Cullen et al.,1993).

The findings relating to correctional officers' job satisfaction and attitudes towards inmates are consistent in showing a positive relationship. The majority of studies stated that correctional officers who were more satisfied with their work expressed more positive attitudes (Cullen, Link, Wolfe & Frank, 1985; Jurik & Winn, 1987; Jurik & Halemba, 1984). Only one study showed no significant correlation between job satisfaction and the attitudes held by correctional officers (Jurik & Musheno, 1986).

Job motivation variables relating to the reasons for seeking correctional officer work appears to be linked to attitudes. An intrinsic interest in the job (human service or security) is positively correlated with attitudes towards inmates, while officers with extrinsic interests (e.g., job security, benefits, salary) are more likely to have negative attitudes toward inmates (Jurik, 1985; Jurik & Musheno, 1986). The results suggest that individuals that apply to be correctional officers primarily for their interest in security work are less intrinsically motivated than those that are human service oriented. Latulippe and Vallière (1993) studied the differences between correctional officers and case management officers as to their source of motivation. Interestingly they noted that case management officers and correctional officers were more extrinsically motivated, even though case management officers displayed significantly higher levels of intrinsic motivation than the correctional officers.

The findings surrounding job stress and correctional officers' attitudes are also inconclusive. Several studies note that correctional officers who reported greater stress expressed a lower level of endorsement for rehabilitation and supportive of the punitiveness of prison conditions (Larivière & Robinson, 1996; Robinson, Porporino & Simourd, 1993; Simourd, 1997; Tellier & Robinson, 1995). A recent meta-analysis (Dowden & Tellier, in press), which examined the predictors of job stress in correctional officers, corroborates these findings in a more detailed way by systematically aggregating the results of different studies. It was also found that positive (i.e., human service/rehabilitation orientation) and negative (punitiveness, custody orientation and corruption) attitudes yielded a significant relationship with job stress. Correctional officers who possessed positive attitudes experienced less job stress than those who supported punitive/ custodial approaches to dealing with offenders. Tellier and Robinson (1995) found that correctional program staff was significantly less stressed than the other five occupational groups reported in their study. Correctional officers reported the second highest levels of stress only second to case management officer. Despite the importance of these findings more data in the con-text of another study would be required in order to conclude about the reasons for these differences. Numerous studies have failed to find a significant relationship between job stress and correctional officer attitudes (Bazemore & Dizler, 1994; Cullen et al., 1989; Whitehead, Lindquist, & Klofas, 1987; Farkas, 1999). A recent study conducted by Kelloway, Desmarais, and Barling (2000) explores absenteeism as a proxy to stress. During the three fiscal years examined (1997-98, 1998-99, 1998-1999), they report that correctional officers' absenteeism levels were significantly higher than most of the other occupational groups.

Two other job-related determinants have been examined and found to be related to attitudes. Jurik and Winn (1987) reported that correctional officers who perceived themselves as contributing to policy decisions held more positive attitudes about offenders. Also, Jurik and Musheno (1986) studied the phenomenon of social distance from inmates. They reported that correctional officers who were less socially distant held more positive views about inmates.

Finally, research has shown that correctional officers with favourable or human services attitudes toward inmates also have a more satisfying occupational experience (Cullen et al., 1985). Other job-related variables that were stated as being unrelated to attitudes towards inmates are attitudes towards supervisors, attitudes towards co-workers, perceived working conditions (Jurik & Winn, 1987), and frequency of contact with inmates (Jurik, 1985).

Although it is still growing, an examination of the literature reveals little agreement regarding the correlates of staff attitudes towards offenders and treatment. The existing literature is fragmented, inconsistent, and even contradictory. While an array of scales exist, single items are often used to measure concepts, and very few accepted normative measures have emerged in this research on staff attitudes. The construct of attitudes is seldom defined and appears to be used interchangeably with opinions, perception, beliefs, and values. When it is defined an agreement rarely exists as to which items should be included to comprise a specific measure. For example items relating to attitudes towards rehabilitation may be included in a measure on attitudes towards offenders or in a measure of attitudes towards rehabilitation. Inconsistencies between studies in the nomenclature of the correlates of staff attitudes are also prevalent.

Despite these limitations regarding comparisons and generalizations on staff, the findings suggest variation in correctional officers' attitudes according to individual and job-related variables. Many of the studies show the multi-dimensionality of staff attitudes. Given their complexity they cannot be treated simply as lying on one continuum, for example from punitive or custodial to reformative or treatment oriented.

It remains important to address the issue of correctional orientation held by staff its role in the rehabilitation of offenders. The identification of predictors of positive and negative staff attitudes towards offenders and rehabilitation is necessary to achieve an optimum environment for offender change. The systematic research on staff attitudes is an emerging priority within the Research Branch.


It has been argued that the selection, assessment and training of correctional staff should be linked to specific attitudinal and behavioral skills that are required for the performance on the job (Walher & Gendreau, 1985). “The selection, training and clinical supervision of staff should each best reflect the particular attitudes, skills and circumstances that are supportive of delivery of the services planned” (see chapter 2 of this Compendium). The interaction between employee attitudes and the organizational philosophy is critical to effective functioning and outcomes of an organization (Simourd, 1997). Moreover, correctional organizations need to recognize the interplay between individual and organizational factors (i.e, commitment) in the recruitment, selection, training, and retention of correctional staff.

Recruitment and selection

Successful candidates will be required to perform a significant role in accomplishing the organization's overall mandate towards rehabilitation. Organizations, then, should seek to hire individuals with the most positive attitudes. In order to increase the fit between organizational and employee values, there may there-fore be a need to place greater emphasis on attitudinal values in the selection process. By implication, correctional organizations must have, or develop, strong value-based measures for the assessment of the potential candidates. An investment in a front-end selection process is worthwhile as many of the candidates may remain within the organization for their entire work lives (e.g., high retention). Officers' reasons for taking the job significantly influence their attitudes toward inmates. Attracting career-oriented officers who are interested in the job for intrinsic reasons (either human service or security work aspects) will contribute favourably to effective correctional programming. Measuring attitudes of correctional staff could also further assist in the selection of those who are involved in providing treatment. Hogue (1993 ) found that correctional officers who were involved in sex offender treatment held more positive attitudes towards offenders than those who were not engaged in treatment.

Front-line staff, defined primarily as correctional officers, parole officers and program deliverers, are a fundamental part of the correctional environment and offender rehabilitation process. In the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), correctional officers comprise 40% of staff working in correctional facilities, as compared to parole officers (5%) and program staff (8%) (Solicitor General of Canada, 1999).

Tellier, Dowden, and Lefebvre (2001) conducted recent demo-graphic profiles of over 1,200 correctional officer recruits. The retrospective file reviews were undertaken using data collected between September 1997 and May 2000. Of these recruits, 32.8% are women, 8.5% are Aboriginal, 8.0% are visible minorities. The average age is 28.9 years at the time of recruitment. Further, over 42% have a University degree and 68% have a degree in a field related to corrections (e.g., law and security, criminology). An interesting finding was that 74.4% of the recruits have related work experience and 40.4% have related volunteer work prior to being recruited.

Fifty-eight percent of CSC program deliverers are appointed internally and the primary feeder group comes from the COII occupational group. The trend in recruitment appears to be a rise in terms of external hiring, mainly due to requirement for a university degree in social sciences or a related field. Lastly, correctional officers tend to apply more often for parole officer positions which, are classified at a higher level (CSC, 2000).


Training plays a crucial role in preparing staff to assume their new responsibilities. It also has a role to play in promoting and ensuring that positive attitudes are maintained. A workplace with little ongoing managerial support could negatively impact the individual's personal and professional potential. Knowledge about the factors that influence attitudes could be useful to researchers and correctional managers in terms of the development of correctional management strategies for the orientation of new staff, and developmental training for existing staff.

It has been argued that the role demands of CO's are so encompassing and yet also restrictive that all officers regardless of gender, social background, and prior beliefs will develop similar attitudes towards their jobs (Jurik & Halemba, 1984). Therefore, working conditions are capable of overriding individual attributes.

Jones (1999) sheds light on the issues surrounding officer selection and the subsequent preparation of those officers for their demanding and complex role within the institutions. He provides useful insights into the experiences and thinking of new correctional face early in their careers. Most importantly, his research provides information concerning officers and the challenges they the officers' perceptions of the utility of the recruitment and training experience. The study corroborates the existence of a strong correctional officer subculture. This subculture is present even during the initial stages of the training program and intensifies once the officers transfer to their institutional placements. Accordingly, it has a direct impact on the professional decision-making of many recruits and compromises certain value-based behaviours important to CSC. Jones highlights the need for longitudinal research with a much larger sample size.

Plecas and Maxim (1987) indicated that attitude changed with respect to “working with inmates”, in a sample of 670 CSC staff. Their study demonstrates that attitudes change negatively (more punitive and less supportive of inmates' rights) within the first 9 months after induction training, eventually stabilizing at this level by the end of the 18 months.

These studies illustrate that attitudes are amenable to change and can be influenced by management practices. The Research Branch is presently developing a plan of research to examine correctional officers' attitudes and other attributes in a more dynamic fashion. Studies that have examined correctional officer attitudes have been typically limited in their focus on a small number of variables and the majority has been cross-sectional in nature. It appears that no research study has been conducted to assess change in attitudes as a result of training and initial adjustment working in direct contact with offenders in a correctional environment. This research project will identify and examine the factors that predict changes in attitudes towards corrections in a sample of approximately 1,600 correctional officer recruits. A broad range of predictor variables will be examined including demographic characteristics, intrinsic job motivation, occupational self-efficacy, concerns about personal security and safety, and social cohesiveness. This is a multi-wave longitudinal study that examines changes in attitudes in two different environments, namely the classroom setting and at the institutional level. These changes in attitudes will also be linked to important organizational variables such as retention, absenteeism, and individual job performance. Recruits will be assessed five times between their selection to attend the Correctional Officer Training Program to the end of their one-year probationary period in a penitentiary.

A better understanding of factors that contribute to changes in staff attitudes will provide management with the opportunity to modify certain conditions to create a more positive environment.

Retention and turnover

Empirical links between correctional attitudes and turnover are inconsistent. According to Jurik and Winn (1987), significant results were observed between correctional attitudes and the relationships between willingness to end employment (r = -0.28) and consideration of ending employment (r = -0.22). Results also indicated that staff who placed less emphasis on rehabilitation were more willing to seek other employment alternatives. In contrast, Teske and Williamson (1979) in a similar study, reported no such relationships. This significance may have resulted from their rigid operationalization of turnover intention (the likelihood that the staff will continue their employment with the organization until retirement). In a 6-year follow-up study by Plecas and Maxim (1987) examining attitudes and turnover of 527 CSC staff, they reported that neither positive nor negative attitudes increased the likelihood of staff leaving the organization. Simourd (1997), in her examination of correctional attitudes and desirable work outcomes, found both a positive relationship between favourable attitudes and desirable work outcomes (i.e., general job satisfaction, growth satisfaction, organizational commitment and job performance). A negative relationship was also found with undesirable work outcomes (i.e., work stress and intention to turnover). That is, as the correctional attitudes become more favourable, the less likely staff were wiling to turnover. These finding are consistent with both Teske and Williamson (1979), and Plecas and Maxim (1987) but are inconsistent with those of Jurik and Winn (1987).

Essentially retention is an index of an organization's success regarding recruitment, selection and training. Retention, then, is an important area for correctional managers to monitor, as tremendous costs are associated with these activities.


A major impediment to effective programming is offender attrition from programs. Practically, it is difficult for offenders to gain from a particular program if they refuse or drop out prior to completion (Dowden & Serin, in press). Methodologically there is also the concern that those offenders who actually complete the program are different in meaningful ways (e.g., motivation, risk and need level, age) than non-completers (Annis, Schober & Kelly, 1996), thereby biasing conclusions about program effectiveness. For these reasons, improving offender motivation for program participation is an important entry point for determining the contribution of staff skills to program effectiveness. There is a growing body of literature that staff skills and inter-personal characteristics do significantly influence program participation and performance. These include research in the area of sex offenders (Fernandez, Serran, & Marshall, 1999), domestic violence (Murphy & Baxter, 1997), and substance abuse (Brown & Miller, 1993). Meta-analytic research (Dowden & Andrews, 2000) also supports the importance of specific practices (Andrews & Keissling, 1980) on program effectiveness. For instance, greater effect sizes are reported for programs where staff effectively uses authority, anti-criminal modelling and reinforcement, problem-solving, and quality interpersonal relationships between staff and clients.

Within counselling situations therapeutic alliance and group cohesion have been related to reduced symptomatology. For those staff whose role is to counsel and challenge offenders' distorted and criminal thinking, it is important to recognize that motivational interviewing strategies (Miller & Rollnick, 1991) appear more effective than direct confrontation. Similarly, the most effective program staff has specific skills that reflect a firm but fair interaction style. In particular they demonstrate open and interested body language, are supportive; actively listen; are appropriate in their self-disclosure (knowledge of boundary issues); use open-ended questions but are also directive (not aggressive), can be flexible, encourage active participation, and lastly, use humour appropriately (not manipulative or derogatory). Importantly, programs in which helpers reflect these characteristics and skills appear to result in increased acceptance of criminal responsibility by offenders, and improved program participation (Fernandez et al., 1999). Increasingly, it would appear that staff skills and characteristics do impact program performance and outcome, making staff selection and training an important component in effective corrections. Further, it is likely these findings could also be extrapolated to compliance with community supervision and community-based programs. Interestingly, these strategies are consistent with the present emphasis on motivational interviewing as a means to enhance program performance with resistant populations (Preston, 2000).


Increasingly correctional jurisdictions are recognizing the value of staff and highlight their important contribution. This can be accomplished formally by way of Mission statements and performance appraisals. It can also occur through staff training initiatives (e.g., Front Line Leadership). If we accept the evidence that staff impact correctional effectiveness, then attending to staff issues should improve correctional results. Accordingly, there are two fundamental reasons for attending to staff needs -- philosophical and practical. Philosophical in that the organization values staff, and practical in that having the right staff can improve the organization's effectiveness.

Critical to achieving positive correctional results is the maintenance of healthy staff. Certainly there is research that indicates that correctional officers report high levels of work-related stress (Philliber, 1987), however, other groups may also experience stress working in correctional contexts (Robinson, Porporino, & Simourd, 1996). Stress is person-specific such that individuals respond to stressful situations differently. Also, staff varies in their ability to avoid and cope with stress. In order for an organization to maximize its ability to meet its correctional goals, it must first identify staff whose performance is attenuated or sub-optimal due to factor such as stress, and then respond in a manner that ameliorates symptoms and facilitates performance. If certain situations (e.g., shift-work, duration of actual shifts, inadequate staff training, insufficient offender/staff ratios, etc.) are known to consistently yield specific negative effects (e.g., increased use of sick leave, poorer response to crisis situations, increased use of overtime), then the organization can be proactive by developing preventative strategies. Alternatively, it can provide an opportunity for healing and recovery for those staff who were unable to sustain their original level of performance in the face of ongoing work demands. For those staff whose contact with offenders is frequent and unavoidable, often there is considerable risk that their optimism or professional interaction with offenders will erode over time. It is not uncommon for this erosion to result from an initial high level of commitment to their work.

For some time Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) services have been provided to correctional staff for work-related difficulties (Bromley & Blount, 1997). In addition to EAP and CISM, mediation has recently showed promise in assisting staff to deal with work-related conflicts. EAP is a broad-based counselling service provided by the employer to ensure that staff with interpersonal difficulties and mental health symptoms have access to professional services. Independent community practitioners typically provide this confidential counselling. CISM is a two-phased approach by the employer to provide debriefing and counselling services to staff who witness and experience crises or trauma as a result of their employment. There is an initial debriefing at the resolution of the crisis incident and a subsequent group follow-up session. Where appropriate additional aftercare counselling is made available. Mediation is the involvement of an independent third party to resolve differences between two or more staff. The mediator has no direct authority and is simply a resource to assist staff to air their concerns and attempt to find a mechanism for a common solution. Importantly these represent a range of services that staff might access, but they are different in terms of referral, targets, and goals. In a related theme, work shops and training with respect to boundary issues might also be helpful, particularly for staff who provides counselling to offenders. Finally, peer support programs may provide balance and prevent staff deterioration over time.

To date research regarding staff has been limited to descriptive studies and surveys. While there are differences among staff and their attitudes according to factors such as gender, age, and occupational group, it is unclear to what extent these differences are a result of working in corrections. In order, then, to more fully understand the influence of the correctional environment, longitudinal research is required.


Consistent with society, the correctional staff is aging. For instance, in the Correctional Service of Canada, the average age of its approximately 14,000 staff is 41.5 years. Presently, there are 3,289 employees aged 50 or greater. It is forecast that in 5 years this aged 50+ group will be 5,891. Furthermore, correctional officers represent close to 44% of the total staff complement. Within this group, there are presently 1,049 staff aged 50 or greater. This is relevant in that age 50 is the age for earliest retirement without penalty for those operational staff with 25 years experience.

Forty-two percent of staff are women, and 23% are correctional officers. More than half of these correctional officers are less than 40 years of age, suggesting some stability in gender representation, assuming modest retention levels. In summary, correctional staff is aging, creating unique challenges for succession planning.

In terms of ethnicity, efforts are underway to recruit more correctional staff from diverse cultural backgrounds. Presently, approximately 4.0% of the total correctional staff are Aboriginal and 2.6% are other minority groups. In comparison, a snapshot of the national federal Canadian offender population revealed that 12.5% were aged 50 or greater and 28.9% were non-Caucasian. Obviously, any gains that can be made to have staff demographics better reflect the offender population is to be encouraged.

This past decade has seen a marked diversification of ethnic groups involved with the criminal justice system. Beyond the practical issues of language, correctional agencies must endeavour to recruit and retain staff who reflects the ethnocultural composition of their offender population. Consistent with these developments, an important operational issue is whether assessment procedures and programs apply equally to all offenders.

Again, from the perspective of correctional results, it is imperative to consider how best to deliver correctional programs. Correctional agencies that recognize characteristics such as age, gender and ethnoculture to be responsivity factors (Bonta, 1995) will be able to determine the best matching of these factors to improve performance. For instance, older offenders may respond better to interaction with staff of a similar age. Similarly, specific cultural issues may interfere with staff from one culture completing valid assessments of offenders from another. At a minimum, staff's performance would be enhanced if they receive some form of ethnocultural sensitivity training.

This is clearly the case for women and aboriginal offenders within the Correctional Service of Canada. Issues of gender and culture are woven into the very fabric of correctional practice for these groups. While there is still progress to be made, it is no longer the case that materials and procedures developed on a pre-dominantly white male offender population are simply “adapted” for use with aboriginal and women offenders. For instance, new conceptual models are being considered (Creating Choices) and new measures are in development to ensure that these issues are addressed. These practices are embedded within the legislative framework of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, but their application is specifically to improve correctional results.

1 Correctional Service of Canada


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