A prison is an institution that inherently draws a rough crowd. While there are a few people in prison who are innocent and were wrongly convicted, most of the time, inmates end up in prison because they deserve to be there. Thus, the types of persons in prison are no strangers to corruption, dishonesty, and crime. It is inevitable that the influence of the prison population and their deviance sometimes rubs off on even the most disciplined and scrupulous correctional employees.
A big problem in prisons is drug smuggling. It is one of the greatest security threats that correctional facilities face (Beler, 2011, p. 290). Prisoners will go to extreme measures in order to smuggle contraband (Keleher, 2011, p. 121). One of the most frequently used methods to smuggle contraband is to bribe correctional staff (Keleher, 2011, p. 121-122). There is so much money at stake in the illicit drug business that persons are willing to take large risks and can afford to pay out large bribes for staff to turn a blind eye to the illegal activity. Many prison inmates were convicted of drug offenses or had substantial involvement in drugs. Because drugs are so prevalent among prison inmates, with the right amount of money, it is easy to corrupt correctional employees into tacitly complying with the smuggling of contraband.
Corruption among correctional workers is a tremendous issue, particularly in the realm of drug smuggling. The Federal Bureau of Prisons noted that between 2001-2009, there were 16,717 incidents of misconduct by correctional staff, most of which involved some sort of contraband (Simcock, 2013, p. 617-618). In fact, according to literature, correctional staff are the “best candidates” to help smuggle contraband (Simcock, 2013, p. 618). It should be a notable concern that the very people entrusted to maintain law and order in prisons are the very people assisting criminals in perpetuating serious criminal conduct.
There are a number of measures correctional institutions could implement to help address the problem of corruption among officers. One such measure would be to raise awareness of the problems and issues that such corruption causes. This could be achieved through a number of different programs. The correctional institute could have correctional staff educational seminars that are mandatory for all employees to attend. These educational seminars would lecture on the danger that smuggling contraband poses to the safety of the officers and the integrity of the criminal justice system.
The correctional institution could also enact a policy resembling that of whistleblower’s policy as it relates to reporting workplace misconduct. Incentives and rewards could be provided to correctional staff who reported instances of wrongdoing by other staff members. This would encourage staff to come forward who had knowledge of misconduct. At the same time, it would promote a culture of honesty within the institution.
Inmates are subject to random strip searches for contraband at any time. While corrections officer enjoy more rights than inmates, the institution could implement policies of subjecting corrections staff to random searches for contraband. Part of the reason why correctional staff are the “best candidates” to smuggle contraband is that these staff members are not subject to the same searches and scrutiny as the inmates. If corrections staff knew they would be subject to drug searches at any time, they would be less likely to risk the chance of being caught and trying to help smuggle drugs.
While a prison will always be a place fraught with corruption and crime, the criminal justice system and its administration should take all steps needed to make sure that correctional officers are above board, moral, and honest in their dealings. Otherwise, the underlying purpose of prison and incarceration will be severely undermined.
Beler, M. (2011). Constitutional law—permitting blanket strip-search policies for all arrestees
entering general jail population—florence v. board of chosen freeholders of Burlington
county, 621 F.3d 296 (3d Cir. 2010). Suffolk Journal of Trial and Appellate Advocacy,
Keleher, C. P. (2011). Judges as jailers: The dangerous disconnect between courts and
corrections. Creighton Law Review, 87-128.
Simcock, J. (2013). Florence, atwater, and the erosion of fourth amendment protections for
arrestees. Stanford Law Review, 599-632.