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Correctional officers, supervisors, and organizational climate: Examining the hierarchical translation of policy into practice in maximum custody prison


This dissertation examines the process of translating policy reform into practice in the most restrictive prison setting, solitary confinement units, in order to identify mechanisms and barriers to reform. This work utilizes survey data (n=60) and qualitative interview data (n=45) from front-line custody staff working in maximum-custody solitary confinement units in five different Washington State prisons. Findings from this study suggest that 1) while maximum custody solitary confinement units are stressful work environments, they are also desirable to correctional officers; 2) the interpersonal relationship between supervisory personnel and correctional officers’ plays an important role in shaping correctional officers’ perceptions of policy reform; and 3) the heightened adversarial work climate of the IMU shapes the lens through which correctional officers viewed reforms and these perceptions filtered beyond, contributing to correctional officers’ perceptions of reforms as inherent safety risks. These findings lay the groundwork to better understand how policy reform plays out in correctional spaces, via policy introduction, implementation, and sustainability.

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