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Mise en ligne : 26 July 2005

Dernière modification : 24 February 2006

Texte de l'article :

________ Research Report __________

Correctional Officer Recruits and the Prison
Environment : A Research Framework

This report is also available in French. Ce rapport est également disponible en français. Veuillez vous adresser à la direction de la recherche, Service correctionnel du Canada, 340, avenue Laurier ouest, Ottawa (Ontario) K1A 0P9. Should additional copies be required they can be obtained from the Research Branch, Correctional Service of Canada, 340 Laurier Ave., West, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0P9.

2004 N ? R-146


If it were not for the hard work of my colleague, Claude Tellier, I would not be in a position to emphasize the broad scope of this study, its innovative vision and the impact it will have as a precursor on parallel research projects in behavioural and organizational psychology in a prison environment. The results, regardless of changes to its initial structure or the temporary nine-month shutdown for administrative reasons unrelated to this research, are due to her. Some of her earlier work also served as the foundation for the implementation of the Correctional Training Program in 1997 (Tellier et al., 2001 ; Tellier & Serin, 2001) and the profile for new recruits hired after September 1998 (Dowden & Tellier, 2001).

Executive Summary

In the field of social sciences, one rarely explores the paths less travelled by others. As an epistemological principle, most research relies on one or more originating ideas that create the subject’s continuity and thus its evolution. This may mean, however, that some of the foundations of the thought will sooner or later be refuted or even contradicted. On the topic of professionalization, however, it is safe to say that no work context today is spared from organizational re-engineering, and the duration and specific character of employability in every sphere of public and private activity, and the case of interest to us here, the work environment of correctional officers, is no exception.

Differences between federal and provincial jurisdictions, American, Canadian and European publications, developments in research that make many studies obsolete, fictionalized, ideological, journalistic literature, and official publications of an instrumental, symbolic or conceptual nature. There has been a great deal of writing to date on the world of prisons, but no one has really examined what happens to the recruit in the institutional setting at the national level using an agreed upon timetable over a longitudinal period. This long-term observation and investigation starts on the first day the recruit is selected for professional training and follows them step by step, first as they make their initial adjustment to the group and, then, as they comes in direct contact with the institutional reality. It involves the eternal struggle between theory and execution that exists in every occupation.

The long-term observation and investigation is accomplished through the administration of six questionnaires beginning on the first day the recruit begins their training at the staff college for their region and after assignment to a prison institution during one year.

Once the research has been completed, focus groups consisting of volunteer recruits representing each of the five regions will be brought together to talk about their experiences and their adaptation to the prison environment.

This study is based, then, on ground-breaking, large-scale research, which is a first in this corrections related field. Administration of the questionnaires, which began on September 23, 2002, the date when the first questionnaire was presented following the timetable for the various Correctional Training Programs, continued until July 14, 2003 (the date when the last CTP is scheduled) to close the sample. The research has been conducted in all of Canada’s five administrative regions : Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies and Pacific.

Its purpose ? To measure, evaluate and understand the adaptation made by recruits to
their respective work environments so that the necessary recommendations can be formulated for the training colleges and the institutions. The recommendations will focus on recruitment in the broadest sense of the term and on the training and the various characteristics of the beginnings of all careers.

Why is it a first ? Quite simply because the administration of the questionnaires is divided into six phases. Twenty-six developmental themes are examined, including thirteen variables in a total 1,126 questions that cover some CTP modules and a review of the literature on various themes exploring demographic data such as age, social status and the advantages and disadvantages of choosing this profession or lifestyle. Then, it takes a closer look at the acquisition and maintenance of values and attitudes, group cohesion, the issue of inmate rehabilitation, job stress, motivation, supervisory support, empathy or the respondent’s potential for helping relationships, to give a number of examples.

In closing this summary, it should be emphasized that throughout the entire process, participation was voluntary and could be terminated whenever the person wished and participant confidentiality was assured.