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Influence of Professional Orientation on Detention Officers' Attitudes Toward the Use of Force

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 29 Issue: 3 Dated: June 2002 Pages: 250-277
Date Published
28 pages

This article explores how detention officers’ professional orientation affects their attitudes toward the use of force against inmates.


The author notes that there is a gap in the literature concerning the use of force among detention officers. Thus, this article examines the extent to which a detention officers’ work environment affects their professional orientation and the extent to which both of these variables (work environment and professional orientation) influence an officers’ attitude concerning the use of force against inmates. The author surveyed 617 detention officers who were working in 7 different jails during July of 1996. Approximately three-fourths of the detention officers were male and 85 percent were white. The questionnaire consisted of a Likert-type scale that measured various variables concerned with their work environment, their professional orientation, and their readiness to use force. The results of ordinary least squares regression analysis showed that only 5 variables out of 13 significantly affected the detention officers’ readiness to use force. Three work environment variables influenced a detention officers’ readiness to use force: quality of supervision, role conflict, and fear of victimization. In terms of professional orientation, two variables influenced the use of force against inmates: those who showed a punitive orientation and those who had a custodial orientation toward correctional work. In conclusion, the author notes that these findings highlight the need to place the detention officer’s primary role at the forefront of discussions concerning the use of force against inmates. Tables, notes, and references

Date Published: January 1, 2002