We Know it, We Just Have to Do it: Perceptions of Ethical Work in Prisons and Jails


Determining what the appropriate behavior is in any given circumstance is not always clear in corrections work, given the nature of the tasks, the composition of the clientele, and the structure of the organization. In an effort to determine what correctional staff regarded as ethical behavior, the authors developed and administered a questionnaire to correctional staff in several prisons and jails in a western state. In this article, the authors report their findings from the effort to quantify the degree to which staff agree and disagree in their perceptions of ethical choices. They found that jail and prison staffs are more likely than not to perceive their work from an ethical perspective. The findings also indicate that although both types of facilities were in the top range of possible responses on the ethics summary variable, the jail staff were more likely to score higher. Finally, age increased the likelihood that a respondent had a higher ethical rating in jails, and being female increased such a score in prisons.

Document Type




Publication Date


Journal Title

The Prison Journal