The formal and informal disciplinary
topic : The formal and informal disciplinary
Chapter 15 case study example: Harry is a corrections officer at the Grim Correctional Center. He has a reputation among his coworkers for being very strict with inmates and always being ready to issue violations for the slightest breach of prison rules. One of the inmates he has charge over on his wing is George, a career criminal and experienced prisoner. George and Harry do not like each other, and George often tries to challenge Harry’s authority by breaking prison rules or threatening to break them. In the past, Harry has reacted to this resistance by issuing many citations for rule violations and having George dealt with through the inmate disciplinary process. Harry has now reached the stage where he is tired of having his authority questioned by George and has decided to show him who is really the boss. He decides that he will use informal methods to punish George and reinforce his own authority over him. One Friday, Harry inspects George’s cell and finds that George has two more pictures in his cell than are permitted by the rules, according to his inmate classification. Harry considers whether or not he should seize on this violation to use informal means to impose his will on George or whether he should follow proper prison procedures for dealing with rule violations. He knows that prison officers can use various informal ways of controlling prisoners, even though the rules do not allow these methods to be used. Examples include not telling an inmate about a scheduled visitor appointment, withholding toilet paper, or shutting off the hot water to an inmate’s cell. He decides to think about a possible informal way to deal with George. In his mind, he formulates the following plan. Instead of issuing a disciplinary report for the extra pictures, Harry will not unlock George’s cell the next morning during the daily prison routine and will secretly place a “keep lock” tag on George’s cell door. This tag will indicate to other correctional officers that George is to remain locked in his cell and will suggest that a formal order has been given to this effect. This also means that George will remain locked in the cell until he can get someone’s attention and complain to the deputy superintendent, who will not be on duty until Monday morning. Harry now has to decide whether to act formally or informally.
Is Harry faced with an ethical dilemma? The formal and informal disciplinary
Harry is faced with the dilemma of whether to use informal means to reinforce his authority over George or to use the formal inmate disciplinary process.
What are the facts and circumstances of the incident?
Harry needs to review in his mind the facts and circumstances.
What are the facts relevant to the decision he has to make? What are his own values about the issue, and what are the values of his workplace about such an issue?
The relevant facts are as follows:
Harry and George have a history of clashes over Harry’s exercise of his authority.
Harry feels he needs to demonstrate to both inmates and other staff that he is always in control, and he sees this as essential for his work as a correctional officer. In his view, those who demonstrate the most power in the prison environment will prevail.
Harry has always used formal methods to control George before, but it seems to him that this approach has not changed George’s attitude toward him.
Harry wants his coworkers to see that he can control George because this is expected by the prison officer culture, which requires that officers never show leniency toward inmates and that they provide unquestioning support to coworkers, especially in the face of inmate resistance.
Harry knows that informal methods are sometimes more effective with inmates than formal processes.
What ethical theories does he call to mind to assist him in resolving the dilemma?
In this case, Harry will apply ethical egoism to the dilemma.
What are Harry’s available courses of action?
Harry can either follow the formal disciplinary process or use informal methods to punish George.
Harry will make his decision after applying, in this case, the ethical egoism approach to each alternative course of action, and he will choose the course of action that is the most ethically appropriate for him under ethical egoism.
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