Paper Example on Leadership Traits in Correctional Facilities: A Closer Look

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1683 Words
Date:  2023-11-02


The nature of the work and the activities of people working in prisons and correctional facilities where they are surrounded by people convicted of various crimes is often stressful and intimidating. In most cases in the criminal justice administration departments, the criteria for choosing leaders are often based on the experience that may be linked to the number of years that a person has worked in the department. However, based on the different leadership theories, leadership traits are different between individuals, and responsibility should be given to people who can manage the roles. Correctional facilities vary between juvenile centers and adult prisons, and the management approach of the amenities is different. According to Stojkovic et al. (2014), transformational leadership was formulated as a result of a failure in trait and behavioral theories of leadership. Leaders who utilize this theory focus on developing organizational mission and vision statements, objectives, and creative solutions to the firm's challenges (Stojkovic et al., 2014). Many scholars have focused on factors that affect people working in prison, such as stress, violence, and uncertainty about their safety. However, is the focus on the root of the problem or the symptoms? Can transformational leadership create a more integrated relationship between the different stakeholders in correctional facilities?

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The main issue that prompted the research is the ineffectiveness of some of the leadership approaches and theories applied in correctional facilities such as trait and contingency theory. According to Stojkovic et al. (2014), most criminal justice department leaders are selected or appointed based on the politics of the area. The ineffectiveness of the selected leaders to guarantee the safety of the workers in the prisons has created a gap in which theory should be applied. Correctional facilities are treated as organizations with different structures, and hence limited research has been undertaken to investigate the leadership of the facilities.

Findings of 3 Relevant Research

According to Helm et al. (2011), research on how transformational leadership yielded positive research in juvenile facilities is an indication that the method is applicable in correctional centers. The researchers focused their study on workers' views on their motivation, personal value, and organizational leadership (Helm et al., 2011). The study concentrated on the leaders of a Dutch adolescent prison who, according to the researchers, lacked the necessary expertise to deal with inmates in the juvenile suffering from psychopathology (Helm et al., 2011). Based on the study's findings, many workers in the center operated in fear, and they lacked motivation when performing their roles.

In attempts to encourage creativity and innovativeness among the workers and reduce fear, transformational leadership method was adopted. Helm et al. (2011) state that "when leadership is 'transformational,' group workers report substantially less fear and more flexibility ('innovation'), and they perceive more ‘structure’” (25). From the findings, it is clear that transformational leadership is attributed to the increase in innovation and creativity in the Dutch juvenile facility. Helm et al., (2011) argue that passive from the questionnaires issued to the workers in the correctional facility, passive leadership was reported to be the primary source of fear, hostility between the inmates and the wardens, lack of cooperation between staffs and supervisors, and lack of motivation. Transformational leadership advocates for the formulation of the mission and vision statements, which, according to Helm et al., (2011), is rehabilitation. From a sample size of 59, 82% of the workers reported in the questionnaire that they were afraid of handling juvenile cases since they lacked support from the leaders and sufficient training (Helm et al., 2011)

Atkin-Plunk and Armstrong (2013), introduced the concept of transformational leadership skills that correlate with the prison warden’s stress in the United States of America. According to Atkin-Plunk and Armstrong (2013), the correctional facilities' leadership roles are given to the prison wardens who have to formulate policies and strategies for the smooth operation of the center. The research was conducted in the Florida correctional facility, where 103 wardens from different state adult prisons took part in the survey (Atkin-Plunk & Armstrong, 2013). The study's dependent variable was the individual stress resulting from the requirements of their job, and the independent variable was leadership.

Atkin-Plunk and Armstrong (2013) state that "research has consistently found that correctional officers who perceived the supervision they receive to be of high quality also tended to report lower levels of job stress" (p.556). From the research undertaken, stress factors such as anger, depression, and anxiety attacks, among others, were experienced due to the nature of the work. Atkin-Plunk and Armstrong (2013) attributed the stress to workload and perceived job dangerousness. From the research, it was evident that transformational leadership in the facilities facilitated the reduction of fear among the warden due to the reduction of violence in the prisons, owing to the supervisors' adoption of innovative measures.

Baker et al. (2015), researched the influence of transformational leadership in the criminal justice literature. According to Baker et al. (2015), "the research examined correctional officers in a mid-Atlantic state to understand the extent to which organizational, institutional factors influence procedural justice" (p. 1044). The correctional officers attributed the success of the operations in the correctional facilities to the transformational leadership strategies adopted from the study.

The research was undertaken using a survey of 1321 in 46 state institutions. Based on th3 findings from the survey, the researchers ascertained that problematic situations in the correctional facilities require a transformative approach in solving them. Most of the individuals held in prison are people who have committed felonies, including murder and other forms of assault. Therefore, during their rehabilitation, the leaders work with the different groups within the correctional facilities to devise the best approaches towards changing how the facilities are operated.

Ideas on How to Improve Transformational Leadership in Correctional Facilities

It is paramount to ensure that crime levels and violence in the correctional centers are managed to reduce the stress of the wardens working in the centers. According to Molleman & Leeuw (2012), prison staffs play a vital role in determining how the inmates behave. Therefore, it is essential for correctional facilities leaders to adopt methods that involve all the stakeholders in the facility. Since the formulation of the justice system for punishing wrongdoers, most correctional centers act as institutions for punishing rather than rehabilitating people and making them ready to fit back in society after serving their sentences.

Leaders need to involve both wardens and the inmates in the correctional facilities when formulating policies and a vision for the center. According to Rosca and Stanescu (2014), transformational leadership is change-oriented and requires all stakeholders to move in the same direction. The key stakeholders in correctional facilities are the wardens and the inmates. Therefore, creating an understanding relationship between the two parties would help solve the cases of violence witnessed where inmates attack the officers guarding the facility when they get an opportunity.

According to Werts (2013), creating an inside-out prison exchange program would help solve most of the problems witnessed in correctional facilities. Exchange programs for the staff working in the correctional centers are essential for the individuals to learn and acquire new exercises, which may be crucial when implementing change in their stations. A transformative leader requires the support of all the people in the organization; facilitating their training is vital. The leaders also need to adopt measures of monitoring and evaluating whether the programs adopted are effectively addressing organizational needs. In addition to the training, a trust-based relationship between the staff, inmates, and supervisors as advocated for in transformational leadership. Also, since the application of a single theory cannot guarantee success, it is essential for correctional facilities to use transactional and transformative leadership (Rahman & Ferdausy, 2012).

The criminal justice administration system ought to focus on developing leaders who can effectively implement the policies that can help solve the problems faced by wardens and other staff. Motivation and inspiration is a crucial element in creating a productive workforce. Due to the challenges and hardships the wardens face, the leaders need to adapt motivational strategies that can boost their morale when undertaking their activities. Salaries and other considerations may be considered enough to motivate prison staff to perform; however, creating a secure environment free from fear and violence ensures that they enjoy working in their department. The motivation should not only be directed to the staff in the centers, to ensure that the inmates are on their best behavior, but leaders must also introduce a reward-based approach to the best-performing inmates. Sometimes, the force approach applied when dealing with adolescents in the juvenile center results in more psychological problems that affect them even in adulthood. Therefore, to ensure that they are rehabilitated and not destroyed, there should be a change in how they are handled.

The approach used by the criminal justice administration department in the selection of leaders for the correctional centers should also be reconsidered. Leadership traits are not acquired through training, but they are only developed. Therefore, when appointing leaders, the specific traits and the capability to lead must be considered. To ensure the successful transition of the leadership styles used in prisons from behavioral and contingency theories to transformational leadership, it is vital to change the personal views of all the individuals in the facilities. The leaders should ensure that every stakeholder feels valued and appreciated and that their opinions matter. Encouraging innovation and creativity among the staff in correctional facilities can only be achieved if individual consideration is adopted. Leaders should also ensure that they do not lose their influence in the facilities in their attempt to ensure inclusivity. It is also crucial to ensure that individuals are advised to take responsibility for their actions since personal decisions may interfere with others' productivity in the correctional centers.


Based on the research by various criminal justice administration scholars, it is evident that transformational leadership, which advocates for innovation, motivation, formulation of vision and mission statement, and inclusivity of all the stakeholders to enact changes, is effective in curbing violence and fear in correctional facilities. The research proves that in Juvenile prisons, training on how to handle psychologically disturbed inmates is adopted. Stress among wardens is also reduced when transformational leadership is employed. In addition to the research undertaken, other factors...

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