A mixed-method study on prison officers’ views on their job
Description: Prison officers (POs) are key figures in daily prison life. In current post-authoritarian prisons, POs roles and power are subjected to change and surrounded by ambiguities.
The Belgian Penitentiary Act (2019) introduced key changes in the Belgian POs’ training, job description and organisation of their work, by introducing a differentiation between ‘detention supervisors’ and ‘security agents’. This differentiation, inspired by the Dutch PO-model, will be studied in both countries.
The roles of POs in the Netherlands are also subject to change. After the introduction of behavioural assessments and the Dutch Act ‘Punish & Protect’ (2020), the work of Dutch POs focuses on future-oriented tasks, as opposed to being ‘present orientated’, which translated into equal and humane interactions with detainees.
As such, this research aims to theoretically and empirically understand and compare the training and ‘jail craft’ of POs in Belgium and the Netherlands. Staff recruitment, training, education, local PO practices and occupational cultures in Belgian and Dutch prisons regarding custody, order, care and justice will be qualitatively investigated.
A mixed-method research design consisting of participant observations and in-depth interviews with POs will be conducted in open and closed prisons/regimes in Belgium and the Netherlands. Additionally, the recruitment, selection and training processes will be looked at via participant observation and in-depth interviews with relevant stakeholders, such as (new) recruits, teachers and other staff members in both countries.
Partner: University of Leiden
Funding: FWO research project, funded by the Research Foundation Flanders