Criminal Justice Paper on Transformational Leadership in Correctional Facilities


Professional correctional leadership is imperative in maintaining humane prisons. This has been proven through historical accounts whereby the lack of proper leadership has been detrimental to the conditions that prisoners face. Some of the best evidence in history is the Tucker Farm Prison case where prisoners were treated like slaves, with the prison acting as an income generating institution rather than a correctional facility. However, upon Tom Murton’s intervention, the system of administration was transformed, granting prisoners the deserved humane conditions (Newman & Mastracci, 2009). As evidenced by Tom Murton’s intervention, transformational leadership may not draw the favor of those seeking to maintain the status quo, but it is effective for bringing change in correctional leadership. The purpose of this paper is to discuss transformational leadership, detailing its multiple facets and establishing its connection to correctional leadership.

Transformational leadership requires leaders to work with existing teams to identify the needed change and to work in line with the collective identity of the organization in order to work out a plan for bringing change. Transformational leadership is a 20th Century concept introduced by James Victor Downton and further developed by James MacGregor Burns (Atkin-Plunk & Armstrong, 2013). Although the leadership concept is associated with the corporate culture, it is applicable in a wide range of situations where real transformation is fundamental for achieving desirable results. This leadership theory relies on a range of conditions which must be met for it to be effective. These include but are not limited to: raising moral standards; establishing ethical standards; appealing to the ideals of followers; identifying important priorities; and encouraging followers to think beyond personal interests so as to focus on a common good (McCleskey, 2014). It is necessary to focus on capabilities of individuals and to be able to convince followers to use their freedom of choice to make the right decisions that will benefit the institution.

By raising the moral standards, the leader creates ideal working conditions in the sense that followers will feel valued and will be able to draw consolation from the fact that their values are respected. In turn, this helps followers to reciprocate the quality of care they draw from the workplace environment. Establishing ethical standards is equally important in ensuring that the objectives set out by a transformational leader are achieved. Setting and observing ethical standards is imperative in ensuring that all individuals within an institution are aware of the principles they should follow. It is also vital in ensuring that people treat each other right and that they place high regard on the human and natural environment. The ability to appeal to the ideals of followers is the other fundamental quality of a transformational leader (Gorman & Messal, 2017).  The leader should be able to relate with every follower and understand their individual interests and ideals. This places him/her at a good position to talk followers into following his/her vision. By aligning the vision of the leader with that of the followers, it is much easier for the team to work cooperatively towards achieving the desired result. At the same time, the ability to identify priorities is important in facilitating goal setting. It also ensures that the matters that deserve urgent attention are prioritized. Finally, transformational leadership necessitates that the leader is capable of convicting followers to think beyond personal interests, instead focusing on matters that will benefit the entire institution.

The demanding nature of transformational leadership necessitates that the leader has strong personal qualities that not only make it easy to lead, but that also makes it easy for others to see the leader’s vision and help them in pursuing it. According to Joyce and Judge (2004), some of the most fitting character traits for transformational leaders are extraversion, openness to experiences, agreeableness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness. It is argued that without the extrovert personality trait, it is unlikely that leaders will be able to inspire others. While extroversion is not a necessary quality in leaders, the talkative nature of extroverts is helpful in engaging and inspiring others. Openness to experiences is a useful trait for transformational leaders because it helps them to create visions for their institutions and to come up with ideas for achieving them. Inability to visualize an ideal future, on the other hand, deprives leaders of the ability to inspire development. Agreeableness is also important for transformational leaders as it makes them flexible and willing to listen to the input of followers. Neuroticism is the trait that gives leaders an obsession with achieving preset goals. This trait is important for transformational leaders because it helps them to push followers to pursue the vision. Finally, conscientiousness defines a strong sense of direction, which is imperative in ensuring that leaders are aware of what they want for their institutions. This trait is relevant for transformational leaders who seek to motivate followers to pursue organizational visions.

Transformational leadership is closely associable with correctional leadership since the purpose of correctional facilities is to help wrongdoers identify the right way to live in a community. Without proper leadership, workers in correctional facilities are likely to lack a sense of direction. This would make them incapable of knowing the proper way to treat inmates. However, the different ideals upon which transformational leadership is founded are effective in ensuring that the rights and interests of inmates are considered and respected. For instance, given that establishing ethical standards is an imperative quality of transformational leadership, correctional leadership is likely to use this concept towards ensuring that inmates are treated with respect. It would also help in avoiding the scenario in which inmates are subjected to torture and hardship because their human rights will be respected. The idea that transformational leaders should be able to identify important priorities is also essential in correctional leadership. This is because such leaders in correctional facilities should be able to identify issues that deserve urgent attention. They also need to be able to identify the right measures for addressing these issues. For instance, across many prisons in the United States, congestion is a matter that warrants urgent attention, and the right leader should be able to identify this problem and come up with the right strategies for resolving it. At the same time, these leaders should be willing to listen to the input of correctional facility employees. Some of these, including prison wardens, interact with prisoners daily and are likely to have valuable ideas on how to deal with existing issues in such facilities.





Atkin-Plunk, C. A., & Armstrong, G. S. (2013). Transformational leadership skills and      correlates of prison warden job stress. Criminal Justice and Behavior40(5), 551-568.

Gorman, C. A., & Messal, C. A. (2017). Inspiring the helpful self: How transformational   leadership motivates organizational citizenship behavior.

Joyce, E. & Judge, Timothy A. (2004). “Personality and transformational and transactional           leadership: a meta-analysis”. Journal of Applied Psychology. 89 (5): 901–910.

McCleskey, J. A. (2014). Situational, transformational, and transactional leadership and    leadership development. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly5(4), 117.

Newman, M. A., Guy, M. E., & Mastracci, S. H. (2009). Beyond cognition: Affective       leadership and emotional labor. Public Administration Review69(1), 6-20.