Internal and external conflicts are prevalent in correctional agencies, such as prisons and jails. While external conflict areas of correctional facilities are mainly those related to its role expectation, the internal areas of conflict are those related to the role performance of its personnel, which their individual activities can be assessed (Hepburn & Albonetti, 1980, p. 445-446). The external conflict areas are those related to the attainment of the facility’s organizational goals. Prisons often have two competing organizational goals. The first goal is to protect the community by maintaining high security and control over the inmates. This implies that the prison is expected to retain the inmates in custody, to keep them away from the community in the long term. The second goal is to protect the community by rehabilitating the inmates, who will eventually be allowed to re-enter the community after undergoing a transformation. Conflict will therefore arise when the correctional facility management will strive to strike a balance between these competing organizational goals without compromising the expectation of the community. For instance, if the prison population is growing steadily, the facilities’ management will require making a decision of whether to expand the prison to retain more inmates or improve its rehabilitation programs to enhance prisoner reentry into the community.
Internal conflicts result when correctional officers strive to accomplish their tasks to meet the two competing organizational goals of the facility. In the custody goal, the correctional officers will strive to maintain security and control over inmates by retaining a maximum social distance from the inmates, while disregarding any forms of informal relationships or affective ties (Hepburn & Albonetti, 1980, p. 446). Discretionary enforcement of rules by these officers is also discouraged in this management approach. In the treatment or rehabilitation goal, the correctional officers are expected to exhibit characters that are contrary to the ones mentioned above. Correctional officers will be expected to establish informal relationships and affective ties with individual inmates to facilitate rehabilitation. However, this can compromise officers’ authority to enforce the facility’s rules. Correctional facility personnel should therefore possess appropriate conflict management competencies to address these conflicting expectations.
Hepburn, J. R., & Albonetti, C. (1980). Role conflict in correctional institutions. Criminology, 17(4), 445-460.