Thesis

11 General introduction INTRODUCTION ‘A prisoner asks you to do something you’re not allowed to do, for example, taking a postcard out of the facility and putting it in a mailbox. Of course, we have a code of conduct, but there is also a large gray area in our practice. How do you deal with that? I think people always have to make up their own minds. [..] Of course, there are also working agreements, but there is a whole world behind them: how easily do you confront each other about behavior? What do you report to your manager, and when do you turn a blind eye?’ – a prison director (Ledegang, 2015) Working in prison involves being confronted with gray areas and difficult situations, as mentioned by this prison director. What types of moral challenges do prison staff encounter in their practice, how can prison staff be facilitated to deal with these challenges and what impact will an ethics support intervention – that aims to help dealing with moral challenges – have on prison staff? Challenges of prison work The work of prison staff is tough and demanding, as staff is ‘charged with the central task of supervising and securing unwilling and potentially violent populations’ (Armstrong & Griffin, 2004; Auerbach et al., 2003). In literature, the security and rehabilitation aims of prison work have been placed at the core of prison practice (Bruhn et al., 2010). A recent study in the Netherlands shows that prison staff themselves state the following values should play a central role: humanity, security, and reintegration (Paanakker, 2020, p. 48). As DCIA states, it is their goal to ‘ensure a safe and humane detention and work with our adjacent organizations and the prisoner, toward reintegration’ (DCIA, 2009). However, prison staff are shown to be frequently unsure about which of these aspects should take precedence (Liebling et al., 2011, p. 64). In general, prison staff suffer high levels of stress (Finney et al., 2013; Huckabee, 1992; Schaufeli & Peeters, 2000), e.g., due to the volatile environment and based on the conflict of values they experience in their practice (Liebling et al., 2011, pp. 63–64). However, research about prison staff’s experiences and needs is lacking. A recent literature review showed no articles are available on the support and supervision needs of prison officers (Forsyth et al., 2022). The review highlights a significant gap in research about our understanding of prison staff’s needs and needs for support. While, for good performance, correctional institutions rely heavily on their staff (Lambert et al., 2005); hence, ‘satisfied prison staff 1

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