Thesis

39 Moral dilemmas of Dutch prison staff INTRODUCTION Prison staff often face situations in which conflicting interests and values lead to questions about the right action to take. The context of working in prison can lead to challenging situations (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2014). The two central aims of prison work, security and rehabilitation, can lead to value conflicts (Bruhn et al., 2010). Prison staff struggle with ‘opposing obligations’ trying to find a balance between ‘the duty to care for prisoners and the duty to protect others’ (Shaw et al., 2014). Moral dilemmas occur in situations in which two or more conflicting values raise doubts regarding the right action (Maclagan, 2003). To maintain safety, many work processes are established in regulations and protocols. An emphasis on regulations can lead to a focus on ‘compliance strategies’, where organizations tend to examine and enforce rules, and thereby establish clear boundaries with regard to what is within and outside the norm. Organizations reinforce this by requiring adherence to codes of conduct and auditing practices (Karssing, 2000, pp. 27– 30). In Dutch prisons, more regulations seem to be developed and enforced in response to incidents (Van Houwelingen et al., 2015). However, the answer to the question about how prison staff should act responsibly with respect to their duties cannot always be provided by following protocols. In addition to protocols, reflection on challenging situations is needed, as well as a level of ‘freedom of action and reasoning’ (Karssing & Van Dartel, 2014). In ethics, there is no single universal answer to the question: what is the right action or decision in this specific situation? A rigid focus on regulation - ‘rulebased-behavior’ – can even pose a risk to morality (Falender & Shafranske, 2007), as it can create unjust situations in practice. A report on Dutch prisons mentions the risks of the present focus on incidents and related solutions: it can lead to a lack of moral awareness among employees. Also, hierarchy can be a force that prevents staff’s own initiative and responsibility (Van Houwelingen et al., 2015). Being aware of ethical content in a situation is a key condition for moral decision-making. Research on moral challenges of prison staff often focuses on incidents and wrongdoing; considering excesses such as the mistreatment of prisoners (Torres & Turvey, 2013). Despite the emphasis on the importance of research on ethically challenging issues for prison staff (Shaw et al., 2014), the perspective of prison staff themselves and what they experience as morally challenging is not yet included in literature. Qualitative research is limited to prison health care practitioners (White et al., 2014). Until now, there is no data 2

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