Thesis

54 Chapter 2 This focus on back-up can lead to dilemmas when confronted with mistakes of others, or to frustrations as a result of the actions of others. Staff experience doubt whether to speak up to a colleague in question or take it up with a superior. Another recurring element is the question of ‘compliance or deviation’. Based on existing rules and procedures, staff regularly wonder to what extent they have the right to deviate from existing rules and procedures and determine themselves what correct action is. Sometimes a deviation-dilemma is based on the value placed on the humanitarian attitude toward prisoners. For example, should I allow extra leave for a prisoner to say goodbye to his dying father while the rules prohibit this? Our data shows that superiors also experience dilemmas of comply or deviate: should I withdraw a request for more staff when the management team advise me to do so? Both overarching topics of ‘address or not’ and ‘compliance or deviation’ refer to situations in which staff deal with doubts regarding the limits to their ‘freedom of action’. Our observations in the following paragraph show the presence of this topic. Observations about the formulations of moral dilemmas Irrespective of the content of moral dilemmas, we performed an additional analysis on how moral dilemmas, including the cases and situations, were formulated in the evaluation forms. We observed that many moral dilemmas included or arose from feelings of indignation and frustration of prison staff. For example, ‘why am I not being heard when I address a security risk?’ Furthermore, many formulations reflected criticism or judgement toward the behavior of others. Ranging from expressed irritations about colleagues taking extensive breaks to remarks about ‘safety agreements that are not kept’. Only a part of the moral dilemmas showed a focus on the moral uncertainty or doubt of the case presenter. In quite a few cases, the formulation of the moral question was not open, but contained normative words. For example: ‘or should we keep muddling on?’. Often one side of the dilemma mentioned details on how to act, while the other option only said to not do that action, to not speak up, to just let go, or continue work as normal. Dilemmas were often formulated with questions about continuing a non-ideal situation. Related formulations already seem to contain a normative conclusion (‘this situation is not ideal’). In many of these cases, staff seem to be certain about what the right action is, but seem unsure about their ability to change practice and are therefore ‘cynical’ about their impact in the organization. Such formulations express feelings of being ‘powerless’, e.g., by saying ‘it won’t make a difference’ or ‘nothing is going to change’.

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