Balancing Act: The Role of Cottage Staff in a State Training School

Michelle Inderbitzin, University of Idaho

ABSTRACT
This paper is based on a qualitative study of a cottage of violent offenders in one state's end-of-the-line training school. Cottage staff members were put in the difficult position of juggling their roles as enforcers, corrections officers, counselors, and care-takers. In order to effectively do their job, they had to find ways to balance the rhetoric of rehabilitation with the punitive reality of daily life in the institution. In real ways, the cottage staff defined the experience of being incarcerated for the "problem children" in their care. They took this responsibility to heart and did their best to model pro-social behavior and to give the kids examples of conforming values. In their role as caring surrogate parents, cottage staff members offered their "sons" practical advice, humor, and hope for the future.

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Updated 05/20/2006