Change Isn't Painful, Resistance to Change is Painful: An Examination of the (Re)production of Organizational Structure in Criminal Justice

Brad A. Myrstol, Indiana University

This paper explores, theoretically and operationally, the reproduction of organizational structure and form in the criminal justice system. Despite the many reforms and innovations in criminal justice, little has changed in terms of how the institutions that administer justice in the United States organize themselves, nor has their core behavior been significantly altered. From the perspective of institutional theory the criminal justice system's aversion to change can be explained through a combination of organizational inertia, and environmental pressures for legitimacy. Such a perspective can be contrasted with ever-popular "rational choice" perspectives that theorize individual-level cost-benefit analyses in determining action, "resource constraint" models that utilize econometric analyses of social action and power theories that posit elite interests as the chief hindrance to organizational change. In order to evaluate the core assumptions of "neo-institutional" theory, particularly the assertion that newly developed organizations within a particular organizational field will, in short order, come to resemble in form and action the organizations that preceded them, data from several iterations of the LEMAS survey are analyzed. In particular, the data will be used to assess the development of a particular form of criminal justice organization that has taken shape in recent years: so-called "community policing" models.

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Updated 05/20/2006