The Changing Role of the Prison Officer -- Innovations and Tensions

Susan King, University of South Australia

Prison officers and the way they do their work are pivotal to the life of prisons, but have received very little direct attention in discussions of innovations in justice either in academic circles or in wider public debates about safe communities, crime, punishment and imprisonment. This paper explores the link between changed expectation of prisons and the changing role of prison officers.

Expectations of prison and its role as a response to crime change over time. This paper explores the changes that have occurred in Australian prison policy in the twentieth century and draws out the changed roles of prison officers that accompany that these changes. Penal philosophy emerging in the middle of the 20th Century pointed to the possibility of prisons with radically different focii to the para-military detention and punishment centres of the preceding decades. But are the prisons that have developed from this philosophical shift truly innovative? Are prison officers doing a job that is markedly different from that of their antecedent wardens?

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Updated 05/20/2006