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Specific Brief Response Kresenda L.

Define organizational culture and discuss how it is formed
and sustained throughout an organization. Explain the
impact culture has on the prison environment and its
impacts on both inmates and prison staff. Does the current
culture of corrections need to exist the way that it does?
Provide an explanation for why you agree or disagree with
this statement. How does current prison culture impact
legitimacy of the correctional organization? Provide
suggestions on how legitimacy within prisons can be

Most people assume that prisons are dangerous because
they house violent convicts. In fact, in 2005, the Supreme Court
stated, [p]risons are dangerous places (Johnson v. California,
543 U.S. 499, 515). The Court was simply implying that prisons
are dangerous because prisoners are violent. Some prisoners are
violent and will be violent no matter what the circumstances,
however the degree of institutional violence is not dependent on
the prisonersit is a direct product of prison conditions and
how the state operates its prisons. If prison administrators
provide humane conditions and require strict adherence to
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commonly accepted and nationally recognized techniques for
regulating the unnecessary use of force, prisons can be
reasonably safe for both prisoners and staff. Through a strong
organizational culture that asserts a sense of legitimacy, prison
administrators can promote order and safe institutions.
Legitimacy has had a major impact on many organization
theories, including institutional theory, resource dependence
theory, and organizational ecology (Scott & Davis, 2007).
Drawing off Webers view of authority, Tyler (2011) defined
legitimacy as a quality possessed by an authority, a law, or an
institution that leads others to feel obligated to obey its decisions
and directives. The central element of legitimacy is meeting
and adhering to the expectations of a social systems norms,
values, rules, and meanings (Suchman, 1995, as cited in Scott &
Davis). For example, at a micro-level, Lawrence (1998)
suggested that legitimacy indicates that one is qualied for a
Specific Brief Response Kresenda L. Keith
particular profession. That is, the person has the knowledge,
skills, or competence to be a member of that profession. At a
macro-level, Ruef and Scott (1998) assert that organizations
must conform to normative rules, regulative processes, and
cognitive meanings. Some expectations can be explicit and set
by professional associations, governments, etc. (DiMaggio and
Powell, 1983); others can be implicit and emerge over time from
interactions among participants in a social system (Edelman,
Legitimacy can play a large part in compliance. For
example, similar to criminal justice organizations, states and
state-based power must be perceived as legitimate by both the
rulers and the ruled in order to generate genuine cooperation.
Scholars from two different perspectives have examined state
legitimacy. The first is to analyze the legitimacy of the state
from the perception of the people. Lipset (1981) stated that
Specific Brief Response Kresenda L. Keith
legitimacy involves the capacity of the system to engender and
maintain the belief that the existing political institutions are the
most appropriate one for the society. Linz (1978) defined
legitimacy as the belief that in spite of shortcomings and
failures, the political institutions are better than others that might
be established and therefore can demand obedience. Friedrich
(1963) argued that legitimacy is a very particular form of
consensus, which revolves around the question of the right or
title to rule. A study of state legitimacy from this perspective
reveals the ability of a state to generate consensual beliefs.
Simply put, citizens (and prisoners) are less likely to support,
cooperate with, and obey authorities who lack legitimacy in their
eyes (Tyler, 1990). If inmates perceive the rules of a correctional
facility and its staff as legitimate, they are more likely to
maintain an orderly inmate culture.
Specific Brief Response Kresenda L. Keith
A fundamental proposition of institutional theory is that
isomorphism leads to legitimacy (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983;
Meyer & Rowan, 1977). Organizations conforming to
commonly used strategies, structures, and practices appear
rational and prudent to the social system and, therefore, are
acceptable (Tolbert & Zucker, 1983). These commonly used
strategies, structures, and practices often emerge from the
interactions of organizations within an industry or eld and
other stakeholders (Edelman, 1992). They may also be imposed
by powerful entities like the state, implying strong incentives to
conform (Scott, 1995). Within this isomorphism construct,
legitimacy and conformity are intertwined and essential for
control and cooperation.
Organizations looking to maintain cooperation and power
can promote legitimacy through an internal, shared,
organizational culture. Organizational culture refers to a system
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of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs that show people
what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. An
organizations culture may be one of its strongest assets or its
biggest liability. In fact, organizations that have a rare and hard-
to-imitate culture enjoy a competitive advantage (Barney, 1986).
People and groups working on the floor or in other positions
develop organizational culture in work-organizations within the
organization. Another perspective, often used in management
literature, is that culture is imposed by the management and
easily applicable to the organization. These are formed to
present a certain image of the company and concern values,
rituals, anecdotes, and symbols (Alvesson, 2001). In studying
culture and organization among engineers, Kunda (1992) has
argued that culture is a learned body of tradition that governs
what one needs to know, think, and feel and that the expression
of this are signs and symbols. Whether bottom-up or top-down,
Specific Brief Response Kresenda L. Keith
various work-related skills, routines, and habits are culturally
acquired and persist because they fit into valued strategies of
action, determined by authority figures. By performing their
work routines, organization members often get positive
reinforcement and begin internalizing the routines as the way to
do their work. Through this translation, culture is transformed
into standard operating procedures, adapted by all workers,
adding to the perception of legitimacy, and, in the case of
criminal justice organizations such as a correctional facility,
increasing compliance and safety.
Perceptions of legitimacy displayed through organizational
culture can play an important role in the effectiveness of the
correctional system, especially within the prison system. Prison
culture is a special form of organizational culture that has been
used with a certain meaning. According to the literature, the
term prison culture is almost never used as part of a formal
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organization. Instead, prison culture is often regarded as solely
an inmate culture. It is then either described as a specific culture,
developing in the poor conditions of the prisons or as a
reflection of cultures on the outside brought into the prisons by
its incarcerated inhabitants (Sykes, 1958; Goffman, 1961).
Prison culture should however be viewed as including prisoners
as well as staff and management.
Inmate culture within prisons, of course, cannot be ignored
when exploring the effects of culture on legitimacy within the
organization. It is common practice by those who have never
been incarcerated to look down people who are incarcerated
upon. In fact, it is anecdotally accepted that prison occupants
have already shown an unwillingness to follow rules, hence their
reason for being there. Melnitzer (1995) asserted that Low on
self-esteem, tossed out of society, cons create a ladder so that
they have somebody to look down upon. In modern society,
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prison life is a lawless world where conventional societal values
and structures are left at the door. They appear to be the very
antithesis of the order and control; however, this assumption
may be rushed.
Within a prison setting, prisoners have adapted their own
set of informal laws that act as their organizational subculture,
known as the prison code. The makeup of the code remained
largely unknown until Clemmer (1958) observed in 1940 that
the prison code protected inmate interests and revolved around
subgroup loyalty. Moreover, the codes fundamentals are
pervasive and durable. Williams and Fish (1974) describe the
prison code as a collection of habits, customs, values, beliefs,
and superstitions. According to Riemer (1938), if an inmate
desires favorable status in the opinion of his fellows, he must
adopt patterns of behavior in line with their culture. Just as in
prison officer culture, a respect for the law has consequences;
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respect for the prison code also appears to be important within
the prison setting.
As seen with prisoners, correctional officers form a distinct
subculture within prisons, with their own beliefs and informal
code of conduct that set them apart from inmates. Prison officer
culture consists of prison officer values, beliefs, attitudes,
customs, and working practices. Crawley (2004), for example,
studied occupational culture and the working personalities
among prison officers. According to Crawley, this influences the
regime and relations within a prison. This culture allows for
socialization and assimilation into the culture by members,
especially new members, and promotes a sense of isomorphism
amongst all employees of the correctional system. The role of a
correctional officer can cause confusion and stress. Finn (1998),
for example, asserted, Role conflict could be defined as the
struggle of officers to reconcile custodial responsibilities (which
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could include maintaining security through preventing escapes
and inmate violence) with their treatment function
(rehabilitation of offenders). Adherence to common procedure
allows correctional officers to prioritize their tasks, duties, and
Mostly often, prison culture is seen as one single culture
among prison officers. The officer code is organized principally
around ideas of solidarity and order, when it works as planned,
this is a large strength. This order and solidarity amongst
officers promotes an image of a legitimate organization and
work-group. Prison officers are often regarded as adhering to a
number of important norms, mainly concerning their working
relationships to colleagues and prisoners (Kauffman, 1988). The
legitimacy strength of the officer subculture within different
prisons can be measured by the degree to which officers adhere
to the code and by the severity and certainty of consequences
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imposed on those who violate the code. New prison officers are
accepted to the extent that they are willing to follow the norms
of unity and solidarity with colleagues. However, this may
assimilate or isolate new employees. For example, Jurik (1985)
discussed an informal occupational culture as a crucial barrier
to equity for female prison officers. Isolation or segregation
from the norm could potentially be interpreted as a weakness
and deviation from the norm, demeaning the perceived
legitimacy of the group as a whole by inmates.
Prison officers find legitimacy and their authority/power
derivative from their solidarity and cohesion. Their cohesion and
militaristic conformity allows them to operate as a strong hive-
like body maintaining order and safety, rather than individuals
with individual goals. In essence, adherence to a common goal
or belief through definable practices such as wearing a uniform
or completing a set amount of training allows officers to
Specific Brief Response Kresenda L. Keith
promote and adhere to legitimate and standard procedures.
Inmates often recognize this conformity and strictness as a
uniformed form of legitimate authority (see Milgram, 1974 for
more on the power of uniformed authority on conformity). To
lose this cohesion and ignore officer culture could mean to lose
control of the prison.
Though these two cultures seem to clash, both show a
respect for adherence to cultural norms, which imply a
legitimate subculture. The inmate subculture, and its
accompanying social code, reveals how inmates see themselves
and others. Inmates and officers appear to value adherence to
norms. These cultural assimilations should be recognized and
can be utilized to promote order and safety within the prison
system. For example, one way to manage a culture is to select
members so carefully that only those whose values and
customary behaviors are constant with the desired culture are
Specific Brief Response Kresenda L. Keith
admitted. In a correctional setting, although they must take all
criminals sent to them, the organization has extreme sanctions
available to shape prisoners behaviors, if not their internal value
systems. Prisoners can also be assigned to different types of
prisons and different settings within the prison.
By recognizing culture as an integral system within the
organization, corrections allows for a manipulation and change
of the prison environment. Understanding the impact of culture
on the correctional system allows the organization to function
and attempt to flourish under conditions that can be complex
and, in some respects, unpredictable. Cultural change is
necessary, as seen in the desegregation of prisons or shift to
more humanistic approaches to prisoner treatment amongst
correctional officers. Within a criminal justice organization,
organizational climate is susceptible to changes resulting from
court interventionthe threat of lawsuits, court orders,
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compliance with court orders, resolution of court orders, and
prospects of future court involvement. In corrections, updated
regulations reflect changes in circumstances and policies as well
as keeping consistent with relevant national and international
law. Once an organizations culture is formed, however,
tremendous pressure exists for it to persist. To change a culture
recognized as already established, effective, and legitimate,
organization members become subject to ambiguity, disrupted
patterns of interaction, questions of legitimacy and authority,
and a different set of definitions of how things are (Ekland-
Olson & Martin, 1988; Rudes, 2012). Such change is fearsome
and disruptive. Importantly, cultural change within a
correctional setting must be a slow process as to not disturb the
status quo or affect the perceived legitimacy of the system as a
whole. The correctional system simply must continually balance
the forces of stability and the push for change.
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If the primary goals and objectives of prison systems are to
maintain the care, custody, and control of inmates in order to
prevent escapes, in addition to ensuring both the safety of prison
staff and inmates, prison management must be able to predict
the potential issues that may arise from changes within culture
accurately. Through a strong organizational culture, the
correctional organization as a whole can assert a sense of
legitimacy, which thereby promotes order and safe institutions.

Specific Brief Response Kresenda L. Keith
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