Correctional Officers’ Perceptions of Equitable Treatment in the Masculinized Prison Environment

Published date01 September 2005
Date01 September 2005
Subject MatterArticles
10.1177/0734016805284306Criminal Justice ReviewGriffin et al. / Perceptions of Organizational Support
Correctional Officers’ Perceptions
of Equitable Treatment in the
Masculinized Prison Environment
Marie L. Griffin
Arizona State University
Gaylene S. Armstrong
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
John R. Hepburn
Arizona State University
Research suggests that employee perceptions of an organization’s support for policies that pro-
mote an equitable work environment may differ significantly by race and gender groups. This
study examines such perceptual differences and their attitudinal effects on employee experi-
ences within the unique context of a prison setting. Significant differences in correctional officer
perceptions of policies are found to exist by race and gender groups. Contrary to expectations, all
race and gender groups perceive strong organizational support for equal treatment policies.
Moreover, the work experiences of White males are not negatively affected by perceptions of
organizational support for equal treatment as had been hypothesized.
Keywords: correctional officers; prison; equal treatment; job satisfaction; organizational
Recent Supreme Court rulings on the use of race-based affirmative action policies in the
University of Michigan’s law school and undergraduate admissions process have rein-
vigorated debate regarding the value of diversity and the need for equal treatment within the
public sphere (Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003). This interest in diversity and equal treatment also
is reflected in the expanding body of social science research that examines the efficacy of
such policies in the workplace (see Crosby, Iyer, Clayton, & Downing, 2003). Researchers
have examined the effectiveness of affirmative action policies to increase diversity in the
workplace (Badgett, 1999; Blank, 1985; Konrad & Linnehan, 1995) as well as the organiza-
tional benefits derived from a diverse workforce(McLeod, Lobel, & Cox, 1996; Milliken &
Martins, 1996; Reskin, 1998; Watson, Kumar, & Michaelson, 1993). Other studies have
explored the unintended and at times negative consequences of affirmative action policies
within organizations, including lowered perceptions of competence by the individual and by
coworkers (Heilman & Alcott, 2001; Heilman, Battle, Keller, & Lee, 1998; Heilman, Block,
& Lucas, 1992; Kravitz, 1995; Nacoste, 1987; Nosworthy, Lea, & Lindsay, 1995).
The extent to which employee perceptions of organizational policies that promote equal
treatment influence other work-related experiences is less certain. In what instances might
the pursuit of equal treatment within an organization and the benefits that accrue from such a
Criminal Justice Review
Volume 30 Number 2
September 2005 189-206
© 2005 Georgia State University
Research Foundation, Inc.
hosted at
policy lead to employee dissatisfaction or other negative assessments of the organization?
This concern is of particular significance to organizations that have exhibited an historical
resistance to the integration of women and minorities. This study explored this issue within
the prison setting, an organization that although moving toward a professional and more
diverse workforce, remains characterized as less than fully receptive of women and minori-
ties within its ranks (Belknap, 1991; Britton, 1997, 2003; Owen, 1985; Pogrebin & Poole,
1997, 1998; Savicki, Cooley, & Gjvesvold, 2003; Stohr, Mays, Beck, & Kelley, 1998). This
study examined group differences in correctional officers’ perceptions of workplace policies
supportive of equal treatment and the effect of these perceptions on the outcome variables of
job satisfaction, job stress, and organizational commitment.
Literature Review
Perceptual Differences Among Gender and Racial Groups
The numerous studies examining individual perceptions of policies promoting equal treat-
ment have revealed a complex set of attitudes, experiences, and beliefs that appear to influ-
ence individual reactions to the role of affirmativeaction within an organization. Much of this
research has suggested that support for affirmativeaction and equal opportunity policies was
a function of group identity, with perceptions of such policies differing significantly by
racial-ethnic group and by gender (e.g., Konrad & Linnehan, 1995; Kossek & Zonia, 1993;
Kravitz & Plantania, 1993; Parker, Baltes, & Christiansen, 1997). For example, Kluegel and
Bobo (1993) and Kluegel and Smith (1983) found women and minorities were more support-
ive than White males of affirmative action policies. Other research suggested that women and
minorities were less likely than White men to believe that their organization supports affir-
mative action policies (Kossek & Zonia, 1993; Parker et al., 1997). In a similar vein, Camp,
Steiger, Wright, Saylor, and Gilman (1997) found that White male correctional officers
tended to have exaggerated perceptions of promotional opportunities availableto Black male
correctional officers within a prison organization.
Researchers noted that group differences in the perception of affirmative action and equal
opportunity policies stemmed from a variety of beliefs and concerns, including the antici-
pated impact of such policies on one’s self-interest (Summers, 1995; Veilleux & Tougas,
1989), especially when comparing one’s own advancement opportunity to that of others
(Camp et al., 1997). Racism and sexism also were found to have had a significant influence
on attitudes toward affirmativeaction policies, with those individuals exhibiting more sexist
beliefs (Tougas, Crosby, Joly, & Pelchat, 1995) or racist attitudes (Bobo, 2000; Dovido &
Gaertner, 1996; Sidanius, Pratto, & Bobo, 1996) less likely to support affirmative action poli-
cies. Beliefs regarding the need for affirmative action policies to address organizational dis-
crimination (Camp et al., 1997; Kleugal & Smith, 1983; Kravitz et al., 2000) as well as
beliefs regarding the fairness of affirmative action policies (Heilman et al., 1992; Kravitz,
1995; Leck, Saunders, & Charbonneau, 1996; Slaughter, Sinar, & Bachiochi, 2002) also
have influenced support for such policies. In addition, political affiliation (Carmines & Lay-
man, 1998) and political conservatism (Kravitz et al., 2000) were found to be related to an
individual’s support for affirmative action policies.
With this literature in mind, how might an employee’s perception of organizational sup-
port for affirmative action policies or other organizational policies promoting equal treat-
190 Criminal Justice Review

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