Satisfied in the Jail?

Date01 March 2008
Published date01 March 2008
Subject MatterArticles
Satisfied in the Jail?
Exploring the Predictors of Job
Satisfaction Among Jail Officers
Tammy L. Castle
James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
This study investigated the predictors of job satisfaction among 373 jail correctional officers in
one state in the Northeast. The research questions were guided by the plethora of literature on
the workplace experiences of prison correctional officers, including the “Importation-Differential
Experiences” and “Work-Role Prisonization” models. This study advances the literature on the
workplace experiences of correctional officers by focusing on officers who work in a jail setting.
The results indicated that for jail correctional officers in this study, a lower level of education,
greater supervisory support, lower job stress and lower general stress were significant predic-
tors of higher job satisfaction. Based on the findings, suggestions are made for future research.
Keywords: correctional officers; job satisfaction; jails; prisons; job stress
Job satisfaction among correctional officers continues to be a topic of research interest,
and a variety of studies have examined work-related issues ranging from correctional
officer attitudes to job burnout (Lambert, Reynolds, Paoline, & Watkins, 2004). Many of
these studies included job satisfaction as a predictor variable and examined the impact of job
satisfaction on outcome variables such as stress and turnover (Dowden & Tellier, 2004). The
purpose of this study was to explore the predictors of job satisfaction, using the abundance
of literature on correctional officers as a conceptual guide.
The majority of the studies on correctional officers focused almost exclusively on prisons.
Although prisons and jails are both correctional settings, the population is different. Prisons
are state-operated facilities and typically house offenders sentenced to 1 year or more of
incarceration. Conversely, jails are locally operated facilities and
receive individuals pending arraignment and hold them awaiting trial, conviction, or sentencing;
readmit probation, parole, and bail-bond violators and absconders;
temporarily detain juveniles pending transfer to juvenile authorities;
hold mentally ill persons pending their movement to appropriate mental health facilities;
hold individuals for the military, for protective custody, for contempt, and for the courts as
release convicted inmates to the community upon completion of sentence;
transfer inmates to federal, state, or other authorities;
house inmates for federal, state, or other authorities because of crowding of their facilities;
sometimes operate community-based programs as alternatives to incarceration (Harrison
& Beck, 2006, p. 7).
Criminal Justice Review
Volume 33 Number 1
March 2008 48-63
© 2008 Georgia State University
Research Foundation, Inc.
hosted at
Castle / Job Satisfaction Among Jail Officers 49
Jails also differ from prisons in the high volume of admissions and average length of
stay. The average length of stay (LOS) in the jail has been estimated at between 15 and 20
days, although many individuals are released within 24 hours (Austin, 1999, p. 3). In 2005, a
total of 747,529 people were housed in local jails, a 4.7 % increase from the previous year
and more than the 1.2 % increase in the number of people under state jurisdiction (Harrison &
Beck, 2006, p. 7). The differences between jails and prisons may contribute to a unique
work environment.
Some scholars have noted the lack of research focus on officers working in the jail, versus
prison, environment (Lambert et al., 2004; Lovrich & Stohr, 1993; Stohr, Lovrich, & Wilson,
1994). This study sought to augment previous literature on jail correctional officers; thus,
some of the significant findings from previous studies are reported.
Literature Review
Research studies on correctional officers and the work environment have included job
satisfaction as a predictor and outcome variable. As a predictor variable, job satisfaction has
been found to predict a number of different variables, including job turnover (Byrd,
Cochran, Silverman, & Blount, 2000; Wright, 1993), job burnout (Lindquist & Whitehead,
1986; Whitehead & Lindquist, 1986), job stress (Dowden & Tellier, 2004), and correctional
absenteeism (Lambert, Edwards, Camp, & Saylor, 2005). In fact, one recent study suggested
that the variable job satisfaction was the strongest predictor of job stress over any other
variables (Castle & Martin, 2006).
Other studies have included job satisfaction as the outcome variable and some of the pre-
dictors include role problems (Hepburn & Knepper, 1993; Van Voorhis, Cullen, Link, &
Wolfe, 1991; Whitehead & Lindquist, 1986), participation in decision making (Hepburn &
Knepper, 1993; Whitehead & Lindquist, 1986), supervisory support (Britton, 1997; Cullen,
Link, Wolfe, & Frank, 1985; Jurik & Winn, 1987; Van Voorhis et al., 1991), and views on
policies and American Correctional Association standards (Paoline, Lambert, & Hogan,
2006). These studies tend to distinguish between personal or individual level variables and
organizational types of variables. In addition to the plethora of literature on correctional
officers, a conceptual focus was used to guide and specify the variables used in this study.
Conceptual Focus
One way to frame what the research has shown regarding job satisfaction among correc-
tional officers is provided by two models termed the Importation-Differential Experiences
model and the Work Role-Prisonization model (Van Voorhis et al., 1991). The two models
were adapted from a previous study on the impact of race and gender on correctional officer
orientation (Van Voorhis et al., 1991). Van Voorhis et al. (1991) described the Importation-
Differential Experiences model as concerning “the impact of individual and demographic
factors on one’s experiences with and perceptions of the work environment” (p. 473).
Conversely, the Work Role-Prisonization model focuses on organizational experiences and
argues that some work-specific factors are better predictors of experiences in the workplace
than individual differences.

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