As many as four correction officers might be connected to the escape of two New York convicts serving time for murder, underscoring the reality that America’s correction workers are vulnerable to corruption.
Poor pay and low hiring standards in America’s prisons make guards more susceptible to corruption than others in the justice system, experts have told Business Insider.
America’s correction officers do tough and dangerous jobs with little compensation, recognition, or hope for advancement.
Guards make significantly less money than police officers and generally have significantly less training. New York state correction officers have eight weeks of formal training, while state police in New York have an intensive, 26-week course.
Many go into corrections as a last resort.
“It’s been referred to as the bottom rung in the career ladder in criminal justice. This is considered dirty work,” criminal justice professor Chris Menton told Business Insider for a previous article.
“The people who end up in these jobs are people who couldn’t get a job as a police officer, couldn’t get through law school, couldn’t get a job as a federal agent,” added Menton, who actually worked as a correction officer himself because he couldn’t find work after college.
Once they get into this line of work, correction officers get little recognition — unlike police officers, who are out on the street and dealing with the public every day.
“Corrections in general is the ugly stepchild of the justice system,” Bruce Bayley, a criminal justice professor at Weber State University and former correctional officer, previously told Business Insider. “Out of sight out of mind.”
It’s not surprising that unsophisticated workers who aren’t respected might be easily corrupted.
Just last week, authorities said a female correction officer tried to smuggle cocaine, mobile phones, and other contraband into the Manhattan Detention Complex. And last year, federal officials claimed inmates at Rikers paid sums ranging from $US400 to $US900 to guards who sneaked cocaine and oxycodone into the jail for them.
In another case, in Texas, a correction officer reportedly told a court a couple of years ago that he got pushed around a lot as a guard and that he was glad he finally got caught smuggling contraband.
Most of America’s prison guards are unarmed, and they have many inmates to supervise as states deal with prison overcrowding.
“Every state and municipality in the country has cut its officer staffing,” criminal justice expert Martin Horn told me for a previous article. “I firmly believe that the result is officers are terrified. One way of keeping themselves safe is aligning with the inmates.”
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