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Home > Arhiva > 2012 > Numar: 3 > Prison Work in a Post-Modern World

 Prison Work in a Post-Modern World

  • Sue King (Social Work and Human Services, University of South Australia, St Bernard’s Rd Magill South Australia 5072, Tel: +61 8 83024316, Email:

The prison is a social institution shaped by the interaction of workers and prisoners in daily life. Prison officers play a formative role in the creation of the social world of the prison, performing the repetitive acts of prison administration on a day to day basis. The role of the officer has been one part of debate about the purpose of imprisonment. Naming a prison officer alternatively as a Custodian or a Human Service worker makes a statement about how the role is being constructed and adopts a position within a competitive ideological struggle. This paper explores recent Australian perspectives on the work of the officer and the way that penal and organizational discourses have come together to construct the prison officer’s role as a managerial one. The paper presents research that suggests that whilst the physical edifice of the prison may remain unchanging the social institution has undergone significant reconstruction. In conclusion the paper argues that whilst the role of the officer remains contested, the wide acceptance of the conceptualization of the officer as a manager of prisoners suggests new possibilities for partnerships to deliver services within prisons and new opportunities to contribute to the development of prison practice standards

Keywords: prison officers’ work, identities

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Sue King

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