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Ethics and Heros
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 08/23/2022

Ethics a Our topic this month is timely. Please review your current ethics policy and if you have any questions contact your supervisors. Now, this may sound simple enough, however, some staff do not feel comfortable with this approach. Ethics is a touchy subject and quite often misunderstood by many. When the problems are identified, and staff members are not held accountable, this only contributes to the problem. The organizational culture is being defined, supported, and creates morale issues and concerns. Let’s face it, corrections is a tough profession and all too often stressful. The level of ethical problems will vary from unit to unit.

Corrections has some very dedicated and professional staff. Yet, the double standard and lack of support occur too many times. When I mention corrections; this includes jails, prisons, probation, parole, non-uniform personnel, and other positions not mentioned. In our July article, I touched on this briefly. Staff is a precious commodity and one where we do not need to create environments that create unhealthy and additional security concerns.

We must consider the unwritten code, we do not talk about ethical violations. There are many questions to ask and perhaps we will have a major survey looking into these concerns. It would be easy to include real-life scenarios, and discuss them. I would venture to say, when there is a violation at the unit or we read about the violation, most often this is not even discussed. Have you ever considered the seriousness of a staff member witnessing this and nothing is done? We also must consider the inmate population who see the same thing.

I often question the reasons why employees terminate their employment. Did the employee quit under pressure? Was the employee involved in serious ethical violations? What corrective action is taken after the hearing, or does the code of silence come into play? Corrections has worked very hard in improving their training and professionalism. Perhaps the question becomes are we any better now than we were before? If we lose our integrity and ethical values, our credibility comes into question. We must consider this and what this presents to the courts. It is only a matter of time until the employee will change, continue violating departmental policy, or terminate their employment. Most often, they will just stop showing up for work.

We must consider why some staff is not ethical and were their warning signs that were ignored. Do we want a body regardless of how this employee functions? Ask ourselves, why are we experiencing these ethical concerns, and how do we correct this? Making an ethical decision should not be that complicated. Example: If we have to consider our response, are we trying to justify an ethical concern? Be a professional and when you look in a mirror, like what you see. If you have problems with this, perhaps counseling is necessary.


Our second topic in my opinion includes those working in corrections. Again, look at the paper and other news outlets to see what is occurring in corrections. We are seeing an increase in officer assaults, inmates and staff stress, and the resurgence of COVID and other serious diseases. Officers facing extended shifts are tired; and yet expected to still perform their duties. Do we consider the additional stress we place on our staff and its effects on their family? If staff go home and are stressed, this carries over to some officers abusing alcohol and drugs. They need help, not being forced to work two or more double shifts. Also, we must consider when the officer returns to work stressed. This is just adding fuel to the fire.

The field of corrections has invested time, resources, and recruitment efforts, only to face these daily dilemmas and challenges. As I mentioned previously and just my opinion, all staff are heroes.

To all working in corrections, keep up the very good work under trying times.

Stay safe out there.

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Global and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@purdueglobal.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


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