WHO WANTS TO BE A PRISON ADMINISTRATOR
Of course, everybody wants to be at the helm. To be elected or appointed to occupy the top most in the organization is self-fulfilling. One can choose to be a leader or in plain language, the boss. Minus the stress that goes with the post, the perks and accompanying privileges make the person enjoy his term.
Those who wish to seek the post in the prison service as a political reward are in for a surprise. They were not only forced to understand the dynamics of the incarcerated community but in the completion of their term, their beliefs would be shattered with derogatory allegations attached to their names. Hence, for a leader or boss of a pillar in criminal justice administration expressively feeling as if he is on top of the penal code, he would realize later to his dismay that he is exiting the facility harboring negative thoughts like a released prisoner.
They may have good and impressive credentials when they took over the reins of prison service but these were all negated by unfortunate and unforeseen events that unfolded in his term. And, I tell you, all of these prison officials had their respective sad stories to share.
There are several prison directors appointed since 1905. And all of them have contributed to what prison administration is today, good or bad. The first appointed prison administrator was a military lieutenant, an American since the agency was founded during the American regime. There were only a handful of prisoners then.
He was followed by a number of appointees coming from the ranks of the military (or the Police). Yet historically, the agency was for a period under the umbrella of several executive departments —–from Department of Interior to Department of Instructions to Department of Justice. None of those from the said departments would assume leadership since the appointees would traditionally come from the ranks of retired military officers. And prison population since then had grown leaps and bounds until overcrowding becomes the order of the day.
Congestion would smack right through the traditional designation of top honcho of Corrections. Such tradition, unfortunately, would merely reinforce the belief that prison service, a civilian institution, occupies the lowest rung in the concern of government. The perception was that prisoners were never reckoned as a good material to be fashioned out from a regime of rehabilitation since there is nothing in the leadership policy that would seriously consider education or skills development as the principal program in the treatment of offenders. Foremost was security and when it is emphasized, one must call the military for its effective application.
And whenever there is a need for a military solution, it could only mean extermination of enemies. Nothing is farther from reality. If we pick a warrior, we must be prepared for war. In warfare, we expect strategic deception, treachery and a lot of ambuscades. We must take a step ahead and be advanced if not always on vigilant status. Better, we must always be on the strong side as an oppressive power. That is how the martial mind works, retired or otherwise.
In response, the enemies, or those seen as such, likewise are preparing for the assault. They in turn must act the way they are treated—as enemies or as an opposing force. If we have that kind of climate in the prison service, the divide is clear—between allies and foes and nothing in between. Hence, factions are made according to major alliances formed. Gangs are strengthened for a coalition of militant inmates on one hand and security personnel are oriented towards the use of iron hand and brutality.
Prison service is always on the mode of pretention. From a distance it looks like the academe but the closer you get, it is out rightly an asylum where wards are dazed and confused, withdrawn and horrified. Rehabilitation which is its principal mandate is merely applicable as lip service. Those who wish to repent and indeed imprisonment spelt penance (hence the term penal) could not get into the groove of atonement because they are never seen as student who thirst for a social direction in life but as an enemy that should be guarded and exterminated, if not brutalized, at the first sign of trouble or abuse.
When a prison administrator steps into the community to share guidance, he is seen instantly as a Moses bearing the commandments. Either he curses the Pharaoh so to speak and executes everyone towards doom or part the Red Sea to reach for the inmates, his constituencies, their academic life of change, of flowing constructive opportunities, of hope to reach the proverbial land of milk and honey—-the free community, as law abiding citizens.
Inability of prison administration to grasp the essence of corrective management, the prison community will just mount one act that would lead to desperation after another. And when it does, whoever is at the top is toppled down, not because he was pulled down but because he failed to see the precipice on his path. His name would just go down the drain as if his integrity never mattered, as if he never tried, as if merely stirred the hornets’ nest, as if he played an unfortunate prank on himself. In short, he just wasted a precious time that could have been spent enlarging his name in history.
Prison administration therefore, if one is serious about his intentions, is not a joke, it is not even a regular sanctuary for statesmen or a refuge of those uncertain of their profession; it is a philosophical vocation.