n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - The role of criminology in custodial corrections : a multi-disciplinary approach

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The management of inmates in custodial correctional establishments is a many-faceted task, carried out on a continuous basis, and requiring the applied skills and competencies of a wide range of professionals. Although fashions in penal policy change over time in response to political ideologies and fiscal imperatives, there remains an underlying assumption that some useful social purpose should be served by the process of imprisonment.

Prisons are complex organisations to manage because of their frequently conflicting requirements to balance security, control and safety with delivery of regimes that provide the potential for inmates to live a law-abiding lifestyle on release from custody. For this principal reason, prisons are best managed on a multi-disciplinary team basis that maximises the use of professional expertise available from correctional officials, psychologists, medical practitioners, educators, social workers, administrators, and, by no means least, criminologists, among others.
It is contended within this paper that the academic discipline of criminology has much to offer to effective prison management, and yet it is under-valued and underused underused in many countries of the world. A number of reasons are advanced for this situation, among which are the traditional conservatism of correctional cultures, and the lack of understanding of criminology as a practical as well as an academic discipline.
Prisons are also potentially volatile and intimidating places because they contain some of the most violent, predatory and dangerous members of our societies on an entirely involuntary basis. Prisons can, however, be made safer places to work and live in if careful attention is paid to the criminal and anti-social characteristics of prisoners, both individually and collectively, actually and potentially. Assessment of criminal dangerousness and prediction of risk (both institutional and public) are perhaps the core forms of expertise that criminologists, more than any other correctional professionals, are able to provide.


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