It is a fact that in virtually every corrections department or facility, there exists a small group of officers, sometimes just a handful, who believe there is a problem of unethical activity in their workplace or their immediate jurisdiction. Often these observations are made right after these officers have attended their first meaningful training session on ethical conduct and professionalism. These early warning signs of dishonorable conduct are a first impression that often leads to a new meaning for many of them. Despite their best efforts to discuss or address such conduct, these warnings are often ignored by the supervisors or administrative group leaving these officers discouraged and on some occasions, they fear retaliation if they don’t cease their interest in this inferred misconduct of others.
For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is public perception, many correctional leaders are reluctant to acknowledge the presence of groups of misfits or corrupt staff within their own ranks in the hopes that the problem will simply go away. The usual results of their inaction were best described by Edmund Burke, who once wrote “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Burke – 1770) Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t go away and, if the gangs are not dealt with they will become more active, more sophisticated and more violent. Along with a culture that embraced a code of silence, these individual efforts, were met with resistance on many levels, not the least of which were the urgings of upper management or government officials to refrain from talking about the code or the existence of corrupt staff too often so as not to reflect poorly on the agency.
There is a certain level of cloaking that is ongoing to cover up these atrocities conducted by incorrigible staff. The good officers, seeing their efforts have failed to change their workplace attitudes and culture have no confidence that the administration will take any action to keep them safe from these nonconformist who prey on them. This lack of trust and communication further complicates the problem, as many times departmental statistics do not bear out the true nature or extent of such activity or problematic employees. If these good officers s are afraid to report these actions of misconduct to their supervisors no resources will be devoted to the problem. On some occasions, these concerned officers are even threatened with disciplinary action if they do not cease their “interest” in gangs or groups of officers who conduct themselves contrary to training and policies applicable to their job assignments. The categorical denial of corrupt staff influence or fear of negative influences; however, is not a handicap limited to only large prisons or jails. They can pop up anywhere if the culture allows such conduct without consequences. Despite the occasional documentation of staff misconduct the problem was largely ignored by public officials. The biggest problem with this practice of “hearing no evil, seeing no evil” is the fact that these nonconformist establish a power base and begin to recruit membership into their own culture or club or sometimes, a gang. Eventually, this blind eye will help create an environment where these groups can roam and recruit freely and establish themselves as workplace bullies hiding their criminal activities by fear and intimidation. In the meantime, good officers leave for other employment or manage to look the other way while the misconduct repeats itself and nobody is doing anything to correct the problem.