It has often been asserted that the management of a correctional facility is a delicate balancing act. Unfortunately, many of the people who make this assertion often don’t go ahead to given the reasoning behind it. On the contrary, they tend to imagine that the assertion (that management of a correctional facility is a delicate balancing act) is self-explanatory and it therefore doesn’t need elaboration. In my view, however, the truth is different: for many people who are new to the correctional arts and sciences struggle with these sorts of assertions. They (understandably) have difficulties trying to understand why the management of correctional facilities should be viewed as a delicate balancing act.
So, why is it often said that the management of a correctional facility is a delicate balancing act?
Well, in order to understand why the management of a correctional facility is a delicate balancing act, you first need to have certain insights. You need to have insights on the two main reasons as to why such facilities are set up. It emerges that societies set up correctional facilities in order to, firstly, rehabilitate those who fall short of expectations. The second reason as to why these facilities are set up — and this is controversial — is to punish those who fall short of expectations.
Having observed those two main reasons as to why correctional facilities are set up, it is easy to understand why the management of these facilities is a delicate balancing act. It is not always easy to get the facilities to serve as rehabilitation centers, while at the same time allowing them to serve as centers for punishment of those who fall short of expectations. This is because rehabilitation is a positive thing, whereas punishment is a negative aspect of life. If you focus too much on the rehabilitation aspect, there is the possibility of ending up with correctional facilities that are ‘too pleasant’ to be in. Then the whole thing losses meaning: because we maintain these facilities so that they can serve as a deterrent. If you have a scenario where correctional facilities are so pleasant that nobody fears them, you are likely to subsequently end up with a breakdown of law and order.
On the other hand, if you have a scenario where correctional facilities are very rough and unpleasant, you are likely to end up breaking down the inmates, rather than rehabilitating them. In the long-run, you end up with too many members of the society who have been broken down in this way… Thus, the delicate balance is in trying to ensure that the correctional facilities are unpleasant enough to serve the deterrence purpose, yet pleasant enough to ensure that the people who end up there are not totally broken down.