An exploratory study of the attitudes and perceptions of correctional officers towards their role in contributing to the offender rehabilitation at Pollsmoor Prison, in Cape Town.
Crime in the developing South African context presents a major sociopolitical challenge that goes beyond offender rehabilitation. Correctional services based rehabilitation programmes however represent an important component of a multi-dimensional strategy for impacting on crime and recidivism. Reports of the Correctional Service Department highlight the lack of resources and specialised personnel needed for rehabilitation programme delivery. The rehabilitation needs of the growing offender population are not being met and the need for personnel to facilitate the process is critical. The aim of this study was to explore the attitudes and perceptions of correctional officers towards their role in contributing to the offender rehabilitation process. The aims and objectives were to assess the self reported abilities, potential and willingness of these correctional officers towards contributing to the offender rehabilitation process. In part, this study hopes that the Department of Correctional Services might take note of the attitude and perceptions of these correctional officers concerning their role in rehabilitating offenders in order to construct an appropriate role for them in the rehabilitation process. The sample consisted of 117 correctional officers, 81 males and 36 females, of different age, sex, race, ranks, level of education and length of service. A questionnaire was designed, made up of rating scales to measure knowledge of rehabilitation models and services, attitudes and perceptions towards contributing to offender rehabilitation process and perceptions of personal and prison environment conditions. Even though the results show that correctional officers have a limited understanding and knowledge of the principles of the Programme-Developed Model of offender rehabilitation, they perceived offender rehabilitation within the framework of this model as a growth and development programme that will benefit offenders to cope with their life stresses. It is difficult however to tease out whether they have changed from a conceptually punitive to a rehabilitative way of conceptualising, relating to and treating the offenders. More research in this topic might clarify the attitude and perception of correctional officers towards offender rehabilitation because this will in part lay the basis for the success of the rehabilitation process. Better-educated correctional officers perceive themselves as motivated, skillful and willing to be trained further in order to partake in offender rehabilitation processes. Correctional officers perceived social work and education and training rehabilitation services as more useful and would like to do further training in these services in order to contribute towards facilitating offender rehabilitation programmes. Important differences in respect of gender, level of education and length of service were found which qualify this general finding. Stress, burnout and environmental conditions were found to impact negatively on correctional service officers' willingness and capacity to contribute to the rehabilitation process. Female correctional officers appear to experience prison conditions more negatively compared to males. These findings are discussed in terms of developing recommendations for the effective and rational use of correctional service officers as skilled members of a rehabilitation orientated team of professionals.