The memo from the warden is unmistakably clear:
All fighting, assaults, confrontations, loud arguments, and other contentious interactions between inmates are to be reported in writing at the end of each shift. Participants are to be placed in administrative segregation for not less than forty-eight hours; work assignments are to be changed to less desirable ones; and letters describing each incident will be placed in the inmate’s file and with the parole examiner’s file. There will be no exceptions.
The policy clarification is in response to increasing violence within the institution that has resulted in the injury of seven inmates and two officers during the month of July alone. The memo is appropriate at this time because violence between inmates has escalated and needs to be curbed. It supports the staff because increased violence puts everyone at risk. You are happy that individual discretion has been removed; inmates can’t blame you if they are put on report. The warden has mandated that a penalty is required, and you have no choice.
You are assigned to a dormitory unit that houses prison aides. Prison aides work irregular shifts, night shifts, or in the hospital; consequently, these inmates are often on call. They are presumed to be more trustworthy, which is why they are housed in the dormitory and have more flexible hours. Several of the inmates in this dormitory have administrative duties; one of them, Browning, probably typed the warden’s memo on fighting.
You are working the graveyard shift, 11:00 pm to 7:00 am. On Tuesday, shortly after midnight, you hear a disturbance and run immediately to the dormitory. From the corridor you turn on the overhead dorm lights. Inside, two inmates are crouched, ready for combat, on opposite sides of a single bed. Both are armed with sharp objects and are slashing at each other as they move from left to right around the bed. The rest of the inmates, though reluctant to get involved, have now seen you. They are divided, with one group enjoying the diversion and wanting the action to continue, and the other group wanting to settle the fight. The combatants are also aware of your presence but continue to circle and glare. You quickly run to the end of the narrow corridor and call for help.
Returning to the dorm, you find that the inmates have returned to their respective beds and all weapons have disappeared. The confrontation is over. One of the men involved is an aggressive homosexual and former weightlifter who is the head baker for the staff dining room. The other person involved is the head clerk for the chief of prison security. Both offenders are eligible for parole in a few months.
You meet your lieutenant outside the dormitory and report: “Inmates Reynolds and Bernard were fighting, sir. They had weapons. I’ll write up the report.” The lieutenant ponders a moment. “Well, come on over to the office and let’s talk about it.” As you approach the office, the lieutenant says, “Look, Wyatt, you know nothing important happened. Let’s not stick our necks out. It’s hot. Arguments are bound to happen; it’s over now. If you report this, these guys will be denied parole, and it’ll mean grief for us all.” You agree but point out the recent directive on violence from the warden. “Well, do what you want,” the lieutenant says, “but I advise against it.”
If you do not report the incident, you will satisfy your lieutenant, who is your immediate supervisor. But if the warden learns of your failure to report the fight, the lieutenant probably will neither back you nor admit that he advised you to violate the directive. The warden will more than likely hear of the incident since some of the inmates in the dormitory work for the administrative staff. Grapevine communication in the prison is quite active, and very little goes unnoticed. Also, the inmates who know of the directive will know that you deliberately violated a major policy. You worry about the example that sets and wonder if they will lose respect for you if you do not write up the incident. If you do write the report, it is sure to anger some of the inmates, particularly Browning, the clerk who types in the warden’s office. Browning is the boyfriend of the weightlifter and would not want him to lose his job in the prison bakery. The civilian food-service manager will also be angry since he will have to train a new bakery chef.
You believe that rules are necessary if there is to be order in the prison. You believe that directives, if legal, should be obeyed consistently and with-out reservation. If a directive is inappropriate, you believe that it should be challenged openly in a reasonable way. But you also feel that you must try to get along with the people you work with. You are the man in the middle. No matter what you do, you will upset someone.
Respond to the following questions. At least 2 pages of text are required, double-spaced, standard font. If uploading a file, make sure it is in MS Word or Rich Text format. The system will not open Mac files.
1. What are your legal and ethical responsibilities?
2. The warden’s new policy seems to be a good one, yet you stand to make a number of enemies if you proceed with the report. Should you make an exception in this case since no one got hurt? Discuss.
3. What if the same two inmates have another confrontation and one of them is seriously injured? Should you then be held responsible since you did not write up the initial incident? Explain.
4. What about the role of the CO’s supervisor who advised him to “let it go?” Should the supervisor also be held accountable for whatever might happen? Explain.