Unlike the literature on police corruption, very little is known regarding the types of corrupt practices experienced by correctional agencies. One way to study this problem is to examine the internal affairs records of a state correctional agency (see McCarthy, 1981).

An internal affairs unit has the responsibility for investigating all alle­ gations of misconduct by staff or inmates. The cases during a specific time period were reviewed first to identify those that fit the above definition of corruption and, second, to identify and analyze the range and types of cor­ rupt practices experienced by this agency. Admittedly, this information source provides a limited view of the problem because it is based on offi­ cial statistics. However, as researchers in the field of police corruption



have suggested, the records of the internal affairs unit represent one of the best available sources of information for examining this topic (Myer, 1976; Sherman, 1979).

A content analysis of the case files identified several types of corrupt conduct: theft, trafficking in contraband, embezzlement, misuse of authority, and a residual or miscellaneous category.

Theft generally involved accounts of items reported as stolen from inmates during frisks and cell searches (drugs, money, jewelry), visitors who were being processed for visiting, and staff members. This form of mis­ conduct was generally committed by low­level staff (e.g., correctional offi­ cers) and was opportunistic in nature.

Trafficking in contraband involved staff members conspiring with inmates and civilians to smuggle contraband (drugs, alcohol, money, steroids, food, and weapons) into correctional facilities for money, drugs, or services (usually of a sexual nature). The organization of this activity varied con­ siderably. Some were large­scale conspiracies involving street gangs or organized crime officials on both the inside and the outside. Others were indi­ viduals acting on their own. As part of their sentence, inmates are deprived of access to many things that are accorded to free­world citizens. The items smuggled into prisons range from items such as food, makeup, and cigarettes to much more serious items such as drugs, guns, bullets, and explosive devices. In recent years, dozens of staff and inmates across the country have been arrested for smuggling in cell phones to inmates. These phones have been used to continue outside criminal activities (organized crime), intim­ idate witnesses, and engage in criminal activities such as drug smuggling. According to one recent report in Philadelphia, guards were indicted for smuggling drugs, cigarettes, and cell phones. One guard made up to $10,000 for bringing in cigarettes and a phone before being caught (Butterfield, 2004).

Acts of embezzlement were defined as systematically converting state property for one’s own use. This offense was differentiated from theft. Theft tended to occur in single events that were opportunistic in nature. Embezzlement involved employees, sometimes with the help of inmates, sys­ tematically stealing money or materials from state accounts (inmate canteens or employee credit unions), state property, and warehouses.

Misuse of authority is a general category involving the intentional misuse of discretion for personal material gain. This form of corruption consisted of three basic offenses directed against inmates: the acceptance of gratuities from inmates for special consideration in obtaining legitimate prison priv­ ileges (e.g., payoffs to receive choice cells or job assignments); the accep­ tance of gratuities for special consideration in obtaining or protecting illicit prison activities (e.g., allowing illegal drug sales or gambling); and the mistreatment or extortion of inmates by staff for personal material gain (e.g., threatening to punish or otherwise harm an inmate if a payment is not forthcoming).

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An additional form of misuse of authority is the taking of bribes by cor­ rectional administrators to award contracts to private vendors for services needed by the correctional system. As the privatization movement continues to grow in corrections, we can expect more reports of this form of mis­ conduct as some companies vie for an unfair advantage. The use of an open bidding process for contracts helps to minimize this problem.

Another form of misuse of authority that is getting attention in the media is sexual misconduct involving staff and inmates, staff against staff, and staff and offender family members/friends. A National Institute of Cor­ rections (2000) study found roughly one­half of the agencies in the Depart­ ment of Corrections have been involved in litigation related to sexual misconduct. At least 22 state correctional agencies were facing class action or damage suits as a result of sexual misconduct by staff. One major reason for this upswing in allegations and charges is the use of cross­gender assign­ ments in prisons, that is, male officers assigned to supervise females and female officers assigned to supervise male offenders. Several recent studies have concluded that this is a major problem in corrections (see, for example, Buell et al., 2003).

Staff sexual misconduct with other employees usually involves a super­ visory relationship and exploits the imbalance in power. Sexual exploitation of family members and friends of inmates occurs when a staff member either accepts an offer of sexual favors and or takes advantage of the power relationship he or she has over the inmate and his or her family by extort­ ing sexual services.

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