AbstractsBusiness Management & Administration

Powerlessness within a Budget-Driven Paradigm: A Grounded Theory Leadership Study from the Perspective of Michigan Corrections Officers

by Timothy Michael Eklin

Institution: Antioch University
Department: Leadership and Change
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: Organizational Behavior; Public Administration; Management; Criminology; prison; corrections; corrections officer; corrections sergeant; leadership; job satisfaction; grounded theory; dimensional analysis; powerlessness; training; prison riots; paramilitary; criminal justice
Record ID: 2058133
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=antioch1423490696


This study explored the lived-experiences of 15 correctional officers and 5 sergeants working in adult state-operated prison facilities in Michigan. In particular, this qualitative grounded theory study revealed the impact that budget driven decision-making had on the lives of correctional officers: its effect on institutional custody, security, and safety. The study finds that many recent policy changes resulted in a sense of powerlessness expressed by the participants of the study. Participants found themselves in a precarious position, situated in between the prison population and the administration. Having an understanding of how correctional officers make meaning of their work in relation to powerlessness provides increased clarity regarding overall job satisfaction and organizational effectiveness. Perhaps the most significant finding involves the participants’ foreshadowing prison riots based on a lack of resources and a return to a time when Michigan prisons were less safe. Participants reference low staffing levels, changes to the inmate security classification system, overcrowding, inadequate training, disengaged staff, low organizational commitment, inexperienced executive leadership, and poor food service as contributing factors to the participants’ overall sense of powerlessness to prevent future prison unrest. Most participants have voluntarily deselected from consideration to assume future formal leadership roles; most of the sergeant participants have expressed regret for joining the ranks of management. These factors have significant implications for organizational leadership and change. The electronic version of this dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center, http://www.etd.ohiolink.edu and AURA, http://aura.antioch.edu/