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Authors

Benjamin Hixon

Advisory Committee Chair

Natalie Todak

Advisory Committee Members

Katherine Kempany

Lindsay Leban

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2022

Degree Name by School

Master of Science (MS) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Use of force in corrections is significantly less studied when compared to other fields, such as policing. This is a problem as unnecessary and unjustified use of force in corrections needlessly raises the violence level in correctional facilities, which endangers persons in custody and correctional officers alike. The current study examines use of force in corrections using a theoretical approach. First, Robert Agnew’s general strain theory is applied to understand use of force encounters between persons in custody and correctional officers. Second, Travis Hirschi’s social bond theory is used to investigate whether certain social bonds may relate to reductions in use of force. Interactions between social bonds and correctional workplace strains are examined to see whether social bonds serve as protective factors against these strains. To investigate these hypotheses, an online survey was sent out to correctional officers in the state of Washington who were represented by the King County Corrections Guild (KCCG) and the South Correctional Entity (SCORE) Jail. This study found a significant relationship between correctional workplace strains and both lethal and less than lethal use of force in corrections, specifically strains that relate to correctional officer safety. Correctional officers were not observed to be satisfied with their social bonds, and the limited social bonds that correctional officers hold were not observed to have a significant direct effect on either lethal or less than lethal use of force encounters. This study concludes that by reducing violence against correctional officers, use of force encounters in correctional facilities may also be reduced. Further, correctional officers do iii not appear to have sufficiently strong social bonds that could serve as protective factors against workplace strains and reduce use of force encounters.

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