Week 5 (chapter 9-10)
Socialization is a natural process that takes place with all of us from infancy. We learn social rules,
attitudes, and appropriate behaviors from our parents, extended family, and friends and later from
social institutions such as schools and churches. Our early social learning may direct us to go on to
college, join the military, or, at the other extreme, may direct us to a career in crime. In college, you may
have chosen a major based in part on your earlier social learning. As a student, you will have your
beliefs, attitudes, and social behaviors altered through your interactions with professors and fellow
students. After col- lege, most students will enter an occupation.
The occupation one enters is, in part, a function of prior social learning. You will likely choose a
profession that seems to be in line with your values and beliefs. After entering your chosen profession,
you will be further socialized by formal training, on- the-job training, and your interactions with
coworkers. If you are successful in your cho- sen profession, it is because you have met the expectations
of the profession—you have been socialized properly. But here is where it all gets murky. To be
considered a suc- cess, you have to meet the expectations of bosses and peers, which are often in
conflict. If you are successful, it will be due, in part, to your ability to balance the socialization processes of more than one group within your work environment. Oddly enough, this may be the most
important life skill you will learn while attending college.
In the criminal justice system, practitioners have a great deal of autonomy and a great deal of power. A
significant problem for criminal justice executives is to assure that the practitioners in their agencies
work within the scope of their legitimate authority—that is, they perform their duties by the rules and
within ethical boundaries.
Staff members work without much direct supervision, so executives have little choice but to hope that
the staff members are socialized in accordance with the domi- nant values of the organization. In fact,
most criminal justice agency executives make a great effort to impose desirable beliefs, attitudes, and
practices on agency members. We have seen in earlier chapters that criminal justice practitioners who
work directly with clients have different perspectives on how to get the job done compared to the managers who write policy. In the real world, differences in activities are ignored if the out- comes benefit
organizational goals or image. If the outcomes harm the organization and/or manifest in corrupt
activities, agency executives are forced to take punitive actions against rule breakers as a formal
socialization mechanism. In the end, the sociali- zation process is management’s most important tool to
promote a professional culture throughout the organization.
Almost all organizations have processes for converting people into organizational members with
appropriate attitudes and behaviors. The most common formal methods of occupational socialization
include recruiting individuals who will “fit” into the organiza- tion, formal education and training, and
forms of on-the-job training. For example, almost all states require local and state law enforcement
recruits to attend a lengthy police academy before entering the service. All federal law enforcement and
federal bureau of prison agents are subjected to intensive preservice training. In a growing number of
states, preservice academies are required for correctional officers in state and local ser- vice. In addition,
supervision—the process that governs the activities and behaviors of organizational members—is a
process of ongoing occupational socialization. However, when recruits leave their respective academies
and begin their jobs, they are subjected to an informal socialization process imposed by peers
attempting to perpetuate the cul- ture of their work world.
Lawyers, prosecuting attorneys, and judges, however, are not subject to rigorous preservice training and
are socialized primarily through the judicial culture. All organiza- tions have cultures that rely on the
beliefs, activities, and behaviors of their members. Forces located in the culture impose the process of
informal socialization. In this chapter, we begin by discussing organizational culture and its impact on
members. We then dis- cuss the process of formal occupational socialization in criminal justice agencies.
We also cover the methods by which agency administrators can manage and lead the devel- opment of
the agency’s culture in order to impose some degree of influence over the informal socialization
Occupational socialization is the process by which a person acquires the attitudes values, and behaviors
of an ongoing occupational social system. It is a continuous process that includes both intentional
influences, such as training, and unintentional influences, such as locker room or work group cultures.
The atti- tudes, values, and behaviors acquired as a result of occupational socialization can include those
regarded as appropriate and legitimate for the job, as well as those that are illegitimate and even illegal.
Thus, judges may learn appropriate sentence lengths for offenders, but judges convicted in the 1986–
1988 Greylord investiga- tions in Chicago argued that they also learned to accept bribes because of the
shared view that they were underpaid compared with their lawyer peers.
Similarly, police learn how to enforce the law, but even “good” cops learn to bend or reinterpret the
rules to perform their duties. Also, correctional profes- sionals bend the rules to, in their view, get the
job done. The practice of bend- ing the rules with impunity can lead to corruption for personal gain and
profit. When Officer Robert Leuci (whose story was told in the movie Prince of the City) was collecting
evidence on police corruption in New York City for the Knapp Commission in the early 1970s, he also
testified about giving drugs to addicted informants in exchange for information, and some believe he
commit- ted many more serious crimes (Dershowitz, 1983).
Habitual behaviors of individuals in organizations, both good and bad, persist as long as the attitudes,
beliefs, perceptions, habits, and expectations of organiza- tional members remain constant. This
consistency is particularly evident in crim- inal justice organizations where the practices of police officers
and prison staff, for example, often seem unchanging and even resistant to change efforts. One common assessment of legal efforts to change criminal justice organizations is that the courts seem more
efficient at bringing about procedural rather than substantive change. Prison discipline hearings, for
example, continue to be characterized as dispositional rather than adjudicatory despite case law
requiring impartial, trial- like hearings. How can we account for the fact that almost all inmates are
found guilty by prison disciplinary boards? Although inmate behavior is probably the most important
determining factor, part of the explanation may also be found in the concept of organizational role. Katz
and Kahn (1978) give the social-psychological concept of role a central place in their theory of organizations. For them, organizations are best understood as systems of roles. These roles link the individual to
the organization and assure its continued stability.
The behaviors of individual members of an organization, as well as of the orga- nization itself, are a
product of the organization’s culture and also create its cul- ture. An organizational culture can be
described briefly as a set of assumptions and beliefs shared by members of an organization. Moreover,
the assumptions and beliefs create language, symbols, and folklore and ultimately serve to direct the
behaviors of the organizational members, especially in response to work- related problems. Edgar
Schein (2004) summarizes common meanings of organizational culture, which include observed
behavioral regularities, such as language, patterns of interactions, rituals, and norms that evolve in
working groups; dominant goals espoused by an organization, such as rehabilitation and crime
prevention, as well as the philosophy of the organization toward employ- ees or clients; rules of the
game for getting along in the organization’s social system; and the feeling or climate created in an
organization by the way employ- ees are managed or interact. Arguing that these common meanings
may reflect an organization’s culture but are not the essence of the culture, Schein (2004:17) defines
organizational culture as a pattern of basic assumptions—invented, dis- covered, or developed by a
group as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration—that has
worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct
way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems. In other words, the process of
socialization in an organization serves to impose the organization’s pat- terns of basic assumptions on its
Understanding an organization’s culture and its socialization process, espe- cially in a large or complex
organization, is a difficult task. It is therefore instruc- tive to begin by reviewing the basics of culture in
the broadest sense. Culture is often defined as the complex whole of a society and includes knowledge,
belief, art, laws, morals, customs, and other capabilities and routines acquired by the society’s members
(Tylor, 1958). This is a rather standard definition of culture —one, however, that does not provide an
understanding of its essence. An alter- nate view describes culture (much like Schein does) as problem
solving, a pattern of basic assumptions invented by a group as it learns to cope with problems of
external adaptation and internal integration:
Whenever people face recurring problems, cultural patterns evolve to provide a ready-made solution.
This does not mean that it is the best or only solution, merely that the culture develops a set of standard
patterns for dealing with common problems…. The more frequently a society relies upon its ready-made
solutions, the more deeply entrenched the culture (Brinkerhoff and White, 1991:58).
Societies develop language to solve the problem of communicating, and language thus becomes the
framework for culture. Groups also have desirable goals that are expressed as values. Norms evolve
specifying what people should or should not do. Also, folkways (standard ways of doing things), mores
(strong views of right and wrong), and laws (codified mores enforced by the group) develop. Once a
society or group has developed its culture—a set of ready-made answers or established patterns,
language, beliefs, behaviors, to solve its problems—it attempts to perpetuate the culture. The process of
perpetuating conformity to the established culture, social control, provides a series of sanctions—
rewards and punishments—for individual conformity or nonconformity to established behavioral
patterns, language, mores, folkways, and laws. Most sanctions are informal because they are not
codified and are applied in daily interactions between individuals. Social or informal sanctions can be
more powerful than legal sanctions. Formal sanctions are abstract and stem from impersonal sources.
Social or informal sanctions, such as peer pressure, however, can be personal and evoked by sources
valued by an indi- vidual receiving sanction. Rewards from supervisors, such as the “corrections officer
of the month” for meritorious performance, will not have the same influence on officers in general as
the immediate day-to-day and often subtle pressures from peers. In spite of attempts at social control,
societies generally have subcultures, groups that have their own beliefs and norms while sharing those
of the dominant culture. Countercultures, groups whose shared beliefs and values differ substantially
from those of the dominant culture, typically exist within any large society.
Organizations can be considered micro-societies within which distinct cul- tures emerge. The mixture of
individuals who belong to any organization create —through their attempts to solve organizational and
personal problems or achieve organizational or personal goals—sets of ready-made solutions, a shared
language, folkways, and mores unique to the organization. The pivotal question for an organization is
how the culture is formed, what forces are critical in form- ing the culture, how the cultural
arrangements impact the organizational goals, and how and to what extent administrators can influence
the cultural arrange- ment of their agency.
The culture of an organization is first impacted by problems of external adaptation—problems imposed
by demands, constraints, and pressures from its environment (Schein, 2004). If those problems are
recurring ones, the organiza- tion will attempt to develop ready-made solutions to meet them.
Organizations, however, face more problems than those explicitly identified as their mission. For
example, all organizations also strive to acquire status and respectability, grow and garner resources, set
and expand boundaries, control environmental forces, and, when the chips are down, survive.
Police, for example, are dramatized as crime fighters, but the duties of law enforcement officers include
crime prevention, traffic and parking regulations, and a host of other problems that the public faces and
expects law enforcement agencies to solve. Courts attempt to process criminal offenders efficiently
while seeing that rules of justice and fairness are followed. Corrections carry out the role of criminal
punishment while meeting the basic physical and social needs of offenders. The criminal justice system
has been assigned aspects of social con- trol that society feels it cannot solve directly. The criminal
justice system attempts to meet three missions: crime control, justice, and provision of forms of social
service (Gains and Kappler, 2005; Sherman and Hawkins, 1981). Each compo- nent of the criminal justice
system attempts to solve a different aspect of the overall problem-solving mandate, but it also shares to
a greater or lesser extent the burden of all three functions. Each component has developed its unique
set of ready-made solutions and patterns of basic assumptions to cope with or solve its problems, along
with its language, norms, mores, and the like. In other words, each component of the system has its own
Likewise, each member of an organization also attempts to meet personal goals and needs (solve
problems) within the framework of the organization. For example, each member shares, to a greater or
lesser extent, an economic need and the needs to belong and be respected, to acquire status and
power, and to be considered successful. Although individuals can meet their needs directly through the
formal structure of the organization by carrying out its objectives, they often fulfill these needs through
the informal structure or social system that develops within the organization.
Large organizations have hierarchies and a range of component agencies. Each component agency and
level of the hierarchy has a different set of pro- blems to solve, which in turn requires the development
of a set of ready- made solutions and assumptions. Therefore, each component or hierarchical level of
an organization will be a subculture of the greater organizational culture. Because each component of a
large organization faces different pro- blems of external adaptation, the process of internal integration
evolves under a different set of conditions. In Chapter 3, for example, it was argued that large
organizations decouple because top administrators and work process functionaries exist in different
environments and face different sets of demands and constraints. In short, administrators and
operational staff have different sets of problems to solve; each group, therefore, creates its own set of
ready-made solutions and acceptable patterns, resulting in different subcul- tures of the organization.
There are many subcultures within the criminal justice system and its com- ponent agencies. Within
correctional systems, some degree of conflict usually exists between the treatment and custody staffs.
An important component of the conflict is the cultural difference that arises from the different set of
pro- blems each group has been assigned to solve. Detective work is usually viewed as having a higherorder status because detectives do not deal with typical street-cop problems. Rather, the problems they
solve are cerebral in nature— they investigate, interact directly and often with members of the
prosecutor’s staff, are assigned office space, and wear suits and ties to set them apart. Judges as well as
prosecuting and defense attorneys work in a world almost foreign to most criminal justice practitioners.
Sophisticated legal-based expertise and knowledge symbolized by the legalistic language set this
subculture apart from other criminal justice system subcultures. Currently, most large law enforce- ment
agencies have divisions dedicated to homeland security that are responsi- ble for antiterrorism efforts.
Homeland security units have duties and require expertise that sets them apart from other units in their
agency. The administra- tive/management culture is identified by the constant search for numbers and
statistics. Administrators must solve the problem of “accountability” to the public and political systems,
and numbers provide the solution. To the “street-level bureaucrats” (Lipsky, 1980)—the correctional
officers, police offi- cers, probation and parole officers who carry out the work—numbers may have little
value and are viewed as “red tape.” The intentional filtering of communication upward and downward
through the chain of command (discussed in Chapter 4) is an artifact of organizational culture. Middle
managers screen and reinterpret directives to make them “fit” into the established routines developed
to solve problems. Conversely, information in reports on activities sent upward through the chain of
command is often slanted to provide the appearance of conformity to management directives by the
street-level bureau- crats. This practice is a common artifact of most organizations, especially crim- inal
justice agencies, where organizational members believe that rules must be violated to get the job done.
The cultural milieu of an organization is also impacted by the mix of cul- tures imported by its personnel.
Relatively small organizations, such as small local jails, courts, or police departments, may hire staff from
the local commu- nity with a homogeneous culture. In this case, it is likely that the agency’s
organizational culture will be similarly homogeneous and cultural conflict will be minimal. However,
large agencies that recruit personnel from urban areas
with heterogeneous cultures will absorb a mix of individuals from different ethnic groups,
socioeconomic groups, and a growing number of women who may bring with them somewhat different
mores and established patterns of problem solving that create misunderstandings and conflict with the
male-dominated system. The mix of cultures can also conflict with a traditional and well-established
formal structure that is supported by and is congruent with the prevailing management culture. With
the influx of women into the crimi- nal justice system, management is held responsible via regulations
evolving out of federal equal opportunity guidelines that address organizational hostilities toward
women and minorities. The implications clearly make man- agement responsibl …
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