In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Prison Administration

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • The Differing Concepts of Leadership and Management
  • Politics and Prison Administration
  • Correctional Staff Supervision and Development
  • Prison Leadership Development: The Executive Leadership Institute of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Criminology Prison Administration
Stan Stojkovic
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0285


Leadership concerns and management functions define the essential elements of prison administration. While for most prisons, there is not a formal title of “prison leader” or “prison manager,” there are persons in administrative positions who take on leadership roles and perform management duties. Leadership involves the articulation of both mission and vision, while management involves the accomplishment of specific tasks. Both leadership and management are needed for effective prison administration to exist. This piece will examine the following topics: drawing a distinction between leadership and management, the role of politics in prison administration, and the importance of correctional staff supervision and development. Finally, the article provides a model of leadership development found in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as an example of promoting effective prison administration.

General Overviews

Carlson and Garrett 1999 states that prison administration fundamentally involves the application of both leadership and management techniques to correctional institutions. It must be noted that prison administration and jail administration are not the same thing. The former addresses concerns in the context of correctional institutions charged with maintaining the safety and security of both prisoners and staff within the jurisdictional authority of a state or the federal government, while the latter comprises fundamentally local correctional institutions. This article will focus on the essential elements of prison administration. These elements are found in the following broad categories: leadership and management, politics and correctional administration, and correctional staff supervision and development. This brief piece does not pretend to cover the broad categories of prison administration as presented in textbooks or monographs. Rather, the purpose here is to provide a general overview of how prison administration can be conceptualized and a brief discussion of the important issues that prison administrators encounter daily. Additionally, this piece will examine the core elements of leadership that define the essence of prison administration. It will rely very heavily on the work that has been done on businesses, governmental agencies, and nonprofits. Examinations of correctional administration have produced some very interesting textbooks and treatises. DiIulio 1987 presents one of the first attempts to examine prison management. Similarly, Houston 1995 examines prison management in the context of day-to-day activities of prison administrators. There is no attempt to examine the differences between prison management and prison leadership in these works. Marquart and Crouch 1989 documents the history of litigation in the Texas prisons as a way to suggest the faults of prison managers and their leaders in the wake of constitutional challenges to the operations of their prisons c. 1940–1975. At the core of their examination is how legal and humane changes can occur within prisons. Kotter 2011 and Rainey 2014 provide some interesting insights regarding change in organizations and the history of managing public organizations, such as prisons. These works have produced compelling portrayals and discussions regarding the leadership and management of public and private organizations with potential application to prisons. Phillips and Roberts 2000 and Seiter 2011 lay the foundation for understanding prison administration as complex yet guided by the same constraints and concerns found in all public organizations. These works are very technical and others are more conceptual regarding the operations of prison administrators. In the end, as Stojkovic 2005 and Wright 1994 suggest, leadership and management matter to prison administration. Similarly, Stojkovic and Farkas 2003 (cited under Differing Concepts of Leadership and Management) shows how prison administration is tied to prison leadership and the importance of developing a positive prison culture.

  • Carlson, Peter M., and Judith Simon Garrett. 1999. Prison and jail administration: Practice and theory. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen.

    A very hands-on book on prison administration. Does an excellent job of describing prison administration based on the day-to-day experiences of correctional managers.

  • DiIulio, John J., Jr. 1987. Governing prisons: A comparative study of correctional management. New York: Free Press.

    A classic in the prison management genre. One of the first books examining competing models of prison management: the control model, the consensus model, and the responsibility model. Called into question the explanatory power of earlier prison research and the role of prison management. A must read for persons interested in the management of prisons.

  • Houston, James. 1995. Correctional management. Chicago: Nelson-Hall.

    A dated book, but one of the first books written on correctional management that addresses the needs of correctional managers from the perspectives offered by academicians. The book covers the major topics that correctional managers face: personnel issues, budgetary concerns, politics, and strategic planning for correctional managers, to mention a few. Very easy to read and a comprehensive application to prison administration and management.

  • Kotter, John. 2011. Leading change: Why transformation efforts fail. In HBR's 10 must reads on change management. 1–16. Boston: Harvard Business Review.

    The first article in a series of articles about how transformation efforts fail in organizations. The description and analysis are straightforward and clear. Provides leaders and managers suggestions on how they can transform their organizations given the many hurdles and challenges they face.

  • Marquart, James W., and Ben M. Crouch. 1989. An appeal to justice: Litigated reform of Texas prisons. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.

    An excellent description of the Texas prison system over time and the influence of one court and one judge on the administration of the state’s prison system. The authors detail the long and tragic story of how the prisons in Texas were forced to change and alter management and administrative approaches to managing inmates to be in line with legal expectations of one federal judge.

  • Phillips, Richard L., and John W. Roberts. 2000. Quick reference to correctional administration. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen.

    A how-to book for correctional administrators. Written in the language of correctional managers and directed toward people grappling with the daily issue of managing a correctional institution.

  • Rainey, Hal G. 2014. Understanding and managing public organizations. 5th ed. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley.

    An excellent book written for people interested in managing public organizations. Provides a plethora of material and critical analyses of the issues that managers face within the public domain. In its 5th edition, c. 2014, it represents the best portrayal of the complexities of those working in the public sector. Relevance to prison administration is clear and abundant through the descriptions and analyses provided.

  • Seiter, Richard. 2011. Corrections: An introduction. 3d ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    A basic introduction to corrections textbook written by a seasoned and experienced correctional professional. Offers the basic information students need to know about corrections and provides a framework that emphasizes solutions to many intractable correctional problems, such as dealing with tight correctional budgets and the management of too many offenders.

  • Stojkovic, Stan. 2005. Managing special populations in jails and prisons. Vol. 1. Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute.

    A focused edited work comprised of chapter written by a diverse group of people, including academics and correctional professionals. A widely heralded book used by many correctional professionals across the country. A wide list of topics relevant to the administration and management of problematic populations in jails and prisons.

  • Wright, Kevin. 1994. Effective prison leadership. Binghamton, NY: William Neil.

    A seminal piece written with both the correctional practitioner and the academic in mind. A thorough analysis of the myriad of issues facing prison leadership, all placed in the context of competing public agencies vying for limited resources. One of the first prison leadership books written with an academic focus in mind and with a practical application for prison administrators.

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