Staff administrators not only administer the roles but also can deny and punish inmates accused of disobedience in order to maintain order, however, they often fail. The sense of power and authority among prison guards is usually lacking physically and mentally. Rewards given to prisoners by guards to enhance obedient behavior are seen as things inmates feel they deserve. These so-called rewards and punishments are not necessarily things taken away from prisoners if they disobey. Many times guards are reluctant to enforce the rules in order to maintain order, keep control, and prevent inmates from becoming unhappy.
Guards depend on the inmates to maintain the peace by snitching on others, accepting bribes, and taking on certain tasks in return for obeying the rules. Guards are often friendly toward inmates compromising the guards’ power and control over the inmates. Also guards turn over specific duties to trusted inmates, which give the inmates more control. The more the inmates feel in control the better and more stable the environment is within prisons, and the more control the guards can maintain. Many times coercion is evident and perhaps needed. Of course, the lack of a sense of duty among inmates to obey, the obvious problems involving coercion, the lack of real rewards for good behavior, and the strong pressures among the guards to become involved in corruption in the form of friendships, reciprocity and the transfer of duties toward trusted inmates all represent built in positives and negatives within the prison system.
The job of the guards is more like a baby-sitter, the true punishment and reward system comes from administrators. However, in prison inmates try to avoid situations that will lead them to be labeled troublesome or at fault. Prison life is focused on staying out of trouble. It is a world of negatives. The possibilities for messing up are endless. Prison officials make up the rules and there are no appeals. Similar to the 19th century way of thinking within the correctional system, prison is now based on punish and controlling inmates and nothing else. Punishments and rewards in prison are many times based on external rules made by outsiders and enforced by the administration. And the punishments or rewards are usually based on how one behaves in prison, not what crime they committed.
Officials often use psychological and legal maneuvers to exert and maintain the fear of power over the inmates. Inmates are subjected to the most trivial and frivolous actions by the administrators, minor infractions can lead to major forms of punishment, like lockdown. Inmates have very little personal control over their physical property or environment; everything is in the hands of the officers. Playing the game correctly is how one survives in prison. However, to outsiders this may seem to be the right approach when dealing with violent or serious offenders. As I said earlier, the mood from prisoner rights has been replaced with retribution and punishment. This way of thinking is indicative of society as a whole, not just the correctional system.