In most correctional settings, staff rely heavily on their authority to generate compliance and cooperation among incarcerated persons. Yet, in comparison to other sectors of the criminal justice system, procedural justice theory has been scarcely applied to the realm of corrections. In partnership with LaGratta Consulting (and with support from both the Tow & Herbert and Nell Singer Foundations) our CT DOC project aims to promote human dignity and staff wellness in CT correctional settings through the development, implementation, and evaluation of a procedural justice intervention. The project aims to improve interactions and experiences of both corrections staff and incarcerated persons, increase perceptions of fairness and trust, and improve correction officers’ job satisfaction. In addition, it aims to offer correctional officers tools to develop a sustainable model of effective communication that supports de-escalation of conflicts and decrease in the use of force.

The project consists of three stages:

  • Part I involves developing a procedural justice pilot and training. Knowledge generated through initial planning workshops with agency leadership and mid-level managers, as well as a review of existing policies and forms and informal observation of standard operating procedures, will inform the production of a draft curriculum and implementation plan, ‘Procedural Justice Pilot for Correction Officers.’
  • Part II consists of implementing the pilot and delivering training. The pilot training will entail approximately seven hours of instructional content for correction officers at a chosen correctional institution. Insight from focus groups with approximately 20 line staff and supervisors will inform the draft pilot design and curriculum.
  • Part III assesses whether trained correction officers and the incarcerated population that they interact with reveal procedural justice measures more positive than at baseline, the revised, final intervention plan will be delivered and evaluated in a randomized controlled trial (RCT). The impact evaluation will be based on three sources of data: surveys with correction officers, surveys with incarcerated individuals, and incident reports at treatment and control sites. We hypothesize that at the treatment site, surveys with correction officers will reveal procedural justice measures more positive than at baseline. Similarly, surveys with a sample of the incarcerated population should indicate increased perception of fairness, respect, trust, and confidence with regard to correctional staff, as well as their willingness to comply with staff directives. We also expect the treatment site to experience reductions in use-of-force incidents. Long-term, officers who attended the procedural justice training are expected to continue showing more support for the procedural justice principles introduced in the training.