Jay Borchert is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology and a Population Studies Center Trainee at the University of Michigan, as well as a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Law & Society at UC Berkeley School of Law. We discuss research he conducted for his dissertation titled “Mass Incarceration, The Profession of Corrections, and the Way Prison Workers Construct Meanings about their Participation in our Punishment State,” where he conducted ethnographic observation of prisons and semi-structured interviews with correctional officers.
“Dramatic things happened all the time in the prisons. It’s important to be able to manage your emotions and your reactions in those situations. Many prisons have been built in areas of extreme poverty and isolation, particularly in the case of Kentucky. The characteristics of local political economies make going to work in prisons – which is a stable job, with benefits – a logical, if not pleasant, choice for a lot of people. Their choices are understandable. Going in with a judgmental attitude just makes no sense if we claim to know anything about our history and our politics – particularly our racial politics. It makes no sense to do that if we really want to work toward solving social problems.”
– Jay Borchert –