9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN11 Sociology of Emotions

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Work Organisations & Emotions I Building II, C6.06

Emotional labour and emotional strain among Swedish prison officers

Prison life has often been connected to different kinds of emotions. The emotional life of prison officers is though rarely explored. Prison officers meet, in their daily work with inmates, different emotional expressions. This can be aggressions but also deep sadness. In the interaction with inmates prison officers are involved in different modes of emotional labour performance. In this paper we will argue that there is an important relation between the different rituals that prison officers in different wings are involved in and the officers´ emotional labour performance. Different rituals and different emotional labour also goes hand in hand with the development of differences in views about the inmates. Differences in interaction rituals and performance of emotional labour becomes clear when we compare officers in three kinds of wings, treatment wings, security wings and regular wings. Officers in security wings are more involved in formal rituals like counting inmates, visitations of inmates and visitors, and looking for contraband which leads to a more distanced and surface emotional labour. They also express a more negative view of the inmates, they being manipulative criminals. They also express a more us (officers) and them (inmates) attitude. Offices in treatment wings see the formal rituals more as hindrance in their daily work trying to motivate and create relations to the inmates. They are also involved in more spontaneous rituals together with the inmates which can create feelings of affinity and understanding. They also perform a more deep emotional labour interacting with inmates. This in turn leads to more emotional strain in this group. Compared to the officers in security wings, officers in treatment wings have a much more positive view of the inmates. In treatment wings the officers often talk about the inmates´ good resources and stressing the importance of treating the inmates´ with respect. In the regular wings we can see that the officers vary in their emotional labour performance between surface, and deep emotional labour in their interactions with inmates.