Prison Officer Self-Legitimacy

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Factors Contributing to the Self-Legitimacy of Prison Officers
Bottoms and Tankebe (2012) define the dialogic nature of legitimacy, i.e. power holders’ legitimacy and self-legitimacy. Self-legitimacy is a process of constructing, affirming and resisting certain self-images of the power holder (Tankebe, 2014). Prison officers enter into interactions with “audiences” (e.g. prisoners) with the view of demonstrating and affirming certain possible selves or identities, which are believed to be justified holders of power (Tankebe, 2014). Furthermore, contacts between prison officers and their colleagues, superiors and prisoners represent those moments in which prison officers have the opportunity to confirm their previously constructed selves (Bottoms and Tankebe, 2013; Tyler and Blader, 2000). The roots of prison officers’ self-legitimacy are thus found in various relationships they find themselves in (relationships with colleagues, superiors and prisoners), and in
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Tankebe (2014) hypothesises that the further one climbs downwards on the rungs of an organisational structure, the greater the energy, time and intensity required for the confirmation of claims to authority. Liebling (2011) argues that fair and just interpersonal relationships contribute to prisoners’ perception of the fairness of the prison regime and influence prison officers’ opinions regarding what prisoners think of them, which consequently influences their self-legitimacy. Meško, Tankebe, Čuvan and Šifrer (2014) confirm the impact of audiences’ (prisoners’) perceptions of prison officers’ self-legitimacy, however, their findings are also in line with those unveiled by Liebling, who argues that the quality of relationships between prison officers and prisoners has an impact on prison officers’
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