Retention of Thai Correctional Officers: Leadership and Prison



                                                                                                                                                    By AekkamolLuadlai


        The turnover among correctional officers is a big problem that affects correctional systems. In particular, this issue also has a significant effect on developing the Thai correctional system. There is a high turnover rate among Thai correctional officers from 11,029 to 10,549 within three years between 2013 and 2016 (Thai DOC, 2017).The 2016 turnover rate in the Thai Correctional Department can be divided into categories for 125 quitting jobs, 52 transferring to other agencies, 19 died, and 238retired (Thai DOC, 2017). Therefore this turnover issue leads Thai corrections administrators to try to find the solution.


Problems of correctional officers’ turnover


       Previous studies demonstrate that there are various factors which influence turnover among correctional officers, especially work environments, safety issues, and job satisfaction level.


  • Work environment is an important issue that influences prison officers to quit their jobs. This is because prison officers have high pressure during work hour, especially when working with violent prisoners. Officers also have to spend time in prison during day and night shifts (Dignam, Barrera & West, 1986; Castlebury, 2002; Prasopnet, 2010)


  • Safety issues cause high levels of stress, when working with violent prisoners (Cornelius, 2001; Castlebury, 2002). This is one of the important factorsthat motivates correctional officers to quit their jobs.


  • Low level of job satisfaction create high turnover rates (Farkas, 2001; Udechukwu, Harrington, Manyak, Segal & Graham, 2007). Job satisfaction has various indicators such as money, rewards, training programs from organization, encouragement and motivation from supervisors and prison administrators (Carl, 2010). Specifically, the role of prison administrators plays an important role to keep correctional officers in the organization.


Role of leadership and correctional administration


       Leadership is an important role which influenceson officers to stay with organization. This study focuses on three main characteristics of leaderships which are key components to administrate prison organizations. These characteristics are loyalty, competence, and good communication.


  • Loyalty is an important characteristic of leadership. The leader have loyalty on their organizations in order to be a good model to their follower (Nink,2010). In particular, they should not take advantage of their power and have status (Jones-Burbridge, 2012). MacCallum(2005) indicates that correctional officers has a respect and positive attitudes toward leaders who have a high level of integrity. This leads to trustworthy within an organization.


  • Competency focuses on the abilities of a good leader such as decision-making ability, visionary and courage. Specifically, good decision-making is effective in organizations, especially in correctional systems. Decision-makingis key in managing challenges within prisons. Specifically, this has influence on the correctional officers’ work directions (MacCallum, 2005; Jones-Burbridge, 2012). Decision making is linked to conceptualization. Conceptualization focuses on administrators’ abilities to seeing beyond the limits of conducting within organization, including see the outcome of the situation which will occurs in the short term and the long term (Jones-Burbridge, 2012). This also enables administrators to learn about the past and have insight to the current reality (Jones-Burbridge, 2012).


  • Good communication is a significant element of leadership among prison administrators in encouraging and supporting their correctional officers. Also, this skill of a leader can help officers have less tension (Dignam et al. 1986). Good communication from an administrator increases the level of job satisfaction among prison officers (Nink, 2010). Also, good communication as a bridge links administrators and their workers, which lead to building a strong community within the organization ( Jones-Burbridge, 2012)


Role of leadership and Thai correctional administration


       The role of leader is an important in the administration of the Thai correctional system. This is because in the Thai correctional agency also faces many challenges in administering correctional officers the two main challenges of administration are human resources and working within prison walls.


  • Human resources focus on many problems for the Thai correctional administration in hiring and retaining officers. Specifically, working in prison does not attract people to this field because they have to work with criminals. In particular, this issue leads people to look at this job as a low dignity job compared to working in other agencies in the criminal justice system such as police, courts, and prosecutors. In addition, the low salary issue is a significant issue which impacts keeping quality officers in an organization. Therefore, this issue leads many officers to quit their jobs, or transferring to other agencies.


  • The Thai correctional department has faced overcrowding in the prison population. This poses difficulties to officer work because the ratio of correctional officer per offender is 1 officer per 26 offenders (Thai DOC, 2017). This is over the standard of controlling offenders that is set as 1 officer per 5 offenders. Other countries set their officers working with offenders 1 officer per 5 offenders or less than this number (Thai DOC, 2012).This issue creates an overloaded of work for the Thai correctional officers. Importantly, this work is difficult and dangerous to workers’ lives, especially working with violent criminals.  In additional, Thai correctional department shows that there were 20 officers die during working in prisons, especially 3 prison administrators who were killed by inmates (Thai DOC, 2012). This does not include the officers who were attacked and died by the network of prisoners outside prisons.


       Both a Thai correctional administrator and a Thai correctional officer agree that leadership plays an important role in the correctional system.


              In particular, Mr.Nathee  Jitsawangisan ex- director general of the Thai correctional department. In an interview, he discussed leadership and the correctional administration influences on correctional officers’ work.Working in prison is dangerous which leads many correctional officers to be scared about their safety while working. Additionally, the pay and benefits are inadequate, which significantly motivates correctional officers to leave this organization Therefore, the role of the leadership among prison administrators is important to motivate their officers to keep working, by listening to their problems and supporting them to improve their abilities. This will help them build morale which is important to keep officers in this organization.


       Mr. Visut Chimmusi served as a Thai correctional officer in Bangkok Remand prison.In an interview, hestated that a good leader is a person who has the competency to handle challenge within an organization. He also discussed that a prison administrator should listen to problems and share ideas with their officers. This will help encourage correctional officers and raise morale. Importantly, leaders should have the responsibility for helping their officers handle all challenges with their actions more than their orders.Therefore, the role of leader is important to morale while working in this organization. Mr. Chimmusi also discussed that if Thai correctional administrators can do this,the Thai correctional agency will keep officers to in the organization.


Conclusion and Discussion


       This study investigates the leadership skills among prison administrators as the solution to handle the turnover of Thai correctional officers. Also, this study helps explain the role of correctional administrators’ leadership skills not only in handling turnover problems with correctional officers, but also in helping correctional officers to improve their abilities that will lead to developing the organization in future (Campbell, 2006).


      Importantly, this study is a guideline and a new perspective to encourage the correctional department to improve and create useful programs for prison administrators. Such programs help administrators improve and develop their abilities to lead their prison systems (Hersley& Stinson, 1980). Training programs for prison administrators in the Thai correctional department leads administrators to understand the important role of leadership in their organizations. This will help officers with motivation and encouragement to increase morale in the prison organization (Medonca, 2001).


     Training programs for prison administrators emphasize the skills of leadership, especially negotiation and motivation. This training will help prison administrators understand their roles as leaders and enable them to adjust and handle human resource problems within their organizations. For future research, if there are comparative studies in other countries on this topic, this will indicate that the role of leadership is important not only in Thailand, but also in other countries.








Campbell, N. (2006). Correctional leadership competencies for the 21st century: Manager  and supervisor levels. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice National Institute  of Corrections.Chimmusi, V.personal communication, November 7, 2012


Dial, K. C., & Johnson, W. (2008). Working within the walls: The effect of care from  coworkers on correctional employees. Professional Issues in Criminal  Justice, 3(2), 17-32.


Dignam, J., Barrera, M., & West, S. (1986). Occupational stress, social support, and burnout among correctional officers. American Journal of Community Psychology, 14(2), 177-193.


Farkas, M. (2001). Correctional officers: What factors influence work attitudes?.Corrections Management Quarterly,5(2), 20-26.


Hersley, P., & Stinson, J. (1980). Perspectives in leader effectiveness. Ohio: Ohio University Press.


Jitsawang, N. personal communication, November 5, 2012


Lambert, G. E. (2001). To stay or quit: A review of the literature on correctional staff  turnover. American Journal of Criminal Justice.76, 26(1), 61-76. doi:  10.1007/BF02886857


MacCallum, D. (2005). Leadership within the florida department of corrections. Retrieved from


Medonca, M. (2001). Preparing for ethical leadership in organizations. Canadian Journal of  Administrative Sciences, 18(4), 266-276.


Nink, C. (2010). Correctional officers: Strategies to improve retention. (2nd ed.). Centerville, UT: Management& Training Corporation Institution.


Prasopnet, S. (2012). Handbook for thai correctional administration (A.Luadlai, Trans.) Bangkok: Thailand. (Original work published 1998)


Personel division, Thai Correctional Department, personal communication, October 31, 2012


Personel division, Thai Correctional Department, personal communication, May24, 2017


Udechukwu, I., Harrington, W., Manyak, T., Segal, S., & Graham, S. (2007). The georgia department of corrections: An exploratory reflection on correctional officer turnover and its correlates. Public Personnel Management, 36(3), 247-266.