I first attended college in 1996, aboard the U.S.S .Enterprise. I was in the U.S. Marine Corps and part of one of the biggest NATO mission at the time, Operation Decisive Endeavor. I had no major, the classes were free for military personnel and since they counted toward college credit I felt it was a great idea. The only drawback was that due to operational commitments, I had very little study time and was unable to attend the class sessions.

The professors, from Central Texas College, understood the predicament that most of their students were in. For this the requirements were that we completed our term paper and the three required exams before the end of the six weeks regardless if we made the classes or not.
From there on I started to take college courses wherever I was stationed and wherever I went, if possible. Needless to say I acquired transcripts from a couple of different colleges. It was not until I left the Marine Corps that I started going to college fulltime majoring in Criminal Justice.

As interesting as Criminal Justice could be, I found it dull and boring. I felt there was not much room for critical thought and independent thinking. Now it could be that perhaps I was also employed as a corrections officer and found that for the most part, many of the criminal justice professionals that I worked with were not into new ideas. Frustrated, I stopped going to school and began looking at where I was.

What was I doing? Where am I headed? What do I want to do? How will I get there? I began to ask these questions and more. After a year of reflecting on my experiences and interest I stumbled onto Anthropology. I always knew it had to do with the study of human cultures and origins, things that I have always had some interest in. So I went back to school and took two classes; Cultural Anthropology and Introduction to Archaeology. My eyes were now open. This was something I understood. It is now my goal to one day contribute to the field of Anthropology. Here is where I could use some direction and guidance.

Because of my current profession as a corrections officer, I am limited to what I can do. My anthropological training is not complete. I see it as a lifelong commitment. So here is where I would like to draw some attention and hopefully receive guidance.

How can I apply the study of Anthropology to a corrections environment or jail setting? What should I focus on? What is the direction or approach I should take? What guidance if any, can anyone contribute, based on their own knowledge and or experiences?

I have posted this on the Forum because I believe there has to be other members that could use the same type of advice on an area or subject matter they are interested in. Should this posting receive sufficient amounts of quality information, then I believe it could be a useful forum for others needing focus in their own studies as well.

I come to the Open Anthropology Cooperative because as the name implies to me, I am able to seek the guidance of those in the field and those of equal experience and knowledge all of which I refer to as professionals.

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This is a great conversation to follow. My ethnography takes place inside a youth prison, but I would like to recommend two references regarding a general exploration of correctional personnel inside facilities (juvenile and adult facilities): Cicourel's "Social Organization of Juvenile Justice" -- he explored two CA cities and the participation of professionals in the offcializing of justice procedures; Guaino-Ghezzi's article "Guards or Guardians? A theoretical and empirical analysis of parenting styles in juvenile correctional programs" -- the authors take an interesting approach, studying the facility as parent to incarcerated youth. Understanding the blowback (social/cultural/economic rather than psychological) of institutionalization upon both the incarcerated and the professionals is an important and fascinating contribution.
Steven, Chris Kelty of the Savage Minds blog has just posted on the anthropology of prisons.

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