Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Zachary Gabriel Green, Ph.D.; Christopher B. Newman, Ph.D.; Afsaneh Nahavandi, Ph.D.; Hans Peter Schmitz, Ph.D.


County jails, Decision-making


Recidivism is a complex phenomenon. Greater than 65 percent of incarcerated adults return to jail within three years. While numerous empirical studies focus on factors that contribute to recidivism, there is limited existing research that examines decision-making as one of these factors. The purpose of this study is to address this gap in the literature and develop an understanding of the influence of decision-making processes on inmates and correctional officers and deputies in the California criminal justice system. An exploratory 2014 pilot study at three California county jails found correctional officers and inmates faced similar challenges related to decision-making as a result of their interaction with the criminal justice system.

The current study explores a) the decision-making experiences of inmates who reside in jails; b) the decision-making experiences of formerly incarcerated persons; c) the decision-making experiences of correctional officers and deputies who work in jails; and d) the potential opportunities to exercise decision-making skills in jails for inmates, correctional officers and deputies. A qualitative approach using adapted phenomenological data analysis techniques, a decision-making questionnaire, and focus groups were used to explore the types of decisions correctional officers, deputies and inmates make on a daily basis and how their experiences compare to one another.

Findings suggest the jail environment has an equally negative impact on correctional officers, deputies and inmates. The need to evaluate the human experience of all three groups is evident. The findings further affirm the Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment discoveries on the parallel life experiences of inmates, correctional officers and deputies. As a result, the Peshon Reciprocal Interaction Decision Model, which may be used to evaluate the decision-making experiences of these populations in spaces of tension, conflict and use of force is proposed. This study also offers insights that can inform officer training and inmate preparation for release.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies