Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice


Marcelo Castro

Committee Member

Gregory Vecchi


correctional officers, perception, sexual offenders


Correctional officers represent a large, influential group working within the criminal justice system; as such they have long attracted the interest of social scientists. These professionals, their attitudes towards inmates and the impact of these attitudes, have received scrutiny, especially since Zimbardo’s (1973) study of a mock prison, commonly referred to as the Stanford Prison Experiment. When compared to other professionals within the criminal justice system, correctional officers are often the least empathic, the most punitive, and the least supportive of rehabilitation. These potential attitudes this is unfortunate since correctional officers are ideally placed to improve the social atmosphere of institutions and to positively influence those under their supervision.

The present study examined the perceptions of 598, working, correctional officers employed in Florida’s Department of Corrections Region IV, towards offenders, specifically sexual offenders. Data was collected using a semantic differential instrument which was self-administered using the online platform, SurveyGizmo. Results showed that perceptions held by correctional officers were predominantly negative. They have more negative perceptions of sexual offenders than of other offenders. It was also determined that the gender of the correctional officer was not a significant factor influencing perception. The implications of these findings were discussed in terms of impact on offender rehabilitation and re-integration into society. It is suggested that future research consider how professional development and additional training influence correctional officer perceptions.