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Conflicting Reward Systems and Their Impact on Criminal Justice Administration - Research Paper Example

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Abstract Misalignment in organizational reward systems pose significant problems for eliciting desired behavior from individual participants. A single violator of the reward system places competitive pressure on others to violate the reward system as well…
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Conflicting Reward Systems and Their Impact on Criminal Justice Administration
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Download file to see previous pages Kerr (1975) presents a wide-reaching warning about the efficacy of reward systems that do not understand the knowledge or motivations of the individuals (or the society) the reward system hopes to incentivize toward some course of action. In order to draw attention to the scope of this problem, the author utilizes examples from politics, organizations, and profit-making firms, even though his intended audience is only concerned with the latter. By using examples from politics, however, the author’s analysis opens up avenues of investigation related to public administration, particularly criminal justice administration and the incentives it hopes to provide for mending the behaviors of convicted persons. Given the importance of preventing criminal recidivism and the economic impacts of fewer people in jails, it is no surprise that public administration officials would be interested in ways to realign their reward systems toward the knowledge or motivations of individuals. With those considerations in mind, this paper hopes to survey some of the problems that occur when reward systems in criminal justice work against the needs and wants of administrators, and how administrators can prevent that from happening. Employees are very good at figuring out what gets rewarded in the workplace and doing those things instead of what they are officially told to do. “Employee ambivalence” occurs when the explicit norms or desires of an organization come into conflict with the content of the reward systems and the norms generated by that system. An example of such a conflict might be when a company encourages employees to follow the rules, but also to be effective in their job—getting their responsibilities done any way they can. So, despite the wish for ethical behavior from upper management, cutthroat behavior might be ultimately what gets rewarded (Spencer & Sims, 1995, p. 190). And once a single individual figures out how to get rewarded, the pressure falls on his colleagues or else fall behind. Only a single violation from a single individual can expose a deep, underlying problem within a reward system. A specific application of Kerr (1975)’s analysis of problematic reward systems is contained within a study of prosecutorial misconduct. Bibas (2009) discusses possible ways to regulate the conduct of prosecutors, who the author believes have the most unreviewable power or discretion of any public official. Embedded in this analysis is a response to potential reward systems for prosecutors based on financial gains. For example, one perspective offers the solution of rewarding prosecutors whose initial charges closely match the charges the criminal was convicted upon. However, keeping in mind Kerr (1975)’s warning that what one measures is what one gets, “sizable monetary rewards for particular statistics could lead prosecutors to undercharge rather than overcharge and to plea bargain to avoid losing rewards for ethical misconduct” (Bibas, 2009, p. 156). Thus, the opposite problem arises out of the solution for the original problem, which is particularly important to bear in mind when creating reward systems for individuals within the criminal justice system. Manipulable and inflatable quantifiable statistics often define the effectiveness of prosecutors, which poses a problem for effective reward systems based on performance. Also, reward systems that become overused tend to produce the opposite effect of rewarding the right behaviors. In other words, the more rewards ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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