The team of researchers of the Law Institute of the Lithuanian Centre for Social Sciences (LSMC TI) is implementing the research "Changes in prison officers’ professional roles within the shifting custodial sentencing policy and practice" (PRISTA), funded by the Research Council of Lithuania (LMT) under the activity “Researcher Group Projects”. The Project team consists of LSMC TI researchers: Project leader, chief researcher dr. Artūras Tereshkinas, chief researcher dr. Rūta Vaičiūnienė, senior researcher dr. Simon Nikartas and junior researcher Liubovė Jarutienė. Project partner: Lithuanian Prison Service under the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania.

The work of prison staff, who are in regular contact with prisoners, has an undeniable impact and forms the basis for achieving the objectives of the custodial sentence and prisoners' quality of life. However, the role of prison officers has been analysed in a somewhat episodic and fragmented way in the current academic literature (Bennettetal. 2008; Liebling 2010). This research acknowledges that the tasks assigned to officers and the environment in which they pursue their professional goals inherently create contradictions, dilemmas and internal conflicts. Prison officers are condemned to constantly try to balance and reconcile their exercise of power, control and supervision with the goals of helping and resocialising prisoners (Bruhn et al. 2010; Liebling 2011). Modern prison systems have a strong orientation towards social work and correcting prisoners' behaviour. However, this orientation does not ensure that a compromise can be found between the officers’ different and conflicting roles and the tasks that accompany them. The changes in sentencing policy highlight new dilemmas and contradictions. The rise of softpower, the increasing burden of bureaucratic work, and the need for various specialisations in officers' work prompt researchers to rethink both the officers’ specific goals and tasks and their role in general (Crewe 2011; Nylander2011). The specificity of the Lithuanian imprisonment system, together with the inherited Soviet-era system of execution of sentences, which is characterised by a pronounced element of supervision, control and punishment (Sakalauskas et al. 2020), and the constant attempts to reform the system further exacerbate the problem of the implementation of the prison officers’ professional role.

The aim of this Project is to analyse the dilemmas Lithuanian prison officers face in their attempts to implement their professional role and to examine how this role has been changing in the context of current reforms.

The need for science approach and scientifically based description of the role of prison officers was confirmed by the Lithuanian Prison Service under the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania which agreed to participate in the Project as a partner. The research based on abundant empirical data will allow policy makers and implementers of custodial sentences to initiate certain changes in the officers‘ work based on scientific arguments.


Duration of the project: 2023-07-01–2025-06-30.