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Corrections Stress - 1. General

"The primary goal of corrections work is the safe and secure management and rehabilitation of justice-involved individuals, whether in locked facilities or within community supervision programs. Pursuit of this goal comes with demanding requirements such as the necessity of staff to maintain constant heightened vigilance while they work and also adhere to strict security protocols. In addition, corrections staff must perform their duties within harsh physical environments and with repeated exposure to violence, injury, and death events. Data supports a health and functioning toll of corrections work that must be not only endured but overcome if corrections staff are to perform optimally over time and if staff are to develop a sense of job-related success, pride, meaning, and professional fulfillment. Meeting and overcoming the occupation-specific challenges of corrections work will, by necessity, require an accurate and specific understanding of the converging forces impinging on staff’s health and functioning, how these manifest, and how they can be deterred. This paper presents an evidence-supported model and framework for the comprehensive understanding of occupational threats to corrections workplace health and functioning as well as a data-driven and evidence-based strategy for addressing them" (p. 1). Sections of this paper include: types of stressors in corrections environments; direct and indirect traumatic exposure; use of varying terminology in the literature regarding traumatic exposure; types of corrections fatigue components; interacting components; a six-stage model for addressing corrections fatigue; and summary.

Occupational Stressors in Corrections Organizations: Types, Effects and Solutions Cover

"Corrections work of all disciplines, whether in institutional or in community-based settings, has been recognized as being exceptionally stressful. Traditionally, this has been regarded as a consequence of staff’s exposure to multiple organizational stressors and also operational stressors. Examples of organizational stressors are role problems, demanding interactions with other staff or justice-involved individuals, and low organizational support. Examples of operational stressors are shift work, high workloads, and mandatory overtime. The effects of these types of stressors have also been thought to result in “burnout.” "Recently, a more insidious source of occupational stress has been recognized in the corrections profession—that of exposure to potentially traumatic events and material. Such exposure can be direct (first hand), such as while responding in person to incidents of violence, injury or death, or being assaulted on the job. Traumatic exposure can also be indirect (second hand), such as while hearing about or viewing videos of critical incidents or reading presentencing investigation reports. "This annotated bibliography was developed in an effort to provide current and useful information to corrections professionals regarding possible effects of traumatic and other high-stress exposure on staff health and wellness. In addition to literature on traumatic stress in corrections, research on organizational stress, operational stress and burnout in corrections is included. The reason for this is that exposure to traumatic stress frequently co-occurs with operational and organizational stressors, and contributes to the overall outcome of traumatization and burnout. Non-corrections literature is referenced on the subject of psychological trauma and resilience in the general population and in other high-risk occupations to provide a context for and meaningful comparisons with the corrections-related findings" (p. x). Seventy-seven (77) citations are organized into the following sections: Occupational Traumatic Exposure of Corrections Professionals; Depression in Corrections Professionals; Corrections Officer Suicide; Health Issues of Corrections Professionals; Operational Stress, Organizational Stress, and Burnout in Corrections Professionals; Traumatic Stress and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder; Traumatic Stress and PTSD in High-trauma Occupations; Secondary Traumatic Stress/Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma; Burnout; and Resilience.

Occupational Stressors in Corrections Work Annotated Bibliography Cover

In just four decades, the size of the U.S. state prison population grew by more than 700 percent. By 2008, the number of incarcerated individuals in the United States hit an all-time high, with 1 in 100 adults in either prison or jail and fully 1 in every 31 American adults under some form of correctional jurisdiction (including incarceration, probation, and parole).

Researchers have noted these patterns and trends with alarm. Yet while expansive studies have been conducted on correctional systems in the United States, most of this work begins and ends with a focus on the incarcerated. Much of the early literature either ignores correctional personnel altogether, or paints an overly simplistic picture. While interest in those who work inside American prisons has begun to grow, we still know surprisingly little about what happens to correctional personnel as a function of spending a career inside the prison system.


This two page handout provides statistics on corrections officer wellness and suggestions on what policymakers can do to address it.

Newsweek, May 2014.

Report on "the mental health of corrections officers, who, according to one study, have rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comparable to military combat veterans."

Sections of these proceedings are: about this meeting; meeting highlights; "I.L.P.: Intelligence-Led Policing in a Detention Environment" by Ed Beckman; "Segregation of High Risk Medical and Mentally Ill Inmates": "Part 1. Segregation of High Risk Medical and Mentally Ill Inmates" by Herbert L. Bensen", and "Part 2. Successful Practices in Preventing Inmate Suicide" by Jack Herron; "Staff Misconduct" by Wendell France; "Crisis Intervention Teams" by Shayne Grannum; "Counterfeiting and Jails: The National IPR Coordination Center" by Tony Ruocco; "Staff Wellness: Managing/Implementing Organizational Change": "Part 1. Organizational Culture, Change, & Connection: Resistance to Change" by Michael W. Frost", "Part 2. Corrections Fatigue" by Grannum, and "Part 3. Staff Wellness: What Is Our Responsibility as Administrators?" by Elias Diggins; Open Forum; professional association updates; and future meeting topics. An appendix provides "Index of Past LJN Meeting Topics".

Proceedings of the Large Jail Network Meeting Aurora, Colorado, March 23 – 25, 2014 Proceeding of the Large Jail Network Meeting: March 2014 Cover

Defines compassion fatigue, who it affects, sign & symptoms, contributing factors, what can be done, and how to develop a compassion fatigue prevention toolkit.

"Pubmed is an Internet search engine used to access millions of articles in biomedical and life science literature … only 23 articles are identified when searching “correctional officers (COs) and health.” This article is a snapshot of ongoing work and a growing national consortium of individuals interested in advancing the well-being of Cos" (p. 1). Sections cover : hazards of corrections work; stress is hazardous to your heart; ways to improve well-being; first National Symposium on Corrections Worker Health; and conclusion. "The review of CO stressors concluded that, while there are local efforts and recommended best practices, there are no proven effective safety and health programs for COs, and more studies are needed" (p. 4).

Stress and Corrections: Addressing the Safety and Well-Being of Correctional Officers cover

The VTT includes tools and resources tailored specifically to these fields that provide the knowledge and skills necessary for organizations to address the vicarious trauma needs of their staff.

"This bibliography attempts to offer a compilation of information on trauma-informed care by reviewing general information about trauma as well as focusing on the criminal justice system and corrections (women, adults, and younger people), peer support, and screening/assessment for trauma. In addition, definitions of many of these tools are provided" (p. 3). Eighty-four resources are organized into the following areas: trauma-informed care in general; trauma-informed care in the criminal justice system and in corrections; trauma-informed care for youth in the criminal justice system; peer-to-peer trauma-informed care; trauma; gender neutral screenings and assessments; and trauma and/or gender informed screenings and assessments.

Trauma Annotated Bibliography Cover


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