Caterina G. Spinaris
Staff is the life blood of any agency and its most valuable resource. Their wellness is paramount to organizational health and mission effectiveness. What can individuals and organizations do to identify issues commonly associated with corrections stress and cultivate a climate of staff resilience and agency health, stability and excellence?
During this broadcast, we will: Acknowledge the effects and consequences of corrections stress on staff and the organization; Identify commonly referenced terminology that informs the discussion of corrections stress; Explore the context and continuum of stress within the corrections profession; Discuss research and knowledge focusing on corrections stress that effects the individual and organizational culture; Present proactive strategies to identify and address cumulative effects and consequences of corrections stress; Describe individual and organizational strategies to build and maintain a healthy workforce; Discuss proactive tools and resources for both individuals and organizations; [and] Provide individual and organizational resources to promote and support a healthy workforce.
This broadcast will answer the following questions: Why is corrections stress an issue we need to address? What are characteristics of corrections stress? What does it look and sound like? What are distinguishing features of corrections stress within institutional and community settings? How do you build awareness of this issue for yourself and your organization? How do you address the problems and effects associated with corrections stress? What are strategies to deal with stressors? How can leadership introduce this issue within the agency? Who needs to be at the table to discuss it? What resources are available to you and your organization to address this issue? Are you taking advantage of them? What are tools and strategies for engaging and connecting directly with your community stakeholders? What positive steps can you take to make a difference personally and within your organization regarding corrections stress?"
“The purpose of this study was to estimate prevalence rates for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and comorbid PTSD/depression in corrections professionals, and to explore the relationship between particular disorder conditions and a variety of variables including job type and numerous indices of health, well-being, and life functioning (e.g., number of doctor visits, number of absences from work, extent of substance use, satisfaction with life, job functioning, and other variables)” (p. 4). The total number of assessment items was 152 spread over four assessment tools: Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21); Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Civilian Version (PCL-C); Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS); and the Impact on Functioning Scale (IOFS). Overall, 25.7% of the respondents were depressed with 67% of them having PSTD. Security/custody personnel had the highest rates with mental health care providers being second. Those individuals with comorbid PTSD/depression experienced the worst health-related outcomes.
This three part series addresses the issue of corrections fatigue and how corrections staff can deal with it by developing "hazmat suits for their souls". A hazmat suit for the soul allows you to respond to the "hazardous materials" of daily stress and dangerous incidents during work and to "decontaminate" emotionally afterwards. Part One explains "complex trauma", how it can result in psychological symptoms, diagnostic psychiatric disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), adverse workplace performance, costs, and neurobiological changes. Part Two compares "negative resilience" and true resilience. It explains the need for corrections staff to seek "solid and enduring resilience is of primary importance, as literally lives may depend on it". Part Three explains how corrections staff can develop effective hazmat suits for the soul using prevention or intervention approaches. This part also describes four "categories of behavior (aka factors)" that can increase resilience in corrections staff. The factors are supportive staff relationship effects; self-care health maintenance efforts; confident/perseverant frame of mind; and controlled/logical problem-solving. NOTE: This set of articles was previously published in 2011, and have been updated and reprinted.
On June 10, 2015, the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) launched a national virtual conference on staff wellness titled “New Directions in Corrections: Staff Wellness.” Session topics will include using neuroscience to reduce stress, “healing corrections,” the organizational implications of boundary violations, creating a purpose-driven corrections career, corrections personnel suicide, and staff wellness.
The objective of “New Directions in Corrections: Staff Wellness” is to: Educate corrections staff on the subject of corrections fatigue and staff wellness; Present strategies and resources for countering the effects of corrections trauma and fatigue; and Equip corrections staff with strategies they can use to move toward professional fulfillment individually and within a workplace culture.
Corrections work often takes a toll on staff’s well-being and functioning due to repeated exposure to multiple types of inherent occupational stressors—specifically, operational, organizational, and traumatic stressors. The cumulative effect of these co-occurring stressors upon corrections professionals and upon entire correctional workplace cultures is captured by the umbrella term and construct of “corrections fatigue.” Effects of corrections fatigue may be low staff morale, impaired job performance, individual health and functioning issues, problematic professional and personal relationships, and high staff turnover. Corrections fatigue includes a variety of facets, many interacting to affect staff negatively and envelop workplace culture in a self-reinforcing cycle that undermines health, functioning, and fulfillment.
This microsite provides access to the eight presentations and links to additional resources.
"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.
"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.
This program is the first of a two-part webinar, and covers the physical and emotional challenges faced by correctional personnel. “The dangers correctional staff encounter on the job are well known to their leaders. A lesser known but possibly more hazardous set of factors involves the cumulative negative side effects of what staff experience through daily interactions with justice-involved individuals and immersion in uniquely challenging workplace conditions. Such side effects can be understood as examples of “Corrections Fatigue.” The webinar will describe a process model developed and modified over several years by DWCO [Desert Waters Correctional Outreach], entitled “From Corrections Fatigue to Fulfillment™.” Once Corrections Fatigue manifests, it can promote toxic adaptations to work demands, consequently undermining job performance, employee morale, health, personal and professional relationships, and employee retention.” Objectives of this webinar are: describe types of occupational stress that may negatively impact the well-being of corrections staff; present the “umbrella” term of Corrections Fatigue, its nature, properties and consequences; and present research evidence that supports a model of Corrections Fatigue and its usefulness in providing interventions regarding increasing staff well-being. This download includes copies of the video, transcript, and presentation slides.
This program is the second of a two-part webinar, and covers the physical and emotional challenges faced by correctional personnel. “The dangers correctional staff encounter on the job are well known to their leaders. A lesser known but possibly more hazardous set of factors involves the cumulative negative side effects of what staff experience through daily interactions with justice-involved individuals and immersion in uniquely challenging workplace conditions. Such side effects can be understood as examples of “Corrections Fatigue.” The webinar will describe a process model developed and modified over several years by DWCO [Desert Waters Correctional Outreach], entitled “From Corrections Fatigue to Fulfillment™.” Once Corrections Fatigue manifests, it can promote toxic adaptations to work demands, consequently undermining job performance, employee morale, health, personal and professional relationships, and employee retention.” Objectives of this webinar are: describe the concept of Corrections Fulfillment; present the basics of a data-driven, evidence-based approach to addressing Corrections Fatigue; and present corrections-specific resources to address Corrections Fatigue and promote Corrections Fulfillment.