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Causes of Correctional Officer Stress and Its Consequences

The factors which contribute to correctional officer stress and the ways correctional agencies can help to reduce this stress were examined. Using the Occupational Research Questionnaire (ORQ), the stressors investigated were shift work, overtime demands, risk of being injured, not enough time with family, work overload and work underload, role conflict, lack of administrative support, lack of proper training, lack of participation in decision making, lack of job satisfaction, interaction with inmates, crisis situations, insufficient salary, role ambiguity, and immediate supervisor. The coping strategies utilized by the correctional officer as evaluated by the Carver COPE tool were: get rid of the problem, let out my emotions, seek support from family, seek advice about what to do, seek spiritual help, wait and not overreact, typically become emotionally distressed, exercise, use alcohol, smoke, or use other drugs, try to see it in a different light (make it positive), criticize myself, come up with a strategy to improve situation, seek therapy, go to the movies, watch television, read, sleep, etc., learn to live with it, or meditate. “Officer’s response to questions about stress and resulting coping strategies discovered insufficient salaries and overtime demands were the two most commonly reported causes of stress. Additionally, certain types of stressors accentuated the plight of the correctional officer, e.g. lack of input into decision making, prison’s security level, lack of support from administrations, etc. ... Moreover, specific questions were analyzed to determine the most frequently reported relaxation techniques used to cope with stress. The most popular methods were exercising and seeking religion. Other popular coping mechanisms used were seeking support from family, and participating in social activities” (p. iv).