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Correctional staff

Community supervision officers work with individuals under supervision for a sustained period of time, placing officers in a situation where they are exposed to considerable stress and secondary trauma. While a great deal of research has been conducted on risk/need factors and supervision outcomes of individuals served by these agencies, less is known about community supervision officers themselves and how they manage the stress associated with their position. This White Paper examines the stress experienced by community supervision officers.

Please see related publications: Community Supervision Staff Trauma and Organizational Stress Needs Assessment (033336) and Community Supervision Staff Trauma and Organizational Stress: Summary of Findings (033337)

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This needs assessment was developed by Rulo Strategies LLC and the National Center for State Courts with the support of the National Institute of Corrections (NIC). The needs assessment was deployed as part of a cooperative agreement designed to develop responses to staff trauma and organizational stress in community supervision agencies. The information gathered in this assessment is designed to accomplish the following:
a) determine what strategies community supervision agencies are using to mitigate and respond to staff trauma, organizational stress, and build staff resiliency;
b) identify innovative and promising practices that can be replicated;
c) identify training or technical assistance needs that could be addressed with the support of NIC.

Please see related publications: Community Supervision Operational and Organizational Stress: White Paper (033335) and Community Supervision Staff Trauma and Organizational Stress: Summary of Findings (033337).

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The field of corrections has long been recognized as a high stress profession. Previous research suggests that individuals who work in either institutional settings (i.e., prison, jail, juvenile detention) and/or community corrections (i.e., probation, parole, pretrial services) experience varying degrees of occupational, organizational, and traumatic stressors. If left unaddressed, corrections stress can lead to an assortment of personal and professional problems that could result in high staff turnover and vacancies, which in turn, jeopardize safety and effective programing. The National Institution of Corrections (NIC) invests in developing data-driven initiatives and solutions to assist jurisdictions in identifying and addressing the issues that contribute to corrections stress and create practices that help to maintain a healthy and productive work force. To guide development of initiatives and sustainable practices, KSL Research, Training, & Consultation LLC (KSL) conducted a needs assessment as part of a cooperative agreement with NIC. This assessment collected data from over 3,000 individuals across the United States who were employed in corrections. The assessment revealed several areas that NIC can potentially address through training and education programs.

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NCA video chronicling the transition from male to female of corrections officer Rachel Esters, featuring moderator Bernie Iszler, CPS NIC Academy division. This may be used as a staff training video.

The purpose of this study was to estimate current posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) prevalence rates among United States’ corrections professionals, and explore indices of psychological., physical., and occupational status and functioning in relation to PTSD. Using a secure online application, a nationwide sample of corrections professionals (N=3599) completed the PTSD Checklist-Civilian Version (PCL-C), the Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21), the Impact on Functioning Scale (IOFS), and the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS). Participants responded to questions indicating the degree to which they witnessed or experienced incidents of workplace violence, injury and death (VID) and related emotions. Participants also responded to questions about health-related behaviors and conditions, and functioning. Results indicated an overall PTSD prevalence rate of 27% for symptoms experienced over the past 30 days. Analysis of subgroups indicated that males and security/custody personnel had significantly higher PTSD rates than females and nonsecurity staff, respectively. In reference to the entire sample, PTSD-positive participants reported significantly 1) more exposure to workplace VID and negative VID-related emotions, 2) higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress, 3) more absenteeism, health services utilization, health conditions, and substance use, and 4) lower levels of pro-health behaviors, life functioning, and life satisfaction. Implications and future areas of research are discussed

Do you want to see what some of the latest data and promising practices are revealing about staff wellness for corrections officers and staff?  Would you like to learn how to apply a holistic approach to your workplace along the continuum of preventive to reactive responses?  Correctional staff face significant stress and challenges in maintaining wellness and resiliency in the workplace.  There is emerging evidence that effective strategies and programs exist; however, they often occur in a piecemeal or sporadic fashion.  This webinar provides academic insight into the current research on officer wellness and references emerging areas of innovative practices.  It includes practitioner expertise on valuable resources and support for correctional officers and staff.  The webinar moves from preventive to reactive strategies and builds on new approaches to increase resiliency.  Participants will learn what research and practice tell us about the short and long-term effects that working in corrections can have and how to promote staff wellness and manage trauma in response to what they experience.

Learning Objectives: 

During this one-hour interactive webinar, participants will

  1. Develop an understanding of the current research on correctional staff wellness and resiliency,
  2. Learn how to apply a holistic approach to their workplace, and
  3. Gain knowledge on promising real-world practices that can assist and promote both wellness and resiliency.

Speakers

Dr. Hayden Smith is an Associate Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina.  His principal focus of study is the intersection of the criminal justice and public health systems.  Core areas include self-injurious and suicidal behaviors in incarcerated populations, physical and mental health needs in correctional settings, jail diversion, reentry initiatives, and correctional staff well-being and safety.  Dr. Smith has expertise in program evaluation and policy analysis and has worked with numerous correctional and health systems.

Ms. Karin Ho is the Director for Victim Services with the South Carolina Department of Corrections.  She has more than 30 years of victim advocacy experience and over 25 years in corrections.  Recognizing how correctional staff were affected by traumatic events, she implemented the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Peer Team and Post Critical Incident Seminars for employees with ongoing trauma-related issues.  As part of the CISM Team, Karin is the handler for a specially trained trauma dog who responds to correctional staff throughout the state.

The presenters have engaged in several academic-practitioner partnerships that address correctional officer and staff well-being.

wellness webinar
Promoting Wellness and Resiliency in Correctional Staff
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