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Stress management

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).

Causes of Correctional Officer Stress and Its Consequences Cover

"Health and wellness among those who work in correctional agencies is an issue that has always existed, but is just starting to get the increasing attention that it deserves. One of the greatest threats to correctional officer (CO) wellness involves the stress they encounter as a result of their occupation. This document reviews the body of literature on the causes and effects of stress for COs, and describes the available research on CO wellness programs and their effectiveness" (p. 1). Sections cover: sources of correctional officer stress—inmate-related stressors, occupational stressors, organizational and administrative stressors, psycho-social stressors, and stressors unique to supervisors and female correctional officers; the effects of stress—impact on work environment and the correctional agency, impact on the physical and mental health of Cos, and the impact on their home life; and correctional officer wellness programs and their effectiveness—gaps in CO wellness programs, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), peer support programs, and wellness programs designed specifically for COs.

Correctional Officer Wellness and Safety Literature Review Cover

This program focuses on the importance of staff wellness in a correctional environment. Topics discussed include:

  • Mental and physical health;
  • Substance abuse;
  • How to recognize and manage stress in the workplace;
  • Stress-related symptoms;
  • And staff support resources.
Correctional Staff Wellness: Making Choices Toward a Higher Level of Total Health and Well Being  Cover

“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.

Depression, PTSD, and Comorbidity in United States Corrections Professionals: Prevalence and Impact on Health and Functioning Cover

This study was conducted to determine if there is a difference in lifespan between law enforcement and correctional officers and the general public. Sections following an executive summary include: introduction; research parameters; Florida general population; Florida Division of Retirement (FRS) Special Risk Class (Law Enforcement and Corrections); population comparison; and conclusion. On average, law enforcement and correctional officers died 12 years earlier than the general population. In other words, law enforcement and corrections officers lived 62.4 years compared to 74.2 years for the general population.

Florida Mortality Study: Florida Law Enforcement and Corrections Officers compared to Florida General Population Cover

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.

Hazmat Suit for the Soul, Parts 1-3 cover

Issues surrounding stress in a correctional setting, like the effects, sources, and symptoms of stress, burnout, and coping strategies, are covered during this 6.5 hour course. Participants will be able to: define stress and identify the effects of stress; identify the sources of stress; identify the physical and behavioral symptoms of stress; define burnout and identify the stages of burnout; identify positive and negative coping strategies; summarize the key components of “My Pyramid”; recognize how thoughts, feelings, and attitudes lead to predictable patterns of behavior; practice “objective detachment” in observing and describing thoughts, feelings, and attitudes; and practice identifying stress-mitigating responses to work-related situations. Also included is the PowerPoint presentation, video vignettes, and participant handouts.

Dealing with Stress in Corrections [Lesson Plans and Participant's Manual] Cover

"Seven staff fatalities including three suicides in just three years (2010-2012). For professionals who operate correction facilities, stress can be a significant issue with fatal consequences. The Middlesex Sheriff’s Office (MSO) had 45 staff fatalities over the past 30 years. Twenty-four percent of these deaths were suicide. MSO believes the other deaths are tied to stress and wellness related health issues such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure. MSO Sheriff Peter Koutoujian assumed the leadership role at this time and focused on improving correctional officer (CO) wellness and safety … MSO approached the Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center for assistance understanding the contributors to CO work-related stressors. MSO’s goal was to identify and alleviate the causes of workplace stress to improve CO wellness and safety and reduce CO suicide through implementation of evidence-based programs and promising practices" (p. 1). This document describes the Center's analysis and recommendations. Sections of this case study include: overview; data-driven programs and practices recommended to address the issue; the Diagnostic Center; the diagnostic process; six factors contributing to the issue; descriptions and details of the recommended evidence-based programs and practices; Diagnostic Center's recommendations; impact and outcome; community's response; and insight gained.

Improving Correctional Officer Wellness cover

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.

New Directions in Corrections: Staff Wellness: NIC's Second Virtual Conference cover

"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

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