Research studies and anecdotal evidence indicate correctional officer stress is widespread due to the threat of inmate violence against correctional officers, actual violence committed by inmates, inmate demands and manipulation, and problems with co-workers.
These factors, combined with understaffing, extensive overtime, rotating shift work, low pay, poor public image, and other sources of stress, can impair the health of correctional officers, cause them to burn out or to retire prematurely, and adversely affect their family life. Programs and strategies are described that are designed to help correctional administrators develop an effective approach to preventing and treating correctional officer stress. Seven case studies illustrate diverse options for structuring a stress program. The following features from the seven case studies that correctional administrators can consider adopting in a stress program are listed: run the program in-house or contract with external agencies; offer professional counseling, peer support, or both; address chronic stress, stress following a critical incident, or both; conduct academy or in-service training; and serve family members. In addition to operational aspects of a stress program, the report discusses options for staffing a stress program, explores methods of gaining the trust of correctional officers, and lists sources of assistance to implement or to improve a stress program. The report also addresses monitoring, evaluation, and funding issues. Appendixes contain supplemental information, materials, and forms that may be useful in the conduct of a stress program. Notes and exhibits
Date Published: December 1, 2000