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Addressing Probation and Parole Officer Stress, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2003
211 pages
After documenting the causes, symptoms, and consequences of probation and parole officer stress, this study presents a number of promising approaches agencies have adopted to prevent, reduce, and manage officer stress.
Research indicates that many probation and parole officers experience high levels of job-related stress that stems from high caseloads, excessive paperwork, and meeting deadlines. These conditions result in inadequate caseload supervision, which compounds officer stress. The sources of stress are thus primarily related to the agency's structuring of the work rather than the nature of the work itself or the characteristics of the offenders supervised. The consequences of stress include adverse physical symptoms such as headaches and lower back pain, as well as tension in the officer's family due to the officer's response to stress. Given the extent and severity of stress among so many probation and parole officers, agencies must take steps to help prevent and reduce officer stress, particularly when it is related to organizational policies and practices. This study profiles nine agency stress programs that illustrate diversity in goals, staffing, operations, services, and other program features. The Washington State Department of Corrections has established a Staff Resource Center in each of its regions. Each center is staffed by an occupational nurse and a counselor, who provide comprehensive stress services to all employees. In Harris County, TX, a 20-hour, four-session stress management training program has been tested. Other agencies throughout the country have developed programs to address officer stress through training in stress management techniques, peer support training, and physical exercise programs for officers. Based on assessments of these programs, this report provides recommendations for stress-management program staffing and training as well as the marketing of the program to all levels of staff. Other keys to stress-management program success are as follows: confidentiality, reduction in organizational sources of stress, program evaluation, adequate program funding, and the use of available technical assistance.

Date Published: November 1, 2003