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Risky Business: Part 1 of 2 in a Series on Correctional Officer Wellness

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Dated: March/April 2018 Pages: 13-16
Date Published
March 2018
4 pages
Publication Series
This is the first of a two-part article that discusses a study by Frank Ferdick and Hayden Smith that reviewed the available research on corrections officer (CO) safety and wellness, with the goal of identifying the risks faced by COs in their work, the policies and programs that could improve their safety, and the limitations of the current research on keeping COs safe.
This part of the article discusses what the authors found about the risks faced by COs and their impact on institutional stability, so as to guide corrections policies and practices that will improve safety and minimize the risks of CO burnout and turnover. The identified dangers and risks for COs are in four categories: 1) work-related dangers, which include inmates with infectious diseases, prison gangs, and disruptive inmate behavior; 2) institutional-related dangers, which include role conflict (rehabilitation and control), inadequate resources and employee benefits, and extended hours; 3) psychosocial dangers, which include mental health risks, stress, and burnout; and 4) physical health risks, which may stem from stress-related illness and job-related injuries. The authors also identified a few key factors in reducing CO stress and burnout. Most important is the recognition by correctional administrators and policymakers that the CO profession is inherently dangerous and threatening to CO mental and physical health. Policies to reduce these risks include improved intake procedures that identify high-risk inmates; improved communication among line and management staff; separation of gang members; a policy of having backup when dealing with disruptive inmates; CO training in mediation and conflict resolution; and additional therapeutic services for inmates with mental disorders. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has committed resources for improving CO safety and wellness. 11 notes

Date Published: March 1, 2018