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Hostage-Takings of CSC Staff: Psychological Impact and Institutional Management

NCJ Number
Bonnie T. Seidman Ph.D.; Sharon M. Williams Ph.D.
Date Published
37 pages
The immediate and ongoing psychological impacts of hostage-takings on correctional personnel in Canada were studied by means of oral and written interviews of 27 of the 52 staff members of the Correctional Services of Canada who were taken hostage between 1985 and 1995.
Among the participants, 70 percent were taken hostage in the Quebec and Ontario regions, 63 percent were female, and approximately 30 percent were correctional officers. Most were married; their length of service ranged 1 to 25 years. The duration of the hostage incidents ranged from minutes to over 60 hours. Eighty-five percent of the incidents involved weapons, most often knives. Psychological force by the perpetrator included threats of bodily harm, sexual assault, death, or some combination. Twenty-six of the survivors experienced some degree of psychological trauma. The majority reported that the incident affected their personal lives, work life, and family. Prolonged victimization generally resulted in the greatest degree of trauma. Institutional debriefing occurred in 40 percent of hostage incidents and depended on local circumstances rather than policy. About 50 percent of the participants received counseling; the remainder either declined or were not offered assistance. Prolonged incidents with several psychological distress resulted in more time off before returning to work. Some co-workers were supportive; others were avoidant or tended either to ignore the victim or make critical and disparaging remarks. Survivors generally regarded management as insensitive. They also reported both negative and positive responses from the Correctional Service of Canada. Findings indicated the need for a unified approach to staff members who have been taken hostage and suggested the need for changes in policy and procedure regarding training and staff support. Tables, appended instrument and related materials, and 8 references