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Impact of Violent Acts on Prison Staff

NCJ Number
Forum on Corrections Research Volume: 11 Issue: 1 Dated: January 1999 Pages: 30-34
Bonnie T Seidman; Sharon M Williams
Date Published
January 1999
4 pages
Interviews of 27 correctional personnel who had been victims of prison-based hostage-takings in Canada between 1985 and 1995 were used to study these survivors' experiences, to determine how the Correctional Service of Canada could intervene effectively and humanely, and to help staff members cope with and prevent such incidents.
All 27 study participants had been employees of the Correctional Service of Canada at the time of the incidents; 22 were still employed by the agency. Their most frequently reported thoughts during the incident were disbelief, fear of injury and death, and survival. All reported feeling surprised and threatened. The most common emotions were shock, anxiety, terror, frustration, vulnerability, powerlessness, humiliation, and isolation. Their behavior during the incident included physical resistance (32 percent), verbal resistance (48 percent), and submissiveness (25 percent). Forty percent were debriefed immediately after the incident, 56 percent received counseling, and an additional 22 percent declined assistance. Eighty-one percent reported a long-term process of hypervigilance; sleep disorders were also common. Eighty-nine percent felt that the incident affected their work life; 52 percent reported that their personal lives were negatively affected. Participants also reported coping strategies and positive adjustment. The two participants who were unable to return to work had prolonged incidents and were severely affected by their ordeals. Participants reported satisfaction with the help received from the Employee Assistance Program. They recommended training on hostage-takings, debriefing and psychological support for survivors, and additional improvements. Tables and 9 reference notes