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Reducing Staff and Inmate Stress

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 44 Issue: 5 Dated: (October 1982) Pages: 72-76,78
F Cheek; M D S Miller
Date Published
6 pages
Occupational stress in correctional officers is rapidly becoming a problem of nationwide concern, and many corrections departments are taking positive steps to relieve destructive situations among their personnel.
A recent study of the consequences of job stress in correctional officers revealed that the life expectancy of a correctional officer is 59 years, compared to 75 years for the national average. Stress, as manifested in many physical illnesses including hypertension, heart attacks, and ulcers, was found to be higher than that of a comparable sample of police officers. Moreover, alcoholism and divorce rates are higher for correctional officers than for the population in general. As a result, correctional organizations spend enormous sums annually for sick leave, compensation, and liability claims. Stress among correctional officers and administrators is often caused by the conflicting goals of custody and rehabilitation, trial and error in management, and the correctional system's vulnerability to political and community groups. In response to the problem, the New Jersey Department of Corrections has developed a number of correctional officer programs geared to reducing stress; families of officers participate in the programs. The nature of stress and burnout, their physical and social consequences, and positive and negative coping techniques are explored. Coping methods such as relaxation, desensitization, and self-image improvement are presented at these sessions. Correctional officers are taught to remain calm in the face of conflict, communicate their point of view, and consider possible solutions and consequences of a given situation. Similar sessions are offered for inmates. Twenty references are provided.