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Stress and the Correctional Officer

NCJ Number
Police Stress Volume: 5 Issue: 1 Dated: (February 1982) Pages: 10-16
R Black
Date Published
The causes and symptoms of chronic stress in correctional officers are identified, and techniques which correctional officers can use to counteract the adverse effects of chronic stress are discussed.
Chronic stress involves functioning over long periods in a high tension state, such that the body and mental states are adversely affected. Specific sources of stress for correctional officers may be pressures from superiors in a rank structure, peer group pressure that may cause an officer to act contrary to his/her personal sensitivities and values, fear of harm from inmates, lack of confidence nurtured from supervision of those who do not appreciate or desire the services provided, the monotony of working conditions, slow promotional opportunities, an attitudinal conditioning in the prison that adversely affects the development of intimate relationships in the family, and failure to communicate with anyone about feelings generated by the job. Chronic stress can produce degenerative physical symptoms such as hypertension, severe headaches, stomach trouble, diarrhea, and cardiovascular disease, and behavioral problems, such as depression, hostility, alcoholism and excessive defensiveness. A custodial officer can help relieve the adverse effects of stress through physical exercise, an honest sharing of feelings with others, cultivation of a sense of personal value, regular activities that provide personal satisfaction and enjoyment, and the setting of goals on the job and in leisure hours toward which one regularly progresses. Correctional management should be aware of the job stress of correctional officers and develop training courses and programs to help deal with it. Twenty-five references are listed.