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Successful Mentoring in a Correctional Environment

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 62 Issue: 2 Dated: December 1998 Pages: 75-80
P M Wittenberg
Date Published
The use of mentoring for correctional officers is discussed in terms of the author's personal experience, the types of mentors, ways to choose a mentor, management responsibilities for a formal mentoring program, the mentor's responsibilities and traits, the protege's traits, and other issues.
The review confirmed that little reliable empirical data exist regarding the severity and sources of stress for correctional officers, largely because existing research has relied almost entirely on self-reports and was conducted when several conditions presumed to relate to stress were less problematic than they are today. Factors that may have increased stress for correctional officers in recent years include inmate crowding, an increase in the number of inmate assaults against staff, lack of fear of punishment due to longer sentences, and increasing numbers of prison gangs. Two general sources of stress are the realities that inmates do not want to be in the institution and that recidivism rates can make officers feel that they are wasting their time. Organizational sources of stress include understaffing, overtime, shift work, supervisor demands, role conflict, and role ambiguity. Work-related sources of stress include the threat of inmate violence, actual inmate violence, inmate demands and manipulation, and problems with coworkers. Impacts of stress include impaired health, excessive sick time, burnout, high staff turnover, reduced safety, prematurely early retirement, and impaired family life. Further research is needed to examine a range of surrogate but objective indicators of stress; these include staff turnover, sick leave, absenteeism, tardiness, inmate grievances, disciplinary actions against correctional officers, and other factors. The research should also consider whether factors such as the condition of the physical plant and staffing levels affect stress. Notes, appended list of persons interviewed, and 56 references