Study examines Texas correctional officer stress

Conflicts between work and family life were the most significant issues that affected work stress and job satisfaction

By C1 Staff

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A new study that sampled 441 adult prison correction officers in the South found that conflicts between work and family life were the most significant issues that affected work stress and job satisfaction.

According to Eureka Alert, the most significant work-home issues experienced by COs were demands and tensions from work that impacted their home life, an incompatibility between the officer's role at work and at home, and family circumstances that placed strain on work experiences.

In addition, the perceived dangerousness of the job and family support also weighed heavily on job stress, while supervisor support had a significant impact on job satisfaction.

"Criminal justice careers, particularly those in the field of corrections, consist of unique daily challenges," said Dr. Gaylene Armstrong, co-author of the study by the Correctional Management Institute of Texas. "The demands on correctional employees are numerous, including monitoring a challenging population in a confined space, shift work, and an ongoing potential for danger. All of these aspects contribute to the challenges of successfully balancing demands between work and family life."

The study recommended training supervisory staff to maintain an open, yet professionally driven, line of communication with employees about family matters and work demands.

"It is critical for supervisors to take notice of the emotional and cognitive state of their subordinates to ensure a high level of job performance and professionalism," Dr. Armstrong said. "Not only are desperate or unhappy employees likely to exhibit emotional distress via job burnout, the odds of compromised decision making is also at stake."

CMIT developed a brochure for COs to recognize signs of stress and to find ways to address those issues. Stress can manifest itself in several ways, including memory problems, anxiety, racing thoughts, moodiness or irritability, agitation, depression, physical aches and pains, changes in sleep patterns or appetite, isolation, or increased use of drugs or alcohol.

The pamphlet offered several ways to reduce stress, including:

  • Exercise regularly and maintain proper nutrition
  • Use meditation and other relaxation techniques as part of your daily schedule
  • Reach out to co-workers, friends and family
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol; the reliefs from such self-medication are only temporary
  • Make a point to do something enjoyable every day
  • Be sure to get enough sleep
  • Use the confidential Employee Assistance Program

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