The Fight Against Work Stress
The psychological effects of work related stress in corrections may affect each prison officer differently and may lead to many different outcomes. There are some officers who would be faced with many different stressors within the institution and not be adversely affected by it or have learnt to cope with it.
Some researchers argue that it is not possible to say that all people working in certain jobs will experience the same amount of stress. It is believed however, that employees working in high risk jobs such as Law Enforcement Officers (prisons officers) will have an increased likelihood of experiencing negative stress outcomes (Butcher, 2010).
A stressor is defined as a proximal and undesirable event or situation, the longer it operates in the individual, the more severe its effects (Butcher, 2010, p.60). The causes of work related stress are directly linked to the stressors and the duration and intensity that the officer is exposed to them. A good example of this can be seen when an officer is faced with inmate violence, then that fear of violence becomes his stressor. Finn, (2000) points to under staffing, overtime, shift work, and supervisor demands as organizationally related conditions that create stress for officers (p.12).
Prison officers are classified as first responders in every sense of the definition. They witness mental and emotional trauma on the job and rarely realize the impact of such events until it is too late (Corrections.com, 2014). local prisons are no different as almost every aspect of an inmate’s life behind bars is supervised or carried out by a prisons officer, medical emergencies, dental appointments, school, and even attending to basic bodily functions and hygiene are some examples of this.
The resultant factor and the reality of the situation is that violence among inmates or attempts to escape can occur at anytime throughout anyone of these activities thereby placing officers in harm’s way as they are the only obstacle that stands in the way of freedom for these inmates. They are also constantly subjected to severe verbal abuse, misconduct and physical assaults with intent to either kill or wound them to facilitate or hide the commission of a crime or escape attempt while in their custody. The causes of work related stress have many negative effects on the prison officer and can lead to personal and organizational problems if left unchecked.
There are many Sociological causes of work related stress in Penal institutions. Stressors emanate from the duties officers perform, the organization and pressure from family and personal relationships. These are perfect examples of what happens when an environment such as the Prison has negative effects on workers. In addition, the repercussions of such negative effects is not limited to the officers alone but also extends to the organization and the people closest to them.