Misis, (2013) defined stress as the psychological discomfort or tension which results from exposure to stressors”. Work Related Stress is best described as “the incapacity of a worker to handle different works demands successfully” (Misis, 2013). Work related stress is widespread and in many cases severe and possibly increasing among correctional officers (Finn, 2000). Work related sources of stress for officers include shortage of staff, overtime and shift work threat of inmate violence, actual inmate violence, inmate demands and manipulation (Finn, 2000).
One of the major contributors of work stress for officers in Trinidad is the issue of death threats made by inmates towards them and the fact that some officers have lost their lives as a result of these threats.
Futher more issues regarding the working conditions behind prison walls also create a stressful environment for officers to operate in. Overcrowding exists in almost all of the prisons across Trinidad and is a main source of stress for officers. The population appears to be growing larger by the day, while shortage of staff places the officers at a serious disadvantage in cases of emergencies. This issue is also another contributor that adds stress to officers. They are required to operate in prisons with inadequate bathroom and toilet facilities, air conditioning and proper ventilation among other infrastructural problems. However, renovations over the years have done little to improve conditions at some of these correctional facilities. Exposure to diseases like Red Eye, HIV / Aids, Chicken Pox, Tuberculosis to name a few, presents a real risk not just for inmates but for officers and subsequently their families at home.
Work Stress in Prison
Brodsky, (1982) stated that “Any organization or social structure which consists of one group of people kept inside who do not want to be there and the other group who are there to make sure they stay in will be an organization under stress.” In many countries the people charged with this responsibility are known as Correctional Officers, in Trinidad they are known as Prisons Officers. In an environment like this, these officers are all that stand in the way of freedom for these inmates.
Work can make persons feel that they are playing a useful role in society. It contributes to their identity and provides income for the individuals and their family (World Health Organization, 2005). The effects of work on mental health are complex. Work is a source of personal satisfaction and accomplishment, interpersonal contacts and financial security, and these are all prerequisites for good mental health (World Health Organization, 2005).