Category Archives: Corrections

Tender Justice

Source: David Kidd, Governing, August 2018

….North Dakota has always been a low-crime state, but it has paid a high price for the wars on drugs and crime over the past few decades. Since 1992, the state’s population has increased less than 20 percent, but the number of inmates has gone up 250 percent and is projected to continue to rise. North Dakota is trying to prevent that from happening by taking correctional cues from a distant and unlikely source: the prison system in Norway.

Norwegian prisons reject life sentences and solitary confinement in favor of living quarters built on a human scale, behavioral counseling and a focus on successful re-entry into society. The correctional facilities are often derided as being more like country clubs than prisons. But their results back up claims of success. Norway reports two-year recidivism rates as low as 20 percent, compared to rates three times higher in the U.S. ….

The Impact of Job Expectations, Workload, and Autonomy on Work-Related Stress Among Prison Wardens in the United States

Source: Mara Schiff, Leslie Leip, Criminal Justice and Behavior, Online First, First Published September 28, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Prison wardens manage both external pressures and internal challenges that affect work-related stress. Using data from a national survey of prison wardens, we examined the impact of conflicting job expectations, workload, and job autonomy on work-related stress among prison wardens. The ordered logistic regression results showed a significant and positive relationship between conflicting job expectations and work-related stress. The results also showed a significant and positive relationship between unmanageable workloads and stress on the job. We found a negative and significant relationship between job autonomy and work-related stress, though the relationship was relatively weak. The importance of this study lies in its ability to help isolate factors that affect job stress among prison wardens, which in turn may produce better organizational support, management, and human resources policy to improve conditions for prison wardens, staff, and inmates.

Exploring How Workplace Factors Are Associated With Role Strain Among Jail Staff: A Replication and Expansion Study

Source: Eric G. Lambert, Eugene A. Paoline, III, Nancy L. Hogan, Criminal Justice and Behavior, Volume 45 Issue 7, July 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Role strain has many negative outcomes. While the majority of role strain research has focused on its effects, this study explored possible antecedents of role strain among staff at a large, urban Southern jail in the United States. Based on regression analysis of survey data, instrumental communication, views that policy is followed, input into decision-making, formalization, and supervisory support each had significant negative effects on role strain. Administrative support and positive relations with coworkers, however, had nonsignificant effects. Jail administrators should attempt to reduce role strain by creating clear structure of job duties and expectations (formalization), providing staff with a greater organizational voice (input into decision-making), explaining the importance of organizational policies being followed and how they benefit staff, improving the flow of critical information about job and organizational matters (instrumental communication), and training supervisors about how to provide support to their subordinates and reward them for doing so (supervisory support).

The Assessment of Resilience and Burnout in Correctional Officers

Source: Vera A. Klinoff, Vincent B. Van Hasselt, Ryan A. Black, Estefania V. Masias, Judy Couwels, Criminal Justice and Behavior, Volume 45 Issue 8, August 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Despite the awareness of occupational stress in first responders, virtually no investigations have focused on correctional officer resilience. The purpose of this study was to (a) identify whether personal strengths (i.e., hope, optimism, social support) are associated with increased resilience, (b) determine the extent to which resilience protects against job burnout, and (c) ascertain whether resilience mediates the negative relationship between personal strengths and reduced burnout. Correctional officers (N = 300) were randomly selected across five detention facilities. Meditational analyses examined the relationship between personal strengths and burnout, through the construct of resilience. Results revealed hope, optimism, and social support are significantly associated with reduced burnout, and that this relationship is mediated by resilience. These results suggest that personal strengths can reduce burnout in correctional officers by increasing resilience. This is the first study to examine the effects of these positive psychology variables on burnout in a correctional officer population.

What It Costs to Run Prisons in Your State

Source: Michael B. Sauter, 24/7 Wall st., July 26, 2018

Nearly 1.5 million Americans were incarcerated in state prisons in 2016. That same year, U.S. states spent about $58 billion to keep these people locked up.

How much each state spends on prisons goes far beyond a simple per prisoner calculation. In fact, there is little to no correlation between the states that spend the most per capita and the states with more prisoners per capita. Instead, variations in state spending boil down to a range of budgetary factors and policy decisions.

Prisons have many expenses related to their main function of confining lawbreakers. In addition to securing the prisoners with infrastructure, technology, and personnel, they have to provide inmates with basic necessities such as food, health care, and even entertainment. On a per capita basis, state prison spending ranges from less than $100 per person to nearly $500 per person. 24/7 Wall st. reviewed the states with the highest and lowest prison spending per person. ….

…. To identify how much each state spends on corrections, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed state prison spending from the National Association of State Budget Officers, as collected by The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit focusing on criminal justice reform. Average annual correctional officer salaries are from the Department of Labor. Incarceration rates and the share of prisoners in private prisons are from The Sentencing Project, and crime rates per 100,000 are from the FBI Unified Crime report. All figures listed are for 2016, with the exception of the private prisoner figure, which is for 2015. ….

Prison employment and post‐traumatic stress disorder: Risk and protective factors

Source: Lois James, Natalie Todak, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Online First, June 12, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objectives
To examine the prevalence of Post‐Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in a sample of prison employees, investigate risk factors, and explore protective factors for PTSD.

Methods
We surveyed 355 Washington State Department of Corrections employees. The survey included the PTSD checklist for the DSM‐5 (PCL‐5), the Critical Incident History Questionnaire, and the Work Environment Inventory.

Results
We found 19% of the sample met the criteria for diagnosable PTSD. Several risk factors were associated with a higher PCL‐5 score, including exposure to critical incidents, and having greater ambiguity in the job role. Being happy with job assignments and having positive relationships with supervisors and coworkers were associated with decreased PCL‐5 score.

Conclusions
Prison employees have a PTSD rate equivalent to Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and higher than police officers, suggesting the importance of developing programs for promoting resilience to stress, incorporating the knowledge gained on risk, and protective factors.

State Prison Partnerships Can Improve Public Health and Safety

Source: Maria Schiff and Stephen Fehr, Stateline, March 19, 2018

Nearly all people in prison eventually leave, many of them with chronic diseases or behavioral conditions that may affect public health and safety in the communities where they will live. In a positive trend, corrections departments are partnering with health care agencies in some states to make it possible for offenders’ conditions to be treated when they re-enter the community.

Officials say the collaborations – in states such as Connecticut, Iowa, Missouri and Ohio— are promising because they can improve public health and safety while providing states with a better return on the money spent on treating offenders while they are in prison. Departments of correction collectively spent $8.1 billion on prison health care in fiscal 2015…..

America’s Growing ‘Guard Labor’ Force

Source: Richard Florida, City Lab, March 13, 2018

Many large urban areas in the U.S. now have more “guard labor” than teachers. ….

…. Our definition of guard labor is narrower than that of Bowles and Jayadev, limited to what they call “protective guard labor”—that is, police officers and detectives, prison guards, private security guards, transportation security screeners, and other protective service workers. Our definition of teachers includes pre-school, elementary, middle-school, and high-school teachers, as well as special-education teachers.

For each metro, we looked at the change in guard labor over time, the number of guards per 10,000 people, the location quotient for guard labor, and—most importantly for our purposes—the ratio of guards to teachers. ….

Trump’s Budget Cuts Are Forcing Teachers and Nurses to Work as Federal Prison Guards

Source: Samantha Michaels, Mother Jones, February 19, 2018

….For more than a decade, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has run on what it describes as “mission critical” staffing—the minimum number of correctional employees necessary to safely run the 98 facilities it operates. Yet over the past year, federal prisons have dipped far below those numbers, employees say, because the agency has largely stopped filling vacant positions after staffers retire or leave.

It’s about to get worse. In January, the Bureau of Prisons told its facility administrators to expect a 14 percent reduction in their staffing levels, pending congressional approval of President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget. If the spending plan passes, prisons will have to cut the number of positions they are allowed to fill, so many of those vacancies will never be filled.

The practice of making prison teachers, nurses, and other non-correctional staffers work as guards, called “augmentation,” started more than a decade ago. Prison employees say it used to happen sporadically, during emergencies or when correctional officers were away at trainings. Now, employees say the practice has become a near-daily occurrence at some facilities. As a result, they say, the wait lists for inmate medical care are growing and classes are being canceled…..

Precarious schedules linked with workplace aggression in a high-risk occupation

Source: David A. Hurtado, Lisset M. Dumet, Samuel A. Greenspan, Miguel Marino and Kimberly Bernard, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, November 21, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Introduction
Night work and prolonged work hours increase the risk for workplace aggression, however, the risk related to precarious schedules remains unknown.

Methods
Cross-sectional study among Parole Probation Officers (PPOs) (n = 35). A precarious schedules index was created including the following indicators (a) experiencing one or more unexpected shifts during the last 4 weeks; (b) having minimal control over work hours; and (c) shifts notifications of less than a week. Generalized Poisson Regressions estimated the association between precarious schedules and self-reported client-based aggressive incidents (verbal, threating, property, or physical) during the last 12 months.

Results
Workplace aggression was highly prevalent (94.3%). PPOs who experienced precarious schedules (74.3% prevalence) had an adjusted rate of workplace aggression 1.55 times greater than PPOs without precarious schedules (IRR = 1.55, 95% CI 1.25, 1.97, P < 0.001). Conclusions Precarious schedules were associated with workplace aggression. Further research ought to examine whether improving schedule predictability may reduce client-based aggression.