Category Archives: Corrections

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.

Six myths about criminal justice reform

Source: Chelsea Thomson, Urban Institute, August 10, 2017

When it comes to criminal justice reform efforts, states are leading the charge. Programs such as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), a structured criminal justice reform process designed to help states more safely and cost-effectively manage their corrections populations, as well as Louisiana’s recently enacted bipartisan, data-driven legislation highlight states’ ongoing work to enact evidence-based reforms and data-driven solutions.

But the ongoing discussion on criminal justice reform has put forth varied messages about what really improves outcomes for communities and what the possibilities are for additional reform.

Fortunately, research helps us answer those questions. Here’s the truth about recent criminal justice reform efforts….

Taking Care of the Mentally Ill

Source: B.L. Sloan, D.E. Efeti, Corrections Today, Vol. 79 no. 3, May/June 2017
(subscription required)

A training opportunity for correctional professionals. …. Across the nation, individuals with a serious mental illness are three times more likely to be incarcerated than placed in a mental health facility. … Because of this ever-growing population, the challenges facing correctional staff regarding custody, supervision and treatment of mentally ill offenders have never been greater. Therefore, it is not only necessary for the treatment staff to address then needs of the mentally ill offender, but it is critical for security staff members to understand and recognize problems faced by this special population and be better equipped to manage it. ….

Bureau of Prisons: Better Planning and Evaluation Needed to Understand and Control Rising Inmate Health Care Costs

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), GAO-17-379, Published: Jun 29, 2017

From the summary:
What GAO Found
From fiscal years 2009 through 2016, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) obligated more than $9 billion for the provision of inmate health care and several factors affected these costs. Obligations for health care rose from $978 million in fiscal year 2009 to $1.34 billion in fiscal year 2016, an increase of about 37 percent. On a per capita basis, and adjusting for inflation, health care obligations rose from $6,334 in fiscal year 2009 to $8,602 in fiscal year 2016, an increase of about 36 percent. BOP cited an aging inmate population, rising pharmaceutical prices, and increasing costs of outside medical services as factors that accounted for its overall costs.

BOP lacks or does not analyze certain health care data necessary to understand and control its costs. For example, while BOP’s data can show how much BOP is spending overall on health care provided inside and outside an institution, BOP lacks utilization data, which is data that shows how much it is spending on individual inmate’s health care or how much it is expending on a particular health care service. BOP has identified potential solutions for gathering utilization data, but has not conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis of these solutions to identify the most effective solution. BOP also does not analyze health care spending data, i.e., what its institutions are buying, from whom, and how much they spend. BOP has pursued some opportunities to control its health care spending through interagency collaboration and national contracts, but it has not conducted a spend analysis to better understand trends. Doing so would provide BOP with better information to acquire goods and services more strategically.

BOP has initiatives aimed to control health care costs but could better assess effectiveness and apply a sound planning approach. Since 2009, BOP has implemented or planned a number of initiatives related to health care cost control, but has not evaluated their cost-effectiveness. Further, BOP has engaged in a strategic planning process to help control costs, but has not incorporated certain elements of a sound planning approach, such as developing a means to measure progress toward its objectives and identifying the resources and investments needed for its initiatives. By incorporating these elements, BOP could enhance its planning and implementation efforts before expending resources, better positioning itself for success as it aims to control health care costs.

Why GAO Did This Study
As of June 2017, BOP was responsible for the custody and care—including health care—of about 154,000 inmates housed in BOP institutions. Health care includes medical, dental, and psychological treatment. BOP provides most care inside its institutions, but transports inmates outside when circumstances warrant. GAO was asked to review health care costs at BOP institutions.

This report addresses: (1) BOP’s costs to provide health care services and factors that affect costs; (2) the extent to which BOP has data to help control health care costs; and (3) the extent to which BOP has planned and implemented cost control efforts.

GAO analyzed BOP health care obligations data for fiscal years 2009 through 2016, gathered information on BOP’s health care cost control initiatives through a data collection instrument, and reviewed BOP’s health care related strategic plans. GAO also interviewed BOP officials and visited 10 BOP institutions, selected in part, for total and per capita medical services costs. ….

Mental Disorders Among Criminal Offenders: A Review of the Literature

Source: Emily D. Gottfried, Sheresa C. Christopher, Journal of Correctional Health Care, Vol. 23 Issue 3, July 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article examines mental illness among adult, juvenile, male, female, jail, and prison inmates. It also explores the way in which mental health diagnoses impact offending and violent behavior. A review of literature pertaining to differences between the genders and age of offenders suggests that psychiatric disorders are more common among criminal offenders than the population at large. Furthermore, it appears that many mentally ill offenders do not receive sufficient treatment during their incarcerations and that barriers inherent to incarceration prevent adequate treatment of mental illnesses.

‘Giving Help and Not Asking for It’: Inside the Mental Health of First Responders

Source: Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene, Governing, July 7, 2017

Teaching cops, firefighters and prison workers to recognize and know how to handle people with mental illness is a big part of the efforts to reduce suffering and death at the hands of law enforcement. Less talked about is the mental health of the cops, firefighters and prison workers themselves. ….