Research show that an average person lives to up to 75 years old whereas a prison employee only has an average life span of 59 years. This is an alarming but also, sad to say, understandable discovery. The work of correctional workers, especially those in contact with inmates is high risk when it comes to security, but it is the stress of these people working in an institution plagued with corruption, violence and even diseases that brings down the number according to statistics.
Stress has a huge impact to prison staff. They could take out their stress on the inmates and co-workers, or just skip work altogether as long as they can get away with it. Other than their jobs, their health and personal life may also be at stake. Not everyone has the emotional stability to detach their work from their families, for example. Some studies show that there is a huge percentage of divorce in prison workers. People stressed about their jobs has the tendency to take it out on their families and friends. Worse they could take it out on themselves and commit suicide. Prison workers should be wary of the stressors in their line of work. Now, both employees and the state should learn to address these stressors. Learning to do so has a lot of benefits. Sometimes, especially in correctional facilities, when people are stressed they tend to turn to substance use as a way of escape. Addressing the stress can help lower down these instances.
Some things that can be considered to help lessen high stress levels in prison are:
1) Human rights training for the staff. There is an US vs THEM mentality inside the prison, yes. But this doesn’t mean prison guards should always always treat the inmates with hostility. Prison staff should be taught how to handle each person with no biases and be treated as human beings and not some lower life form.
2) Regular soft skills training for the staff. They should also be trained for seemingly small things that can have a huge impact on their job like teamwork, proper communication between staff and also with the inmates.
3) Self defense trainings. This is important especially to those who have regular contact with inmates. It doesn’t only let them know how to defend themselves, knowing that they have the knowledge and skill to do so gives them a little more peace of mind.
4) Improving the staff amenities. This might seem like a small thing but having a clean drinking water or a good toilet and shower facility and having a good recreation room or exercise facilities is a big help for prison staff. It makes employees feel that they are taken care of if they are given what they deserve.
5) A good health insurance plan. Prison, especially prison guards are at a high risk not only to get injured but also to some diseases like the common cold or even ulcers from stress so it’s good to know that they are provided (by the state) a good insurance plan that with a good health cover.
The simplest gestures can help reduce staff stress in the correctional institution. The first thing to do is to acknowledge the stressors and do things to help employees cope with situations that cannot be avoided completely.