Workplace hazards such as exposure to violence and infectious diseases [e.g., hepatitis, COVID- 19] and experiencing assaults are major concerns of correctional officers (COs). Between 1999 to 2008, 113 work-related fatalities were documented amongst COs. Assaults, violent acts, and transportation-related accidents comprised 80% of the total incidents. The assaults and violent acts were caused by homicide (62%), followed by self-inflicted gunshot wounds (38%). The burden of working within corrections has a lasting effect on many COs. Furthermore, they are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder than military veterans. There is a critical need to understand the risk factors for suicide and gun violence and explore the types of mental health care services available to COs.
Our long-term goal is to reduce suicide caused by gun violence in COs. The central hypothesis of this study is that exposure to stressful conditions among COs may lead to suicidal behaviors (e.g., self-inflicted gunshot wounds) and poor mental health outcomes. To our knowledge, there are currently no systems to evaluate the barriers and facilitators to promoting mental health and wellness interventions in jails and prisons for COs, which presents a missed opportunity in reducing suicide. The overall objective of this project is to identify barriers and facilitators toward delivering mental health and wellness for COs in jails and prisons using a collaborative stakeholder and mixed-methods approach.
Principal Investigator (PI): Pamela Valera, PhD, MSW, NCTTP Assistant Professor Rutgers School of Public Health