>Users:   login   |  register       > email     > people    

The Mental Health Crisis in the Corrections Profession: An Old Problem Still Unsolved
By Robert Winters, JD, Professor, School of Criminal Justice, Purdue Global University
Published: 02/11/2019

Mental health The following article was first published on Corrections.com on January 25, 2016.

One of the most significant crises facing the corrections profession is the mental health of correctional officers and other staff members. The crisis is no secret—it has been discussed on this site, for example, more than once over the past few years. Yet it persists, and because of the toll it takes on those who serve in this field, it deserves continued focus. One expert has opined that the correctional profession’s attitudes towards mental health are roughly where those of the U.S. military were 10 to 15 years ago, and the point is not only valid but meaningful.

As the wars in Afghanistan and then Iraq began in 2001 and 2003, the U.S. military had not dealt with prolonged combat since the Vietnam War. These two wars were extensive both in breadth and duration, involving hundreds of thousands of personnel and years of fighting. Given the particularly frustrating nature of counterinsurgency operations and the lethality of improvised explosive devices, it was not long before returning personnel began showing signs of mental trauma. But military culture (and this is of course a generalization of common attitudes) frowned on asking for help with mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). On a personal level doing so was viewed (or at the very least those who were suffering felt they would be viewed) as weak. On a professional level, most thought that seeking treatment would be a probable career-killer, especially for those whose positions required a security clearance.

Time, experience, and the sheer numbers of service members affected by PTSD and other combat-related mental health issues have changed attitudes within the military. Service members at all levels are now encouraged and expected to ask for help, as well as to extend help and support to those around them who may be in need. This is the cultural change that needs to take place in the corrections profession. Surely if those who faced the nation’s enemies in combat can seek counseling and other treatment, then those who daily walk another kind of “front line” can do so as well.

The problem, in fact, is actually worse in corrections than it is in the military. According to the nonprofit Desert Waters Correctional Outreach (DWCO), correctional officers suffer PTSD at a rate over twice that of military veterans. Caterina Spinaris of DWCO conducted a study in 2011 that identified PTSD in 34 percent of correctional officers versus 14 percent of veterans—and half of those officers were also suffering depression. Other research has found that COs commit suicide at double the rate of the general public and of police officers, with a suicide risk rate 39 percent greater than that of all other professions combined. Moreover, while a veteran leaves combat after a matter of months, a CO continues in his or her stressful environment day in and day out, often for years.

The individual costs can be devastating; suicide is one obvious tragic outcome, but significantly higher levels of alcoholism, divorce, and health problems such as hypertension and cardiac disease are common among corrections professionals. A 2001 study conducted by John B. Rogers reveals a litany of bleak statistics: 25 percent of respondents reported a lack of emotional responsiveness…20 percent reported not being able to find pleasure in anything…13 percent reported feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or both. Health conditions were similar: fully half reported a lack of energy or excessive fatigue…44 percent experienced frequent headaches…12 percent suffered migraines at least monthly…16 percent experienced shortness of breath at least once a month…30 percent had undergone a significant change in appetite.

Yet the corrections system as a whole suffers as well. Spinaris found that officers suffering PTSD or depression had absenteeism rates about one-third higher than average, and for those with both conditions the rate was double the average. During interviews current and former corrections officers have confirmed anecdotally that this harsh mental health environment contributes to excessive use of force incidents.

Change must come at both the individual and the organizational levels, much as it did for the military. Corrections professionals must discard the ingrained stigma associated with mental health issues. As with combat, the correctional environment produces protracted levels of stress. While actual serious incidents are relatively rare, the possibility that such an incident could occur at any moment means officers can never relax—much as combat has famously been described as “long periods of boredom interspersed with moments of intense terror.” The human body reacts in concrete, physical ways to elevated stress levels; by no means is any of this “all in anyone’s head.” If a fellow officer had cancer or diabetes, the normal response would be sympathy and support, not stigma. PTSD or depression is no different.

Corrections professionals have also reported shortcomings, or at best widely inconsistent results, in agency responses to mental health issues among staff. Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are common these days, but not every plan is equal: individuals have described plans in Colorado and Massachusetts as “amazing” and “very helpful,” respectively, while another said that New York’s program was nearly useless to her. While obviously these are single experiences with an entire agency’s EAP, clearly at least in some instances these programs are failing those they are intended to serve.

In yet another echo of the military experience with mental health, corrections professionals also fear that reaching out for help could mean the loss of their job. For those most seriously affected in particular, there is a very real possibility that examination by an agency psychiatrist could result in decertification as a corrections officer and the abrupt end of a career. Agencies must put mechanisms in place that move those who are a legitimate danger to themselves or others to a more appropriate position without punishing the individual for seeking help.

Changing an entire profession’s culture is no quick or easy undertaking. For the U.S. military, it required over a decade. But our colleagues are literally suffering and dying, and the only way to save lives is to radically change the way we approach mental health issues and their resolution.

Corrections.com author, Robert Winters, holds a Juris Doctorate degree and is a Professor with Purdue University Global’s Dept. of Criminal Justice. He is also a member of the National Criminal Justice Association and serves as a Western Regional Representative, a member of the National Advisory Board and their National Elections Committee.

Other articles by Winters


  1. spaaqua on 08/07/2019:

    Are you looking for best Call Girls in Gurgaon . Then, you must visit at Spaaqua Escort Agency. This is the amazing website for escort lovers. They have all types of escort girls in many big cities who are enough experience to fulfill all your sexual needs. Gurgaon Escorts |Lucknow Escorts | Indore Escorts | Escorts Service in Bhopal | Escorts Service in Mumbai | Delhi Escorts |Escorts Service in Hyderabad | Call Girls in Delhi

  2. Girlstreat on 08/07/2019:

    If you are searching for best call girls service then the only things you have to do is just book a Call Girl in Gurgaon with GirlsTreat and share your location where you want to make your day and night wonderful and colorful with an escort girl. These escorts will reach your place within an hour. Gurgaon Escorts Escorts Service in Mumbai Escorts Service in bangalore Pune Escorts Goa Escorts

  3. Priyansi on 08/07/2019:

    If you want to fulfill all your sexual desires and want to have fun then just call me, I am the best Call Girl in Mumbai

  4. Mumbaiescorts17 on 07/15/2019:

    Thanks For Create Such Kind Of Informative Website. All Content Is Relevant To Your Subject. Keep It Continue, Because Your Website And Subject Is Meaningful For The Users. After See Your Niche I Have Recommended Your Website With My Friends Also. My Name Is Priya Singh. I Run My Own Mumbai Escorts Service. I Am An Independent Mumbai Escort Girl. I Am Beautiful And Hot. My Service Charge Is Low And Service Is Super. Being Professional I Have Seven Years’ Experience As An Escort Girl. So I Understand And Feel The Real Needs And Requirement Of My Each Client. You Can Taste Me Any Time. According The Convenience You Can Avail My VIP Escort Service At Your Home Or In Hotel Also. To Book My VIP Mumbai Escort Service Call +91 9987215552. Visit http://www.escortagencyinmumbai.com/ Visit The Links Below And Have A Look At My Various Mumbai Escort Services- Juhu Escorts Andheri Escorts

  5. alexajames on 07/03/2019:

    I Saw Your Website Carefully. Thanks For Create Such Kind Of Informative Website. Your All Content Is Relevant To Your Subject. I Say Keep It Continue, Because Your Website And Subject Is Meaningful For The Users. I Have Recommended Your Website With My Friends Also. I Am Ritu Sharma. I Am An Independent Mumbai Escort Girl. I Deal In Mumbai Escorts service. I Am Very Hot And Sexy. Being A Mumbai Escort Girl I Have Five Years’ Experience. That’s Why I Understand The Each Personal Needs Of My Every Client. My Service Charge Is Low And Service Is Super. You Can Avail My VIP Mumbai Escorts Service At Your Home Or In Hotel. I Am Comfortable To Provide Mumbai Escorts Service In Local And Outside Also. Visit www.escortservicemumbai.net Call +91- 9OO4OO9481 Visit The Links Below And Have A Look At My Various Mumbai Escort Services- Mumbai Escorts Mumbai Call Girls Mumbai Escorts In Vile Parle Bandra Escorts Juhu Escorts Andheri Escorts Mumbai Escorts In Colaba

  6. huzi on 05/02/2019:

    Your work is very good and I appreciate you and hopping for some more informative posts Gym Accessories in Pakistan

  7. meghapatil on 03/05/2019:

    The Ultimate Hyderabad Escorts Service Provider with a large number of high-class profiles. Hire the real Independent Escorts in Hyderabad with us. http://www.surveensaniya.com/hyderabad-escorts.html Hot Hyderabad Escorts Service Hire Hyderabad Escorts Agency High Class Independent Hyderabad Escorts Top Hyderabad Escorts Girl Best Escorts in Hyderabad High Profile Escorts Service in Hyderabad Full Enjoyment Call Girl Service in Hyderabad http://www.meghnamathur.co.in/bangalore-escorts.html Hot & Sexy Bangalore Escorts Service Full Enjoyment Bangalore Escorts Agency Best Independent Bangalore Escorts Classy Hyderabad Escorts Very Nice Hyderabad Escort Meghna Mathur Hyderabad Escorts Service Hot Hyderabad Escorts Agency http://www.meghapatil.com/ Megha Patil Mumbai Escorts Service Top Mumbai Escorts Agency Classy Independent Mumbai Escorts Hire Mumbai Escorts Girl Best Mumbai Female Escorts Sexy Escorts in Mumbai Vip Escorts Service in Mumbai Top Class Call Girl Services in Mumbai http://www.meghapatil.com/hyderabad-escorts.html Real Hyderabad Escorts Service High Profile Hyderabad Escorts Agency High Class Independent Hyderabad Escorts Russian Mumbai Escorts Service Private Mumbai Escorts Agency Real sexy Independent Mumbai Escorts Affordable Mumbai Escorts Girl Fun with Escorts in Mumbai http://www.missdaina.com/ Miss Daina Mumbai Escorts Top Mumbai Escort Genunie Mumbai Escorts Service Best Mumbai Escorts Agency

  8. meghapatil on 03/05/2019:

    Meghna Mathur 07045865994 is an Independent Hyderabad Escorts girl so you can take a romance with me any time; My speciality is client satisfaction because client is our God. http://www.tinaoberoi.com/ Tina Oberoi Hyderabad Escorts Service Hi Profile Hyderabad Escorts Agency Vip Model Independent Hyderabad Escorts Hire Hyderabad Escorts Girl Hot & Sexy Escorts in Hyderabad Fancy Escorts Service in Hyderabad Experience VIP Call Girl Service in Hyderabad Top Escorts Service in Bangalore http://www.meghnamathur.co.in/ Enjoy Hyderabad Escorts Service Real Hyderabad Escorts Agency Elite Independent Hyderabad Escorts Beautiful Hyderabad Escorts Girl Cheap Escorts in Hyderabad Sexy Escorts Service in Hyderabad Top Class Call Girl Service in Hyderabad http://www.nidhiverma.co.in/ Best Hyderabad Escorts Service Nidhi Verma Hyderabad Escorts Agency Top Class Independent Hyderabad Escorts Book Now Hyderabad Escorts Girl Top Class Escorts in Hyderabad Hi Profile Escorts Service in Hyderabad

  9. meghapatil on 03/05/2019:

    http://www.monikabansal.co.in/ Hire Hyderabad Escorts Service Monkia Banal Hyderabad Escorts Agency Vip Independent Hyderabad Escorts Cheap Hyderabad Escorts Girl Enjoy with Escorts in Hyderabad Beautiful Escorts Service in Hyderabad 24/7 Available Call Girl Services in Hyderabad Vip Bangalore Call Girl Elite and Vip Hyderabad Escorts Girl Hyderabad Female Escorts Escorts in Hyderabad Escorts Service in Hyderabad Hire Call Girl Service in Hyderabad http://www.surveensaniya.com/ Superior Independent Mumbai Escorts Book Now Call Girl Service in Mumbai Have Fun Mumbai Escorts Girl High Fi Escorts in Mumbai Delightful Escorts Service in Mumbai

  10. Escortwala on 02/23/2019:

    very very nice information in your website i was so exited afeter reading your article i also want to share my article about how to record mobile screen on android mobile --Bangalore Escorts-- --Escorts in Bangalore-- --Independent Escorts in Bangalore-- --Escorts in Delhi-- --Delhi Escorts-- --Call Girls in Bangalore-- --Escorts in Bangalore-- --Escorts in Bangalore-- --VIP Escorts in Bangalore-- --Escorts in Bangalore-- --Escorts Services in Bangalore-- --Escorts in Bangalore-- --Escorts in Delhi-- --Escorts in Delhi-- --Escorts In Gurgaon-- --Escorts In Rohini-- --Escorts In bangalore-- --Escorts In Delhi-- --Escorts In Aerocity-- --Escorts In Dwarka-- --Escorts In Mahipalpur-- --Escorts In Noida--

  11. StephanieCasey on 02/02/2019:

    Perché Olife è un prodotto unico? Ci sono molti fattori che rendono olife evergreen opinioni negative unico.

Login to let us know what you think

User Name:   


Forgot password?

correctsource logo

Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of The Corrections Connection User Agreement
The Corrections Connection ©. Copyright 1996 - 2019 © . All Rights Reserved | 15 Mill Wharf Plaza Scituate Mass. 02066 (617) 471 4445 Fax: (617) 608 9015