Understanding the Influence of Stress & Violence on Correctional Officer Mental Health

Correctional officers are exposed to a great deal of violence on the job, resulting in high levels of absenteeism and turnover. In collaboration with a state correctional workers’ organization, we distributed a survey that included questions about exposure to violence, mental health, and beliefs about the purpose of corrections. Through our analysis of these data, we found that exposure to violence inside of prison was associated with worse mental health outcomes, including more severe symptoms of PTSD. However, we also find that the association between violence and mental health was moderated by perceived organizational support, suggesting a potential protective influence.

In light of COVID-19, we also more recently surveyed officers to address the difficulties and challenges they are facing, both on the job and in their personal lives, as a result of the pandemic. Our findings show that officers, like many others during the outbreak, have experienced heightened stress and worsened mental health. However, a majority of officers were able to identify specific resources that would help support them during this difficult time. 

The Pandemic in Prison: Implications for California Politics and Policymaking
Feedback Effects and the Criminal Justice Bureaucracy: Officer Attitudes and the Future of Correctional Reform
Policy Briefs:
Violence, Management, and Correctional Officer Mental Health
California Correctional Officers & the COVID-19 Pandemic


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