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NCJ Number: 199923 Find in a Library
Title: Corrections Contradictions: A Structural Approach to Addressing Officer Burnout
Journal: Corrections Today Magazine  Dated:April 2003  Pages:90-95
Author(s): Sarah J. Tracy
Date Published: April 2003
Page Count: 6
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article discusses correctional officer stress and burnout by analyzing the contradictory tensions that are inherent in correctional work.
Abstract: The author identifies four organizational tensions that characterize a correctional officers’ everyday work environment: (1) respect versus suspect; (2) nurture versus discipline; (3) consistency versus flexibility; and (4) solidarity versus autonomy. It is asserted that correctional officers experience stress and burnout because they receive contradictory messages for how they should behave in their jobs. They are told to be respectful of inmates while at the same time maintaining a suspicion of inmates. They are encouraged to listen to and be sympathetic toward inmates while also maintaining a tough veneer. Officers are expected to follow rules, but are also rewarded for maintaining a certain degree of flexibility. Finally, officers are told to rely on peers for back-up, but not to be too needy. These contradictions place the officers in a precarious position in which they are not certain what is expected of them or how they should react in any given situation. This is exacerbated by supervisors and trainers who do not acknowledge the contradictions within the system and who insist that correctional work is straightforward. The author offers solutions to dealing with workplace contradictions, including training sessions that include the use of role-play of dilemmatic scenarios. Metacommunication is also suggested as a way of discussing the dilemma of mixed messages and contradictory expectations. In conclusion, the author notes that correctional officer stress and burnout are associated with contradictions inherent in correctional work, and as such, stress should not be viewed as an individual pathology. Administrators must pay careful attention to how they present unavoidable tensions in correctional work.
Main Term(s): Correctional officer stress; Corrections occupational stress
Index Term(s): Burnout syndrome; Stress assessment; Stress management
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