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Home > Uncategorized > Solutions to Reduce Correctional Staff Stress and Inmate Aggression

Solutions to Reduce Correctional Staff Stress and Inmate Aggression

September 21st, 2009

While the effects of excessive noise are readily available, noise control within prisons is often overlooked in predesign, marginalized or victim of budgetary constraints. Many corrections professionals believe noise is part of the natural prison physical environment thus, beyond their ability to change. Through design interventions however, noise can be reduced to produce a better built environment for all inside.

Experienced jail administrator, Morton Liebowitz suggested materials and designs to be implemented during the design and construction processes in effort to reduce noise within correctional facilities:

  • Irregularly shaped rooms
  • Acoustical materials between ceiling, wall and floor surfaces
  • Acoustical materials should be at least an inch thick
  • Air space behind acoustical materials to help absorb low-frequency sound
  • Carpeting
  • Acoustical materials located near sound sources
  • Upholstered furniture

Exposure to loud noises for an extended period of time can lead to increased negative biological and psychological effects. According to researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, excessive noise levels are also associated with patterns of increased irritability and aggression and decreased cooperation. Also, excessive noise levels in correctional settings are associated with increased levels of stress and heightened safety and security concerns among staff.

Noise was studied at the Oshkosh Correction Institution in Oshkosh, Wis. “The Wisconsin Department of Corrections Noise Study” concluded that:

  • High noise levels contribute significantly to staff concerns about safety, assault and maintaining control of their housing units. In housing units with the highest noise levels, reducing noise was ranked as the single most important strategy for addressing staff concerns about safety and control.
  • Correctional staff also identified noise as a major contributor to stress and tension over staffing levels, lack of program resources and co-workers’ management techniques.


So how loud should a prison be?
According to the American Correctional Association’s noise standard, inmate housing should not exceed 70 decibels during daytime hours and should stay below 45 decibels (dBA) at night. In Oshkosh, when noise levels were reduced below 65 dBA, staff tended not to consider their unit noisy and reported they were less concerned with inmate behavior as it affects their safety.
In addition, noise mitigation provides credits for facilities looking to become LEED certified.

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