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Correctional Facility Design to Enhance Staff Outcomes and Satisfaction

October 2nd, 2009

A recent article from Corrections.com noted how the effects of the prison environment wear down correctional officers. They work in an environment of chronic stress, continual alertness with the ever-present possibility and exposure to violence. Correction officers read about crimes in offender files, they view assault and riot videos for training purposes. They witness first-hand riots and assaults or have been victims. Gradually this exposure coupled with the high stress and need for continual watchfulness, breeds symptoms of psychological disturbance such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and secondary traumatic stress.

According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), in 2000, the average national turnover rate for correctional officers was 16.1 percent. The American Corrections Association (ACA) concluded stress and burnout among the reasons for the high rate.

Diminishing the potential for prison crime through design while integrating elements to support a positive work environment will enhance correction officers’ job outlook and help to reduce the advanced turnover rate.

Creating consistency within correctional facilities allows prison officers to become accustomed to space and supervision tasks. The National Institute for Corrections (NICIC) reported that when direct supervision was introduced in the 80s, most correctional officers had at least initial adjustment problems. Even though direct supervision was proven to be safer, with fear at the root, officers were not trained in how to be in direct and solo contact with prisoners. Creating consistency with prison systems, will allow for easy facility transfers and standard training.

Implement a design which incorporates direct supervision. Data gathered by the NICIC to analyze the success of podular, direct-supervision jails indicate sharp reductions in vandalism, escape, disturbances, suicides, murders, and sexual and aggravated assaults. Less violence directly results in safer work environment as required force is reduced. The direct supervision also allows correction officers to readily avert problem situations before they escalate.

Strategic person flow throughout a prison provides an optimal safe and secure environment. Restricting interaction between visitors and weekend visitors from standard prison population is proven to reduce the amount of contraband throughout the prison. Understanding prison flow in the pre-design process eliminates unsupervised, blind areas where problems are likely to occur.

Boosting staff morale through facility design will increase retention rates. In effort to reduce the feelings of being locked up, correctional facility design should include adequately sized and furnished locker and changing rooms, muster rooms and training rooms, well-located staff restrooms, cheerful dining and break rooms and natural lighting.

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mwentworth Uncategorized

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