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The Oregonian: Stressed-out prison workers subject of more research by Portland State University
Author: Bryan Denson
Posted: July 7, 2014

Read the original article in The Oregonian here.

Portland State University researchers are conducting a pilot study to help Oregon's corrections officers cope with the extraordinary stresses of their jobs.

Charlotte Fritz, an assistant professor in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, was principle investigator in an exhaustive study of the emotional tolls taken on front-line prison workers. The work showed corrections officers were overworked, sleep-deprived, emotionally exhausted, fearful on the job and often took their stresses home with them.

The research by Fritz and fellow PSU researchers Leslie Hammer, Frankie Guros and David Meier was recounted in part in a recent package of stories in The Oregonian.

Fritz, in a question-and-answer exchange by email about the study, published last November, said there is a scarcity of research into the unique stresses of working inside prisons.

The pilot study is aimed at training corrections supervisors to help front-line officers cope with the unique stresses of their jobs inside Oregon's 14 prisons.

"It is important for officers to be aware of potential danger," Fritz wrote. But she noted that their continuous state of watchfulness inside dangerous settings might spill into their home lives. That's a phenomenon researchers want to understand better; they're looking for ways to help officers cope.

"One way to go about this is ... through supervisory support," she wrote. "Therefore, our current pilot study trains supervisors in safety supportive behaviors.

Fritz said data collection should be concluded by the end of August.

The Oregonian's politics team published an excellent run of stories this week – covering everything from the Equal Rights Amendment, a petition to ban abortion and Gov. John Kitzhaber's claims about unemployment.