Correctional work is challenging, stressful, and can be traumatic, so researchers have tried to understand what makes a correctional officer (CO) more or less likely to develop mental health problems. To date, no researchers have considered if COs feel prepared for their job and the associated challenges that will arise at recruitment and during training. Or how their experiences on the job shape their mental health and well-being over time. With the support of Correctional Services Canada, the employer of federal COs, and their unions, we will first learn about correctional officer recruits (CORs) mental health status, coping skills, views, and experiences when they are first hired during their training. Next, we will follow these officers through deployment to the prison they will work in, and across their career for three years, doing qualitative and psychological interviews each year as well as surveys, to see if we can identify CORs that develop mental disorders or have poor well-being versus those who do not, and work toward preventing negative mental health outcome for all staff. We hope our study can help improve COR training and CO experiences; resulting in a healthier correctional service labour force. Our research team come from many backgrounds, this helps us use lots of tools to holistically understand staff mental health needs and experiences. We will conduct face-to-face interviews and clinical assessment interviews with at least 300 CORs/COs each year. The information will help us understand what CORs/COs need in their job, a job that leaves them exposed to potentially traumatic events and adversity. The proposed project also represents a central priority of the Public Safety Stakeholder Committee (PSSC) of the Canadian Institute of Public Safety Research and Treatment. Our study will help frame the needs of COs before and during their jobs in correctional services and generate training to support COs mental health resiliency.
A full list of collaborators can be found here.