The effects of perceptions of staff–inmate boundary violations and willingness to follow rules upon work stress
While most correctional officers are professional in their interactions with inmates, some employees cross the line and engage in boundary violations, which potentially put everyone at risk. Using questionnaires collected from 501 correctional officers employed by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, this study examined the relationship between correctional officers’ perceptions of boundary violations and work stress. Ordinary Least Squares regression results indicated that higher levels of work stress were reported by respondents who perceived that coworkers behaved inappropriately with inmates, who reported higher role strain, who feared victimization, and who reported closely following organizational rules. Female officers and officers who viewed inmates as amiable rather than manageable were also found to experience high levels of work stress. The findings suggest that correctional supervisors are likely to be more effective than line staff in developing and sustaining a culture of professionalism and civility, which can lessen the stressors for those working behind prison walls.
KeywordsCorrectional officers Work stress Inappropriate relationships Boundary violations Job demands-resources model
The authors thank Janet Lambert for editing and proofreading the paper. The authors also thank the editor and anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions, which improved the paper. Finally, the authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance, support, and wonderful hospitality of countless TDCJ employees for facilitating this research project from beginning to end. While the Texas Department of Criminal Justice approved this study, this does not imply the Department’s endorsement or concurrence with statements or conclusions contained therein.
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