Responding to Workplace
Violence and Staff Victimization1
"You only work in this business because you know it's (staff victimization) going to happen to someone else - not you!"
Violence in the workplace - including assaults, sexual assaults, robberies, and murders - has escalated to the point where the U.S. Department of Justice recently proclaimed the workplace to be the most dangerous place in America (Anfuso, 1994). Workplace homicide has tripled in the last decade, making it the fastest growing category of murder in America (Baron, 1993), as well as the leading cause of workplace death for women (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1994).
A review of the latest data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics annual crime survey reveals startling statistics about workplace violence:
n An estimated 8 percent of rapes, 7 percent of robberies, and 16 percent of all assaults occurred while victims were on duty or working.
n Overall, one out of every six violent crimes experienced by U.S. residents age 12 or older happens at work.
Over 30 percent of victims who were working during a violent victimization
faced armed offenders (Bachman, 1994).
This chapter describes the scope and characteristics of
workplace violence in community corrections; discusses the process for
developing a post-trauma program protocol; identifies unwritten expectations
of community corrections staff who are victimized; and identifies strategies
for victims and survivors of workplace violence/victimization.
Corrections and the Scope of Workplace Violence
People who seek careers in corrections are usually aware that they are entering into a high-risk profession. The supervision of criminal and delinquent offenders with histories of violent behavior alone increases the likelihood of potential victimization. In 1996, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (1996) identified ten factors that may increase a worker's risk for workplace assault as described in previous research:
2. Exchange of money.
3. Delivery of passengers, goods, or services.
4. Having a mobile workplace such as a taxicab or police cruiser.
5. Working with unstable or volatile persons in health care, social services, or criminal justice settings.
6. Working alone or in small numbers.
7. Working late at night or during early morning hours.
8. Working in high-crime areas.
9. Guarding valuable property or possessions.
10. Working in community-based settings.
Various surveys of probation and parole agencies in the
United States have found that significant numbers of employees have been
victimized in their career, as depicted in Figure 6-1 (Parsonage, 1990):
Texas Board of Pardons and Parole 41%
Virginia Division of Probation and Parole 39%
New York State Probation 55%
Pennsylvania Statewide Survey 38%
Hostage-taking incidents also are occurring at a higher
rate. In the Federal Bureau of Prisons alone, there have been 157 employees
held hostage in 9 separate incidents since 1987. Remarkably, none of those
employees was seriously injured physically, but significant emotional trauma
resulted from such victimization in many cases (Digman and Fagan, 1996).
Violence in Correctional Workplaces: Characteristics Unique to Correctional Personnel Who Are Victimized
The issues of violence and victimization in correctional settings - including institutions, jails, youth detention centers, probation and parole - can differ significantly from similar issues in the general population. Due solely to the nature of correctional clientele, the risk of being victimized on-the-job is greater for correctional professionals than for most other jobs. Many agencies lack policies and procedures on how staff can and should report workplace violence, and how the agency will respond to them.
The scope and breadth of community-based victim services provide a fairly good "safety net" for citizens who are victimized while, for community corrections employees, the availability of agency-sponsored victim services may be limited or, in some cases, nonexistent. The typical process for dealing with violent crimes perpetrated against community members involves investigations, arrests, and criminal prosecutions. For community corrections, some matters that would otherwise be considered "criminal" may be handled administratively, depending on agency policies and procedures.
A basic element of crisis intervention for victims is assuring them that the crime "is not their fault." For community corrections employees, there are occasions when a staff member's oversight, negligence, or failure to follow established procedures contribute in some way to his or her victimization. As a result, "victim blaming" for incidents of workplace violence involving community corrections employees becomes a barrier to crisis intervention and followup supportive services for the victimized staff. Victim assistance may be accompanied by disciplinary actions. In addition, other staff may harbor feelings of resentment toward a victimized colleague who failed to follow procedures.
For community members, victims often exercise options to completely remove themselves from "the scene of the crime," e.g., leaving their homes and communities, getting a new job, changing identities, etc. In corrections, victimized staff are, in many cases, expected to "return to the scene of the crime" - often very soon after the incident occurs. Rapid re-integration into the workplace without extensive supportive services can be a "trigger" for severe psychological reactions. In some cases, the victimizer (probationer or parolee) continues to remain in, or report to, the same field office, while the victim (the community corrections professional) is transferred to another site "in his or her best interests." Such actions can be considered punitive, and erroneously support the concept that the victim was to blame.
The responsibility of supervising or monitoring a known
"correctional staff victimizer" can add tremendous stress to those who
must assume this job. Probationers and parolees with histories of victimizing
staff must continue to be supervised. These differences between general
community response and the corrections/workplace community response may
affect the scope and sufficiency of the agency's services for staff who
fall prey to workplace violence. Recognizing and understanding these unique
characteristics are two of the most important steps toward formulating
an appropriate agency response that best meets the special needs of community
Key Elements for Responding to Workplace Violence in Community Corrections
The overall increase in workplace violence in America, coupled with the fact that community corrections is a high-risk profession in itself, comprise a "double-edged" sword for agency administrators, as well as for employees. Staff safety issues should be addressed within planning, policy development, training, and evaluation and research. Agencies and practitioners must recognize that violence in the workplace can occur at the hands of offenders under supervision. In addition, critical incidents are fast becoming increasingly prevalent in the general population of the United States, such as violence perpetrated by family members, friends, coworkers, and strangers. Such incidents include the following:
n Crimes resulting from escalating domestic violence situations in employees' homes.
n Retaliatory crimes committed by family members or friends of offenders who are under some form of correctional supervision but who are unknown to the correctional employee at the time of the crime.
or criminal incidents, involving complete strangers who are unaware of
a correctional employee's position, are committed while employees are either
on- or off-the job or are perpetrated against a family member of the employee.
Criminal incidents include physical assaults, rapes, robberies, drunk driving
crimes, and homicide.
Also, the development of a mission statement, goals, and
objectives for post-trauma response efforts can contribute to a comprehensive
agency response. Last, there should be a coordinated response within the
criminal justice system, as well as followup with staff, when incidents
Developing a Mission Statement, Goals, and Objectives for Post-Trauma Response
It is helpful for community corrections agencies to develop a mission statement, goals, and objectives that clearly define its vision for, and approach to, responding to staff victimization, critical incidents, and workplace violence. A workgroup should be convened that includes the following personnel and allied professionals:
n Director of the employee assistance program.
n Director of victim services.
n A site supervisor/administrator.
n A member of the agency's critical incident response team (where applicable).
n Representative(s) from the agency's Victim Advisory Council.
Representative from line staff or the employees' union.
the scope of the agency's response.
The program mission statement should provide an overview of the ideals and values upon which the post-trauma response program is based. Two examples of a mission statement that can serve as a foundation for workgroup discussion and actions is as follows:
The mission of the (agency's) program is to establish
a safe and professional environment in which employees and their families
recognize the importance of reporting traumatic and/or critical incidents,
and understand the need to address such incidents through a variety of
interventions and debriefing protocols and services.
An agency's post-trauma program can benefit from the development of goals and objectives that clearly reflect the program's overall mission and provide a "road map" for the development of policies and protocols. Examples of program goals include the following:
n To reduce the detrimental effects of crimes committed against department employees or their loved ones, either on- or off-the-job, through immediate crisis intervention, as well as short- and long-term supportive services offered by the agency, or by qualified professionals in the community.
provide assistance and services, including group debriefings, for any agency
employees who may be traumatized by witnessing, working at the site of,
or being otherwise detrimentally affected by any incident of workplace
n Establish a management initiative team of employees readily available on a daily/on-call basis for the purpose of providing support to employees involved in a serious or traumatic incident.
n Establish a post-trauma response team comprised of employees and volunteers within a region who will be available to respond, when called upon, to critical incident situations, and who will offer employees a means of dealing with the multitude of feelings associated with these situations.
n Assist and facilitate an employee's access to community resources, as may be needed, to enable return-to-duty at the earliest possible date.
. Promote confidentiality and trust for employees receiving support.
. Provide information to employees that will assist them in assessing and meeting their needs as it relates to trauma-related incidents.
. Provide an opportunity for the Post-Trauma Staff Support
Program Coordinator to meet with the Staff Support Team Leader to discuss
the program and share information to enhance the program's effectiveness.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Parole Division, as stated in the Post-Trauma Staff Support Program Operations Manual (1996), offers a comprehensive definition of a "traumatic incident" that is worthy of consideration and replication:
Developing an Agency Policy to Guide Post-Trauma Response
Little in corrections happens without a detailed policy
to guide it. Yet in 1996, there were still a significant number of correctional
agencies that did not have written policies concerning how to handle
critical incidents in which personnel become either victims or witnesses,
including 78 percent of adult correctional agencies, 71 percent of juvenile
correctional agencies, and 33 percent of paroling authorities. A Prototype
Administrative Policy on Staff Victimization that is designed to augment
an agency's mission, goals, objectives, and overall policies related to
how it responds to workplace violence is included in Appendix F. In additional,
detailed policy guidelines and post-trauma protocol from the California
Department of Corrections are also in Appendix F.
Developing an Agency Post-Trauma Program Protocol
In addition to developing policies for post-trauma response activities, community corrections agencies should create a protocol that clearly defines the following:
. Which staff will be involved in the program, and who makes decisions related to staff participation.
. Examples of specific incidents that will result in the implementation of any agency's post-trauma response.
Victim Reconstruction: The Challenge for Community Corrections
It is misleading to speak of a victim's "recovery" from
a very traumatic event. "Recovery" suggests that the wound is gone, the
patient is cured, everything is back to normal. It is more helpful to think
of the process of getting better as one in which the emotional roller-coaster
stops lurching so much, with lower high points, and higher low points.
most, getting better means that victims are constructing a new and different equilibrium for themselves. They are somewhat different people with a somewhat different outlook, with a somewhat different (and usually sadder) range of normal emotional swings. That reconstruction process can be very difficult and take a long time - often much longer than the victim, their loved ones, or the correctional agency expects. It involves living through bad days and good days and, for some, becoming satisfied if they can count more good days than bad at the end of the process.
Community corrections agencies, through their policies, procedures, and staff training, must recognize and allow ample time for victimized employees to reconstruct their lives in the aftermath of a crime, whether it is committed on- or off-the-job. Some examples of related issues are as follows:
n Often, there is a tendency to get back to "business as usual," an approach that can be difficult (or impossible) for traumatized staff, including victims of and witnesses to a critical incident.
n The coworkers of the victimized staff may resent having to "pull double duty" or otherwise cover for that employee's absence, especially if his or her time off from work is prolonged. Such feelings must be validated and discussed.
takes time, so agencies must adhere to policies that allow for a
reasonable amount of time for this process.
The attitudes of coworkers and administrators affect the
progress of someone working on reconstructing his/her emotional life after
a trauma. The influence of colleagues, for good or bad, is greater if the
trauma was job-related. Unfortunately, high-risk professions, like corrections,
tend to have unwritten expectations of staff that work against the victim.
A "Tough" Job
First, community corrections personnel may tend to think
of themselves as "tough" -
-people who can face difficult situations and
survive. Stress is not a negative factor in life - it is valued. Normal
emotional reactions to victimization are viewed as a sign of weakness.
Anger may be acceptable as a response, but fears, tears, confusion, or
self-blame may be denied or suppressed. Even anger must be controlled.
The Stigma of Victimization
As Dr. Morton Bard has repeatedly pointed out in his lectures
and writing, victims are seen as "losers" in our society. The criminal
is the "winner" and the victim is the "failure" in a fight the victim did
not pick. Victims are further stigmatized because coworkers and others
want to distance themselves from the victimization. The closer a colleague
is to a victim, the more vulnerable the colleague may feel. By blaming
or isolating the victim, coworkers can continue to believe that they won't
be victimized themselves.
As a male-dominated profession, "toughness" is a highly
valued personal trait. For women in community corrections who may feel
they "don't fit" the traditional model of a probationor parole officer,
a victimization and ensuing coworker perceptions of "weakness" may be pronounced.
"Business as Usual"
There is an organizational imperative, often driven by
a lack of resources, to keep staff working on the job. This fuels the tendency
to re-establish routines and to conduct business as usual as quickly as
possible following a critical incident or staff victimization. Some victimized
staff complain of having been asked to immediately fill out incident reports,
prior to having their physical and/or emotional trauma addressed. The frustration
of having to do everyday tasks by an individual who has felt vulnerable,
in danger, and perhaps suffered an injury or property loss is often overwhelming.
Community corrections agencies can help victimized employees by providing
"emotional first-aid" and assigning another staff member to help the victim
complete the necessary paperwork related to the critical incident. Ongoing
inservice training is also important.
Involvement in the Criminal Justice System
The department's internal disciplinary system may give some sense of justice or vindication to a victimized staff member. If not, the staff member at least has a chance to voice his or her displeasure. This is less true if the case deserves prosecution, in the staff member's eyes, and little or nothing happens.
In many jurisdictions, the criminal justice system is still unresponsive to victims' issues, most particularly the emotional costs of crime that victims must endure. Many of the new "victims' rights" seek to answer the victim's emotional needs even more than they seek to influence decisions. Thus, the right to be consulted over a charging decision, or to sit in the courtroom during a trial, or to file a victim impact statement may help victims feel they had some control, that they got their stories told, even if the results were the same as if the victim had been denied all these rights.
Unfortunately, victimized community corrections officers
may not be afforded even these protections. Assaults may be dismissed as
not worthy of further investigations or prosecution. It may be considered
a waste of resources to pursue prosecution against offenders who already
are serving sentences. Or, internal investigation with administrative hearings
may be substituted for criminal proceedings. In such cases, victims' right
to information, notification, and participation in the criminal justice
system may not be required (or even allowed) in administrative hearings.
In some instances, a community corrections employee may have violated agency policies or procedures - actions that, in some way, could have contributed to a critical incident. Community corrections agencies must conduct investigations and, in some cases, initiate disciplinary actions against the employee. In addition, other staff may rightfully resent that employee's error that makes them feel vulnerable.
Community corrections agencies can benefit from policies
that immediately address any victim trauma the employee is going
through, prior to initiating any disciplinary actions.
Workers' Compensation and Victim Compensation
Workers' compensation is sometimes available for staff
who are victimized on-the-job, although 1996 survey data indicated that
there appears to be a lack of knowledge as to the extent of such coverage,
as depicted in Figure 6-2 (Seymour, 1996b).
Figure 6-2: Workers Compensation Coverage
Not Sure - Don't
Coverage Covered Covered Coverage Know - Refused
Compensation 19% 33% - 47%
Compensation 14% 31% 11% 44%
Compensation 45% 21% 3% 32%
Compensation 3% 45% 18% 34%
Compensation 25% 13% - 63%
Compensation - 35% 13% 53%
The compensation application process may be complicated, and the subsequent decisionmaking process is not always smooth. A Washington, D.C. teacher was denied workers' compensation a few years ago after she had been raped in a school on the grounds that rape was a danger that was inherent to the job; it was a risk she assumed when she took the job.
Moreover, some workers' compensation programs are not well schooled in the emotional injuries victims suffer, and don't underwrite needed counseling or therapy. In many departments, such services are available only through an Employee Assistance Program; many of these are only now learning to add trauma counseling to their bank of skills.
Community corrections agencies should always assign the supervisor or a coworker of the victimized staff to help that individual through the process of applying for workers' compensation. This includes completing forms; providing guidance on the types of records that the employee will need to maintain; and serving as staff liaison, if the employee requests, to the agency's EAP.
While victim compensation is available in virtually all
States, it is a "resource of last resort" for victims. Most compensation
programs exclude coverage to correctional staff. Administrators may want
to check this out, especially if their employee benefit package does
not pay for stress-related counseling that victim compensation might
Appropriate Treatment for Victims and Survivors of Workplace Violence/Victimization
While this chapter contains a variety of strategies and
promising practices about how to provide appropriate treatment for victims
and survivors of workplace violence and critical incidents, agencies can
lay a strong foundation upon which strategies can be implemented by clarifying
employees' rights when they are victimized. Just as crime victims in all
50 States and at the Federal level have a "victims' bill of rights" that
guides how the criminal justice system should treat them, and how their
cases will be handled, so should community corrections agencies articulate
similar rights for the fair treatment of staff who are victimized by violence
in the line of duty.
Guidelines for Community Corrections Employees Who Are Victimized in the Line of Duty
The following guidelines, modeled after "Victims' Bills of Rights" adopted in most States, provide community corrections agencies with ideas for appropriate treatment of community corrections staff who are victimized in the line of duty* and offers employees a "checklist" of supportive services that can be provided by the agency:
"As a victim of a serious crime committed while you were performing your duties, you will:
n Be provided with direct assistance and support from the Department's Office of Victim Services for both you, your family and coworkers.
n Be informed in writing of your rights, stated here, by Department management within 48 hours following the critical incident.
n Receive timely information about the status of the administrative and/or criminal proceedings related to the critical incident.
n Receive timely disposition of your case, including administrative or disciplinary actions involving the offender.
n Be allowed to be present, upon request, at any administrative proceedings related to the critical incident, or to have a representative of your choice present at such proceedings; and to be present at any criminal proceedings related to the critical incident, pursuant to State law, with time away from work to attend proceedings provided by the agency.
n Have the opportunity to submit a victim impact statement - either written, oral, audio taped or videotaped - prior to the administrative disposition of the case, and to have a record of your victim impact statement maintained in a case file separate from the offender's case file; and to be afforded this right in the event of a criminal prosecution, pursuant to State law.
n Be notified about the final disposition of the case in a timely manner.
n Be encouraged to enroll in the Department's Victim Notification Program, regardless of whether your case is pursued as an administrative or criminal matter, in order to be kept informed of the offender's status and location, pursuant to State law and agency policy, and to have your notification request and related information kept confidential from the offender.
n Receive reasonable protection from the accused.
n Not be required to continue supervising the accused.
n Receive restitution from the offender, either monetarily or as an appropriate form of community service within the corrections community, based upon a recommendation from you.
n Receive workers'compensation and/or victims' compensation, and to receive assistance with completing the applications and other associated requirements.
n Receive a timely referral to the agency's Employee Assistance Program.**
n Receive mental health counseling, upon request, for both you and members of your immediate family from a competent professional who is qualified in providing crisis intervention, sensitive trauma response, and ongoing therapy or counseling, as appropriate.
n Receive information about and a referral to supportive victim services and assistance in your community."
*The rights in criminal proceedings must be defined
by individual correctional agencies in accordance with State (or Federal)
** Where applicable.
The California Department of Corrections wanted to ensure that all of its employees were aware of the programs and services the agency offers to staff who are victimized in the line of duty. The Department's Victim Services and Restitution Branch developed a comprehensive 10-page brochure that describes in detail how the agency responds to workplace violence. The brochure, a truly promising practice for correctional agencies, includes the following information:
n Overview of the Department's Employee Post-Trauma Program (EPTP).
n Resources available from the Employee Assistance Program.
n Information about and a toll-free number to contact the State Board of Control (Victims of Crime Compensation) Board.
n Information about workers' compensation and the agency's return-to-work policies.
n Overview of the "catastrophic time bank," through which agency employees can donate their vacation days, annual leave, etc. to a fellow employee who is injured in a catastrophic incident.
n Contact information for internal and community-based services to assist victimized staff.
One of the most significant barriers to community corrections employees seeking mental health assistance in the aftermath of a critical incident is the fear of others finding out. In corrections, where mental health consultation could be viewed as a sign of weakness or vulnerability, it is essential to provide victimized employees with protection of their privacy through both a written policy and training programs such as the following:
n If a community corrections employee seeks mental health assistance or a referral from the agency's EAP, the employee will be offered the opportunity to consult with an EAP representative at a site that is away from the agency.
n Any employee who voluntarily seeks mental health supportive services in the aftermath of a workplace violent incident will be guaranteed complete confidentiality, both for the request for assistance, as well as for any ensuing activities related to treatment, unless there is a duty to warn a third party.
n All records of mental health treatment, provided either internally or by a qualified professional outside of the agency, will be privileged, except information given to a mental health professional that constitutes the admission of a crime in violation of the laws (of the State).
n Records of any mental health consultations sought by a community corrections employee who is victimized shall not be sought or admissible in any disciplinary hearings related to the critical incident.
n For record keeping purposes, information about requests for mental health assistance and/or referrals will contain the following information without divulging the name of the employee seeking assistance: descriptive summary of the nature of the critical incident that preceded the request for assistance; number and type of contacts relevant to an employee; and types of assistance and/or referral(s) provided to the employee.
Community corrections agencies should also research any State laws relevant
to client-counselor confidentiality, both for employee interactions with
the agency's EAP, as well as with outside referrals.
Community corrections agencies should be supportive of services for victims "off the job" and using those services when victimized employees need short- and/or long-term support and assistance.
While probation and parole agencies may provide in-house crisis intervention and crisis response teams, it is also appropriate to provide support for employees who are victimized in their area. Agencies should do the following:
n Establish a Victim Advisory Council which, among many duties, can serve as the liaison to community-based victim service providers.
n Develop agreements for referrals so that employees can be served quickly and effectively when necessary.
Develop supplementary programs within the corrections arena to assist victims
of crime with information and referral, counseling, and advocacy where services do not exist.
n Promote the expansion of victim services to serve all types of crime victims in the community.
Refer victimized employees to programs on an as-needed basis.
n Invite outside crisis counselors to help plan the inhouse program, train the agency's volunteer crisis intervenors, and serve as an ongoing resource.
n Invite outside counselors to do staff trainings (and mini-trainings) on the normal reactions to abnormal events. This may help staff better cope with the frightening events they experience as part of their daily job, and add to a supportive environment when very traumatic things happen to staff members.
n Explore with them the idea of a regional crisis response team. More and more victim service and mental health professionals are creating such voluntary, interagency teams, for a number of practical reasons: while no one agency is likely to use such a team very often, if all community agencies use it for every multi-victim crisis, the team will get experience and acceptance; also, it helps to pool all the available, skilled crisis intervenors into a key, community resource.
Although the local correctional facility or work site may never need such
a team, if it ever does, the scale of the disaster may be very broad. Thus,
it makes sense for the agency to contribute staff to the team, and make
the staff available for any community crisis.
Agencies should provide basic employment-related support.
Agencies should make sure that mental health counseling is a part of the
employees' benefit package and that such counseling is available for all
crime victims. Agencies should also allow an appropriate number of days
off following victimization and time off to participate in the criminal
justice system to the full extent of the victim's rights and duties. Management
should show support by providing inhouse crisis intervention programs by
making referrals to local victim service providers and other programs that
support victim rights and services. Also, agencies can sponsor training
programs about victims' issues for correctional employees on a regular
basis, as part of both orientation and continuing education.
Providing Appropriate Mental Health Referrals and Assistance
For victims of crime, there are numerous barriers that sometimes prevent them from seeking and receiving appropriate mental health treatment. Dr. Dean Kilpatrick, Director of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina, has identified lack of knowledge and lack of resources as the two most significant barriers:
Lack of Knowledge
n That effective mental health treatment exists for many crime-related mental health problems.
n About how to find mental health professionals with specialized expertise in treating crime victims.
n That workers' compensation and victims' compensation will cover certain types of mental health treatment.
About how to determine whether claims to compensation for mental health
treatment are appropriate.
n Victims lack access to mental health services due to the following reasons:
. Insurance coverage generally discriminates against those with mental health treatment needs.
. The public mental health treatment sector is under considerable pressure to provide treatment to the chronically mentally ill, and has few resources to devote to the treatment of crime victims.
. The private mental health sector has virtually abandoned treatment of patients without money.
There are insufficient numbers of mental health professionals with specialized
expertise in the treatment of crime victims. (NOTE: This is particularly
true relevant to treatment for correctional employees who are victimized
This is perhaps one of the most challenging questions facing community corrections administrators today. Some staff could have very good personal reasons for not wanting to receive mental health assistance. In addition, the issue of choice is very significant. When dealing with victims, who do not choose to be victimized, giving them choices in the aftermath of a crime forms the very foundation of crisis intervention and victim assistance. Providing victims with choices gives them control over decisionmaking, and helps them in the efforts to reconstruct their post-victimization lives.
However, in light of the many barriers that preclude community
corrections staff from receiving appropriate mental health assistance,
it is the recommendation of Promising Practices and Strategies that
staff who are victimized on-the-job be mandated to attend at least one
incident review session. Such an agency policy would eliminate the
"taint of weakness" that is often a perception of peers. It would also
offer victims an opportunity to receive support that they may need and
appreciate, and allow them to make an educated choice as to whether
or not to continue receiving mental health supportive services.
Employee Assistance Program Referrals for Victimized Staff
Many employee assistance programs maintain rosters of competent mental health professionals who provide a variety of services, including counseling for alcohol and other drug abuse, occupational stress, and family dysfunctions. However, the needs of individuals who are victimized are unique, and require the services of mental health professionals who have specialized knowledge and training.
Furthermore, mental health professionals to whom the agency refers victimized staff should possess an understanding of the corrections community. What is it like in the workplace environment? What are some of the special issues that should be considered when dealing with probation or parole officers who supervise high-risk offenders? Are there considerations related to the victimized staff member returning to work which was "the scene of the crime?"
The California Department of Corrections requires all mental health professionals who provide services to victimized staff to actually visit and tour an institution. This is an excellent approach that can increase the mental health professional's understanding of corrections, as well as related issues that might affect their treatment of the correctional employee.
As one correctional officer who was held hostage in an Ohio institution noted, "Corrections needs to provide resources because there are not enough counselors in the entire State that understand what goes on in prison."
The agency's EAP should carefully assess mental health professionals prior to making referrals for any staff who are victimized on-the-job. EAP staff should use the type of information found in Figure 6-4 that describes types of mental health professionals to ascertain the professional credentials of any mental health professionals to whom they refer staff who have been victimized on-the-job.
The following 10 questions provide a basis for determining the appropriateness of mental health referrals, and also serve to ensure that victimized staff receive competent, appropriate care:
n Does the professional have any direct experience in assisting victims of violent crime, such as rape survivors, battered women, assault victims, and/or victims or surviving family members of DUI crashes and homicides?
n Is the professional trained in disorders common to many survivors of crime and critical incidents, such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Rape Trauma Syndrome, or Battered Women's Syndrome?
n What are the professional's credentials relevant to continuing education training on victim-related issues (a vitae can provide this information)?
n Has your State's Crime Victim Compensation Program reimbursed the services of this professional in the past?
n Does the professional actively participate in any local, State or national victim assistance or victim service coalitions?
n Does the professional belong to or have any affiliation with organizations that specialize in mental health, trauma response, or victimization?
n What has been the experience of correctional employees who have received supportive services from this professional in the past? Do you have any official mechanism to obtain this type of personal evaluation feedback?
n Does the professional accept payment from workers' compensation and/or victim compensation, and are services rendered on a sliding fee scale?
Does the professional have a standardized process for getting feedback
from victim clients regarding their satisfaction with treatment?
There are three major types of mental health professionals:
2. Clinical psychologists (Ph.D or Psy.D degree) have completed at least 4 years of graduate training, including supervised assessment and treatment, along with a 1-year internship. They have usually had at least 1 additional year of postdoctoral training prior to being licensed.
3. Clinical social workers (M.S.W. degree) have
completed 2 years of graduate training, including classes and field work.
Sometimes, additional years of postgraduate training is required for licensing.
2. Clinical mental health counselors must have
a master's degree, 2 years of training (including internship), and certification
by the National Academy of certified clinical mental health counselors.
All probation and parole agencies have regular and longstanding relationships with local (or State) law enforcement and prosecution agencies. Sometimes the relations are strained, as when the agencies cannot get assaults committed against their staff treated seriously. More often, the relations are good, with the agency doing some of its own screening, and the outsiders respecting these judgments on how to proceed. Whatever the circumstances of a particular agency or faculty, the "victims' movement" is, in effect, encouraging a new kind of compact among these three agencies - one that puts the victimized staff member in a more meaningful position. That compact might have these characteristics:
n All staff members will be required to report all incidents of threats and violence; the policy will not necessarily mean an increase in disciplinary or criminal actions, but it will serve to track the level of stress affecting employees so that appropriate help can be given them.
n Victimized employees will be fully consulted on how the department will proceed with the case. Guidelines will help govern whether disciplinary or criminal sanctions will be sought, and the staff member's views on this issue, and on which charges to file, will be considered.
n Law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities will contribute to the guideline-writing so that referrals for investigation and prosecution will lead to predictable results.
In both disciplinary and criminal proceedings, employees will be given
all the rights accorded by State law to "civilian" crime victims.
The ultimate violation of a community corrections professional - murder - requires a well-planned, sensitive, and collaborative approach in the aftermath of such tragedy. Coworkers may experience severe psychological or physical reactions to the violent death; increased vulnerability is often a collective outcome. Not only are individuals prone to overwhelming distress but also entire agencies, such as the correctional facility, work site, or other agency offices, can experience collective fear, anxiety, and anger as a result of the murder of a fellow employee.
One of the first priorities of the community corrections
agency is to provide sensitive, timely notification to the murdered employee's
next-of-kin. While death notification procedures are among the most difficult
and taxing duties an agency ever faces, proper planning and careful implementation
of a sensitive approach can help make this difficult task both compassionate
The facts of the murder must be determined as quickly as possible, with these data provided immediately to the agency's administration. The following data should be noted:
n Time of death.
n Status of the alleged murderer (i.e., detained, detained with injuries, deceased, or still-at-large, etc.).
n Any witnesses.
n Status of witnesses.
n Any information relevant to the investigation (both internal/administrative and external/law enforcement).
Any information regarding the status of the work site (i.e., office
It is imperative that the agency has complete and accurate information about whom to contact in the event of a murder. An Emergency Response Form included in Appendix F provides the following data:
n Addresses and telephone numbers where they can be reached 24-hours-a-day, 7 days a week, at both home and office.
n In work situations, the contact's immediate supervisor.
n Medical information pertaining to the primary and secondary contacts.
n Contact information for the primary physician for both the primary and secondary contacts that is updated biannually.
Agencies must have "rumor control" procedures in place to deter innuendo, gossip or "second guessing" by any personnel in the case of a critical incident involving a violent death. The following issues should be considered:
n Developing a policy that clarifies the process, procedures, and professionals involved in death notifications from the agency (this is particularly essential for well-meaning colleagues or friends of the deceased, whose initial reaction is to rush to the home of next-of-kin).
n Establishing policies that prevent any employees from discussing the critical incident/murder with the news media or with surviving family members prior to official notification.
Centralizing the agency's response within the Public Information Office.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the nation's largest victim advocacy organization, has
developed a comprehensive protocol for death notification,
Death Notification: Breaking the Bad News with Concern for the Professional
and Compassion for the Survivor. It was developed in 1996 with support
from the Office for Victims of Crime. The complete curriculum for death
notification developed by MADD is available free by calling the Office
for Victims of Crime Resource Center at 1-800-627-6872.
Some Considerations to Develop a "Culture of Compassion"
The community corrections agency can show continued compassion for surviving family members through the following responses:
n A representative of the agency's Employee Assistance Program should contact the victim's immediate survivors within 7 days of the murder to offer information, assistance, and referrals to appropriate supportive services.
n A staff member should be designated to assist surviving family members with workers' compensation, death benefits, victims' compensation, and related issues.
n The agency should provide a direct linkage (in person or via telephone, and in writing) with a contact name, address, and telephone number of a victim advocate or justice professional involved in the adjudication of the case who can provide ongoing information to the surviving victims.
n Many agencies sponsor memorial efforts (i.e., scholarship funds for the victim's children, memorial funds to a charity in which the victim was involved, etc.), which provide a fitting tribute to a colleague killed in the line-of-duty.
n In Illinois, the front hallway of the Department of Corrections is lined with photo plaques of employees who have been killed in the line of duty. This is a most fitting and lasting tribute that can be replicated in other agencies.
n Perhaps most important, the agency should develop a plan that ensures the surviving victims will be provided with continued support, not only at the crisis stage, but in years to come:
. An agency representative should contact the immediate surviving victims at least once a month for the year following the murder. It is important to determine if they are receiving appropriate support, are being provided information about the status of any criminal proceedings, and are aware of the concern and compassion from the agency.
. The agency director/administrator and murdered employee's immediate supervisor should develop an automated calendar that provides "flags" of anniversaries of violent deaths of correctional employees, and send a personal note to surviving family members. Correctional employees who were close to the victim should also be reminded of the anniversary of his/her death. Anniversaries of murders are particularly painful for victims; any acknowledgment from the agency and personnel is appropriate and can be very comforting to survivors.
. Support groups and related activities that involve other
families of murdered correctional employees, including an annual national
commemoration each year in May, can provide comfort, as well as an outlet
for positive action for survivors.
Critical incidents involving community corrections personnel are, without a doubt, newsworthy. Violent assaults against staff, and hostage taking incidents all constitute "headline news" in the eyes of the media.
In violent incidents involving multiple victims and/or offenders, propensity for media interest heightens. Such cases often, unfortunately, give rise to inaccurate information "leaked" to the press. Some such leaks are inaccurate; all can be traumatic to the families and friends of correctional personnel involved.
The first and foremost task of any administration is to centralize the dissemination of information to the news media. Some agencies accomplish this objective through a media specialist on staff at the agency, while others work through a Public Affairs Office.
In any of these cases, the key to decreasing possibilities
of misinformation is to coordinate efforts in dealing with the news
media. Critical incidents require media experts who are trained to deal
with crisis events; eliminating multiple spokespersons will also help decrease
the chances of rumors, innuendo, and inaccurate statements being released
to the news media.
Consideration of Victims' Families and Friends
Often, the news media will be alerted to critical incidents before the agency can notify the families and friends of the staff victimized by assaults or hostage incidents. The trauma of families and friends is greatly increased by the first hearing of critical incidents on television, on the radio, or in the newspaper.
Therefore, the priority of the agency administration should be prompt notification of the victimized personnel's immediate family. Such prompt action will reduce chances of inappropriate notification of staff victimizations by the news media. It will also allow the agency to inform family members of protocols for dealing with the media, and present the facts that are known relevant to the critical incident.
Many victim service providers are well-trained to help crime victims and survivors deal with news media inquiries at the crisis state of a crime. Often, victims' families receive a measure of comfort when they have someone willing to field media inquiries and coordinate such inquiries with the criminal justice or corrections agency dealing with the crime. Administrators should immediately access and utilize the services of such victim service providers during and after critical incidents involving community corrections employees.
The National Center for Victims of Crime has developed
comprehensive guidelines for crime victims to help them understand and
exercise their rights when dealing with the news media. A summary of victims'
"rights" when dealing with the news media is included in Appendix F and
should be made available to the families of community corrections personnel
when they are notified of a critical incident involving a loved one. A
recommended policy for dealing with the media during critical incidents
of staff victimizations also can be found in Appendix F.
Recommended Policy for Dealing with the Media During Critical Incidents of Staff Victimizations
. Agency director.
. Public information officer at the institution.
. Public affairs director of the agency.
. Any combination of the above.
n Personnel assigned to media relations during critical incidents shall have a plan-of-action prepared in writing prior to such incidents. The plan shall include the following:
. Name of agency/institution spokesperson during critical incidents.
. Contact information for the spokesperson (including address, telephone number, fax number, and e-mail address).
n A 24-hour "media hotline" will be available to journalists to receive up-to-date, accurate information about the critical incident.
n A pre-established number of daily press briefings will be determined, including the following information:
. When the briefing will be held (hourly, three times a day, etc.).
. Where the briefing will be held.
. A list of accommodations the media may require, including electrical outlets, telephones, modems, fax machines, etc.
. Guidelines for the media's access to any special accommodations they may require.
n A "contingency plan" will allow for additional or more infrequent press briefings, depending on the nature of the critical incident.
n All immediate family members of correctional personnel involved in the critical incidents will be notified of such incidents prior to any publicity in the news media.
n In cases where news of critical incidents "leaks out" prior to notification of family members, the agency will immediately notify families by telephone (or preferably in person) of the details known of the incident.
n An information hotline for family members of correctional personnel involved in critical incidents will be established to provide them with accurate, up-to-date reports of the incident.
n An information hotline for family members of all personnel employed (and on shift) at the institution will be established.
. Correctional personnel at each institution will be advised of both hotline numbers noted above for reference, as needed.
. The information hotline for families of all personnel employed at the institution shall also serve as an instrument for "rumor control."
n Depending on the nature and scope of the critical incident, the agency shall prepare written press releases and/or briefings which detail key information related to the incident.
n Guidelines for media coverage shall be made available to news media representatives who arrive in person at the institution at which the critical incident is occurring. The following questions should be considered:
. Will media be allowed in or near the institution itself?
. If they are allowed, do any restrictions apply?
. If no filming or photography is allowed, will the agency provide photographs or film footage of the critical incident?
. Will the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of
family members of personnel involved in critical incidents be withheld
from the news media?
A 14-year veteran probation officer was victimized off-the-job
by an assailant who placed a brick on the gas pedal of a van loaded with
hazardous materials and sent the vehicle roaring through her living room
when she, her husband, and child were at home. She shared her personal
experiences with the Promising Practices project, and she was asked
how correctional agencies should respond to their employees being victimized,
whether or not it is on- or off-the-job. Her response follows:
Whether or not it is work related is really not important. They must understand that when someone becomes a victim, their views on crime and all criminals change, as does their view of the criminal justice system.
When choosing a trauma team, put great emphasis on who is on it. Ours is comprised mainly of appointed supervisors. Why not let staff have input into this? We know whom we trust and whom we are comfortable talking with. Even better would be professionals outside of the agency, and providing us with a list so we can choose who we use.
The trauma team needs to be easily accessed; everyone should have the phone number and be able to place a call to send out a team. No member of management should be able to refuse an incident report. I was more apt to talk to my coworkers than management about my feelings. Yet my coworkers saw a need for me to seek counseling, but were unable to point me in the right direction. Don't assume once an arrest is made that the employee needs no further counseling.
I may know the justice system from a probation officer's view but not as a victim. Help the victim with the court system. Don't say "if there is anything I can do, call." They won't! Call them just to see how it's going.
I heard too many times in the past 6 months, "You're strong; you'll make it." Don't assume this. The strongest person becomes weak when traumatized. If they have a strong face, assume they have a good poker face and err on their side.
To do nothing so as to not incur any liability incurs the biggest liability ever. The first time that (victimized employees) return to their "normal" job duties, go with them - this enhances their safety. When you know your officers have been traumatized, don't expect them to act rationally.
Don't tell me "you understand my reality" because you don't. My reality is someone almost killed my 6-year-old. . ..