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The Impact of Correction Officer Suicide on the Institutional Environment and on the Wellbeing of Correctional Employees

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2020
14 pages

This report focuses on the second phase of a two-phase study of correction officer suicide in Massachusetts, the phase that assessed the impacts of correction officer suicides on correction officers still working in the state’s prisons.


Awarded a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) grant in 2016 to conduct the first comprehensive mixed-methods study of suicide among correction officers, this study was launched in 2017 with the primary objective of developing a nuanced understanding of the context in which correction officer suicides occur. Conducted in two overlapping phases, findings from the first phase informed key elements of the second phase. Phase one involved comprehensive qualitative case studies of the occupational and personal lives of the 20 correction officers and retirees who had died by suicide between 2010 and 2015. Phase one’s goal was to identify any patterns or themes across the occupational lives of those officers deemed to be risk factors for suicide. Phase two of the study collected both qualitative and quantitative data that assessed the impacts of the correction officer suicides on correction officers still working in the state’s prisons. Phase two conducted on-site and on-shift in-person interviews with 440 correction officers and administrators in assessing the impacts of officer suicides on attitudinal, behavioral, and psychological well-being of current officers.  Phase two found that relatively few officers complained about the incarcerated population they managed. They focused on organizational stressors (management and supervision) that make their work more stressful, as well as work schedules that adversely impact time with family and friends outside of work. They offered suggestions for steps the Department of Corrections could take to reduce adverse impacts on their personal and professional lives. 12 references

Date Published: September 1, 2020