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Prison Treatment Staff Burnout: Consequences, Causes and Prevention

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 64 Issue: 7 Dated: December 2002 Pages: 116-121
Brett Garland
Susan L. Clayton M.S.
Date Published
December 2002
6 pages
This article examines the consequences, causes, and sources, and the prevention of the burnout syndrome in corrections’ treatment providers and staff.
Burnout syndrome consists of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment, and a three-stage process that includes, job stress, worker strain, and defensive coping. Burnout originates from ill-managed stress. Treatment providers are a significant resource and asset in correctional rehabilitation. A reduction in performance quality of these professionals reduces the likelihood of successful offender outcomes, thereby undermining the effectiveness of offender treatment. Certain individuals are at a higher risk of burnout than others. A burnout candidate profile consists of unassertiveness, impatience, intolerance, hostility, and a strong need for approval and affection. Cases of burnout can also be traced in part to the prison work setting. Correctional leaders must take the lead in order for burnout to be substantially reduced. To decrease the incidents of burnout among treatment staff, corrections administrators assigned to rehabilitative services are offered the following guidelines: (1) emphasize rehabilitation within a clear mission statement; (2) clarify roles and responsibilities; (3) empower staff; (4) offer constructive feedback; (5) manage by walking around; (6) provide treatment-based training and information; (7) hire competent treatment administrators; (8) balance the percentage of disruptive and violent offenders on caseloads; and (9) ensure that adequate office and group space are available. These guidelines will assist correctional managers in taking steps to improve the work lives and prevent burnout of treatment staff. References