Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

Job Burnout among Prison Staff in the United States and Croatia: A Preliminary Comparative Study1

Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

Job Burnout among Prison Staff in the United States and Croatia: A Preliminary Comparative Study1

Article excerpt

Introduction

Penological literature has traditionally focused on ideological, theoretical, and practical aspects of enforcing criminal sanctions, and for the most part, the concentration has been on the criminal offender. However, over the past three decades, researchers across the world have been increasingly focusing on the varied correctional staff having duty to enforce those sanctions, with emphasis on prison staff. Lambert, Hogan, and Barton (2002) refer to prison staff as professionals who utilize their skills in prison environment. The definition of prison staff provided by the various authors is broad. In general, the term prison staff involves several categories, depending on the organizational structure in various countries viz. administrative staff in prison system or in specific penal institutions, custodial staff, treatment staff, health-care staff, staff involved in vocational, educational training, and occupational activities.

Some researchers have focused solely on custodial staff (Castle, 2008; Keinan & Malach-Pines, 2007; Morgan, Van Haveren, & Pearson, 2002), while others studied prison staff in general (Garland & McCarty, 2009; Griffin, Hogan, Lambert, Tucker-Gail, & Baker, 2010; Hogan, 2009; Lambert, Hogan, & Allen, 2006; Lambert & Paoline, 2005; Schaufeli & Peeters, 2000). In addition, some authors focused on prison staff that provides other types of care for the health and well-being of inmates and involves education, work, health-care, leisure time activities etc (Lambert, Hogan, Jiang, Elechi, Benjamin, Morris, Laux, & Dupuy, 2009). Regardless of their focus on different types of prison staff, all the previous researchers reported that prison environment affects emotional well-being of the prison staff, which in turn brings about increased stress among them, affects their job satisfaction, and ultimately culminates in to job burnout among many prison staff.

Büssing and Glaser (2000) maintained that idealistic, highly motivated, and sincere prison employees most frequently reported burnout due to frustrations caused by the discrepancy between expectations and achievements. The manifestation of burnout was more likely to happen when a prison employee experienced loss of purpose and meaning of work. Pucak (2006) reported that causes for burnout of younger people having employment in assisting vocations were increased because of sensitivity and conflict of roles, while older employees burnout because of dissatisfaction with their share in decision making processes, vagueness and confusion of working roles.

One type of insecurity among prison staff is the possibility of job loss and uncertain opportunities for promotion. However, those two risks vary from one country to another (Kommer, 1990; Savicki, Cooley, and Gjesvold, 2003). For example, custodial staff in Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden is protected from the possibility of being laid off or losing their jobs unless they get involved in some type of illegal activities. In exchange for this security, the employees work in poor conditions, especially in state-run institutions. However, in private institutions, the working conditions for the prison staff are better, but their job security is uncertain. Almost one-half of the custodial staff in those countries considers their career advancement impossible (Philliber, 1987; Saric, 2007). According to the authors, low income, inadequate opportunities for promotion, and insecurity of job are perceived by the custodial staff as significant factors causing professional stress among them leading to their job burnout. Several researchers (e.g. Mejovsek, 2002; Saric, 2007; Verhagen 1986) reported that absence from work as significant indicators of stress among the prison staff leading to burnout in European countries. These researchers also mentioned that one-third of custodial staff quit their jobs during the first 18 months of their appointments. Psychosomatic reactions to stress were significantly frequent among prison staff in European countries (Härenstam & Palm, 1988) and stress causing negative attitudes like cynicism, skepticism and pessimism were mostly reported by the treatment staff (in prisons) who were somewhere in the middle of their professional career (Karasek & Theorell, 1990; Philliber, 1987; Saric, 2007). …

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