Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Development, Delivery, and Evaluation of a Pilot Stress Reduction, Emotion Regulation, and Mindfulness Training for Juvenile Justice Officers

Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Development, Delivery, and Evaluation of a Pilot Stress Reduction, Emotion Regulation, and Mindfulness Training for Juvenile Justice Officers

Article excerpt


A robust body of research indicates that professionals working as human service care providers experience higher levels of chronic workplace stress and burnout than those in other professions (Zammuner, Lotto, & Galli, 2003). There has been significantly more research on stress and interventions to reduce it among human service care providers in the fields of education, social welfare, and health care than for those in law enforcement and criminal justice, such as the population considered in this case study: juvenile justice officers, or JJOs. Chronic workplace stress is linked to a variety of poor health and psychosocial outcomes, including accelerated aging (Epel et al., 2004), coronary heart disease and high blood pressure (Dickerson & Kemeny, 2004), mental health distress (Lazarus, 1966), and job burnout (Jackson & Maslach, 1982; Schaufeli, Leiter, & Maslach, 2009). Despite the well-researched prevalence and consequences of workplace stress, more research is needed on interventions to support these providers (Edwards, Burnard, Coyle, Fothergill, & Hannigan, 2000).

JJOs have the difficult and important job of working with the most troubled youth in every county across the country. These youth need professional rehabilitation and role modeling, which can lead to stress among JJOs who do not have appropriate training (Abrams, 2006; Krisberg, 2005). Most JJOs are required to attend annual trainings that focus on how to respond to physical assault, identify gang tattoos, and accurately complete ever-changing documentation forms. But many counties do not provide training for the emotional exhaustion and stress that arise from working with youths who have myriad psychosocial issues, including substance use, intergenerational trauma and incarceration, and diagnosed and undiagnosed comorbid mental illness.

This article presents a qualitative single case study of a 16-hour pilot stress management training program for JJOs (n = 16) through development, delivery, and evaluation. The study assessed the basic feasibility of a pilot training program that was designed specifically for JJOs. The pilot program was run with two separate groups of JJOs in a single-county juvenile hall and detention center in the fall of 2012. An assessment of the training needs of JJOs was collected through participant observation and focus groups (n = 50) from the fall of 2011 through the fall of 2012. The content of the pilot program was adapted from an evidence-based training program that integrated Western psychological and Eastern contemplative practices. The training program was adapted to focus on the development of knowledge and skills to reduce stress, bolster meaning and purpose, and enhance empathy among JJOs. Importantly, the case study incorporated the voices of JJOs about their work experiences, which along with their evaluation and feedback on the delivery of the pilot training program, helped to shape the curriculum. The pilot training program provided an opportunity to establish the basic efficacy of an adapted emotion regulation and mindfulness meditation training program that addressed JJOs' description of specific stressors.

Literature Review

This literature review provides background on JJOs, the importance of their work, prior stress reduction efforts from a national study of stress reduction training programs, and a definition of interpersonal workplace stress reduction training. The literature in each of these areas informed this intervention and study design.

Research on Juvenile Justice Officers

The limited extant research on human service care providers in the criminal justice setting reveals rates of chronic workplace stress and burnout that surpass the levels of stress experienced by those in other human service settings (Dowden & Tellier, 2004; Keinan & Malach-Pines, 2007.) Although little is known about stress among adult corrections and probation officers, even less is known about stress among frontline JJOs (Abt Associates, 2004; Lopez & Russell, 2008; Steiner, Roberts, & Hemmens, 2003). …

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