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Health and Wellness
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 03/23/2020

Healthyliving Investing in People: Improving Corrections Staff Health (Oregon).

Hello, our topic for March is Corrections Staff Health & Wellness. A question I have to ask: How many made a New Years’ resolution to get in shape? The next question is how many are still keeping this resolution. If not, resolve to start back. If you are still maintaining a healthy lifestyle, congratulations.

I have been working out steadily with walking and other exercise. Prior to this, I had many excuses and was only fooling myself. At the same time, I realized I came from a stressful environment and now had grandchildren. I would like to be part of their early years and lives. I got my yearly physical and had a bout with cancer, this was life changing for me.

Since I have become more active and committed to an exercise routine, I feel much better and do not have to take certain medications. Unfortunately, my side of the family has very little of the good genes. So this was another unwritten message and warning sign. Take control now. My initial blood work years ago reflected hypertension, cholesterol & triglycerides concerns. As I mentioned earlier, through exercise and medications I was able to control for this. Years ago I was a jogger, wear and tear on my knees let me toward bicycling, and ultimately trying to walk 5-6 miles Monday thru Friday. This is supplemented with exercise and weightlifting with low weights and increased reps. I am knocking on the door to age 67.

I provided a resource below for the Oregon Department of Corrections. This agency is conducting some research and results have led to health changes. Fortunately, this agency as well as other states, took a proactive approach. We know that corrections is a very stressful environment and one that corrections personnel do not like to talk about. These personnel (uniform and non-uniform) perform a job daily that many people would not and cannot do.

One would think, due to the safety and security concerns, all staff would make their physical well-being a priority. The resource from the National Institute of Justice titled: Investing in People: Improving Corrections Staff Health. The following is a very informative article and should open your eyes further. Investing in People: Improving Corrections Staff Health (Oregon).

There is one particular observation from the article I want to share: “The average life span of an individual that has spent their career in corrections is 58 years, which is 16 years shorter than the lifespan of 74 years for an adult male.” A powerful comment.

Unfortunately over the years corrections experienced staff suicides; stress; abuse of sick time; PTSD; weight issues; hypertension; and these combined contributed to some additional health concerns. Namely, abuse of alcohol and drugs. This had a negative impact on many families. Many agencies were proactive in providing various programs and counseling to staff and their families. We witness the implementation of critical incident debriefings and how this helped identify staff in need of assistance. This reinforces why it is even more important for staff and supervisors to recognize early signs of stress. Most staff are not going to seek assistance without being confronted with these concerns.

The prison environment alone is stressful and brings about many safety and security issues and concerns. All one has to do is look at the many media sites and see what is occurring throughout the country with our jails and prisons.

The sooner corrections staff recognize they need counseling and/or other services they will soon begin positive lifestyle changes. This can create positive ways they perform their workplace duties. The inmates are observant and will recognize the changes and may not be as likely to push your button. Recognition and assistance will lead to a more positive relationship in your marriage and with your family. Besides this, you are setting an example for your family, friends, and co-workers. Feel good about yourself and start with change today.

Stay safe out there.

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Global and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@purdueglobal.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


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