Far too often society focuses on the lives of those behind bars, and rarely on those who work inside correctional facilities. Prison is a tough place not only for inmates, but also for those who dedicate their lives to working in correctional facilities. Correctional officers (COs) and other corrections professionals face numerous health risks due to the high stress nature of their jobs and environments, risks than can impact their families as well.
The high stress working conditions in corrections can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among COs – at a rate much higher than for people in other careers. The rate of PTSD and suicide among correctional officers is often compared to that of combat military veterans. In a 2011 survey conducted by Desert Waters Correctional Outreach, 14 percent of military veterans reported symptoms of PTSD, 34 percent of COs who responded to the survey said they experienced symptoms of PTSD. This stems from constantly interacting with inmates and frequent exposure to violence or the threat of it. COs often go undiagnosed because they fear the stigma of showing weakness by seeking help for physical and mental health issues.