Corrections Officials and Depression

Steve Rempe |

Prison can be a dark, lonely place. The isolation; the ever-present threat of violence; the cold, bare walls and heavy iron bars—it’s not surprising that some of those inside corrections facilities struggle with maintaining their emotional and mental health.

And that struggle is not just limited to prisoners.

A recent study commissioned by Michigan Corrections Organization has found that more than a third of correction officials in that state suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. Officers with higher security assignments or with longer tenures were more susceptible to depression and PTSD. Five percent of corrections officials are high risks for suicide.

“Our employees are the greatest asset we have … and their mental health and well-being are of the utmost importance,” Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington says in a joint statement with the Michigan Corrections Organization. “Our hope is this scientific study will serve as a guide that will lead us to the most effective training and best practices possible to help our officers better handle the stresses they face at work and that we know they carry with them once they leave the prison walls.”

The state of Michigan is seeking to obtain federal grant money to continue study and to help create wellness programs for prison staff, as well as training officials to better identify mental health needs. “We’re quickly moving forward to hopefully help staff recognize symptoms and take action that could possibly save lives,” says Michigan Corrections Organization president Tom Tylutki.

In order for prisons to be places where transformation takes place, attention must be paid to the well-being of those who serve there, as well as to the men and women serving sentences.

Programs like Prison Fellowship’s Warden Exchange seek to create a constructive prison culture which results in safer and more effective correctional facilities. By engaging prison officials in the process and providing them a vision for what corrections can be, prisons can be better equipped to fulfill their mission to restore men and women to their communities.