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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Turnover Reduction and Workplace Satisfaction Planning

Turnover Reduction and Workplace Satisfaction Planning
Centervale Corrections Facility

Over the past two years, the Human Relations and Training Office has monitored both a high rate of staff turnover and a low level of staff satisfaction. Issues that have contributed to this situation involve staff burnout, communications between line workers and management, and lessened levels of motivation and performance from the staff; these are all interrelated issues. This office submits that these issues can be mitigated by adjustment in five areas; redesign of the workplace, effective leadership, effective performance evaluations, effective supervision, and improved cooperation with other agencies.
The primary focus in job redesign should be staff safety; “the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports correctional officers have one of the highest rates of on-the-job injuries, mainly because of inmate assaults. (Stallworth, 2013, para. 2) This has a direct bearing on stress levels for correctional staff; “Correctional officers interviewed for this report identified the threat of inmate violence against staff as a source of stress more frequently than any other single feature of their occupation” (Finn, 2000, p.14) One possible way to alleviate this issue is by removing a reliance on prison systems use of common areas. There is no reason inmates can not eat, shower and exercise in their cells. Staff is safer simply by having inmates under control at all times, whether by the separation of inmates from staff by cell bars or by physical restraints, This would also have the effect of raising levels of safety for other inmates. It could possibly result in the requiring fewer staff to supervise. While there has been a deluge of academic study relating to prisoner's “rights” to TV etc etc, there has been an appalling lack of study on the issue of correctional staff safety, in particular in regard to the balance between staff safety and inmate's rights. Furthermore, politics can interfere with policy that would improve officer safety. In a dispute with the Correctional Association of New York, the Commissioner of New York State's Department of Correctional Services , said that “The Correctional Association ignores any discussion or recommendations on prison security or preventing inmate-on-staff or inmate-on-inmate attacks. ... I know of no other organization that would consider issuing a 'state of the prisons report' while ignoring the safety and concerns of the brave men and women who spend their days working with the most violent felons in our society - the Association's clients. This document should be entitled 'An inmate's wish list on how they would run the prison system.' " (Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, 2002, para.5) We can see the effects of such pro-inmate efforts when legislatures refuse to even consider safety for correctional workers; “Legislation that would give state corrections officers the right to negotiate over workplace-safety issues -- and go to binding arbitration if the dispute was not resolved -- will not reach the Senate floor this session. “ (Sullivan, 2011, para. 1) This office recommends that our leaders publicly and fiercely oppose such interference with staff safety. We can not be focused solely on safety issues, but they must be paramount:
In the absence of staff management of inmate behavior, however, the emphasis on physically containing inmates failed to keep jails secure. With inmates left to their own devices inside cellblocks, problems such as violence, vandal­ism, and lack of sanitation became so common that they seemed inherent to jails, which, along with communities, have paid dearly for these problems through costly litigation, staff and inmate deaths, jail riots and fires, and escapes” (Hutchinson, Keller, & Reid, 2009, p.1)
Although Hutchinson et al make a salient point in that officers must still monitor and correct inmate behavior, their solution of classification and direct supervision does not fully satisfy the issue of staff safety, as direct supervision place staff in direct contact with inmates and in a large ratios. Finally, while staff safety is the most important factor in job stress, there are other factors that must be mentioned; pay, work overload, shift work, role conflict, family issues, and bad representation in the public. Finn proposes a “stress program” to mitigate stress effects for all factors overall.
Another issue related to job satisfaction and stress levels is leadership by management. Leadership goes beyond handing out assignments and inspires people to do they wouldn't normally do; in our case, to come into work when overworked and stressed out. “Strong leaders inspire loyalty, encourage personal achievement, gain consensus and commitment to the organizational mission, promote dedication and hard work, foster care for one another, moderate job stress, and expect moral and ethical behavior. “ (Wright, 1999, para. 6 ) In “Leadership within the Florida Department of Corrections “, McCallum lists the attributes necessary to be a good correctional leader; Integrity, Trustworthy, Competence, Decision-Making, Follower, Courage, Visionary, Self-Confidence, Formal Communication, and “Grapevine” Communication. In light of the views that some hold that corrections leadership should be more “democratic”, this office would argue that our “democratic” approach could be satisfied by having our leaders participate frequently in the day to day line operations; this would allow them to build personal relations with staff with the end result that officers will be more comfortable in giving feedback to leadership via informal or “grapevine” communications. We do not expect our leaders to spend so much time on the blocks that they do not perform their primary duties, but certainly enough time there to lead the staff in the manner we have discussed.
One duty of management that can be define both as a leadership tool as well as a management tool is the evaluation of staff. One cause of workplace stress in our environment is faulty performance review; “Perceived lack of recognition was also cited as a contributor to low job satisfaction. Some respondents described a climate where bad performance was recognized but good performance was not.” (Marshia., LaPlante, Allen, & Metcalf, 2005, p.19) Evaluations are important to achieving success as “Feedback is vital to any organization committed to improving itself because it is the only way to know what needs to be changed” (Campbell, 2006, P. 71)
Improved supervision will come as a result of the leadership changes we have discussed. Communications will improve when line officers trust management, and can feel comfortable using either formal or informal modes of communication. Trust comes from a commitment to increasing personal safety, demonstrating leadership qualities such as courage and competence, and the building of personal relationships. The ability of staff to communicate with management, to give and receive feedback, will improve both staff motivation and performance. Campbell discusses management tools that can be used in conjunction with leadership qualities that can clarify communications in her report on core competencies; such tools include oral communication and report writing skills.
Cooperation with other agencies also plays a part in staff motivation. Reducing the workload on staff reduces the levels of stress.
In a variety of situations, jail administrators have chosen to develop cooperative agreements with other community agencies in stead of using jail employees to provide inmate services. Public mental health agencies provide drug and alcohol counseling services to inmates in some jails, often reliev ing these jails of the need for counselors on staff. Jails can also provide food services through arrangements with county hospitals, education programs through local schools and colleges, or can obtain data processing services through local government (Krauth, 1988, p.10)
We need to communicate with these other agencies and use the same principles of leadership that we employ with staff to maintain our image with them. It is important to keep in mind that “Criminal justice and correctional agencies/organizations can no longer afford to be isolated from one another or from other public service delivery systems.” (Campbell, 2006, p. 196)
To summarize our findings. First, staff safety is the most important issue in reducing levels of stress and thus turnover. We suggest full control over inmates at all times to alleviate this issue. This does not mean that staff should rely on restraint alone to manage inmate behavior. It also does not mean there are not other issues that do not affect stress levels for staff. Second, we stress that the tools of leadership are important in reducing stress levels. Third, we expect our leaders to make accurate and honest evaluations of staff performance, both celebratory and punitive. Fourth, although we do not discuss in detail the tools of management (see Campbell) that will aid in reducing staff levels of stress and improving job performance, we discuss how the synergy of our other actions will. Finally, we discus the role of other agencies in reducing stress for our staff. These recommendations will reduce both stress levels for our facility and the resultant turnover of employees.
Campbell, N. (2006). Correctional leadership competencies for the 21st century: Manager and supervisor levels. US Department of Justice , National Institute of Corrections. Retrieved August 15, 2014 from http://static.nicic.gov/Library/020475.pdf

Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. (2002). Association ignores public safety, maligns staff to promote inmates’ issues. NYS Department of Correctional Services. Retrieved August 17, 2014, from http://www.doccs.ny.gov/PressRel/2002/gangi.html

Finn, P. (2000). Addressing correctional officer stress: Programs and strategies. issues and practices. U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved Retrieved August 16, 2014 from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED449457

Hutchinson, V. A., Keller, K. D., & Reid, T. (2009). Inmate behavior management: the key to a safe and secure jail. US Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections. Retrieved August 17, 2014 from http://static.nicic.gov/Library/023882.pdf

Krauth, B. (1988). Staff-inmate ratios: Why it’s so hard to get to the bottom line. L.I.S.I. Retrieved August 17, 2014 from http://static.nicic.gov/Library/007105.pdf

Marshia, K., LaPlante, M., Allen, C., & Metcalf, L. (2005). Report on factors contributing to high attrition rates of correctional officers. VT Department of Corrections. Retrieved August 17, 2014, from http://www.doc.state.vt.us/about/reports/attrition/view

McCallum, D. (n.d.). Leadership within the Florida Department of Corrections. Florida Department of Corrections Retrieved August 15, 2014 from http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/Content/getdoc/5ca27f87-d4c4-4a79-b01f-11cc95e24af9/McCallum-David-paper-pdf.aspx

Stallworth, R. (2013, June 11). The war beyond the walls:We are under attack inside the walls and now outside of them as well. CorrectionsOne. Retrieved August 17, 2014, from http://www.correctionsone.com/officer-safety/articles/6270478-The-war-beyond-the-walls/

Sullivan, J. (2011, March 25). Politics Northwest | Binding arbitration proposal over prison staff safety issues fails. Seattle Times Newspaper. Retrieved August 17, 2014, from http://seattletimes.com/html/politicsnorthwest/2014601546_chance_of_binding_arbitration.html

Wright, K. (1999, June 22). Leadership is the key to ethical practice in criminal justice agencies. Criminal Justice Ethics. Retrieved August 15, 2014 from http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Leadership+Is+the+Key+to+Ethical+Practice+in+Criminal+Justice...-a060060343

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