UNO Researchers to Study Correctional Officers' Stress, Mental Health

Nov 22, 2017

A study being led by two UNO faculty from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice will examine the potential link between correctional officers’ exposure to stressful experiences in prison and the development of long-term mental and physical health issues.

Professor Benjamin Steiner and Associate Professor Joseph Schwartz will run the study with assistance from two doctoral students. 

Schwartz says the study is funded through 2020. 

He says he and Steiner will engage in data collection for about a year.  In addition to surveys and saliva samples, they will also collect narratives from the officers at the Minnesota facilities they will be visiting. 

Schwartz says these will cover any kind of critical or stressful incident.

"An assault from one inmate to another.  An assault on a staff officer.  A self-harm incident.  All the way down to just a disrespectful interaction between an inmate and an officer, so from the very severe to the very minor.  And those are collected in great detail.  One of the things we will be doing is going through those narratives and really trying to piece together exactly how much stress the officers in our study are experiencing on a day-to-day basis, across the study period.”

Schwartz says graduate students will assist Steiner and himself in going through the narratives and data analysis over the course of the project. 

Schwartz explains saliva will be collected from participants throughout the study because that information will also help the researchers track changes in stress levels over time.

The study is supported by a $780,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice.  Schwartz says the award is one of the largest ever received by the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.