Abstract

Importance: Jail officers are an underserved population of public safety workers at high risk for developing chronic mental health conditions.

Objective: In response to national calls for the examination of stressors related to the unique work contexts of correctional facilities, we implemented a pilot study informed by the Total Worker Health® (TWH) strategy at two urban and two rural jails.

Design: Participatory teams guided areas of interest for a mixed-data needs assessment, including surveys with 320 jail officers to inform focus groups (N = 40).

Setting: Urban and rural jails in the midwestern United States.

Participants: Jail correctional officers and sheriff’s deputies employed at participating jails.

Measures: We measured mental health characteristics using the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Global Mental Health scale, the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale, and the two-item Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist. Constructs to identify workplace characteristics included emotional support, work–family conflict, dangerousness, health climate, organizational operations, effectiveness of training, quality of supervision, and organizational fairness.

Results: On the basis of general population estimates, we found that jail officers were at higher risk for mental health disorders, including depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Jail officers identified workplace health interventions to address individual-, interpersonal-, institutional-, and community-level needs.

Conclusion: Implementation of a TWH needs assessment in urban and rural jails to identify evidence-informed, multilevel interventions was found to be feasible. Using this assessment, we identified specific workplace health protection and promotion solutions.

What This Article Adds: Results from this study support the profession’s vision to influence policies, environments, and systems through collaborative work. This TWH study has implications for practice and research by addressing mental health needs among jail officers and by providing practical applications to create evidence-informed, tailored interventions to promote workplace health in rural and urban jails.

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