A Secondary Data Analysis of Staff Reaction to the Transition From a Linear Jail to a Direct Supervision Model in Kane County, Illinois

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Woodruff, Lynne Marie
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Western Illinois University
The Kane County Sheriff's Office Jail in Illinois had traditionally been of the linear design for well over a hundred years. Linear means that the cells are arranged along a common hallway more or less in a line, resulting in fewer staff necessary to supervise the inmates. One officer would be responsible for several cellblocks daily, checking on each at least every 30 minutes. This meant that the inmates were on their own basically for 30 minutes until an officer came by to check on them. Not surprisingly, rule infractions and violence were common, as was vandalism. Officers spent years working in this environment, in which the more violent an inmate was or the more severe the charge, the greater the number of bars and doors separating the inmate from the officers. Officers complained to each other about feelings of stress and burnout from working in this environment. Correctional officer stress has been researched in depth over the years. Stress can lead to burnout of the officers. Burnout consists of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and personal accomplishment. In 2006, Kane County officials knew that a new jail was needed due to the deterioration and overcrowding of the old jail. The officials chose a facility based on the Direct Supervision model, in which officers are assigned to each cellblock or pod and stay inside with the inmates. Officers and staff began to complain to each other about the chosen design and how they feared an increase in stress and violent working environment in the new facility. In Neutralizing the Negative Impact of Organizational Change during the Transition Process, the author wrote about addressing staff anxiety when transitioning into a new facility. (Smith, 1993) However, she did not address the impact moving to the new facility would have on the officers' levels of stress and burnout after the move. Nor did the article address the feelings of officer safety in the new facility. It appears that there is no research into the impact of moving into a new facility with a new direct supervision philosophy on the officers' level of stress, burnout and feeling of safety. Administrators were curious to see what the impact on officers and staff was during the transition from linear to direct supervision facilities. Since no research was found on this specific event, KCSO commissioned an internal study of the effects of stress and burnout on staff during the transition from a linear model to a direct supervision model. The surveys included questions about feelings of stress, burnout and safety. They also asked for background information about the respondents including gender, race, age, length of service, rank and education level to see if any of these factors were significant in the officers' feelings of stress, burnout or safety. Officers and staff were surveyed prior to and one year after the move to the new facility. This researcher analyzed these two surveys and the results are presented in this research document.
Call Number: HV8145.I32 W66 2010