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The Impact of Correction Officer Suicide on the Institutional Environment and on the Wellbeing of Correctional Employees

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Project Summary 

In 2016, Professor Natasha Frost and her Suffolk University colleague, Carlos Monteiro, were awarded a National Institute of Justice grant to conduct the first comprehensive mixed methods study of suicide among correction officers and in 2017 we launched the correction officer wellbeing study with the central objective of developing a nuanced understanding of the context in which correction officer suicides occur. The project involved a partnership between the research team at Northeastern University, the Office of Strategic Planning and Research at the MADOC, the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union (MCOFU) and clinical direct service providers at the Riverside Trauma Center (RTC), a program of Riverside Community Care (RCC).  

Project Description: 

The research was conducted in two overlapping phases, with findings from the first phase informing key elements of the second phase. In phase one, the Northeastern University research team conducted comprehensive qualitative case studies of the occupational and personal lives of the 20 correction officers and retirees who had died by suicide between 2010 and 2015. The goal in phase one was to identify any patterns or themes across the occupational lives of those officers who had died by suicide and to identify risk factors for suicide. A community partner, Riverside Community Care, conducted posthumous holistic assessments (psychological autopsies) of the circumstances surrounding the death for a selection of those cases (n=6).  

In phase two, we collected both qualitative and quantitative data to assess the impacts of the correction officer suicides on correction officers still working in the state’s prisons. We conducted on-site and on-shift in-person interviews with 440 officers and administrators to assess the impacts of officer suicide on attitudinal, behavioral, and psychological well-being outcomes. The phase two officer interview opened with questions designed to collect egocentric social network data from each officer and included assessments of behavioral, emotional, and psychological health using validated instruments.  

Funders and Partners:

This project is funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ)

Related Webpages:


Wills, Candence*, Kayla Bates*, Natasha A. Frost & Carlos. E. Monteiro. 2021. Barriers to help-seeking among correction officers: Examining the influence of institutional culture and structure. Criminal Justice Studies, 34:4, 423-440, DOI: 10.1080/1478601X.2021.1997276 

~ Reprinted in Smith, H. (Ed.). (2023) Promoting Wellness and Resiliency in Correctional Officers. (Ch. 5). London/New York: Routledge. 

Frost, Natasha A. and Carlos E. Monteiro.* 2020. The interaction of personal and occupational factors in the suicide deaths of correction officers. Justice Quarterly, 37(7): 1277-1302. 

Frost, Natasha A. 2020. Understanding the Impacts of Officer Suicide. Corrections Today, pp. 14-18. March/April. 

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