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Turning Points in the Careers of Correction Officers

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Project Summary 

The Turning Points study is the first longitudinal study of occupational stress, violence exposure, psychological distress, trauma, and suicide risk across the careers of newly hired correction officers. The primary goal of this research is to distinguish the short- and long-term impacts of chronic operational and organizational stressors from the short- and long-term impacts of acute episodic stressors related to exposure to violence and traumatic incidents. The research team hypothesizes that both chronic operational and organizational stressors and acute episodic stressors related to exposure to violence have implications for officer health and wellness. They are collecting data that will allow for an assessment of the independent and cumulative effects of different types of stressors on a comprehensive set of measures of health, safety, and wellbeing of officers over time, controlling for the mediating and moderating effects of coping skills, social networks, and social supports.  

Project Description: 

In the Turning Points study, the research team, led by Professor Natasha Frost, is following the careers of ~350 new correction officer recruits joining the Massachusetts Department of Correction (MADOC) between 2020 and 2023. The team collects longitudinal self-report data on safety, health and wellness through repeated interviews of newly recruited correction officers and through the ongoing collection of administrative and personnel data related to their occupational experiences. Each of the new officers completes a baseline interview and then is interviewed every 12-24 months thereafter. The self-report and administrative data collected are being used to assess changes in the behavioral, emotional, physical, psychological, and relational health and wellbeing of these officers over the course of their careers beginning with their graduation from the academy.  

 The longitudinal nature of the data collected will allow the team to establish temporal ordering and identify causal relationships. The research team will be conducting panel analyses to develop a more comprehensive understanding of some of the risk factors for clinically elevated levels of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and suicidal ideation that can serve as precursors to suicide.  

 Funders and Partners

This research is being conducted in partnership with Suffolk University, and with the full support of the Massachusetts Department of Correction (MADOC) and the Massachusetts Confederated Officers’ Federated Union (MCOFU).  

Northeastern Research Team

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