Fear is a Disease: The Impact of Fear and Exposure to Infectious Disease on Correctional Officer Job Stress and Satisfaction

Abstract

This study examined individual and work-level factors that impact job stress and satisfaction for correctional officers. Existing research has explored officer job stress and satisfaction, but very few studies have focused specifically on fear of contracting an infectious disease while at work (HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and tuberculosis), and the impact fear of and exposure to infectious disease have on correctional officer job stress and satisfaction. Random sample data were collected from 2,999 male and female officers from across the state of Texas to assess job stress, satisfaction, personal safety, and exposure to infectious disease. Ordinary Least Squares analyses indicated that fear of disease was positively correlated with job stress, and inversely correlated with job satisfaction. Exposure to disease however, failed to yield any significant effects on job stress or satisfaction. Officers who felt that their supervisors were supportive of them on the job reported less stress and higher satisfaction levels, while perceived dangerousness of the job was positively correlated with job stress. These findings highlight the importance of supervisory support as well as continuous, in-depth education and training on infectious diseases for officers.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ-CID) for their assistance.

Author Note

The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors, and do not represent officials from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

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Correspondence to Deborah J. Hartley.

Appendix

Appendix

Job Stress (Cronbach’s alpha 0.85)

  1. 1.

    When I’m at work, I often feel tense or uptight.

  2. 2.

    A lot of times, my job makes me very frustrated or angry.

  3. 3.

    I frequently feel stressed out on the job.

  4. 4.

    I usually feel that I am under a lot of pressure when I am at work.

  5. 5.

    There are a lot of aspects about my job that can make me pretty upset about things.

  6. 6.

    Most of the time when I am at work, I don’t feel that I have much to worry about (reverse coded).

Job Satisfaction (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.72)

  1. 1.

    If a good friend of mine told me he/she was interested in working as a CO, I would recommend the job.

  2. 2.

    My job measures up to the sort of job I wanted when I took it.

  3. 3.

    I am satisfied with my job.

  4. 4.

    If I were to go into any type of job I wanted, I would keep the job I now have.

Dangerousness of the Job (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.80)

  1. 1.

    My job is a lot more dangerous than other kinds of jobs.

  2. 2.

    I work in a dangerous job.

  3. 3.

    A lot of people I work with get physically injured in the line of duty.

  4. 4.

    There is really not much chance of getting hurt in my job (reverse coded).

  5. 5.

    In my job, a person stands a good chance of getting hurt.

Exposure to Infectious Disease (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.61)

  1. 1.

    On average, within the past 12 months, how often, if ever, have you experienced an exposure to blood or infectious bodily fluids introduced through the mouth, eyes, nostrils or unbroken skin (not including urine, stool or saliva unless visibly contaminated with blood)? (reverse coded).

  2. 2.

    On average, within the past 12 months, how often, if ever, have you gotten an inmate’s waste or bodily fluids (blood, semen, saliva) on your bare skin or clothing?

  3. 3.

    On average, within the past 12 months, how often, if ever, have you had an inmate throw bodily waste at you?

Supervisory Support

  1. 1.

    I feel that my supervisors are supportive of me and that the job I’m doing.

Fear of Disease

  1. 1.

    I am afraid that I will become infected with HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis while on the job.

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Hartley, D.J., Davila, M.A., Marquart, J.W. et al. Fear is a Disease: The Impact of Fear and Exposure to Infectious Disease on Correctional Officer Job Stress and Satisfaction. Am J Crim Just 38, 323–340 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-012-9175-1

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Keywords

  • Correctional officer
  • Job stress
  • Job satisfaction
  • Infectious disease