Correctional Supervisors Council – Making History!

On January 27, 2021, the American Journal of Industrial Medicine published a peer-reviewed article on the groundbreaking survey of CSEA’s Correction Supervisors Council (CSC) health needs. The authors of the article were Julius Preston, former president of CSC, Vincent Steele, former executive vice-president of CSC, Robert Rinker, retired CSEA executive director, along with CSC’s colleagues at UConn Health; Dr. Alicia Dugan, Dr. Sara Namazi, Dr. Martin Cherniack, and Dr. Jennifer Cavallari.
In 2015 and 2016, a design team composed of then current leadership of CSC, Dr. Dugan and Dr. Namazi used a participatory process to conduct a health needs assessment of the members of CSC. In most intervention research, the researchers leave out the input of the workers to be assessed in the process. This participatory process used by CSC resulted in a health needs assessment that was tailored to meet the needs of our correctional supervisors.
One hundred and fifty seven members participated in the survey. The findings yielded new insights about supervisors’ lived experiences of work and health. This novel approach allowed CSC leadership to identify health issues that would not have been detected using conventional health assessments.
The survey results have given CSC the opportunity to develop health interventions that address the root cause of poor health. So far, using the newly negotiated contract language on health and wellness, CSC along with UConn Health has provided training on sleep, mental health, nutrition and substance abuse.
Sleep training was the first intervention implemented by the group. Sleep training was chosen because the survey showed that correction supervisors averaged less than 6 hours of sleep per night and only 2.5 hours of sleep when the supervisor worked a back-to-back shift. Ideally, adults should get about 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night or whenever their work schedule dictates their sleep hours. The training focused on sleep hygiene and a guided meditation to help supervisors fall asleep faster.
The mental health training was the next intervention because the survey showed high levels of work/family stress and exposure to workplace trauma. High levels of stress and trauma can lead to anxiety/depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The number of supervisors exposed to suicides of fellow workers and inmates, whether successful or not, far exceeded any comparable law enforcement occupation. The training focused on mental health literacy, how to access mental health services and more importantly to break down the shame, stigma, silence and solitude that a person with a mental health illness suffers through in our society. Mental illness is like any physical illness in that when properly treated the person can recover and lead a normal life.
The last training that was recently completed was on nutrition and substance abuse. The survey showed that more than 80% of correction supervisors are overweight or obese. While this may not be much different from the normal population, it is significant in that being overweight or obese was not present when they were hired into the Department of Correction. In an earlier study, normal weight correction officers who became overweight or obese did so by the third year on the job and this carried forward to their retirement. The training focused on nutrition literacy; how to eat the right foods. Because of COVID, the 173 members that participated in the training did so by Zoom, a first for our correctional supervisor members. The training was spread out over a ten day period so that more supervisors could be released for their yearly contractual day of training on health and wellness.
The current CSC design team includes Millie Brown, CSC President, Tara Keaton, CSC Interim Executive Vice-President, Wayne Cole, Captain and Julie Stewart, Captain.

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