Commission Studying Mental Health of Correctional Officers Submits Findings

2nd Barnstable State Representative Will Crocker (R-Centerville)

BOSTON – A special legislative commission to study suicide prevention among correctional officers recently presented its findings to the Legislature.

Second Barnstable State Representative Will Crocker (R-Centerville) was one of two legislative members appointed to the commission.

The 13-member commission was created as part of the 2018 criminal justice reform law and reviewed existing suicide prevention programs and policies within’ the state’s correctional facilities.

The commission found that services in place in Massachusetts are “above average,” but that officials should offer greater educational resources, including workshops to reduce stigma and new training at correctional officer academies about the mental and emotional toll of the work.

“We need to make sure we’re giving our correctional officers the best option for treatment,” said Crocker.

“They’re under tremendous stress from the time they walk onto the unit to the time they walk off.”

By increasing education, correctional officers can be prepared to deal with challenges as they come up and seek needed help early on.

“They need to know there’s an opportunity out there to receive treatment or education to know there’s treatment,” Crocker said.

Other suggestions included regular confidential surveys to track officer mental health and an update to a provision in last year’s criminal justice reform law that would expand a peer crisis counselor intervention program for local police to include correctional officers.

The report also flagged forced overtime as a regular occurrence in Massachusetts correctional facilities, which exacerbates existing challenges.

The Department of Corrections plans to implement a new training program for stress awareness later this year.

Crocker was appointed to this commission due in part to his experience in the field.

He previously spent three years working in the Bristol County House of Correction as a teacher and has had a long-term working relationship with the Barnstable County House of Corrections.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.
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