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Surviving on the inside

A deeper dive into the mental health disturbances correctional facilities deputies and officers may face due to their line of duty
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 4:13 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) -It’s not a job for the faint of heart but it is a calling, correctional facility deputies and officers handle high-stress situations and sometimes dangerous ones, on an everyday basis.

“There are some things that will happen in your career that you will remember forever,” said Sergeant Chris Hogan with the Twin Falls Sheriff’s Office. “Unfortunately I’ve seen deputies cope with alcohol, and basically keeping things inside. Staying bottled up sometimes causes mental health issues. Sometimes, there is an increase in suicidal tendencies.”

According to a UC Berkeley survey “Officer Health and Wellness,” conducted on California correctional facility officers -- 10% of those who work a correctional facility, have thought about killing themselves.

“They’re subject to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxieties and depression. Those are probably the most common mental illnesses associated with chronic high-stress environments,” explained Scott Rasmussen, who is the regional program manager of the Behavioral Health Division for the Department of Health and Welfare.

Another mental health condition, those working in a correctional facility might suffer from, is secondary trauma. “Secondary trauma is a real thing,” said Rasmussen. “Within that setting, they can be exposed to a lot of different negative experiences and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a direct experience. In fact, it can just be them hearing reports or stories that somebody else is talking about.”

This is why, having a strong support system of family, friends and coworkers makes a world of a difference. “We’re working with people every day, in an environment where I may have to save that person’s life someday, or they may have to save mine. So, we have a really good trust and positive relationship with everyone we work with,” detailed Sgt. Hogan.

Sergeant Chris Hogan, has been in this line of work for 12 years and plans to retire in it. He says, being able see some of these inmates grow outweighs all the hardships.

“We have people have people over the years, who never come back and they don’t recidivate. They become positive members of society and finally see their worth,” expressed Sgt. Hogan. “That’s what I like at the end of the day, is something to see their own worth and to understand everyone makes mistakes and at the end of the day, they’re human too and we’re human.”

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