Correctional Officers as Caregivers: The Importance of Mental Health and Crisis Support at #MACoCon

Caring for incarcerated individuals relies on revitalizing the corrections workforce tasked with the responsibility. 

Detention centers fulfill a unique role in the public safety sphere as the rehabilitative arm in the process. These facilities operate at all hours of everyday thanks to the corrections officers willing to care for the physical and psychological needs of incarcerated individuals. The health of this dynamic is paramount to helping inmates avoid recidivism. But in order to fulfill this caregiving role, corrections officers sometimes find themselves in harms way and often considering the needs of others above themselves.

Detention centers must be able to rely on a robust and talented group of individuals willing to carry out the job, but research over the last few decades has shown a severe decline in the mental health and wellbeing of corrections officers. Modernizing wellness and trauma response services for these professionals has the potential to mitigate some of the damage and hopefully establish a more appealing trajectory for a workforce in dire need of revitalization. This MACo Winter Conference panel will consider the realities this segment of the government workforce is facing and some strategies for securing the future of the profession.

Title: Correctional Officers as Caregivers: The Importance of Mental Health and Crisis Support

Description: Correctional officers are the first line of support for incarcerated individuals in need of rehabilitative services. In working with one of the most vulnerable populations in the state, these officers prioritize the health and well-being of those in their care over taking care of themselves. With significantly shorter life expectancy and constant exposure to first-, second-, and third-hand trauma, it is vitally important that these professionals can access mental health and crisis support services. As one of the most difficult professions in county government, these roles must be supported in order to recruit and retain the next generation of caregivers in the carceral setting. This panel will discuss the work environment for correctional officers, how that impacts these individuals, the incident management protocols currently in place, and where new policies could help.

  • Speakers:
    • Terry Kokolis – Director of Corrections, Talbot County Detention Center
    • Amanda Tondin – Correctional Officer, Talbot County Detention Center
    • Jackie Burson – Mental Health Liaison, Charles County Sheriff’s Office
  • Date/Time: Thursday, December 7, 2023; 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm
  • Moderator: The Honorable Delegate Rachel Munoz

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference: