Staff Safety Standards
Enacted: Jan 1993
Staff safety is a matter of significant concern to community corrections workers. The rise in the number of felons under supervision, the impact of drugs, the availability and use of weapons, the increase of violent behavior, and the fact that service systems are overloaded all contribute to the danger facing community corrections personnel.1 Community corrections personnel work in a volatile and potentially dangerous environment which requires that individuals and their agencies take every precaution to provide and protect staff in the office and in the field.
The American Probation and Parole Association considers staff safety a critical issue and recommends that all probation and parole agencies have mechanisms in place to assess staff safety; to offer adequate training for staff; to maintain clear and decisive policies and procedures related to safety; and to investigate and respond to hazardous incidents. APPA supports the provision of equipment necessary to reduce risk and the incorporation of safety considerations into caseload management practices.
APPA recommends that each probation/parole agency empower a Safety Committee which includes all levels of staff in the agency safety needs of agency staff in all areas of operations. The comprehensive plan shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following areas.
Before being hired, all staff candidates shall be informed of the duties and responsibilities of the positions for which they are being hired. They must know what is expected of them and what potential situations they will be expected to face. Conversely, managers must ensure that candidates have the qualifications and are trained to do the job properly and successfully.
B. Caseload Supervision
Principles of staff safety shall be considered and incorporated into techniques of caseload supervision. Methods of case management should focus some attention on minimizing danger to staff performing the supervision activities.
C. Office Safety
Since probation and parole agencies deal with the same offenders who appear in the courts and are housed in jails and prisons, probation and parole facilities should be operated under similar safety precautions and with comparable security equipment as used in court houses, jails and prisons. Special attention shall be paid to controlling the movement of offenders within the physical location. Other precautions must be taken to ensure a safe working environment where the staff are prepared to handle emergencies as they arise.
D. Safety Plans
The safety plans shall place particular emphasis on issues concerning field operations specific to the various local communities served by the probation/parole agencies. Careful consideration should be given to organizing field staff in pairs for doing field work and taking other precautions in neighborhoods which pose more than a minimal amount of risk. Special effort shall be put forth to ensure cooperation of local law enforcement agencies.
E. Incident Reporting
All arrests and every incident which involves verbal abuse and verbal threat (including bribery and extortion), or actual harm to probation/parole staff shall be written up by the employees involved and reported to management as prescribed by policy and procedure. All reports made on a standard form promulgated by the Safety Committee, will result in an investigation into the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the event. Management shall recommend any changes in policy and/or practice which could reasonably be expected to prevent a similar occurrence in the future or lessen its impact. The chief executive of the agency is responsible for maintaining an Incident File which is accessible to the Safety Committee for periodic review.
Training in staff safety skills and issues appropriate to their level of responsibility and function shall be given to all employees as part of orientation and on a regular, on-going basis. In the area of skill training, all instructors should be certified in their subject matter. Likewise, probation staff participating in skill training shall be evaluated and certified proficient in the particular skill.
G. Policies and Procedures Manual
Each local probation/parole agency shall promulgate policies and procedures regarding all applicable staff safety issues suggested in this position statement and any others relevant to the particular agency. These policies and procedures must be kept current through periodic review.
H. Organizational Strategy
The agency must ensure that the organizational environment is conducive to receiving and responding effectively to issues, concerns and incidents related to staff safety. A valid assessment must be done of each job function in regard to safety issues and a wide range of appropriate responses developed to address these issues.
- Studies of this phenomenon include the work of Parsonage and Miller in 1990 for the Middle Atlantic State Correctional Association (A Study of Probation and Parole Worker Safety in the Middle Atlantic Region); Ely's Report on the Safety Concerns of Probation and Alternatives to Incarceration Staff in New York State (1989); and the Parsonage and Bushey study of hazardous incident in Pennsylvania (1988).